Book Review: Saved by Grace by Herman Bavinck

by on December 28, 2008

Bavinck, Herman. Saved by Grace: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Calling and Regeneration. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008. $30.00.

Herman Bavinck was a Dutch theologian who lived from 1854-1921. He served as professor of systematic theology at Kampen Theological Seminary (Germany Netherlands) from 1882-1902. He then succeeded Abraham Kuyper, serving again as professor of systematic theology at Free University in Amsterdam. He is known today more for his 4 volume Reformed Dogmatics which is the customary text for anyone studying Reformed theology.

Having been translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman and edited by J. Mark Beach, Saved by Grace offers an excellent perspective on the means by which God brings sinful man to a saving faith found in Christ Jesus. Because this work is anachronistic (Bavinck writes to a specific audience), it is with much delight that Beach’s 50+ page introduction to the work sheds some much needed light on what was happening in The Reformed Churches of the Netherlands around the time Bavinck wrote this book. For most, the introductory essay is more important than the writing itself since one will better appreciate the heart and fervor in which Bavinck originally wrote this book.

As a Baptist, I heartily disagree with his understanding of why infants ought to be baptized, but given his theology and understanding of Scripture, Bavinck offers an excellent apologetic for infant baptism. Regardless of one’s theology, Bavinck succinctly explains that the God we serve is a God of means. The baptism of the child is one means by which God will work to save a soul. Ultimately; however, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that calls and regenerates the sinner unto salvation.

Saved by Grace ought to be read by all pastors who proclaim the Gospel. One will see the glory of God on each page as Bavick explains that it is God alone through faith in Christ alone that anyone may be saved. The biblical means by which the Triune God sets apart His elect is through the calling and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. It is certainly a must read for any who claim Reformed theology.

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Comments

Thanks, Jake. I must have got some bad Internet info. (Either that or I am just an idiot that can’t read which wouldn’t be good for the reviews!) LOL.

I’m sure it was just bad information! Bavinck never left The Netherlands. Some of his contemporaries here in the US (most notably the Princeton crew of that time) wanted him to come here, but he wanted to stay there. He delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton in 1898, I think, but as for his career, he remained in The Netherlands.

My particular affinity for Bavinck is bolstered by the fact that my ancestral heritage is also Dutch. 🙂

I knew he delivered the Stone Lectures. I think it would be a great study to see how he and Kuyper agreed/disagreed theologically. That is why the introduction found in this book is so good. Most people have no idea who Bavinck is–I was certainly one of those people myself until I read this book.

Bavinck made two trips to America, one in 1892 and one in 1908 for the Stone Lectures. The Stone Lectures are still available, published as “The Philosophy of Revelation.”

I’m not aware of any overtures for Bavinck to make a permanent move to the States to teach at Princeton. PTS already had a systematics prof who was up to the task: B.B. Warfield. And Warfield thought Bavinck’s approach to revelation and reason was strange, due in large part to its presuppositional character.

There aren’t any comparison/contrasts published in English on Kuyper and Bavinck at present. However, John Bolt’s doctoral dissertation, which did as fine a job as any in highlighting their differences, is in the process of publication right now. So look for that, as well as Ron Gleason’s forthcoming biography of Bavinck, due in 2009. That will, no doubt, have plenty of insight into the Kuyper-Bavinck relationship.

Thanks for the clarification, Brian. I was thinking about it more later and I believe it was actually Ridderbos who some of the (non-Princeton) Reformed folks in America wanted to come over and teach here.

Thanks also for the heads-up about the books. I’ll be looking forward to both of those.

Holy cow! I had no idea who Bavinck was until I read this book and y’all are practically scholars on the man.

@Jake and Brian, thank you both for your insight and clarification into Herman Bavinck was. You are making me want to read more of his stuff.

@Terry… never heard of Bavinck?!?! What are they teaching you over there! Oh, and don’t get me started about the infant baptism… you reformed baptists confuse the heck out of me. 😉

@Ryan – I said I have never heard of him. It is important to keep in mind that I have only been a believer for just over 7 years and soteriologically (how do ya’ lik-a ‘dat) Reformed for 2 1/2.

Sorry to reply so quickly, I was just on checking my email and yours came in!