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2.07.2013

"What I saw earlier in Bavinck..." from an email

I'm right now reading volume 1 of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics. Just as sheer intellectual feast it is pure delight. I'm reading subject matter right now that I can't articulate in an email, but his reputation and this systematic theology's reputation of being the Everest is not hyperbole. I know some book titles recently mentioned would run into the hundreds of dollars all together, but some books are worth more than their price. These books are of the pure school and get at knowledge of the mysteries of man and God and redemption in history...everything deep and real and important. - C.

When I sent that email about Bavinck I was reading him on the subject of what someone has to believe to be saved. What core doctrines. Catholics have a list. Protestants sometimes try to make a list. It's happened in recent years on blogs where people debate what doctrines are necessary to be known and understood for a person to be saved. So here's Bavinck on that subject turning it all on its head. It's very subtle, but powerful. He said the Reformers knew that you can't make a list. He said once you have a connection to Christ there's no list, there's an organic connection where salvation is there and only gets stronger as understanding grows vis-a-vis all of doctrine. In other words faith gets stronger the more understanding of doctrine develops, but it starts like a seed, and with that seed salvation is already set then it organically grows.

It's related to the saying: "I don't try to understand so that I can believe; I believe so that I can then understand."

The former is a man-centered approach. The latter is a God-centered approach.

But this doesn't denigrate doctrinal knowledge because it is that which strengthens faith.

I don't know if I captured or articulated that well, but it's an example of how you can learn things from Bavinck. - C.

So do you see how when Bavinck uses the term 'organic' he is really, maybe unwittingly, talking in the language of cosmoses?

We get connected with Jesus Christ (unio mystica, or union with Christ) and that is due to regeneration by the word and the Spirit, and we don't really know doctrine, or on-the-mark doctrine yet, yet still we have that connection. Then with that connection, our understanding of doctrine grows (for instance why we are to have faith in Jesus) as if from the level of a seed sprouting into fullness as a flower. That is how evolution happens in cosmoses. From inside, or inside source outward to all parts simultaneously.

See how that's different from: "So now do you understand the Trinity? The Incarnation? Now how about grace? Original sin? OK, you have what you need to have salvation."

No, it starts with that union that occurs with regeneration by the word and the Spirit. Yes we read the living word and it has effect, but when I read it and it had effect I didn't know what it was saying at the level of on-the-mark biblical doctrine. I just got the connection, the union with Christ, then the process started of developing understanding, unfolding like a seed into a flower. You want to become a full flower in your understanding, but you have salvation when at the seed level. - C.

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