Herman Bavinck looms large as one of the 19th century’s greatest Reformed theologians. Despite his theological prowess, Bavinck was first and foremost concerned with being a follower of Jesus Christ. In this book, Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus In Faithful Service, John Bolt—editor of the English edition of Bavinck’s four-volume masterpiece, Reformed Dogmatics– brings the great Dutch theologian’s life and work to bear on following Jesus in the twenty-first century, helping us see the direct connection between robust theology, practical holiness, and personal joy.
This book has three parts. In the introduction, the author helps us learn about the context that Bavinck lived and ministered in. In part one, under the category, Foundations for Christian Living, Bolt explored the image of God, the law, Christian obedience, and union with Christ. In part two, he explored the shape of Christian discipleship by following Jesus, and what a Christian worldview is. Part three explores the practice of Christian discipleship in the areas of marriage and family, work and vocation, culture and education, and civil society.
Reading this book was truly eye-opening for me, as I’ve never read Bavinck’s work before. As a result of reading this book, I plan on getting Bolt’s Reformed Dogmatics and diving into Bavinck’s work here soon. In reading Bolt’s book, it became clear to me that Bavinck is very concerned with helping Christians understand that the Christian life has a doctrinal/theological dimension to it. In our own day, doctrine and theology are often relegated to our feelings. For, Bavinck and others like him truth matters because it is built upon the solid foundation of the character of God revealed in the Word of God. This is why I enjoyed this book because Bavinck understands that the goal of good doctrine is healthy disciples who live their whole lives before the face of God in every sphere of life.
While the theological dimension of Bavinck’s work on the Christian life is impressive, I was equally impressed with his approach to the practice of Christian life. Some theologians have such a strong academic bent to them that they never discuss how the theology they are describing relates to the daily lives of people. Bavinck was not one of these theologians as Bolt so ably describes in this book. Rather, Bolt held a high view of God’s Word and to a proper understanding that good theology should impact the lives of people who read it. This is seen best in part three of this book on his work on marriage, family, work, vocation, culture, education, and civil society. Almost no area is untouched by exploring these topics.
Whether you’ve read Bavinck before or you’re like me and never have, Bavinck on the Christian Life has something for you. I highly recommend this book and pray it will spark interest in further study on Bavick’s outlook on not only theological topics but also on his outlook on how theology relates to Christian life.