STORIA DELLA CHIESA DAL 1800
PERSONAGGI DAL 1800 -
Il pensiero cristiano nel mondo moderno dal 1800 in poi
La Riforma diede vita
a tre confessioni di grande rilevanza nell'ambito della Chiesa occidentale — il
Cattolicesimo romano (nei termini definiti al Concilio di Trento), il
Luteranesimo (nei termini definiti nella "Confessione Augustana e nella *Formula
di concordia) e il Calvinismo (nei termini definiti nel * Catechismo di
Heidelberg e nella Confessione di Westminster). Per gran parte del periodo che
va dal 1500 al 1800 il dibattito teologico si svolse principalmente all'interno
di queste confessioni — fu il periodo della cosiddetta "teologia confessionale".
Nel corso di questi ultimi due secoli la situazione ha subito un notevole
Durante i secoli medioevali e fino al 1700 circa, la verità del
cristianesimo fu in larga misura indiscussa nell'ambito della cristianità. Nel
Medioevo probabilmente si lottò per riuscire a stabilire una relazione tra fede
e ragione. Le dispute della Riforma riguardavano la natura del vero
cristianesimo. Ma la verità del cristianesimo era pressoché fuori discussione.
Il XVIll secolo vide nascere un importante movimento, il «deismo», che perorava
la causa di una religione semplificata e "pura", basata sulla ragione, in
alternativa alle superstizioni della rivelazione cristiana. Il deismo era in
realtà una religione d'opposizione, anche se ciò poteva essere talvolta
sottilmente camuffato sotto il pretesto di un ritorno al cristianesimo primitivo
o all'essenza stessa del cristianesimo. Il deismo sfidò la chiesa dall'esterno;
ciononostante, alla fine del xvill secolo la teologia delle chiese era ancora
prevalentemente ortodossa. Durante i secoli XIX e XX, il quadro è cambiato in
Nel mondo moderno, la fede cristiana ha dovuto affrontare
una vasta gamma di sfide:
• // razionalismo. In modo circoscritto nel XVII
secolo, ma su scala molto più vasta durante il xvill, il cristianesimo cominciò
a essere attaccato in nome della ragione. Con il deismo l'attacco prese
inizialmente le forme di un concetto negativo della Divinità e della religione,
ma di lì a poco si trasformò in una vera e propria opposizione a Dio e alla
religione. Nel xix secolo l'ateismo e l'agnosticismo (termine coniato da T.H.
Huxley nel 1870) divennero per la prima volta parole comuni nell'Occidente
cristiano. La fiducia nel potere della ragione ha avuto i suoi alti e bassi nel
mondo moderno, ma l'attacco alla rivelazione è continuato senza tregua,
caratterizzando un'epoca in cui sono state messe in discussione tutte le
autorità tradizionali — non soltanto quelle cristiane.
• La scienza. La
scienza moderna spuntò nel XVII secolo su un terreno irrigato dal cristianesimo.
Se da un lato le reali scoperte scientifiche hanno avuto pochissima rilevanza
nel confermare o smentire il cristianesimo, la scienza moderna ha influito su di
esso in vari altri modi. Il metodo scientifico comporta la verifica di ogni
affermazione e l rifiuto di qualunque autorità che si ponga al di sopra della
critica. Avendo riscontrato un enorme successo in campo scientifico, tale metodo
ha di conseguenza incoraggiato un pari scetticismo nei confronti dell'autorità
anche in campi in cui la sua applicazione non sarebbe altrettanto pertinente. La
scienza moderna, poi, non soltanto ha dato origine alla tecnologia, che ha
trasformato la nostra vita, ma ha anche contribuito ad attaccare alla radice il
senso di dipendenza dell'uomo da Dio. Come ha ben notato Bertrand Russell, è
molto più facile che preghi un pescatore su una barca a remi, che uno su un
motopeschereccio. I benefici procurati dalla tecnologia, inoltre, rendono più
facile vivere soltanto in funzione di questo mondo, disinteressandosi di quello
• La critica storica. Nel XIX secolo affiorò la critica storica,
cioè, unnuovo e più rigoroso approccio alla storia, operato da un nuovo genere
di storici professionisti. Lo storico critico non ragiona più in termini di
autorità, che raramente potrebbero essere messe in discussione, bensì di fonti,
che devono essere analizzate e provate. Questo tipo di metodo, applicato alla
storia cristiana, ha avuto effetti devastanti: i resoconti biblici sono stati
esaminati spesso da parte di studiosi le cui convinzioni erano ben lungi
dall'essere ortodosse, con il risultato che la Bibbia è stata considerata sempre
meno come un'autorità da accettare, e sempre più come una fonte da criticare.
Allo stesso modo, i resoconti della vita di Cristo sono stati analizzati nel
tentativo di presentare un'immagine radicalmente nuova di Gesù. Anche la storia
della dottrina cristiana è stata vagliata in modo sistematico, per metterne in
luce i cambiamenti verificatisi nel corso dei secoli.
• La secolarizzazione.
Via via che la fede cristiana ha cessato di ricevere universale accoglienza, la
società si è indirizzata verso altre basi ideologiche. Per una grossa fetta
dell'umanità ciò ha determinato l'adozione di una nuova "religione" secolare: il
marxismo-leninismo. Nel mondo occidentale, la società si fonda su presupposti
secolari, non religiosi. La religione è sempre più considerata un affare
privato, individuale, una questione di scelta personale, come quella di
associarsi a un circolo tennistico. Questa evoluzione è stata incoraggiata dal
sorgere di una società maggiormente pluralistica, nella quale sono praticate
molteplici religioni differenti. Tutti questi cambiamenti hanno messo
profondamente in discussione la teologia cristiana. Alla loro base vi è il
rifiuto dell'autorità. Fino al secolo scorso, il cristianesimo era considerato
quasi universalmente nel mondo cristiano come un "dato", una rivelazione di Dio
da accettare per fede. Le dispute teologiche fra tradizioni confessionali
diverse potevano riguardare semmai l’identità di quella rivelazione. Ma dal
secolo scorso in avanti l'idea stessa di rivelazione è stata radicalmente
contestata — non soltanto da non credenti, ma anche da teologi inseriti in
chiese tradizionali. Vero è che mettere in dubbio l'autorità in epoca moderna ha
avuto un certo valore nell'ambito della teologia: si è verificata infatti una
sana confutazione di presupposti malfondati. Il problema è che, se da una parte,
nei confronti delle autorità stabilite, lo scetticismo è l'anima stessa della
scienza, dall'altra parte esso rappresenta il "bacio della morte" per la
teologia. Qualunque religione con qualcosa di più di una superficiale
somiglianza con il cristianesimo deve necessariamente fondarsi su qualche
autorità. Se il cristianesimo parla di Dio che si rivela in Gesù Cristo e salva
l'uomo dalla sua misera condizione, vi dev'essere una certa sottomissione a una
rivelazione autorevole. Ma a che cosa occorre sottostare (se così bisogna), e in
quali termini? Sono queste le domande che hanno diviso i teologi in epoca
moderna. Le differenze significative esistenti fra i teologi attuali concernono
sempre meno i contrasti fra confessioni diverse, per riferirsi maggiormente a
tutte le confessioni. E ciò sta verificandosi anche nel caso della divisione fra
protestanti e cattolici. Infatti, in misura sempre crescente gruppi di
protestanti e di cattolici arrivano a scoprire che i punti che li uniscono (ad
esempio, l'esperienza carismatica, il liberalismo, la «teologia della
liberazione») sono tanto significativi quanto quelli che li uniscono
rispettivamente ai loro fratelli protestanti o cattolici.
A 150 anni dalla sua nascita, desideriamo rammentare Herman
Bavinck, uno dei più importanti teologi riformati e uno dei massimi esponenti
della teologia evangelica a cavallo tra Ottocento e Novecento. Egli, insieme ad
Abraham Kuyper fu usato da Dio per promuovere un risveglio della teologia
riformata classica in Olanda, rimanendo al tempo stesso attento ai cambiamenti
culturali in corso. Oltre alla teologia, infatti, s’interessò della cultura e
della società, includendo la politica, l’educazione, la pedagogia, la psicologia
e la filosofia. Bavinck può essere considerato uno dei teologi riformati più
significativi di quel periodo. Le sue molte opere continuano ad essere lette ed
apprezzate ancora oggi, fra cui i quattro volumi della sua teologia dogmatica.
Tra le sue opere, che entro il 2005 saranno accessibili anche in italiano,
segnaliamo: Filosofia della rivelazione, La dottrina di Dio, Nel principio:
fondamenta per una teologia della creazione. Vogliamo onorarlo con riconoscenza,
ispirati come siamo dallo stesso proposito ideale che egli aveva: far ritornare
le chiese riformate storiche al “primo amore” dopo essere corse, senza
discernimento, e a loro danno, dietro seducenti ed ingannevoli
Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)
A 150 anni dalla sua nascita,
desideriamo rammentare Herman Bavinck, uno dei più importanti teologi riformati
e uno dei massimi esponenti della teologia evangelica a cavallo tra Ottocento e
Novecento. Egli, insieme ad Abraham Kuyper fu usato da Dio per promuovere un
risveglio della teologia riformata classica in Olanda, rimanendo al tempo stesso
attento ai cambiamenti culturali in corso. Oltre alla teologia, infatti,
s’interessò della cultura e della società, includendo la politica, l’educazione,
la pedagogia, la psicologia e la filosofia. Bavinck può essere considerato uno
dei teologi riformati più significativi di quel periodo.
Le sue molte opere
continuano ad essere lette ed apprezzate ancora oggi, fra cui i quattro volumi
della sua teologia dogmatica. Tra le sue opere, che entro il 2005 saranno
accessibili anche in italiano, segnaliamo: Filosofia della rivelazione, La
dottrina di Dio, Nel principio: fondamenta per una teologia della
Vogliamo onorarlo con riconoscenza, ispirati come siamo dallo
stesso proposito ideale che egli aveva: far ritornare le chiese riformate
storiche al “primo amore” dopo essere corse, senza discernimento, e a loro
danno, dietro seducenti ed ingannevoli “amanti”.
“Come teologo e dogmatico di
professione, Bavinck, per la sua teologia riformata, risale a Calvino. Facendo
questo, e prendendo pure in considerazione, sebbene non senza critiche e
riserve, l’erudizione e la scienza moderna, egli contribuì a liberare la
teologia riformata dalla sclerosi ed ossificazione a cui era stata sottoposta
dal 1750 circa … Come Agostino … egli cercava una filosofia della rivelazione
che rispondesse ai problemi della vita e del mondo – una risposta che
soddisfacesse sia il cuore che la mente” (Geesink).
La sua rilevanza, però,
non riguarda solo le chiese storiche e quelle riformate propriamente dette, ma
il mondo evangelico nel suo insieme, tendente com’è a riprodurre ancora oggi gli
errori che Bavinck combatteva, sia nel campo del liberalismo di varia natura che
Bavinck, nasce il 13 dicembre 1854 nella città di
Hoogeven, provincia di Drenthe, Olanda. Era figlio di Jan Bavinck, ministro
della Chiesa Riformata separatista olandese. Studia teologia all’università
statale di Leida per confrontarsi di prima mano con la teologia moderna. Qui
riceve il dottorato pubblicando nel 1880 una tesi intitolata De ethiek van
Ulrich Zwingli (l’etica di Ulrico Zwingli). Più tardi, riconosce che, se da un
lato questi studi contribuivano alla sua formazione intellettuale, dall’altro,
E’ nominato professore alla Facoltà teologica
della Chiesa Riformata Separatista di Kampen (1883) e diventa poi professore
della Libera Università di Amsterdam, dopo un tentativo fallito di unificare
le due istituzioni teologiche. Portava in sé l’afflato della predicazione,
associato al travaglio delle divisioni del mondo riformato e le sollecitazioni
della cultura moderna
A Kampen, Bavinck pronuncia la sua lezione inaugurale
dal titolo: De wetenschap van de H. Godgeleerdheid (“La scienza della sacra
teologia”, che pone le basi della dogmatica che avrebbe pubblicato più tardi,
proclamandosi in continuità con la teologia riformata classica.
disse, “è l’oggetto della teologia, e la Sacra Scrittura è la fonte della
conoscenza. Nella Bibbia Dio ha disposto un sistema di conoscenza di Sé stesso,
e dovere della teologia è trovarlo”.
Nel suo discorso inaugurale ad
Amsterdam, aveva altresì detto:
“La religione, il timore di Dio, deve quindi
essere l’elemento che ispira ed anima ogni investigazione teologica. E’ quello
che deve essere lo stesso battito cardiaco della scienza. Un teologo è una
persona che parla con coraggio su Dio perché parla da Dio ed attraverso Dio.
Professare la teologia è un compito sacro. E’ un ministero sacerdotale nella
casa del Signore. E’ esso stesso un servizio di culto, la consacrazione della
mente e del cuore all’onore del Suo nome” (Godsdienst en Godgeleerdheit,
In quanto professore a Kampen, Bavinck pubblica i quattro volumi della
sua teologia sistematica e continua ad elaborarla ad Amsterdam. E là che
pubblica la sua Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, vol. 1-4 (1895-1901), la sua opera
principale, ripubblicata più volte senza cambiamenti. In essa egli porta la
teologia riformata classica in confronto dialettico con i tempi moderni.
Quest’opera rimane un punto di riferimento per la teologia riformata classica in
Olanda, ma ha anche varcato l’oceano e ha ispirato studiosi in Canada e negli
Combatte, nelle sue opere, sia il Pietismo che il Liberalismo.
Se il Pietismo tende a separare l’uomo dal peccato e dal mondo, per prepararlo
alle benedizioni celesti, il Liberalismo tende a identificare la salvezza con la
vocazione terrestre. Bavinck cerca di coniugare la pietà dell’esperienza con
l’attenzione per la cultura moderna. L’essenza della fede cristiana consiste,
secondo lui, nella creazione da parte del Padre, nella devastazione dovuta al
peccato, nella restaurazione attraverso la morte del Figlio di Dio, e nella
ricreazione, mediante lo Spirito Santo, nel Regno di Dio. Bavinck, inoltre, si
oppone fortemente sia al Pelagianesimo che all’Arminianesimo.
notevole è la formulazione del Bavinck della dottrina dell’ispirazione delle
Sacre Scritture. Pur conservando e valorizzando come fondamentale la dottrina
dell’ispirazione plenaria delle Sacre Scritture, autentica Parola di Dio, per
spiegarla egli introduce il concetto di ispirazione organica, nel quale egli
tiene in debita considerazione la personalità, esperienza e contesto storico
degli autori biblici, più di quanto aveva fatto fino ad allora la dogmatica
tradizionale conservatrice. Ugualmente importante è l’accento che egli pone sul
fatto che l’intera Bibbia è ispirata dallo Spirito Santo (theopneustos). Ecco
perché le Sacre Scritture, egli afferma, sono lo strumento principe dello
Spirito Santo nell’impartire la fede e la nuova nascita.
Nella sua dottrina
della creazione, Bavinck si oppone all’evoluzionismo, che discute in modo
esteso. La fede cristiana, egli afferma, inoltre, non introduce affatto un
elemento nuovo nell’ambito della creazione, ma rinnova il cosmo stesso, corrotto
Bavinck contribuisce ad affinare la riflessione teologica sulla
grazia comune, dichiarando che da essa procede tutto quello che c’è di buono e
vero che noi vediamo nell’uomo incredulo. C’è un desiderio per la verità, per la
virtù e per l’amore tra genitori e figli. In tutto ciò che concerne la vita
terrena, l’uomo è ancora capace di fare tante cose buone. Il peccato è una
potenza, un principio che è penetrato in profondità in tutte le sfere della vita
umana – esso avrebbe, se lasciato libero di agire, devastato e distrutto ogni
cosa. Dio, però, ha posto un limite con la sua grazia. Attraverso la sua grazia
comune egli ha limitato il peccato nel suo lavoro disintegrante e distruttivo.
Tuttavia, essa non è sufficiente. Essa influenza, ma non cambia; limita, ma non
Egli promuove la dottrina dell’elezione rifiutandosi di operare
una scelta fra i concetti classici, nella teologia calvinista posteriore alla
Riforma, di supralapsarianismo ed infralapsarianismo. Entrambi, infatti, sono
insufficienti a spiegare l’elezione divina, perché la decisione di Dio non
conosce un ordine specifico. Insieme essi formano il piano eterno di Dio, in cui
non c’è né un “prima”, né un “dopo”.
Nella sua orazione di rettore Modernisme
en orthodoxie (1911), Bavinck sostiene con forza l’esistenza di Dio e la
rivelazione continua e riconoscibile, e questo contro l’ala agnostica della
teologia liberale, rendendolo un militante oppositore del modernismo.
Stone Lectures a Princeton (1908), Wijsbegeerte der Openbaring, filosofia della
rivelazione, in cui tenta una sintesi fra grandi pensatori come Agostino,
Schleiermacher e Kant, Bavinck vuole provare che la fede cristiana non si oppone
alla cultura moderna, ma solo al rifiuto del soprannaturale da parte della
Soprattutto, Bavinck è un teologo del tutto biblico – egli
sistematizza la verità cristiana sempre guidato dalla Bibbia. Un suo biografo
scrive: “Proprio come Calvino raccoglieva i suoi pensieri dalla Scrittura, così
Bavinck pescava sempre dalla Bibbia le sue idee, e, nella loro
sistematizzazione, era guidato sempre dalla Scrittura” (Landwehr).
rimane uno dei principali apologeti della fede riformata denunciando
costantemente due minacce insite nella fede riformata: ortodossia formale e
pietà evasiva. Particolarmente rilevante è la necessità che egli sostiene che
la chiesa cristiana sia coinvolta nel mondo e non si ritiri in un pietismo
“Noi non potremmo mai essere una setta. Non vogliamo esserne una e
non possiamo esserne una, se non negando il carattere assoluto della verità.
Senza dubbio è vero che il Regno dei cieli non è di questo mondo, ma esige che
tutto in questo mondo lo serva. E’ esclusivo e geloso, e non tollererà in alcun
regno di questo indipendente e neutrale accanto a sé. Naturalmente, sarebbe
molto più facile abbandonare questo mondo a sé stesso, e cercare la nostra forza
in un quieto ritiro. Un simile riposo, però, non ci è permesso quaggiù. E questo
perché ogni creatura è buona, e nulla è da rifiutare, se è ricevuta con
riconoscenza, dato che tutte le cose sono santificate dalla Parola di Dio e
dalla preghiera, e quindi respingere una qualsiasi creatura, sarebbe
ingratitudine verso Dio, una valutazione errata o un sottovalutare la Sua bontà
e i Suoi doni. La nostra guerra la dobbiamo combattere solo contro il peccato.
Non importa quanto complicato sia questo rapporto, il rapporto in cui in questo
tempo siamo posti come confessanti il Cristo, non importa quanto seri,
difficili, e virtualmente insormontabili siano i problemi sociali, politici, e
specialmente scientifici, sarebbe da parte nostra infedeltà e debolezza se
orgogliosamente ci ritirassimo dalla lotta, anche se fosse sotto la guisa di una
motivazione cristiana, e respingere la cultura del tempo come demonica” (H.
Al tempo stesso sostiene un verace ottimismo cristiano affermando
che “la fede comporta la promessa della sua vittoria sul mondo”.
Kuyper e Bavinck sono stati storicamente complementari
nella rinascita della vitalità calvinista nella vita e pensiero dell’Olanda del
19° secolo. Dogmaticamente e spiritualmente, inoltre, Herman Bavinck, si sentiva
congeniale con i teologi americani Charles Hodge e B. B. Warfield che ancora
oggi valutiamo fra i più fedeli interpreti della teologia riformata dopo il
secolo della Riforma.
 "Ma ho questo contro di te: che hai abbandonato il
tuo primo amore. Ricorda dunque da dove sei caduto, ravvediti, e compi le opere
di prima; altrimenti verrò presto da te e rimoverò il tuo candelabro dal suo
posto, se non ti ravvedi" (Ap. 2:4,5).
La Gereformeerde Kerk, che aveva
l’interesse di mantenere pura la tradizione del cristianesimo storico
(calvinista) separandosi dalla compromessa Chiesa di Stato olandese ed
opponendosi al tentativo dello stato di interferire con essa. In Olanda, la
Chiesa riformata [Herformde Kerk] era, infatti, il corpo religioso maggiore, in
parte dovuto al riconoscimento da parte dello stato e per il fatto che era
tollerante delle differenze dogmatiche. In essa emerse un’ala conservatrice e
pietista con il Risveglio (Réveil) degli anni 1820 [Da Costa, Groen Van
Prinsterer e altri]. Nel 1834 un piccolo gruppo si separò dalla chiesa ufficiale
[l’Afscheiding o “separazione”] L’enfasi maggiore della Chiesa riformata del
tempo era sulla “vita” e non sul “dogma” [Scuola di Groningen]. La crescente
tensione fra evangelici e modernisti cresceva. Nel 1886 A. Kuyper guida una
seconda separazione [la Doleantie, circa 100.000 credenti ortodossi] dalla
Chiesa riformata. Dopodiché, i due gruppi separatisti si riunirono nella
Gereformeerde Kerk, il secondo gruppo religioso più vasto dell’Olanda.
Fondata nel 1880 da Abraham Kuyper come università calvinista ortodossa,
libera dal controllo della chiesa e dello stato.
Il concetto di
“ispirazione organica” afferma che la Bibbia venne all’esistenza dalla volontà
stessa di Dio che operò sovrintendendo sulle facoltà umane degli autori in modo
tale da rendere i loro scritti inerranti e, al tempo stesso, conservando la
personalità dei singoli scrittori. Questa è la concezione presentata nei Canoni
di Westminster e da studiosi riformati come A. A. Hodge, L. Berkhof, B. M.
Palner, W. G. T. Shedd, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Gerrit C. Berkouwer, B.
B. Warfield, e C. VanTil. La si ritrova pure in studiosi conservatori non
riformati come L. S. Chafer e H. C. Thiessen. Una definizione di ispirazione
recita così: “L’ispirazione è quello speciale atto dello Spirito Santo per il
quale Egli guidò gli scrittori dei libri delle Sacre Scritture tanto da far si
che le loro parole trasmettessero i pensieri che Egli voleva fossero trasmessi,
conservassero un rapporto appropriato con gli altri libri ispirati, e fossero
resi esenti da errori di fatto o dottrina di giudizio” (Allen McRae). Solo la
concezione dell’ispirazione organica rende giustizia alle dirette affermazioni
della Bibbia e considera le ovvie differenze d’espressione. Gli altri approcci
cercano di conciliarsi con le idee e i presupposti umani. Essi mettono a rischio
il concetto di infallibilità biblica, in erranza, e piena autorità divina,
oppure negano l’idea di corrispondenza analogica nella rivelazione.
principali posizioni riguardanti l’elezione dopo la morte di Calvino. Discutono
dove si possa collocare la caduta nei propositi elettivi di Dio. Il
supralapsarianismo (“supra” per prima, “lapso” per caduta) afferma che Dio
decretò sia l’elezione che la riprovazione da ogni eternità, senza considerare i
meriti o i demeriti delle persone. Si differenzia dall’infralapsarianismo
(“infra” sta per “dopo”) che sostiene che Dio, nella predestinazione, aveva in
vista l’umanità peccatrice, nel contesto della quale elesse un certo numero a
salvezza, passando oltre agli altri. L’oggetto della predestinazione, nel
supralapsarianismo, è il genere umano non ancora creato e quindi non ancora
decaduto (homo creabilis et habilis) e nell’infralapsarianismo, il genere umano
come già creato e decaduto (creatus et lapsus). Per l’infralapsarianismo, la
sequenza temporale: creazione, caduta e salvezza, è anche un ordine logico,
mentre per il supralapsarianismo, l’ordine logico e temporale è capovolto.
Entrambe le posizioni sono insoddisfacenti, perché la connessione fra caduta ed
elezione è imperscrutabile. Il supralapsarianismo pare però più coerente e
comprensivo. Vede, infatti, la salvezza come scopo primario di Dio, mentre
l’infralapsarianismo è incline a vedere la salvezza come reazione divina al
peccato, quasi come una misura di emergenza od un’opera di riparazione
redentiva. D’altro canto il supralapsarianismo tende a razionalizzare il peccato
ed il male, considerandoli come elementi necessari nei piani di Dio, e, di
conseguenza ad accusare Dio di essere l’autore del peccato. Agli occhi dei
cattolici, dei luterani e di alcuni teologi riformati, il Dio del
supralapsarianismo assume l’aspetto di un demone che arbitrariamente salva
alcuni e danna altri, un Dio che crea al fine di condannare. Rendendo
incondizionale sia l’elezione che la riprovazione, essa è meno eticamente
soddisfacente dell’infralapsarianismo, che rappresenta l’elezione come
incondizionata, ma considera la riprovazione come condizionale alla
 Si può dire che nel complesso della sua apologetica
in favore del cristianesimo riformato scritturale, Bavinck avesse in mente
quattro influenze opposte, due interne e due esterne alla fede riformata. Le due
influenze esterne erano il moderno liberalismo religioso ed il Cattolicesimo
romano. Le due influenze interne una moribonda ortodossia formale da una parte,
ed un pietismo evasivo dall’altra.
Did Herman Bavinck Teach an “Ordo Salutis”
in His Theology?
The Question of “Applicatio Salutis”
Is There an
“Ordo” Salutis taught in the Bible?
Was Bavinck within the bounds of
Scripture by teaching a specific, fixed “order” regarding salvation? Another way
of phrasing the question is this: did Bavinck teach a fixed order of salvation,
or did he teach a way of salvation? Was Bavinck’s doctrine of the ordo salutis
scholastic in nature, or did he break the “codification” of salvation that has
come down to us from the past?
If Bavinck did teach such an order, how, if at
all, did that order tie in with what is being argued as the central motif of his
theology: the mystical union of the believer with Christ? It would appear that
if Bavinck tied the mystical union with some version of the order of salvation
that certain changes would be necessary in the way that one looked at the ordo
As was described in the previous chapter, Dr. John Bolt’s
dissertation on the idea of the imitation of Christ theme in Bavinck’s theology
added key ingredients into the equation such as suffering, self-denial, and
sacrificial love. Therefore, in this chapter we shall examine what other
Reformers and Reformed theologians have taught about the order or salvation and
then make a comparison between their views and Bavinck’s.
In Reformed circles
there has been a controversy regarding the ordo salutis and, as might be
expected, various positions have been taken on this matter. Since Bavinck was a
theologian of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it is of interest to
inquire to what degree he differed from those around him.
Moreover, is there
a distinction among the triad that Bavinck taught: ordo, the “way” of salvation,
and the applicatio salutis? In his chapter on the order of salvation and its
application, Bavinck uses these three terms as descriptions of the contents of
the subject matter. In this sense, Bavinck anticipated the discussions that
would take place in later Reformed theology surrounding the ordo.
Bavinck included many different facets of salvation in his discussion of the
ordo. He not only speaks of regeneration, righteousness, and holiness, but also
includes an array of spiritual blessings such as life, illumination, spiritual
sealing, and a bevy of other related (spiritual) gifts.
In light of the
totality of Bavinck’s theology and his theological methodology it is clear that
his discussion of the above-mentioned triad is not accidental. Rather, it is an
integral part of the manner in which he viewed salvation in general and the unio
mystica in particular.
Therefore, it needs to be asked to what extent his
particular emphasis on the mystical union of the believer with Christ played a
role in his doctrine of the order of salvation. As subsequent chapters will
manifest, it is also necessary to observe how the mystical union theme is
carried over into other facets of Bavinck’s theological system. Of particular
interest will also be the relationship between the unio and the sacraments. To
narrow the point further, we shall investigate the relationship between the unio
mystica and the “continual” meal instituted by Christ for the spiritual
strengthening of his people: the Lord’s Supper. Does Bavinck offer any
improvement to the sacramental discussions in Reformed theology? If so, what are
the particular elements that play roles in that improvement? Can it be said that
Bavinck rises above the controversy and offered something that has been
overlooked? We shall need to examine these questions in subsequent
As representatives of the Reformed view concerning the ordo
salutis, I have chosen the following theologians: John Calvin, John Murray,
Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Louis Berkhof, G.C. Berkouwer, and A.A. Hoekema. All of
them, with the exceptions of John Calvin and John Murray, were intimately
familiar with Bavinck’s work in his native Dutch language.
In addition to
examining what each of these Reformed theologians taught with a view to the ordo
salutis, we shall also ask what they taught about the unio mystica as it relates
to the ordo.
An outline of the discussion
A.A. Hoekema recounts three
varying, yet related stances on the matter of the order of salvation. Each
of the positions he delineates, including his own, is typified by men of the
Reformed persuasion who would have been familiar with Bavinck’s works. The
question each respective position asks is this: Is there a precise “order”
taught in the Bible with regard to man’s salvation?
Hoekema reminds us that
this is not a new question, but one that has been the focal point of a great
deal of discussion in the history of theology. The Lutheran theologian, Jacob
Carpov, coined the phrase ordo salutis in 1737 to describe salvation.
Especially in the case of G.C. Berkouwer—as we shall see—Carpov represented a
kind of scholasticism in theology that was to be rejected.
Berkouwer, Carpov’s devised system was the codification—in the bad sense of the
word—of the truths of Scripture. When Berkouwer was appointed as professor at
the Free University of Amsterdam his fellow professor in his department was
Valentine Hepp. Hepp favored the scholastic approach to theology.
Berkouwer took a very different tack and preferred the method of correlation
between faith and the Bible.
Since the question is crucial to and for
Reformed theology and for Bavinck’s theological methodology, we shall examine
the various points of view of the above-mentioned theologians.
It is fitting that we begin with John Calvin for several reasons. In
the first place, he is one of the “fathers” of Reformed theology. His Institutes
of the Christian Religion continues to be a source of doctoral work. The
four-volume work, along with Calvin’s letters and commentaries, provide a wealth
of material for academicians. In addition, Calvin’s works continue to be a rich
source of devotional material for practical Christian living. There are
spiritual gems contained in Calvin’s works that defy a purely academic interest.
Calvin was thoroughly conversant with the various issues confronting both the
scholarly world and the “man in the pew.” Finally, all of the theologians that
will be examined are deeply indebted to Calvin’s theology. These men—past and
present—are all included in the Reformed tradition and, as such, unashamedly
champion, espouse, and teach the Reformed faith. Bavinck is included among their
number. Bavinck’s dependence upon Calvin is noticeable throughout the GD and
other writings. It is, then, with particular interest that we begin our
investigation with John Calvin and his influence upon Reformed theology.
complete title of Book Three of the Institutes is this: “The Way in which We
Receive the Grace of Christ: What Benefits Come to Us from It, and What Effects
Follow.” For obvious reasons, it will not be possible to provide an overview of
the entire book. Nevertheless, certain salient points need to be emphasized
since it is here that Calvin gives us the kernel of what we are to understand
regarding the mystical union and its work, working, and worker in the life of
The first chapter of Book Three is entitled “The Things Spoken
concerning Christ Profit Us by the Secret Working of the Spirit.” Section one
reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit who is the “bond” that unites us to
Christ.” Calvin engages the reader from the outset by asking a question. “How do
we receive those benefits which the Father bestowed on his only-begotten son—not
for Christ’s own private use, but that he might enrich poor and needy
men?” As an aside, one can only hope that academicians would take an
important lesson from Calvin’s balance between the scholarly and the highly
How does Calvin answer his own question? Not only is his answer
genial in nature, but is especially germane to the matter of the mystical union
as the central motif in the ordo salutis. Calvin replies, “First, we must
understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated
from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race
remains useless and of no value for us.” Calvin is leading up to an
exposition of the engrafting of the believer into Christ. This was not only an
essential theme in Calvin’s theology but can be found reflected in other
Reformed theologians. In passing, it should be noted that this theme can be
found in the Heidelberg Catechism in questions and answers 20, 64, and
Calvin speaks of a “sharing” that occurs between Christ and the believer
as well as a “dwelling with us.” Calvin envisions a threefold benefit for
the believer in this union. First, Christ shares what he has received from the
Father. In the second place, he becomes ours. Third, he dwells within us. All
that he received from the Father is not merely passed along to the believer, but
becomes theirs because Christ dwells within him.
At this point, a question
that plagued the Reformed is raised by what Calvin says. The question regards
how Christ can dwell within the Christian if his body has ascended to heaven.
This question occupied a great deal of Calvin’s attention as he attempted to
forge an answer that was both scriptural and reasonable. In terms of the
believer “possessing Christ” and being indwelled by him, Calvin turns to Romans
11:17 and Galatians 3:27 to provide partial answers. “We also, in turn, are said
to be ‘engrafted into him’ [Rom. 11:17], and to ‘put on Christ’ [Gal.
3:27]; for, as I have said, all that he possesses is nothing to us until
we grow into one body with him. It is true that we obtain this by
faith.” As Calvin begins to set forth his case, he points the reader one
of his essential concepts, namely that the believer is (mystically) to grow into
one body with Christ.
Necessarily, Calvin referenced faith because “. . .we
see that not all indiscriminately embrace that communion with Christ which is
offered through the gospel.” According to Calvin, reason dictates that
man climbs higher and examines the “secret energy of the Spirit (arcana Spiritus
efficacia), by which we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits.”
Calvin has introduced two essential ingredients into his discussion: faith and
the Holy Spirit. “There is good reason for the repeated mention of the
‘testimony of the spirit’ (Spiritus testimonium), a testimony we feel engraved
like a seal upon our hearts, with the result that is seals the cleansing and
sacrifice of Christ.” The sum of Calvin’s argument is that “the Holy
Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself.”
The Scripture describes an intimate relationship between Christ and the
Spirit. The Holy Spirit “is called the ‘Spirit of sanctification’ [cf. II Thess.
2:13; I Peter 1:2; Rom. 1:4] because he not only quickens and nourishes us by a
general power that is visible both in the human race and in the rest of the
living creatures, but he is also the root (radix) and seed (semen) of heavenly
life in us.” Calvin acknowledges a general work and working of the Holy
Spirit in all mankind as well as in the remainder of all living creatures. When
he speaks of the believers, however, he reserves language such as the “root” and
“seed” of heavenly life to describe his activity.
Therefore, “we ought to
know that he is called the ‘Spirit of Christ’ not only because, as eternal Word
of God, is joined in the same Spirit with the Father, but also from his
character as the Mediator. . . . This unique life which the Son of God inspires
in his own so that they become one with him, Paul here contrasts with that
natural life which is common also to the wicked.”
activities of the Spirit point us to his work in uniting us to Christ. One of
those actions is that he persistently boils away and burns up our vicious and
inordinate desires, while, at the same time, he enflames our hearts with the
love of God and with zealous devotion. “For by the inspiration of his
power he so breathes divine life into us that we are no longer actuated by
ourselves, but are ruled by his action and prompting.” It is solely by
the relationship between Christ and the Spirit that we come to possess the
Savior. “But he unites himself to us by the Spirit alone. By the grace and power
of the same Spirit we are made his members, to keep us under himself and in turn
to possess him.”
Faith, therefore, is the principal work of the Holy
Spirit. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:13, faith has no other
source than the Spirit. In addition, the Spirit is “the inner teacher by
who effort the promise of salvation penetrates into our minds, a promise that
would otherwise only strike the air or beat upon our ears.” The Spirit
grants heavenly wisdom to the believer. He may rightly be called “the key that
unlocks for us the treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven [cf. Rev. 3:7]; and his
illumination, the keenness of our insight.”
thoughts, Calvin writes, “We have said that perfect salvation is found in the
person of Christ. Accordingly, that we may become partakers of it ‘he baptizes
us in the Holy Spirit and fire’ [Luke 3:16], bringing us into the light of faith
in his gospel and so regenerating us that we become new creatures [cf. II Cor.
5:17]; and he consecrates us, purged of worldly uncleanness, as temples holy to
God [cf. I Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21].”
Calvin understand faith and its nature? Succinctly, it could be stated that
Calvin viewed true faith as having two components: knowledge and trust. True
faith is a matter of both the head and the heart. He gives us his own definition
with the following words. “Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if
we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded
upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds
and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
This faith has
Christ as its object and all its stability rests in Christ. As is
evident from Calvin’s definition of faith, an inextricable relationship exists
between the Spirit and Christ. Referring to Christ, Calvin says, “no one can
duly know him without at the same time apprehending the sanctification of the
Spirit.” Put another way, “faith rests upon the knowledge of Christ. And
Christ cannot be known apart from the sanctification of his Spirit.”
This explains Calvin’s emphasis on faith’s certainty being of an inward,
spiritual nature. Faith consists in assurance rather than in
comprehension. Faith’s “chief hinge,” upon which it turns is this: “that
we do not regard the promises of mercy that God offers as true only outside
ourselves, but not at all in us; rather that we make them ours by inwardly
The relationship between faith and the unio is
delineated by Calvin in Inst.3.2.24. That section of material deals with the
“indestructible certainty of faith” resting upon Christ’s unity with the
believer. Describing this relationship Calvin writes, “As if we ought to think
of Christ, standing afar off and not rather dwelling in us! For we await
salvation from him not because he appears to us afar off, but because he makes
us, ingrafted into his body, participants not only in all his benefits but also
in himself.” Herein lies the essence of Calvin’s thoughts surrounding
faith. It is located in the notion of “engrafting,” which includes both
participation in Christ as well as in all his benefits. This, too, is the
essence of the mystical union of the believer with Christ. Calvin continues his
description in this manner. “But since Christ has been so imparted to you with
all his benefits that all his things are made yours, that you are made a member
of him, indeed one with him, his righteousness overwhelms you sins; his
salvation wipes out your condemnation; with his worthiness he intercedes that
your unworthiness may not come before God’s sight.”
includes both human responsibility and growth. The believer has the moral
responsibility to live as a covenant child. Calvin explains the aspect of
responsibility in this fashion. “We ought not to separate Christ from ourselves
or ourselves from him. Rather we ought to hold fast bravely with both hands to
that fellowship by which had has bound himself to us.” The element of
growth in this intimate relationship is explicated in these words. “. . .Christ
is not outside us but dwells within us. Not only does he cleave to us by an
indivisible bond of fellowship, but with a wonderful communion, day by day, he
grows more and more into one body with us, until he becomes completely one with
us.” This relationship is capable of increase—as well as diminution—but
remains “an indivisible bond of fellowship.” It is not such because of man’s
efforts, however, but because of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
firm on the promises of God, whereby it is certain that God is true in all
things. At the same time, “faith does not stand firm until a man attains
to the freely given promise; second, that it does not reconcile us to God at all
unless it joins us to Christ.”
The outworking of faith consists in
the mortification of the old man of sin and the coming to life of the new man in
Christ. Both of these happen to the believer “by participation in
Christ.” In addition, Calvin manifests the crucial place the mystical
union of the believer with Christ occupies in his theology when he writes of it
in his section dealing with justification by faith. This is a thought that will
recur in Bavinck’s theology and involves one of the central doctrines of the
Christian faith. Calvin writes,
We are deprived of this utterly incomparable
good until Christ is made ours. Therefore, that joining together of Head and
members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short, that mystical
union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ,
having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has
been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar
in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on
Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us
Much more could be said about Calvin’s doctrine of the
mystical union and its central place in his theology. Suffice it to say at this
point that what has become manifestly clear is how it forms an integral part in
his discussion of the faith life of the believer. It will become increasing
clear how Calvin profoundly influenced Bavinck in his theological
For the moment, however, we shall continue our investigation of
how various Reformed theologians after Calvin explained the concept of an ordo
In his now widely used work on redemption
John Murray lays out his case in favor of an “order” of salvation. “There are
good and conclusive reasons for thinking that the various actions of the
application of redemption. . .take place in a certain order, and that order has
been established by divine appointment, wisdom, and grace.”
agreement among all that a certain order must be maintained in salvation, but
the manner in which that outworking takes place is what is at issue. Murray
takes Romans 8:30 as the classic text that deals with salvation. From
other texts of Scripture Murray deduces grounds “for putting faith and
repentance prior to justification, and regeneration prior to faith.”
Moving out further from the central text in Romans 8, Murray finds “logical
considerations” that lead him to include adoption, sanctification, and
perseverance after justification. When he describes the application of
the accomplished redemption in Christ, Murray gives the following outline:
effectual calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption,
sanctification, perseverance, union with Christ, and
For the purposes of this work, we are only going to
focus on Murray’s comments regarding the believer’s union with Christ, which is
chapter nine of Redemption Accomplished and Applied. It should be noted,
however, that Murray does teach a “strict” form of the ordo salutis.
outset of this chapter, Murray alerts the reader that he is aware that questions
might have arisen about the union of Christ in the application of
salvation. Murray concedes that the doctrine of the unio mystica is not
merely important, it is “central” and “basic” to salvation. Nonetheless,
Murray believes he offers a good reason why the subject of union with Christ
should not be coordinated with the other phases of the application of
redemption. “That reason is that union with Christ is in itself a very broad and
By this statement, Murray means to say that the
unio is not merely a “step” or “phase” in the application of redemption, but
rather that element of salvation that “underlies every step of the application
of redemption.” “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the
whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its
once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ.” Murray
looks at the process of salvation and believes every “phase” is related to and
dependent upon union with Christ. The New Testament summary phrase for
union with Christ is “in Christ.” This New Testament terminology is applied to
much more than the application of redemption.
The “broader meaning” of the
unio is found, Murray believes, in Ephesians 1:3-4 and other texts. The
“fountain” of salvation is located in God’s eternal election “in
Christ.” Murray explains his position in this manner.
elected from eternity, but he elected in Christ. We are not able to understand
all that is involved, but the fact is plain enough that there was no election of
the Father in eternity apart from Christ. And that means that those who will be
saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his
predestinating love apart from union with Christ—they were chosen in Christ. As
far back as we can go in tracing salvation to its fountain we find “union with
Christ”; it is not something tacked on’ it is there from the
This constitutes what Murray considers to be the
“all-embracive” aspect of union with Christ. God’s plan of redemption comes to
sinner in space and time. Therefore, God’s people were also in Christ when he
died for them on the cross and secured their salvation.
What are the
implications for the union of Christ with believers? In its most fundamental
aspect, redemption may not be conceived of as an abstraction.
Hence we may
never think of the work of redemption wrought once for all by Christ apart from
the union with his people which was effected in the election of the Father
before the foundation of the world. In other words, we may never think of
redemption in abstraction from the mysterious arrangements of God’s love and
wisdom and grace by which Christ was united to his people and his people were
united to him when he died upon the accursed tree and rose again from the
The believer’s union with Christ, then, is an integral
part of redemption. The new life of the saved sinner has its inception in
Christ. That same new life is continued by virtue of being in Christ. In
addition, it is “in Christ that Christian life and behaviour are
conducted.” The biblical truth of being in Christ permeates all of the
Christian’s life, including his ethical behavior. Moreover, it is in Christ that
believers die. “They have fallen asleep in Christ or through Christ and they are
dead in Christ (1 Thess. 4:14, 16).” Finally, it is in Christ that God’s
people will be resurrected from the dead and glorified.
the union with Christ as both the source and the fruition of salvation. The
“orbit” of the union has two foci. The first is the electing love of God the
Father in his eternal counsel. The other focal point is glorification with
Christ in the manifestation of his glory. “The former has no beginning, the
latter has no end.”
For Murray, this notion of the union with Christ
and his description of it is more than a mere theological construction. It has
practical applications for the life of the believer. He may take joy in God’s
determinate counsel. He may have patience in the difficulties and perplexities
of this life. He may have confidant assurance with regard to the future. Why is
this? “It is because he cannot think of past, present, or future apart from
union with Christ.”
Murray also ties in the union of the believer
with Christ to a strong pneumatological emphasis. He rightly sees this as in
keeping with the “eternity-time-eternity” flow found in Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14.
The believer “has the seal of an eternal inheritance because it is in Christ
that he is sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise as the earnest of his
inheritance unto the redemption of the purchased possession (cf. Eph. 1:13,
14).” It is precisely the union of Christ with the believer that changes
the whole complexion of time and eternity.
By stating the matter in
this fashion, Murray makes the unio a very inclusive reality. Murray designates
it a very inclusive “subject,” but I believe this detracts from what he’s truly
attempting to say. His treatment of the union of Christ with the believer is
couched in the warmth and vitality of redemption. The union is substantially
more than a mere subject for discussion. It is life itself. We need not quibble
about words with Murray, for his own exposition points in the direction of a
personal relationship and all that it entails. Discussing the inclusive nature
of the unio, Murray states,
It embraces the wide span of salvation from it
ultimate source in the eternal election of God to its final fruition in the
glorification of the elect. It is not simply a phase of the application of
redemption; it underlies every aspect or redemption both in its accomplishment
and in its application. Union with Christ binds all together and insures that to
all for whom Christ has purchased redemption he effectively applies and
communicates the same.
Murray connection the union with both the
accomplishment and application of redemption. In terms of the outworking of the
eternal counsel, “We do not become actual partakers of Christ until redemption
is effectually applied.”
What, then, is the nature of the union
according to Murray? He lists two crucial components. First, the union is
spiritual. Second, it is mystical. Since Murray is one of the few that have
written on the union as early as he did, we shall spend some time describing his
When Murray asserts that the union is spiritual, he desires to
protect this union from the vagaries that often attend the word,
“spiritual.” Therefore, when Murray speaks of the union of Christ with
the believer being spiritual in nature he means “that the bond of this union is
the Holy Spirit himself.” This is certainly in keeping with the Reformed
tradition. Murray rightly brings Christology and Pneumatology into the closest
proximity. When he attempts to explain the precise nature of this spiritual
aspect of the union, Murray is willing to admit that the mystery surpasses our
abilities to exhaustively describe it. “…[I]t is union of an intensely spiritual
character consonant with the nature and work of the Holy Spirit so that I a real
way, surpassing our power of analysis Christ dwells in his people and his people
dwell in him.”
In the second place, the union of Christ with the
believer is mystical. The mystical union of Christ with the believer takes its
starting-point from the word, “mystery” used in the Bible. How is the
word “mystery” used in the Bible? According to Murray, there is a fourfold
observation to be made when describing biblical mystery. He says,
(1) It was
kept secret from times eternal—it was something hid in the mind and counsel of
God. (2) It did not continue to be kept hid—it was manifested and made known in
accordance with the will and commandment of God. (3) This revelation on God’s
part was mediated through and deposited in the Scripture—it was revealed to all
nations and is no longer a secret. (4) This revelation is directed to the end
that all nations may come to the obedience of faith. A mystery is, therefore,
something which eye hath not seen nor ear heard neither hath entered into the
heart of man but which God has revealed unto us by his Spirit and which by
revelation and faith comes to be known and appropriated by
The unio mystica is such a mystery. (Cf. Ephesians 5:32 and
Colossians 1:26-27.) In addition, there is a wide range of similitude used in
Scripture to describe the union with Christ. “On the highest level of being it
is compared to the union which exists between the persons of the trinity in the
Godhead.” At another level, it is compared to inanimate objects.
At a kind of “intermediate” level between the Trinity and the inanimate objects
is a variety of similitude.
It is compared to the union that existed between
Adam and all of posterity (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:19-49). It is compared to the
union that exists between man and wife (Eph. 5:22-33; cf. John 3:29). It is
compared to the union that exists between the head and the other members in the
human body (Eph. 4:15, 16). It is compared to the relation of the vine to the
branches (John 15). Hence we have analogy drawn from the various strata of
being, ascending from the inanimate realm to the very life of the persons of the
Murray guards against “identity” between Christ and the
believer in this union. “Union with Christ does not mean that we are
incorporated into the life of the Godhead.” The union of the believer
with Christ is the greatest mystery of creaturely relations. “And the mystery of
it is attested by nothing more than this that it is compared to the union that
exists between the Father and the Son in the unity of the
Murray points to the practical application of the union of
Christ and faith when he says this. “The life of faith is the life of love, and
the life of love is the life of fellowship, or mystic communion with him who
ever lives to make intercession for his people and who can be touched with the
felling of our infirmities. It is fellowship with him who has
inexhaustible reservoir of sympathy with his people’s temptation, afflictions,
and infirmities because he was tempted in all points like as they are, yet
This reality leads Murray to conclude, “Union with
Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.”
Christ’s election before the foundation of the world is “election unto the
adoption of sons.” Murray is convinced that the unio is “the central
truth” of the doctrine of salvation because it meets all the believer’s needs in
this life and gives him hope of the life to come.
recognition of the unio promotes the believer’s sanctification. This is due not
only to the sanctifying grace that is derived from Christ, “but also because the
recognition of fellowship with Christ and of the high privilege it entails
incites to gratitude, obedience, and devotion. Union means also communion and
communion constrains a humble, reverent, loving walk with him who died and rose
again that he might be our Lord.”
Murray expounds yet another benefit
of the believer’s union with Christ. Not only does the believer have fellowship
with Christ, he is also brought into a similar
relationship with the
Father. Since he has already discussed the union and the Holy Spirit,
Murray completes his exposition by ending in a thoroughly trinitarian fashion.
Union with Christ brings union with the Father and Holy Spirit with it.
Murray calls this “mysticism on the highest plane.” This trinitarian
fellowship is described this way.
Believers know the Father and have
fellowship with him in his own distinguishing character and operation as the
Father. They know the Son and have fellowship with him in his own distinguishing
character and operation as the Son, the Saviour, the Redeemer, the exalted Lord.
They know and have fellowship with the Holy Spirit in his own distinguishing
character and operation as the Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the
Murray concludes his chapter on the centrality of
the union of Christ with the believer with a type of doxology. He is not merely
concerned to give an objective description of this communion, but to highlight
its subjective importance. In keeping with the Reformed tradition, Murray refers
to the stirring of the “deepest springs of emotion in the raptures of holy love
and joy.” Murray’s description is biblically sound and also oriented
towards true experiential religion.
Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.
Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. wrote at doctoral dissertation for Westminster
Theological Seminary in Philadelphia entitled Resurrection and Redemption (A
Pauline Soteriology.) Gaffin presents a very interesting
approach to the entire ordo salutis controversy even though his dissertation is
not strictly devoted to the mystical union. He does, however, offer some
interesting insights into the issue. For the purposes of this dissertation,
emphasis will be placed on Part III, A, 4, a-d; B and the Conclusion, where
Gaffin interacts with Murray in particular regarding the “all-embracive” status
Murray ascribes to the unio.
Section III.A.4 of Gaffin’s dissertation is
entitled “The Resurrection as the Redemption of Christ.” The title, itself,
lends credence to the fact that Gaffin’s approach is going to be somewhat
unique. According to Gaffin, his study, to this point, has made it sufficiently
clear that “the significance of the resurrection is more than noetic, that it
involves more than an unveiling of the efficacy cross.” Because of its
close association with Adam’s race, Christ’s resurrection is unique. Gaffin
writes, “But despite all that is unique about Christ’s death (cf. esp. Phil.
2:6-8), the fundamental consideration for Paul is that it is the death of the
second Adam (cf. esp. Rom. 5:18f.); or better, its uniqueness is bound up with
its adamic significance.” To put it another way, “In other works [sic],
everything which Paul teaches about the death of others must be applied mutatis
mutandis in the light of Romans 8:3, to the death of Christ.”
This leads Gaffin to conclude that “it is not only meaningful but necessary to
speak of the resurrection as the redemption of Christ.” This further
Strictly speaking, it is at his resurrection that the
accomplishment of redemption finds its consummate realization. Hence in a verse
like Romans 6:10 it is essential to distinguish carefully between his death (as
an act) which was a dying to sin and the resultant condition of being dead to
sin. The latter, as the preceding verse makes especially clear, is exponential
of his resurrected state in which death is no longer master over him, [sic] In
fact, it is proper to say that only by virtue of his resurrection can his death
be called a dying to sin. To employ a distinction which perhaps has some value
at this point: with respect to its center of gravity the theology of Paul is not
a theologia crucis; rather it is a theologia gloriae resurrectionis. From these
considerations it is apparent already that a soteriology which in its basic
structure moves directly from the death of Christ to the application to others
of the benefits purchased by that death, substantially short circuits the
apostle’s own point of view. In fact, one may say that according to him the
accomplishment of redemption is only first definitively realized in the
application to Christ himself (by the Father through the Spirit) at the
resurrection of the benefits purchased by his own obedience unto
Gaffin then proceeds to discuss this scheme as it applies
to adoption, justification, sanctification, and
glorification. Gaffin has performed the service of providing the
exegetical basis for formulating the intimacy of the mystical union of the
believer with Christ. His theme of Christ’s solidarity with Adam’s fallen race
is in keeping with an increased intimacy in the ordo salutis.
continues to emphasize the solidarity between Christ and his people in section
III.B (Raised with Christ). At the outset, Gaffin situates his argument in the
fact that “the notion of having been raised with Christ existentially is
exponential, that is, it describes that aspect of the experience of being joined
to the resurrected Christ so that in experience his resurrection is
mine.” This means that,
in view of the solidarity involved, being
raised with Christ has the same significance for believers that his resurrection
has for Christ. To be more exact, the notion that the believer has been raised
with Christ bring into view all that characterizes him as a result of having
been joined to Christ as resurrected. It means nothing less than that he has
been justified, adopted, sanctified and glorified with Christ or, again better,
that he has been united with the Christ who is justified, adopted, sanctified
and glorified, and so by virtue of this (existential) identity shares these
Gaffin provides a double benefit with the above
citation. In the first place, he provides grounds for a fruitful discussion
about the nature of the mystical union of the believer with Christ. Second, is
his notion of “(existential) identity.” That is, Gaffin gives ample grounds for
a true, existential explanation of the unio. Gaffin’s work aids in taking the
ordo out of the realm of the abstract and placing it firmly within the context.
By his own admission Gaffin states that being united with Christ and the
existential identity in the shared benefits “points to the true magnitude of our
findings.” “For if the central line of argument up to this point is
correct, then, it follows as a corollary that everywhere Paul speaks of the
believer’s justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification or any of the
other benefits connected with these, there the more basic, underlying
consideration is resurrection with Christ, that is, (existential) union with
Christ as resurrected.”
For the purposes of this dissertation
Gaffin makes certain important statements regarding the doctrine of
justification by faith. He says, “Not justification by faith but union with the
resurrected Christ by faith (of which union, to be sure, the justifying aspect
stands out perhaps most prominently) is the central motif of Pauline
soteriology.” Moreover it is understood as a consequence “That the
subjectively transforming elements of soteric experience are aspects of having
been raised with Christ and flow from union with him is clear from passages like
Ephesians 2:5f. and Romans 6:3ff. and needs no further argument.” This
means that “According to Romans 8:34, justification depends not simply on an
action in the past experience of the believer but on his present relation to the
person of the resurrected Christ (cf. I Cor. 15:17).”
examined these two key sections of Gaffin’s dissertation, we shall now turn our
attention to his conclusions, for it is there that he raises his most trenchant
questions regarding the ordo salutis. Gaffin’s exegesis has led him to
conclude “that the resurrection of Christ is the pivotal factor in the whole of
the apostle’s soteriological teaching.” The practical implications and
applications for the location of this “pivotal factor” is that “Justification,
adoption, sanctification and glorification all have a common
redemptive-historical, resurrection-qualified origin and complexion. From this
it has appeared further as with Christ so with believers, that these are not
distinct acts but different facets of a single act, in the case of the latter,
the act of being raised with Christ, that is, being joined to Christ qua
Gaffin’s concern is to make the mystical union of the
believer with Christ a true unity within the context of God’s
redemptive-historical, covenantal purposes for his people. At the same time, as
was seen above, Gaffin is equally concerned about the existential element within
the “order of salvation.” It is not surprising, therefore, that Gaffin cites
Bavinck as one that was concerned about the inherent dangers of an all-too-rigid
ordo. He writes, “And it is the opinion of Herman Bavinck that especially where
the ordo salutis is concerned, dogmatics is neither interested in simply
stringing together biblical concepts nor required to employ biblical terms in
precisely the same sense which they have in Scripture.
seem, therefore, that both Gaffin and Bavinck approximate each other. Even
though there are some differences between the two, it is undeniable that they
stand in very close proximity on many points. Bavinck, for example, was strongly
in favor of a redemptive-historical approach to Scripture. In addition, he was
opposed to a purely scholastic approach to theology and that opposition carried
over to the doctrine of the ordo salutis as the citation from GD3:597 manifests.
Moreover, both Bavinck and Gaffin share the notion of the existential element in
soteriology. Both of these scholars have offered an important improvement in the
doctrine of the order of salvation by emphasizing the key role biblical
existentiality plays in faith. S.J. Meijers devoted an entire doctoral
dissertation to the topic. Bolt, too, has rightly focused on this important
As Gaffin continues in his conclusions, there are other points of
contact with Bavinck’s thinking. For example, Gaffin writes, “First and foremost
the traditional ordo salutis lacks the exclusively eschatological air which
pervades the entire Pauline soteriology. . . .For the apostle soteriology is
eschatology.” The link between Bavinck and Gaffin is also close here
for the former holds that eschatology is rooted in Christology and is, indeed,
Christology. Syd Hielema has noted this statement by Bavinck and has
written a doctoral thesis on it.
Both Gaffin and Bavinck have very similar
perspectives on this matter. As Gaffin says, “All soteric experience derives
from solidarity in Christ’ resurrection and is existence in the new aeon. As the
most plausible understanding of Romans 8:30 reflects, the present as well as the
future of the believer is conceived of eschatologically. This understanfing
[sic] of present Christian existence as an (exchatological) [sic] tension
between resurrection realized and yet to be realized is totally foreign to the
traditional ordo salutis.”
Gaffin has made an important discovery
here and is correct in his assessment. In the “traditional” view “justification,
adoption, sanctification (and regeneration) are deprived of any eschatological
significance and any really integral connection with the future.” What
this means for the traditional view is that “Eschatology enters the ordo salutis
only as that which stands at a more or less isolated distance in the future,
namely, glorification, is taken up for discussion within the locus de
Gaffin is correct in this since it is inconsequential
for Reformed theologians who speak about the “already” and “not yet” aspects of
the eschaton really to discuss eschatology as a more or less isolated locus of
theology. Both Bavinck and Gaffin are concerned to maintain eschatology within
the total framework of soteriology and not merely in one phase—glorification—of
This is not to say that Gaffin has no criticisms of Bavinck. Bavinck,
like all of us, was a child of his time. One of Gaffin’s criticisms of the
traditional view of the order of salvation has to do with treating the various
facets of that order as separate acts. As he puts it, “Nothing distinguishes the
traditional ordo salutis more than the insistence that the justification,
adoption and sanctification which occur at the inception of the application of
redemption are separate acts.” In a footnote, Gaffin especially
singles out Murray, Berkhof, and Bavinck, even though he acknowledges that there
are others that share the same sentiment.
Gaffin’s point is that
“Paul views them not as distinct acts but as distinct aspects of a single
act.” At this point it is clear that Bavinck and Gaffin share much in
common. In Gaffin’s previous citation of Bavinck (GD3:597), he pointed out that
Bavinck did not hold to precisely the same view as those Gaffin is now
criticizing. Yet, in the very next sentence in GD3:597, Bavinck
elucidates what he means. He says, “Regeneration, faith, conversion, renewal
etc. repeatedly do not designate successive moments along the way of salvation,
but summarize, in a single word, the total change that grips man.”
This means, most certainly, that even though Bavinck had not thoroughly
extricated himself from certain forms of thinking, he was different from Shedd,
Hodge, and Kuyper, even though he shared their Reformed life and
To return to Gaffin, his critique of the traditional view of the
ordo focuses on something more in-depth. It is not merely that the traditional
structure is fraught with unbiblical patterns or priorities (i.e., temporal,
logical, causal), but rather goes much deeper. “Rather, more basic and crucial
is the fact that the former is confronted with the insoluble difficulty of
trying to explain how these acts are related to the act of being joined
existentially to Christ.”
In this regard, Gaffin asks two pertinent
questions. “If at the point of inception this union is prior (and therefore
involves the possession in the inner man of all that Christ is as resurrected),
what need is there for the other acts? Conversely, if the other acts are in some
sense prior, is not union improperly subordinated and its biblical significance
severely attenuated, to say the least?” It is within this context that
Gaffin suggests that John Murray has offered one of the best summaries of the
mystical union. In a footnote Gaffin says, “Professor Murray (Redemption –
Accomplished and Applied, pp. 201-213) has given what is perhaps the best
summary treatment of the doctrine of the union with Christ. His insistence,
however, that (in its existential aspect) union is not to be coordinated with
the others acts in the application of redemption but underlies them and binds
them together (p. 205) is not and cannot be made intelligible in terms of the
ordo of separate acts with which he is working.”
Gaffin’s complaint: Murray speaks of an “all-embracive” aspect of the mystical
union but only in the sense that it underlies the others facets of the
application of redemption, not in the sense that it cannot be coordinated along
with them as an element in the ordo salutis. Murray, therefore, can speak of the
unio as “all-embracive,” but in Gaffin’s estimation, falls short of the Pauline
understanding of it.
Gaffin offers an example of how the mystical union ought
to be coordinated with, say, regeneration. “All this is simply to say that the
use of paliggenesi,a in Titus 3:5 will have to find its explanation as a
subordinate element in the apostle’s resurrection theology. More particularly,
as it has reference to the present (or past) experience of being raised with
Christ, that is, the experience of being joined to the resurrected
Christ.” The following quotation is somewhat lengthy, but germane and
pertinent to Gaffin’s argument so it will be fully cited.
observation points to a real difference, a basic incongruity. Even though it has
thought improperly in terms of separate acts, Reformed soteriology has taken
over with exemplary faithfulness those Pauline doctrines which bear upon the
inception of the application of redemption. Precisely because of this fidelity,
however, the inclusion of that factor which more than any other has come to
distinguish it, namely, its doctrine of regeneration works as something foreign
and extraneous in comparison with the apostle’s ordo. This is not at all to say
that Paul jeopardizes what the Reformed doctrine of regeneration has sought to
safeguard. Nothing could be more alien to his teaching than the notion that the
sinner in and of himself possesses some spark of life or the capacity for
Paul’s repeated emphasis upon the Holy Spirit as the
sole source and communicator of life (in the saving sense) all prohibit us from
attributing such a notion about regeneration to him. God is sovereign
and saves man by the “irrevocable efficacy and power” of his calling. “Yet this
calling realizes its enlivening function only in the establishing of fellowship
with Christ (I Cor. 1:9), the life-giving Spirit, apart from whom there is
neither life nor justification nor adoption nor sanctification nor any other
soteric reality; and for the effecting of this union faith is the necessary
This statement is in complete agreement with Gaffin’s
findings. Notice how he weaves the various strands of thought together. God is
completely sovereign is issuing and efficaciously administering the call. It
comes to man by God’s irrevocable efficacy and power. Next, Gaffin emphasizes
the life-giving work and working of the Holy Spirit with a view to the call and
the other aspects of redemption. Finally, he points to the place of faith. It is
the “instrument” by which all of the benefits and treasures of Christ are
apprehended and appropriated.
Quite rightly, this may be called Gaffin’s
“correlation” approach to the matter. In his own words he says, “It would
appear, then, that in the apostle’s soteriology there is a correlation between
Christ as life-giving and the believer as life-receiving (i.e.,
Christ-receiving) which carries back to the very inception point of salvation, a
correlation which characterizes the single act of being joined to
Christ.” Gaffin is not positing a kind of “50-50” salvation where God
does his part and then leaves it up to man to do his. Quite the contrary is the
case. Gaffin’s exegesis has led him to the conclusion that the existential
aspect of the mystical union must not be viewed either as an appendage or as
something that somehow underlies the order of salvation without actually being
coordinate to each of the facets. This “existential” character is a far cry from
a man-centered soteriology. Gaffin’s correlation idea is akin to B.B. Warfield’s
notion of “synergism.” Since this last term is susceptible to being
misunderstood and since Gaffin quotes Warfield approvingly in this regard we
shall allow the Princeton theologian to explain what he means. “There is
certainly synergism here; but it is a synergism of such character that not only
is the initiative taken by God, but the Divine action is in the exceeding
greatness of God’s power, according to the working of the strength of His might
which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead (Eph.
Without a doubt, Gaffin has produced an important study for
the Reformed world. He has provided depth of insight into the controversy in
Reformed circles surrounding the ordo salutis and how it ought to be conceived
along New Testament lines. He has couched his study within the framework of
God’s redemptive-historical actions in the covenant of grace and has also
included the much-needed element of existential union with Christ without
falling into the trap of subjectivism.
Even though Gaffin is critical of
Bavinck at certain points, there is a clear affinity between them and often they
seem to be speaking of the same or similar matters from slightly diverging
perspectives. As will become increasingly evident in the course of this work,
Gaffin and Bavinck are very close in their assessment of the ordo
Berkhof’s stance in the present discussion on the
order of salvation is what may be called a “mediating” one. Berkhof admits that
the Word of God “does not explicitly furnish the believer with a complete order
of salvation.” It does, however, offer us “a sufficient basis for such
an order.” Berkhof is cognizant of the fact that the application of
God’s grace to the individual sinner is a “unitary” process, but further admits
that there are various “movements” that can be distinguished in that
Berkhof concedes “that the work of the application of
redemption proceeds in a definite and reasonable order, and that God does not
impart the fullness of his salvation to the sinner in a single
He therefore ends up with an order of salvation that looks
like this: Calling (external calling preceding internal calling), regeneration,
conversion (including repentance and faith), justification, sanctification,
perseverance, and glorification.
It is obvious that Berkhof, like
Gaffin, was well acquainted with Bavinck. His Systematic Theology contains many
references to Bavinck’s works. The question that faces us at this juncture,
however, is to what extent Berkhof was able to grasp and incorporate Bavinck’s
thinking into his own methodology. Did Berkhof take all of the essentials that
Bavinck taught regarding the ordo salutis and teach them in his Systematic
Theology? It is my belief that he did not. Berkhof’s approach is more
rationalistic than Bavinck’s and did not make use of the various insights
Bavinck gave theology in his theological methodology as well as in the
relationship between the objective and subjective.
cursory reading of Berkouwer’s Dogmatische Studiën, reveals a deep appreciation
for the theology of Herman Bavinck even though he is not above criticizing him.
In all his writings, Berkouwer is constantly engaged in a “dialogue” with
The first volume of Berkouwer’s series is entitled Geloof en
Rechtvaardiging (Faith and Justification). In the second chapter of that work,
Berkouwer discusses what he calls “the way of salvation.” (Dutch: De Weg des
Heils.) Rather than speak of an “order” of salvation, he substitutes “the way”
of redemption. This is not accidental. Berkouwer chose his wording carefully and
consciously. In the first paragraph of that second chapter Berkouwer refers to
the structure of Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek with appreciation.
Bavinck handles Christ’s humiliation followed by Christ’s exaltation and from
there moves on to discuss the order of salvation. From his exposition of the
threefold office of Christ Bavinck handles the application of the salvation
Christ obtained for his people.
What motivated Berkouwer to raise
this matter of the ordo salutis in his first book in his series of studies in
Dogmatics? He describes his concern in terms of the objective and subjective
sides of salvation being placed next to each other in a “mechanical”
fashion. Berkouwer’s concern arose from what he refers to as a
“serious decadence process” that began in the eighteenth century.
Berkouwer’s concern, then, had to do with the mechanical, scholastic manner in
which the order of salvation was being treated in theology. Eighteenth century
theology brought with it strong speculative and rationalistic elements. What
this process produced was not an appreciation for the richness of the salvation
of the Lord as much as it did for the regenerate or believing man “in the
various stages of his life and in all the psychological variation of his
In contrast with eighteenth century theology, the
Reformation produced a “simpler” and “purer” way of dealing with the order of
salvation by placing it in the correlation between grace and faith.
Men such as Heinrich Bullinger spoke of the dispensatio salutis whereby he
thought first of God and the “Outpourer” and “Dispenser” of redemption. The
later “disintegration” of theology focused more on the believing subject and the
order of salvation than on the salvation itself. In other words, later
theology tended towards the codification of the ordo and lost sight of the God
of the ordo in the process.
Berkouwer mentions in this regard the criticism
that the Dutch theologian K.H. Miskotte leveled against the structure of
Bavinck’s theology. The criticism is predicated upon what Miskotte believes to
be missing in the structure of Bavinck’s theology. Miskotte conjectures that
there is actually no locus in Bavinck’s theology on the Holy Spirit. He draws
this conclusion because Bavinck’s chapters on the Person and Work of Christ are
immediately followed by the way of salvation (heilsorde) and the benefits of the
covenant of grace (weldaden des verbonds).
To Berkouwer it is clear
that the current controversies he was facing regarding the order or way of
salvation had to do with the order receiving its own existence, separate from
the God of the order of salvation. Theologians began increasingly to
speak of “phases” of redemption. This is incorrect according to
Berkouwer because the lines along which God leads men to his salvation are so
varied that it is impossible to establish the process in immovable
boundaries. Moreover, no “moment” in the order should be given an
independent status from the other “moments.”
What should be the
case? In spite of Miskotte’s criticisms of the structure of Bavinck’s theology,
Berkouwer quotes from Bavinck in an approving fashion as he seeks the solution
to the disintegration brought about by the eighteenth century. “It has to do
much more with ‘the displaying of the treasures of redemption and salvation,
which God let Christ obtain for his Church and who dispenses them by the Holy
Spirit’ and therefore ‘to make all the benefits known, that are contained in the
one great work of salvation.’”
Berkouwer cites Calvin as one who
correctly divided the Word of God on the matter of the order of salvation. There
are several matters that Berkouwer draws to the reader’s attention in defense of
his position. In the first place, faith has a solid foundation, which is the
gracious promise of God. The promises of God remain unfruitful for the
sinner, however, unless they are paired with the work and the working of the
Holy Spirit. He is the “key” that opens the door to the riches or treasures of
the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, Berkouwer concludes that Calvin’s
vision faith worked by the Holy Spirit is so strong that it dominates all of his
explanations of the way of salvation. Berkouwer interprets Calvin’s
explanations as a continual circling around the one middle-point: salvation in
Christ. Calvin cannot and should not be criticized for not having a
systematic approach to the order of salvation. Although he did not teach an
“order of salvation” in the later sense of that phrase, there is certainly an
order in Calvin’s thinking. That “order” is derived from redemption drawn from
the middle-point: Christ. Every other line that is drawn from that
middle-point touches the relationship between faith and the salvation that is
It should not be concluded that there was no place for
man in his correlation method. Theology focuses on God, but includes what God
has done and is doing for man. It is really a question of priority. Theology
must be God-centered and, at the same time, speak of what God graciously does
for man in his redemptive-historical dealing with man. Berkouwer himself admits
that salvation is concerned with human life to the very depths of the believing
What this means for theology according to Berkouwer is
that the task of the theologian is to focus exclusively on sola fide and sola
gratia. It is only in and through this manner that Christ as the way can be
It is my belief that Miskotte misunderstood Bavinck and
his theology. As will be amply demonstrated Bavinck followed Scripture and
Calvin very closely in ascribing a central place to the Holy Spirit in the
application of the obtained salvation. Moreover, we shall also see that Bavinck
describes an unbreakable relationship between the Holy Spirit and Christ. It
will become patently clear that Miskotte did not capture the essence of
Bavinck’s theology with his criticism.
Before Bavinck’s position on the way
of salvation is described, however, it would be helpful to understand how
Berkouwer arrived at his theological methodology and his disdain for eighteenth
century theology. Many have chronicled his theological pilgrimage, but few have
done a more admirable job that Hendrikus Berkhof and W.D. Jonker, even though
G.W. de Jong and J.C. de Moor have both written doctoral dissertations on his
methodology.. What typified Berkouwer’s methodology?
Few have captured the essence of Berkouwer’s methodology
better than Hendrikus Berkhof and W.D. Jonker. I shall
describe what they find as quintessential to Berkouwer’s methodology in brief
Berkhof describes three phases in the development of Berkouwer’s
methodology. The first phase is that of the absolute authority of
The second phase occurred in what Berkhof describes as
an “apologetic-polemic” situation. In this phase, Berkouwer engaged in
polemics against his own Reformed tradition, especially, the figures of Kuyper,
Hoeksema, and Van Til. Also in this phase Berkouwer concentrated on
the content of salvation found in the Bible.
His third phase led him to
emphasize the truly existential nature of the Scripture. In this case,
his criticism was directed more towards his own Reformed tradition as it was
found in the Heidelberg Catechism and Canons of Dort. Berkouwer was
reacting to what he perceived to be elements of objectivism in his tradition. It
should be noted in passing that this criticism should have come as no surprise
since his volume on election (De Verkiezing Gods) had already been published
where many of these complaints could be found. What was Berkouwer attempting to
accomplish in this “phase” of his theological development? Berkhof summarizes
Berkouwer’s efforts as an attempt to free the Reformed church and the Dutch
Christians from their dogmatism.
Jonker’s comments are somewhat
similar. What moved Berkouwer the most was what he perceived as the threat of
scholasticism among the Reformed. The answer to that threat was to
develop a biblical theology where he moved away from the notion of Holy
Scripture as the unicum principium cognoscendi as far as the content of dogmatic
statements is concerned. The problem here is what Berkouwer perceived to be an
(mechanical) notion situated in the word principium.
In addition, Berkouwer
desired to introduce the existential element by using sola scriptura as a
“reflection” of a theological method. The result of this “negative”
and “positive” was a biblical theology that typified
Jonker applauds Berkouwer’s refusal to use the Bible
with a “proof-text” mentality. Berkouwer’s emphasis on the Bible has
direct consequences for his dogmatic method. Jonker outlines two.
is the “freedom of the Scripture to dominate and correct our
thinking.” This can only take place when the dogmatician is never
satisfied with a formal acknowledgment of Scripture. He must continually submit
himself in a prayerful and listening posture to Scripture. This is key
for Berkouwer’s position for he believes that the living Word of God is a living
instrument that God uses in the proclamation of the message of
salvation. Therefore, it cannot be forced or coerced into a manmade
This leads Jonker to the second point of Berkouwer’s
methodology. The boundary of the Scripture’s speaking is simultaneously the
boundary of theological reflection. This manifests Berkouwer’s disdain
for speculation and rationalism. His correlation between faith and revelation
would have prevented him from positing a strict “order” of salvation.
reasons mentioned above play a role in why Berkouwer typifies the eighteenth
century as the intrusion of strong speculative and rationalistic elements into
theology. He is convinced that the eighteenth century manifested a movement away
from the riches of redemption in Christ and focused more on the regenerated or
The period of the Reformation, on the other
hand, was simpler and purer in the manner in which it treated the way of
salvation. How did the Reformers accomplish this? According to Berkouwer, it was
completed in the “window” of the correlation between grace and
Berkouwer agrees that the shift that took place from the
sixteenth to the eighteenth century was a “Symptom der Zersetzung,” that is, it
was symptomatic of “disintegration.” The loss of focus led to a
concentration upon man and the order of salvation rather than upon God and the
salvation itself. This is another reason why Berkouwer was suspect of
methodologies that were not born out of the correlation between faith and
He is convinced that the “lines” along which God leads man to His
salvation are so varied that it is impossible to establish the process in fixed
categories. Berkouwer cites Calvin as one who properly understood the
foundation of faith: God’s gracious promise. This entails a strong
pneumatological emphasis that dominates the explanation of the way of
Calvin’s explanation can be described as a “constant
circling” around the midpoint: Salvation in Christ. Since Berkouwer
admits that justification by faith is the “dominant pillar” in Calvin’s
concentric thinking about salvation, he tacitly has to concede some sort of
“order” or precedence of justification over other facets of
Berkouwer’s solution is that even though one cannot find
in Calvin’s works a kind of ordo salutis, in the later sense of those words,
there is an “order” that is established proceeding from salvation in
Berkouwer is convinced, however, that it is impossible to
take the various words used in the Bible for redemption and position them in an
unchangeable order. He argues that Romans 8 is not intended by Paul to
give a precise order of salvation since in 1 Corinthians 6:11 he places
sanctification before justification. He believes, moreover, that
dogmatic reflection upon the way of salvation must always find its “center” in
the correlation between faith and justification.
critique of the ordo salutis is this. “Logical systemization is not the highest
praise for the reflection of the Church, but the clear and decisive elimination
of every way where Christ is not exclusively confessed as the Way of
salvation. He believes that his theological method—following the path
of the Reformers—is consistent in understanding and confessing Christ as the
According to Berkouwer, it is only through the above-mentioned
correlation that the sovereignty of grace can be maintained. Christ must be the
focus and all of life must be lived in Him and through Him, so that every
attempt at man’s cooperation in the origination of salvation is cut off at the
A summary of Berkouwer’s method.
Some time has been spent
on the theology of G.C. Berkouwer for the reason that his early theology
expressed many of the concerns that Bavinck faced. Up to a point, there is a
strong agreement between these two. Bavinck wrote a truly Reformed Dogmatics
dealing with the various loci of theology and Berkouwer did. The Dogmatische
Studiën, for all their erudition and exegetical insights, lack certain key
volumes. For example, Berkouwer never wrote a volume either on creation or the
In addition, in later volumes Berkouwer’s method took him away
from Reformed orthodoxy and into a deeper appreciation for the theology of Karl
Barth. Nevertheless, his importance is still felt in his insistence on a
biblical theology as well as in his emphasis on preaching.
involved in a controversy in Holland regarding the redemptive-historical method
of preaching which also had a powerful impact on his theology. These
aspects will be examined in the summary of this chapter. The question will be
asked how Bavinck’s doctrine of the ordo was superior to someone like
For the present, however, we turn our attention to the concepts
regarding the ordo salutis as taught by the late Dr. A.A. Hoekema, another man
well acquainted with Bavinck.
A.A. Hoekema’s resolution.
A.A. Hoekema was a Reformed theologian who taught at Calvin Seminary for many
years. Though not as prolific a writer as some, he has, nonetheless, left us
with some very helpful and instructive works. In Saved by Grace, he
points out some of the difficulties in theology’s decision to speak about an
In the first place, the “terms employed in constructing an ordo
salutis are not used by Bible writers in the same way in which they are used in
In the second place, the “order in which the
various steps in the process of salvation are said to occur is not always the
same in the Bible.” Here Hoekema cites 1 Corinthians 6:11 as an
example, which we saw Berkouwer doing as well.
Thirdly, “. . .Romans 8:30,
often used as a basis for constructing a segment of the ordo salutis, does not
have as its primary purpose that of providing steps in the order of
In the fourth place, faith “should not be thought of as
only one of the steps in the order of salvation; it must continue to be
exercised throughout the believer’s life.”
“and sanctification are not successive stages in the Christian life but are
simultaneous. It is impossible to receive Christ for justification and not at
the same time to receive him for sanctification. . .”
“orders suggested by Murray and Berkhof are not complete. Love is not mentioned
in either of them, and neither is hope. Yet surely love and hope are just as
essential in the process of our salvation as is faith.”
We should think, then, not of an order of salvation with
successive steps or stages, but rather of a marvelous work of God’s grace—a way
of salvation—within which we may distinguish various aspects. These aspects,
however, are not all of the same sort; they should not therefore all be placed
into the same category. For example, some aspects of this way of salvation
concern what man does, though only in God’s strength (faith and repentance),
whereas other aspects concern what God does (regeneration and justification).
Some aspects are judicial acts (justification), whereas other aspects concern
the moral and spiritual renewal of man (regeneration and sanctification). Some
aspects are instantaneous actions (regeneration, conversion of the crisis type,
definitive sanctification), while other phases are continuing actions
(progressive sanctification, perseverance).
The conclusion of
the matter for Hoekema is this. “[T]he various phases of the way of salvation
are not to be thought of as a series of successive steps, each of which replaces
the preceding, but rather as various simultaneous aspects of the process of
salvation which, after they have begun, continue side by
Hoekema points out that Bavinck was thinking along these
lines even in the first edition of the Gereformeerde Dogmatiek when he stated
that all the benefits involved in salvation are given to the elect at the same
time. In the third edition of his Dogmatics, Bavinck expressed himself
in this fashion: “These benefits [involved in salvation] can be distinguished
but cannot be separated; like faith, hope, and love they form a triple cord
which cannot be broken.”
Comparing the first and third (and
following) editions of the GD, it is evident that Bavinck did not change his
thoughts on this key matter. His purpose is to distinguish and not to separate.
Hoekema has captured the essence of Bavinck’s methodology. He maintains the
centrality of Christ in all his theology as well as the importance of
revelation, the covenant, and the Holy Spirit.
What is also important for the
purposes of this section is Hoekema’s understanding of the unio within the
context of man’s salvation. In his work, Saved by Grace, the fourth chapter is
entitled, “Union with Christ.” Hoekema begins by quoting from John Murray’s
work, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, which we have already examined.
Hoekema also approvingly cites Calvin that the union with Christ “underlies all
of soteriology.” Hoekema ties in the union of Christ with the believer
with the work of the Holy Spirit. The importance and exclusivity of the union is
emphasized when Hoekema says this. “Only through the Spirit can we become one
with Christ and can Christ live in our hearts.” The New Testament
describes this union in a twofold manner. “Sometimes New Testament authors teach
that as believers we are in Christ.” There are other times when “the
writers of the New Testament tell us that Christ is in us.”
addition to these descriptions of the union Hoekema points out three passages in
John where the two concepts are combined. This leads Hoekema to
conclude, “It would seem, therefore, that these two types of expression are
interchangeable. When we are in Christ, Christ is also in us. Our living in him
and his living in us are as inseparable as finger and
Essential to Hoekema’s exposition of the unio mystica is
the scope of that union. He describes it as extending from eternity to eternity.
By that he means this.
Union with Christ begins with God’s
pretemporal decision to save his people in and through Jesus Christ. This union,
further, is based on the redemptive work for his people which Christ did in
history. Finally, this union is actually established with God’s people after
they have been born, continues throughout their lives, and has as its goal their
eternal glorification in the life to come. We go on, then, to see union with
Christ as having its roots in divine election, its basis in the redemptive work
of Christ, and its actual establishment with God’s people in
Hoekema locates the root of the believer’s union with
Christ in Ephesians 1:3-4. This text is compatible with others such as John
17:24 and 1 Peter 1:20. What is of particular importance is the phrase “in him.”
It “underscores the gracious mode of our salvation: God the Father chose us to
be saved not because of any merit he foresaw in us but only on the basis of our
predetermined oneness with Christ.” This approach has the added
advantage that man’s election “should never be thought of apart from
Christ.” Hoekema draw the further implications of what this must mean
when he says, “Union between Christ and his people was planned already in
eternity, in the sovereign pretemporal decision whereby God the Father selected
us as his own. Christ himself was chosen to be our Savior before the creation of
the world (1 Pet. 1:20); Ephesians 1:4 teaches us that when the Father chose
Christ, he also chose us.”
The intimacy of the union in Hoekema’s
mind is clearly delineated by the italicized words in the last quotation. The
implication of rooting the union in divine election is that God “decreed that
Christ would have a people who belonged to him from eternity to
eternity.” An addition implication is that election in Christ from
eternity “is basic to the whole of soteriology.”
If Ephesians 1:3-4
provides the roots of union with Christ, Christ’s redemptive work forms the
basis of that union. John’s gospel, in particular, speaks to this issue although
other texts of Scripture also describe this basis.
the actual union of Christ with the believer, Hoekema emphasizes that this
eternal plan is worked out in the course of history. This is a crucial
component of the plan. It is not merely an eternal plan that has no contact with
the history of God’s dealings with his people, but is thoroughly ensconced in
history itself. Hoekema expounds eight facets of the actual union between Christ
and his people in time.
First, “We are initially united with Christ in
regeneration.” Second, “We appropriate and continue to live out of
this union through faith.” Third, “We are justified in union with
Christ.” Fourth, “We are sanctified through union with
Christ.” Hoekema quotes from Lewis Smedes who says, “Christ
communicates Himself in a way that changes us without diminishing us, transforms
us without deifying us, Christianizes us without makings us Christs.”
Fifth, “We persevere in the life of faith in union with Christ.”
Sixth, “We are even said to die in Christ.” Seventh, we shall be
raised with Christ.” Finally, “We shall be eternally glorified with
All of this is merely another manifestation of the
“all-embracive” nature of the union of Christ with the believer. Hoekema
concludes his treatise on the centrality of the union in salvation with an
explanation of its significance.
He begins his section on the significance of
the union by reminding us that “Once you have had your eyes opened to this
concept of union with Christ, you will find it almost everywhere in the New
Testament.” Certainly, Bavinck understood this very early in his
career and it became the backbone of his theology. Hoekema, quoting James
Stewart, agrees that “the doctrine of union with Christ, [is] not only. . .the
mainstay of Paul’s religion, but also [is] the sheet anchor of his
One of the concepts that repeatedly presents itself in the
dissertations of Bolt, Heideman, Hielema, and Veenhof is the tension between
redemption and the larger question of the restoration of the fallen creation.
The questions raised in those dissertations are valid questions and the authors
have sought for answers to the various tensions in Bavinck’s
Hoekema offers a tentative solution when he says, “Union with
Christ, however, should not be understood only in an individualistic sense.
Though it does bring about he renewal of individuals, it does much more than
this. Ultimately it involves the renewal and recreation of the entire
universe.” Again, Hoekema cites Lewis Smedes. The quotation is
somewhat lengthy but is especially germane to the topic of salvation and
The familiar text about being “new creatures in Christ” should
not be waved too easily as a slogan for what happens “in me” when I am
convinced. The design of Christ’s new creation is far too grand, too inclusive
to be restricted to what happens inside my soul. No nook or cranny of history is
too small for its purpose, no cultural potential too large for its embrace.
Being in Christ, we are part of a new movement by His grace, a movement rolling
on toward the new heaven and new earth where all things are made right and where
He is all in all.
Smedes does not go into how the restoration
of creation is affected by union with Christ. The quotation does, however,
relate to the “all-embracive” nature of the union without explaining all the
particulars. Hoekema agrees with this assessment of the union and seems to be on
a similar track with Bavinck on this matter. It will be shown that Bavinck’s
theology accommodates the restorative aspect of Christ’s work, but is focused on
salvation. In what follows in this dissertation the emphasis will be on the
significance of union with Christ for the Christian covenant community rather
than on the wider, broader context of restoration.
It is possible, however,
to move from the narrower perspective of Christ’s person and work to an
explanation of the broader context of restoration. This is in keeping with the
emphases in Bavinck’s theology. Even though he is significantly concerned about
the world and the issue in the world—as is made manifest by Bolt, Bremmer,
Heideman, Hielema, and Veenhof.
Hoekema ends his section on the significance
of union with Christ by designating two other facets of it. He calls them the
legal and the vital aspects of the work of Christ. Each one is derived from a
separate faction of the church. The Western branch of the Christian church
“tended to emphasize the ‘legal’ side of Christ’s work.” Conversely,
the Eastern wing of the church was more inclined to emphasize “the ‘vital’ or
‘life-sharing’ side of Christ’s work.” The Western church tended to
emphasize the guilt of sin and the outstanding soteriological blessing was seen
to be justification. The Eastern Church emphasized the pollution of sin and the
outstanding soteriological blessing was deemed to be sanctification.
these “wings” or “branches” of the early church taught vital truth. The Western
Church located the greatest benefit of the Christian in forgiveness, while the
Eastern Church taught that it was everlasting life. “The Western
church tended to accent the Christ who is for us; the Eastern church, on the
other hand, was more inclined to celebrate the Christ which is in
Bavinck would have agreed with Hoekema’s conclusion regarding
the Eastern and Western Church: “We must always keep these two aspects of
Christ’s work together: the legal and the vital, Christ for us and Christ in
us.” As will be demonstrated, Bavinck saw justification and
sanctification as inseparable and taught the union of Christ as an
“all-embracive” theological truth for the entirety of his theology. Combining
the “legal” and “vital” leads Hoekema to conclude, “Through union with Christ we
receive every spiritual blessing. Christ not only died for us on Calvary’s cross
many years ago; he also lives in our hearts, now and
Hoekema has captured the greater part of Bavinck’s
doctrine of the unio mystica. This dissertation shall delve substantially more
deeply into Bavinck’s notion of the union and how that applies to the Christian
life. It is outside of the pale of this work to concentrate on the social
aspects of the union, but “social ethics” for the Christian will be examined.
With this background we shall now turn our attention to Bavinck’s explanation of
the application of salvation.
Gratia Irresistibilis and Inamissibilis
though Bavinck’s theology is characterized by his christological concentration,
all the strands of his thinking that appeared in the first five chapters of this
work must be paired with an equally strong pneumatological
Structurally, Bavinck’s chapter on the ordo is preceded by
chapters dealing with the covenant of grace (§ 44), the Person of Christ (§ 45),
the Work of Christ in his humiliation (§ 46), and the Work of Christ in his
exaltation (§ 47).
When Bavinck expounds his views on the ordo salutis, he
covers much of the same ground that the first five chapters of this work have
covered, yet with this distinction. The chapter on the ordo ties in the Person
and Work of the Holy Spirit and Christ much more intricately than he has
What became evident in the preceding chapters was the
central place Bavinck assigns the unio mystica in his theology and how it
applies to intimate fellowship with Christ. In his chapter on the ordo salutis
Bavinck works out more of the details of the unio. In addition, this eighth
chapter serves as a kind of “hinge.”
It refers back to all that Bavinck has
discussed in the Gereformeerde Dogmatiek up to this point. At the same time, it
points forward to what is coming. As we shall see, the unio and the Holy Spirit
both play an important role in Bavinck’s sacramentology in general and his views
on the Lord’s Supper in particular. The emphasis Bavinck places on the ethical
life of the believer finds particular expression in God’s saving grace in
redemption. Yet, redemption is a broad category. It is also
Bavinck’s theology describes the salvation of the entire man
and all of life. He is not content to leave man with generalities and vagaries
regarding ethical life, but is eager to point out how God’s salvation affects
man’s life at every step along the continuum of faith.
God’s “third” great
According to Bavinck, after creation and the incarnation the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit is God’s third great work. This is merely a summary
statement for a key concept in Bavinck’s theology. It is part of the work of the
Holy Spirit to take everything from the risen and ascended Lord and apply it to
Objective and subjective.
The apostolic preaching clearly
described the relationship between the objective accomplishment of salvation and
its subjective application. They are inseparable. In the
previous chapter it was pointed out that Bavinck took certain notions from the
Ethical Theologians and that he appreciated their views on the centrality of
preaching and “relational” truth.
Here he manifests how the apostolic
preaching brought the objective and subjective together and balanced redemption
accomplished and applied. It is important to note that Bavinck places a great
deal of emphasis on the importance of preaching for the way of salvation. Yet,
preaching is but one of the key means God uses to apply the accomplished
redemption. Bavinck’s focus on preaching does not lose sight of Trinitarian work
Christ exercises the application of the salvation he obtained
through the Holy Spirit. The relationship between Christ and the Holy
Spirit is so intimate and comprehensive that Paul can say, “that the Lord, and
that is Christ as the exalted Lord, is the Spirit.”
In terms of
redemptive history, the Ascension is a key moment. “At the Ascension the Holy
Spirit is made the possession of Christ in such a measure that he can be called
the Spirit. In his exaltation, Christ became a life-giving
The importance of this is grounded in the notions of
intimate fellowship and the believer’s conformity to the image of Christ. The
Spirit, who was given to Christ without measure during his time upon earth, is
now, during Christ’s exaltation, the principle of life in the fullest sense of
the word. Christ is now the life-giving Spirit who leads his
congregation along the same way to glorification.
Ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The first work Christ
performed after his exaltation was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit was promised in the Old Testament and Jesus also promised him to his
disciples after his Ascension. There was a twofold aspect to this
promise: Christ would send the Spirit, and the Spirit would lead his disciples
in all truth. The promised Spirit would be poured out in the hearts of
Jesus’ disciples, he would comfort them, lead them in the truth, and remain with
The Holy Spirit exercises one type of work in the
world in general, but a completely different sort of work in the congregation of
Jesus Christ. Starting in the Church and working from there into the world, the
Spirit convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
congregation, the Holy Spirit also dispensed spiritual gifts. Therefore, all
actions and conduct in the New Testament Church must be in accordance with the
confession, “Jesus is Lord.” In the apostolic period these gifts
included “extraordinary” workings that have ceased for the New Testament
Bavinck does not spend an excessive amount of time arguing
his case against the continuation of the “extraordinary” gifts of the Spirit.
For him, there is another aspect that is more important. It is the work of the
Spirit to lead the congregation in worship and in a moral life.
This is a critical notion for the purposes of this work. In relating the
working of the Holy Spirit to the congregation, Bavinck locates it in a twofold
idea. The ancient Church experienced the Holy Spirit as the One who led them in
worship of God and in Christian conduct. Even in the Old Testament he was the
One who brought about all true, spiritual, and moral life. Jesus’
farewell discourse in John 14-16 reiterates these truths.
For Bavinck, then,
all of life is worship of God and from that worship Christian character is
developed and Christian conduct is exercised. This manifests the ethical
emphasis in Bavinck’s theology. This emphasis is not merely “academic,” but has
many implications for the Christian walk of faith. Bavinck was not concerned
merely to set forth certain truths that would do little more than function to
serve an “historical” faith or “dead orthodoxy.”
His intent was to present to
the Church of Jesus Christ a proper emphasis on the preaching of Christ coupled
with a sound and healthy view of worship. The preaching and worship would lend
themselves to the application the preached truths in a truly and specifically
Christian behavior. The Holy Spirit plays a key role in this
The Holy Spirit and the “Unio Mystica.”
Spirit effects the most intimate fellowship between Christ and his Church and
among all believers. He has been poured out on the New Testament
Church for the purpose of applying the ordo salutis. In this work, Bavinck
re-emphasizes pneumatological Christology and christological
Christ is central in the objective, judicial deed of the
forgiveness of sins. Christ obtained this benefit for his people. This objective
salvific event is followed by the ethical and mystical benefit of
sanctification. Christ not only takes the guilt of sin away, he also breaks its
With this focus upon Christ, Bavinck immediately shifts the
discussion to the Holy Spirit and declares that he works faith in the child of
God, ensures him of his adoption, and is the Author of a new life.
Faith is not merely the acceptance of God’s witness concerning himself and man;
it is also the beginning and principle of a holy walk.
through the Holy Spirit Christ comes to his own people and lives within them.
Conversely, in and through the Holy Spirit believers are in Christ. This
fellowship affects their life, thinking, and behavior. Again, it is
noteworthy how Bavinck ties the previous three elements into a unified
Our life, thinking, and behavior are inseparable. It would be
unthinkable for him, for example, to posit a holy Christian walk typified by
antinomianism. By means of fellowship with the Person of Christ, the Holy Spirit
brings the believers into union by all their Savior’s benefits and
In the covenant of grace, the Spirit forms the believers
into one Body, makes them one in heart and soul, and causes them to grow into
complete maturity in Christ.
The “Reformed” perspective.
contrasts his own view of the fellowship of the believer with Christ with both
the Roman Catholic and Lutherans positions. He then characterizes the
Reformed position with the idea that there is no fellowship with the benefits of
Christ without simultaneous fellowship with his Person. If the first
benefit of grace already supposes fellowship with Christ, then the application
and giving of Christ to the congregation precedes everything. This is
the Reformed doctrine.
Already in the pactum salutis God’s decree
included a unio mystica and substitutionary atonement between Christ and his
people. Every benefit of grace is encapsulated in Christ and is
already prepared for his Church. Everything has been completed; God is
reconciled; man has nothing to accomplish. All of the treasures and
benefits that Christ merited and achieved become the subjective possession of
the believer in God’s time. This spells out the ordo and the
applicatio salutis simultaneously.
The application of salvation is Christ’s
work. He is the active one; he distributes himself and all his benefits to those
who are his by means of a gratia irresistibilis and inamissibilis.
Just as certainly as re-creation took place objectively in Christ, it must be
equally certain that restoration will take place through the Holy Spirit in
Just as the accomplishment of redemption by
Christ, as Mediator and Head of the covenant, had to occur in the covenant, so
also the application must take place covenantally as well. Therefore, the Church
must not be thought of individualistically or atomistically. It is a covenant
community. Each true congregation of Christ is an organism and not merely an
aggregate of people. As such, life, thinking, and behavior, although
performed by individuals, are not meant to be
As the Holy Spirit leads the believers in
the way of truth, the “new life” is not comprised of an immediate experience of
grace and redemption, but in a firm decision and a committed act of obedience to
God’s will. This is no legalis poenitentia, but one that flows forth
from faith and is only possible in union with Christ. It is a poenitentia that
is typified by mortificatio and vivificatio.
Poenitentia is another
essential part of the Christian life. Without it, the Christian life does not
exist. Its “ingredients” are mortification of sin (mortificatio) and coming to
life in Christ (vivificatio). True poenitentia is expressed by the believer’s
thankfulness to God for the gift of salvation.
In the development
of Reformed theology faith and poenitentia obtained an independent significance
in the ordo salutis. This had a twofold advantage. In the first place, faith
could be brought into a much deeper contact with the doctrine of justification
as a purely juridical act whereby God declared the sinner righteous. In the
second place, poenitentia was ascribed an ethical significance.
Calvin’s theology his emphasis on mortificatio and vivificatio, allows
poenitentia to find expression in two ways. In the first place, it pertains to a
grieving on the part of the believer with heartfelt sorrow that he has offended
God by his sin. In addition, the believer learns to hate his sin more and more
and to flee from it.
In the second place, it is a heartfelt joy in God
through Christ and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in
all good works. Good works are only those that are performed from the posture of
true faith, in accordance with the law of God, and to his glory. God’s law is
the norm or standard of these good works.
The Reformed theologians
ascribed a “normative” significance to the law of God for the believer’s moral
life. God’s law is not merely a “mirror” wherein the believer discovers and
observes his sinfulness. It is also the norm or standard of his thankfulness to
Christian conduct thus has its origin in the gift of
faith, its “rule” in the law of God, and the glory of God as its goal.
In Reformed theology the advancement of the glory of God became the task of the
Bavinck desired to honor the
subjective outworking of salvation, but not at the expense of the objective
factors of salvation such as Christ, Church, Word, and Sacrament.
While he was able to locate much that was good both in theology and philosophy
outside the Reformed faith, his abiding criticism remained that they placed the
religious subject at the center and allowed the objective truths of the faith to
fade into the background.
Bavinck’s views the ordo salutis as an
enrichment of the practical regulation of the Christian life. Its true
practicality is not situated in man as the center, but in God himself who paved
the way for Christ and revealed him. Thus subjectivism is avoided when
man realizes: (1) That all the benefits that God grants in the covenant of grace
are granted per et propter Christum. (2) That the application of the
benefits of Christ must exist in accordance with justification, but also in
sanctification, which includes renewal according to the image of
Christ. In the trinitarian “economy” of salvation the Work of
sanctification is assigned to the Holy Spirit. In the essential unity of Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, it follows that the Holy Spirit must be in union with the
Work of the Son. (3) That the working of the Holy Spirit is nothing less than an
The question is not:
What must man do in order to participate in salvation? The question is this:
What does God do in his grace in order to make the congregation participate in
the complete redemption Christ has accomplished?
salutis must be viewed theologically not anthropologically from start to finish.
In the “economy” of salvation the Holy Spirit is its Author. The entire via
salutis is “gratia Spiritus Sancti applicatrix.” This applicatio
salutis includes every moral factor on the part of the believer.
sense, God’s grace remains grace. It is not partly God’s grace and partly man’s
merit. In Reformed theology grace is and remains ethical.
Without the gift of faith it is impossible to please God and enter his
kingdom. Therefore the preaching of the gospel is indispensable to
obtain the treasures of Christ, for the Holy Spirit binds himself to the Word of
God. Yet, man remains treated as a morally responsible being. Man
merits nothing but is called to a holy walk that worships God in life, thinking,
According to Bavinck, the Holy Spirit applies the benefits
Christ has obtained for the believer in three specific areas.
First is the
illumination of the believer by the Spirit. The same Spirit who inspired the
Bible (objective) illuminates the conscience of the believer
(subject). The second area is the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration.
Lastly, there is the “preserving, leading, and sealing working of the Holy
It is this last set of workings of the Spirit that Bavinck
sets forth in a particular manner in his theology. His interest in and focus
upon the unio mystica led him to locate the working of the Holy Spirit in the
covenant meal that God instituted for the manifestation of intimate fellowship:
the Lord’s Supper.
In the Old Testament this fellowship was brought into
relationship with God’s redemption of his people from Egypt in the Passover. In
the New Testament the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was brought into the
closest possible unity with Christ, the Holy Spirit, the covenant of grace, the
ethical life of the believer, and the unio mystica.
article we have examined the question of the validity of teaching an ordo
salutis. It was noted that Reformed theologians differ on this subject. We began
by investigating John Calvin who is a seminal theologian for Reformed thinking.
We also investigated the interesting approach of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Due note
was taken of the fact that G.C. Berkouwer rejects the notion of the Bible
teaching an ordo salutis, while John Murray believes that the Bible does, in
fact, teach one. Louis Berkhof takes somewhat of a “mediating” position all the
while acknowledging that there were logical reasons for accepting the ordo. A.A.
Hoekema recognizes the validity of the ordo and, at the same time, the validity
of the criticisms of it.
Calvin, Gaffin, Hoekema, and Berkouwer came closest
to Bavinck’s position. Bavinck does provide an adequate “exit” from the
controversy as it has been stated. In that sense, he rises above the controversy
and, at the same time, provides a most practical solution for it.
“strands” of concepts that comprise his theology make it clear that his emphasis
on the union of the believer with Christ sets up the groundwork for treating it
as the central theme or motif in Bavinck’s theology. We shall now turn our
attention to some of the “strands” in Bavinck’s theology that apply to the ordo.
What are those “strands?” We shall examine them in turn.
God-centered and not
It is clear from the foregoing that Bavinck’s entire theology
is God-centered. The entire ordo is from God from beginning to end. Because it
is God-centered, it must be Christ-centered and Spirit-centered. Bavinck is
concerned to protect the true sovereignty of God in his discussion of the
At the same time, man is treated as a morally responsible being in the
ordo. Even though the focus is on God, man plays a role. This role is not
described in terms of man’s meritorious effort. There are, however, aspects
which are purely divine acts and others where—ruling out all concepts of
meritorious works—man, too is active.
For example, effectual calling and
regeneration are divine acts. Repentance (unto life) and faith in
Christ are both divine and human activities. Other purely divine acts
include justification, adoption, and (definitive)
sanctification. Progressive sanctification and a walk in holiness and
love consist of a divine and human activity. Glorification is God’s
exclusive divine act in man’s life. This is also consistent with
Hoekema’s position described previously.
Bavinck’s emphasis of
God’s covenant of grace and his trustworthiness and faithfulness are linchpins
in his theological methodology. The covenant of grace is not a mere theological
construct but rather the theological outworking of an intimate union between God
and man. This union is situated in God’s gracious sure and certain promise to be
the God of his people and they, in turn, are to be his people with all that that
This covenantal refrain echoes the mutual relationship between God
and man. God’s covenant of grace affects the totality of man’s life, thinking,
and behavior. No facet or aspect of man’s life is excluded from the covenant
relationship. This relationship has objective and subjective elements in
balance. Bavinck’s explanation is far removed from the speculative and
rationalistic and is fully ensconced in the redemptive-historical actions of
God. Bavinck’s description of the intimacy of the covenant of grace focuses on
God, salvation, the order of salvation, and the proper place of man. Bavinck
achieves this balance by constantly referring to the midpoint: salvation in
Christ. All of this is based on God’s promises to man. These promises are
grounded in the very nature of God.
Taking a point from Calvin, Bavinck
concentrates his thoughts upon the former’s emphasis on growing into one body
with Christ, putting on Christ, and being engrafted into him. This occurs
through faith, which involves two components: knowledge and
Bavinck’s contribution to the discussion is also
focused on the appropriation of the accomplished salvation. This notion is
closely coupled to God’s promises. God’s redemption is not a sterile
principium, but is an integral part of God’s plan to save sinners. Appropriation
is connected to a vital faith. Faith is exercised throughout the believer’s life
and encompasses its totality.
Regeneration, faith, conversion, renewal, and
the like, often do not point to successive steps in the way of salvation but
rather summarize in a single word the entire change that takes place in man in
redemption. Bavinck’s “list” of the components in salvation is more
complete and more all-encompassing than others of the Reformed persuasion and
also avoids the accusations of not including faith, hope, and love as components
His ordo is not one with successive steps or stages, but one
that manifests and exalts God’s grace within which Bavinck distinguishes various
aspects. The benefits of salvation are distinguished but cannot be separated.
Like faith, hope, and love they form a triple cord that cannot be
Bavinck avoids an imbalance between the objective and subjective by
his emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the application of
salvation. It is the Holy Spirit that takes everything from the risen
and ascended Christ—according to his deity as well as his humanity—and imparts
it to the believing subject.
The fourfold “office” of the Holy
The Holy Spirit does this by way of a fourfold office (munus). In
the grace of calling the Holy Spirit exercises his munus elencticum and
didacticum. His work here includes the gratia praeparans, praeveniens, and
In justification the Spirit’s office of paracleticum is in
the foreground along with the work of gratia illuminans.
aspect of the Spirit’s office is involved with sanctification where his munus
sanctificans is most evident. The day to day renewal of the believer by the
Spirit is a manifestation of his work of the gratia cooperans.
the grace of glorification, which begins in this life, the Holy Spirit exercises
his munus obsignans and restores the believer according to his gratia conservans
and perficiens. In this life perfection is not reached but in glorification the
Christian shall be completely conformed to the image of Christ, who is the
first-born among many brothers.
In its totality, the work and
working of the Holy Spirit is nothing less than an application, an applicatio
salutis of the way of salvation.
Christ’s threefold office and the
Another key manner in which Bavinck’s doctrines of the ordo, the
way of salvation, and the application of salvation is provided by his emphasis
on the threefold office of Christ and the corresponding threefold office of the
As has already been mentioned, three extensive chapters on the
Person and Work of Christ precede Bavinck’s chapter on the order of salvation.
Especially when describing the work of Christ Bavinck focuses his attention on
Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King.
There is a corresponding threefold
“office” of the believer to the threefold office of Christ. The importance of
the “engrafting” of the believer into Christ finds part of its expression in
this corresponding threefold office. As Christ is their great Prophet who
reveals the will of God to them, so in the believer’s office of prophet, he is
to confess the name of his Lord and Savior.
As Christ is their great High
Priest, who offered himself once-for-all on the cross as a sacrifice for their
sins, so the believer as one made a priest by grace is to present himself as a
living sacrifice of thankfulness to his Lord.
As Christ is the believer’s
eternal King, who governs him by his Word and Spirit and defends and preserves
him, so the Christian is to exercise the office of king by fighting with a free
and good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and by preparing to
reign with Christ eternally over all creatures.
Bavinck accomplishes several
important matters in his theology with this construction. In the first place, he
maintains the God-centered focus of salvation. His use of the “offices” of
Christ and the Holy Spirit aid him to this end. At the same time, however, he
also presents man’s place in redemption. Man remains a rational moral being who
is responsible for his life, thinking, and behavior. Bavinck achieves this
without falling into the excesses of either objectivism or
At the same time, Bavinck warns and protects against
both an “intellectual” faith as well as antinomianism. The Christian’s holy walk
must involve and engage the totality of his being. Since salvation is total and
complete, all of man’s being must be renewed. This renewal includes the moral
life of the Christian that has its origin in faith in Christ, its rule or
standard in the law of God, and the glory of God as its goal. This
occurs by means of the ordo or way of salvation.
Bavinck repeatedly emphasizes the fact that salvation is by sovereign grace
alone,  he is equally adamant that this grace was not antithetical to
the ethical, but rather is an integral part of it.
Bavinck’s view for the Lord’s Supper.
Bavinck’s description of the ordo and
way of salvation laid an important foundation for the Reformed world to follow.
Some, such as Hoekema, have followed him very closely, others have not followed
him closely and thereby they have missed some of the essential notions
pertaining to the mystical union. One of the key implications of the union is
situated in the Lord’s Supper. In the progression of this work, it will be
demonstrated how the unio mystica is the central motif in Bavinck’s theology and
how it finds one of its finest expressions in the Lord’s Supper.
As we shall
see later, Bavinck never inveighed against those who believe it is necessary to
celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly. He was well acquainted with Calvin’s desire
to celebrate weekly, but maintained what his church confessed and prescribed:
the celebration of the holy meal at least once a quarter according to the Church
Order of the Synod of Dordtrecht.
In Bavinck’s thinking the work and the
working of the Holy Spirit endures long after the celebration of the Supper was
finished. The Spirit is continuously at work in the life of the believer by
means of the unio. Since Bavinck does not express himself on the matter of a
weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, it may be assumed that he would not
have objected to such a celebration. He merely views weekly communion with
Christ through the sacrament as unnecessary.
How does Bavinck develop his
thinking along these lines and what are the influences and influential
theologians that shaped this development? In order to understand how Bavinck
incorporates everything he taught in the first three volumes of the
Gereformeerde Dogmatiek into the fourth volume, we shall need to trace his ideas
concerning the nature of the sacraments. From there, we shall investigate
Bavinck’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. This sacrament forms a central motif in
the work and working of the Holy Spirit and his application of the salvation
obtained by Christ.
How does Bavinck envision the Lord’s Supper as part of
the Spirit’s preserving, leading, and sealing work? In order for this to become
clear, we shall first examine how Bavinck explains the sacraments as a means of
 GD3:501, “Hij (the Holy Spirit) is de auteur
van wedergeboorte, Joh. 3:5, 6, Tit. 3:5, leven, Joh. 6:63, 7:38, 39, Rom. 8:2,
2 Cor. 3:6, verlichting, Joh. 14:17, 15:26, 16:13, 1 Cor. 2:6-16, 2 Cor. 3:12,
4:6, Ef. 1:17, 1 Joh. 2:20, 4:6, 5:6, van allerlei gaven, Rom. 12:3-8, 1 Cor.
12:4v., van vernieuwing en heiligmaking, Rom 8, Gal. 5:16, 22, Ef. 3:16, van
verzegeling en verheerlijking, Rom. 8:11, 23, 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5, Ef. 1:13, 14,
 A.A. Hoekema, Saved By Grace, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989),
pp. 11ff. Hereafter SBG.
 Of the three mentioned, John Murray would
have been the least likely to have an intimate acquaintance with Bavinck’s works
due to the fact—to the best of my knowledge—that he did not read Dutch as
fluently as the others. I have not found extensive quotations from Bavinck’s
works in Murray’s writings, although it seems feasible that he would have had
many conversations with Dr. Cornelius Van Til, who knew Bavinck well.
Hoekema, SBG, 11.
 Cf. G.C. Berkouwer, Zoeken en Vinden, (Kampen: Kok,
1989), pp. 75-77. In successive sections, Berkouwer describes Hepp and
Scholasticism, Biblicism, and Dogmatic exegesis. On page 74 Berkouwer remarks
concerning Hepp, “Hepp was via Kuyper door het Calvinisme
 For various descriptions of Berkouwer’s methodology,
see H. Berkhof, “De methode van Berkouwers theologie,” in J.T. Bakker et al., Ex
Auditu Verbi, (Kampen: Kok, 1965, pp. 37-55; W.D. Jonker, “Dogmatiek en Heilige
Skrif,” in J.T. Bakker et al., Seputagesimo Anno, (Kampen: Kok, 1973), pp.
86-111; J.C. de Moor, Towards a Biblically Theo-logical Method, A Structural
Analysis and a Further Elaboration of Dr. G.C. Berkouwer’s Hermeneutic-Dogmatic
Method, (Doctoral Disseration at the Free University of Amsterdam), (Kampen:
 Inst.3.1.1, 537.
“Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to
become ours and to dwell within us.”
 Eiv de, tinej tw/n kla,dwn
evxekla,sqhsan( su. de. avgrie,laioj w’n evnekentri,sqhj evn auvtoi/j kai.
sugkoinwno.j th/j r`i,zhj th/j pio,thtoj th/j evlai,aj evge,nou.. .
 o[soi ga.r eivj Cristo.n evbapti,sqhte( Cristo.n
 Inst.3.1.1, 537. Italics—RG.
 Inst.3.1.1, 538.
 Ibid. Compare
 Inst.3.1.2, 538.
 Ibid., 539.
 Ibid.., 541.
 ~Hmei/j de. ovfei,lomen euvcaristei/n tw/| qew/| pa,ntote peri.
u`mw/n( avdelfoi. hvgaphme,noi u`po. kuri,ou( o[ti ei[lato u`ma/j o` qeo.j
avparch.n eivj swthri,an evn a`giasmw/| pneu,matoj kai. pi,stei
 Inst.3.1.4, 541.
 Ibid., 551.
 Inst.3.2.8, 552.
 Ibid., 552-553.
 Inst.3.2.16, 561.
 Inst.3.2.24, 570-571.
 Inst.3.2.29, 575.
 Inst.3.3.3, 595.
 Inst.3.3.9, 600.
 John Murray, Redemption—Accomplished and Applied,
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 98. Hereafter RAA. Quoted in Hoekema, SBG,
 Murray, RAA, 82ff.
 Ibid., 95-105. On page 103 Murray
writes, “Regeneration is the beginning of all saving grace in us, and all saving
grace in exercise on our part proceeds from the fountain of
 Hoekema, SBG, 12.
 Murray, (Table of
Contents), RAA, 7.
 Ibid., 161, “In these studies we are dealing with
the application of redemption. Intelligent readers may have wondered why there
has not been up to this point some treatment of union with Christ.”
Ibid. “Obviously it is an important aspect of the application of redemption and,
if we did not take account of it, not only would our presentation of the
application of redemption be defective but our view of the Christian life would
be gravely distorted. Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion
with Christ.” Italics—RG.
 Ibid. Italics—RG.
 Ibid. “Indeed the whole process of salvation
has its origin in one phase of union with Christ and salvation has in view the
realization of others phases of union with Christ.”
 Ibid., 162-163.
 Ibid., 164.
 Ibid., 165. “Apart from union with Christ we cannot view
past, present, or future with anything but dismay and Christless dread. By union
with Christ the whole complexion of time and eternity is changed and the people
of God may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
 Ibid., 165-166. “Few words in the New
Testament have been subjected to more distortion than the word ‘Spiritual.’
Frequently it is used to denote what is little more than vague
 Ibid., 166.
 Ibid., 168.
 Ibid. “On the lowest
level it is compared to the relation that exists between the stones of a
building and the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2: 4, 5).”
 Ibid., 169.
 Ibid., 169-170. On
page 169, Murray elucidates further. “Believers are called into the fellowship
of Christ and fellowship means communion. The life of faith is one of living
union and communion with the exalted and ever-present Redeemer. Faith is
directed not only to a Redeemer who has come and completed once for all a work
of redemption. It is directed to him not merely as the one who died but as the
one who rose again and who ever lives as our great high priest and advocate..
and because faith is directed to him as living Saviour and Lord, fellowship
reaches the zenith of its exercise.”
 Ibid., 170.
 Ibid., 171. “It is out of the
measureless fullness of grace and truth, of wisdom and power, of goodness and
love, of righteousness and faithfulness which resides in him that God’s people
draw for all their needs in this life and for the hope of the life to come.
There is no truth, therefore, more suited to impart confidence and strength,
comfort and joy in the Lord than this one of union with Christ.”
 Ibid., 172. “It is union, therefore,
with the Father and with the Son and with the Holy Spirit that union with Christ
draws along with it.”
 Ibid., 172-173.
 Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Resurrection and Redemption (A
Study in Pauline Soteriology), (Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary,
Philadelphia, PA, 1969.) Hereafter RR.
 Gaffin, RR, 124.
 to. ga.r avdu,naton tou/ no,mou evn w-| hvsqe,nei
dia. th/j sarko,j( o` qeo.j to.n e`autou/ ui`o.n pe,myaj evn o`moiw,mati sarko.j
a`marti,aj kai. peri. a`marti,aj kate,krinen th.n a`marti,an evn th/|
 Gaffin, RR, 125.
 Ibid., 127. “In other words, o`risqe,ntoj seems calculated
to underscore what is already indicated when it is recognized on the basis of
other considerations that ui`ou/ qeou/ is a messianic designation: the
resurrection of Jesus is his adoption (as the second Adam).
131. “In other words, the resurrection of Christ is regarded here as his
justification or, perhaps better, as his entering upon a state of being
justified.” On page 134 Gaffin continues to write in the same vein when he says,
“For if it is the case that Jesus’ being delivered up (his death) on account of
our transgressions involved nothing less than his being identified w us in the
condemnation attendant upon and inseparable from our transgressions, indeed, if
it is the case that his death is the pointed manifestation of this solidarity in
condemnation, then it follows that his beings raised on account of our
justification involves nothing less than his identity with us in the justifying
verdict attendant upon and inseparable from the righteousness which he
established for us (or better, which he established for himself as he was one
with us) by his obedience unto death; indeed, it follows that his resurrection
is the pointed manifestation of this solidarity in justification. Plainly the
unexpressed assumption is that Jesus’ resurrection is his justification.”
 Gaffin admits that the notion of Christ’s resurrection
as his sanctification might seem improper. In RR, 135 he writes, “At a first
glance it might appear imporper [sic] to speak of Christ’s resurrection as his
sanctification.” Nevertheless, in light of the theme of “solidarity” between
Christ and his people that Gaffin is demonstrating, he concludes that
“believers’ having been raised with Christ is their (definitive) sanctification
because Christ’s resurrection is his sanctification.” (p. 136.)
Gaffin, RR, 137 reminds the reader that “glorification which stands at the end
is obviously the realization of the predestined goal, namely, conformity to the
image of Christ. Now the image of Christ is none other than the image of
specifically the resurrected Christ (cf. esp. I Cor. 15:49). Hence the patent
implication is that what Christ is by virtue of his resurrection believers will
become by virtue of their resurrection; as his resurrection is his
glorification, so their rersurrection is their glorification.”
Ibid., 137. “The resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of the last Adam;
its significance is completely exhausted in terms of his solidarity with those
for whom he purchased redemption.”
 Ibid., 138.
Ibid., 140. Emphasis RG.
 Ibid., 143-144.
Ibid., 146. “In the Introduction the question was also raised concerning the
possible dogmatic consequences of a recognition of the way in which Paul’s
thinking is controlled by his redemptive-historical outlook. In the light of the
present study it would appear that there are indeed important doctrinal
implications. These can be indicated most conveniently by employing a comparison
suggested, among other consideration, by the discussion toward the end of Part
III (A,4 and B), namely, a comparison between the structure of Paul’s
resurrection soteriology and the traditional dogmatic conception of the ordo
 Ibid., 147,
 Ibid., 149.
 GD4:667. “De
eschatologie wortelt daarom in the Christologie en is zelve Christologie, leer
van den eindelijken, volkomen triumf van Christus en van zijn rijk over al zijne
 Gaffin, RR, 149.
 Ibid., 149-150, footnote 9. There Gaffin
says the following. “That his is the plain assumption of the other leading
Reformed dogmaticians (Kuyper, Hodge, Shedd) can hardly be disputed. The
question whether these acts and others (regeneration, faith) in their mutual
relations are always only logically (causally) distinct or in some instances may
be also temporally distinct need not be entered into here except to note that
the apparently popular tendency in orthodox Reformed circles to view
regeneration as temporally prior to faith (and justification) is an index of how
thinking is regulated by the notion of the plurality of acts. In this connection
it is also worth pointing out that so finished and versatile a dogmatician as
Bavinck maintained the temporal priority of regeneration to faith: ‘Maar de
wedergeboorte in enger zin, als instorting van het beginsel des nieuwen levens,
kan ook temporeel aan het geloof voorafgaan’ (Dogmatiek, IV, 100: ‘However,
regeneration in the narrower sense, as the infusion of the principle of new
life, can also precede faith temporally.’)”
 Ibid., 149-150.
 The translation of GD3:597 is this. “Thus there is
here even less concern than elsewhere in dogmatics simply to place the concepts
occurring in Holy Scripture next to each other or to think that the terms which
dogmatics employs contain precisely the same content which they have in Holy
 GD3:597. Bavinck also approvingly cites W. Schmidt’s
Dogmatics where he states, “Ihre Ausdrücke sind sozusagen Collektivbegriffe, die
nicht sowohl einzelne Stadien oder Stufe, Grade oder entwicklungsphasen
bezeichnen, sondern die vollendete Thatsache selbst.” Emphasis
 Gaffin, RR, 150.
150, footnote 11. Gaffin goes on to criticize past Reformed theologians when he
says, “In the past Reformed dogmatics has not recognized or acknowledged the
dilemma posed above simply because, against the background of its covenant
concept, it has equivocated on the notion of union with Christ, using union
(being comtemplated [sic] one) with Christ in the design and accomplishment or
redemption (Bavinck: ‘de objectieve unio mystica’) as working capital in the
area of application.”
 Ibid., 153. Emphasis mine.
 Ibid., 153-154. “Paul’s sustained emphasis upon the Spirit
as the sole source and communicator of zwh, in the soteric sense, his constant
stress upon faith as an expression of this life (e.g., I Cor. 2:4f.; I Thess.
1:5; II Cor. 3:3 in connection with I Cor. 3:5; II Cor. 4:13) as well as his
insistence upon the absolute, all-embracing, unqualified antithesis between the
natural man and the Spiritual man (I Cor. 2:14f.), between the ‘flesh’ and the
Spirit (Romans 8:5ff.; Gal. 5:16ff.), all prohibit attributing to him such a
conception. The origin of the believer’s faith lies not in himself but in the
calling of God, a calling activity which in its irrevocable efficacy and power
is life-giving and creative (Rom. 4:17; 11:29; Eph. 1:18-20; II Tim.
 Ibid., 154.
 Ibid. Gaffin
is quoting from Warfield’s article entitled “On the Biblical Notion of
‘Renewal’” (p. 451).
 Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 196911), p. 416. Hereafter ST. Italics—RG.
 G.C. Berkouwer, Geloof en Rechtvaardiging, (Kampen: Kok,
1949), p. 23. He writes, “Als Bavinck het werk van Christus in Zijn vernedering
en verhoging heeft behandeld, gaat hij direct over tot de heilsorde. Het is
duidelijk, dat er z.i. een zeer nauwe samenhang bestaat tussen het werk van de
verhoogde Heiland en deze heilsorde. Dat werk bestaat nl. daarin, dat Christus
in de hemel Zijn profetische, priesterlijke en koninklijke werkzaamheid vóórtzet
en de orde des heils hangt hiermee onverbrekelijk samen, omdat zij handelt over
de ‘toepassing’ van het door Christus verworven heil.” Hereafter
 Berkouwer, GR, 23.
 Ibid. “Over deze ‘applicatie’
is in de dogmatiek heel veel te doen geweest en met name heeft men op deze
applicatie kritiek uitgeoefend, omdat men meende, dat zo het heil verdeeld werd
over een objectieve en een subjectieve zijde, die dan mechanisch naast elkaar
 Ibid. “Men zeg bovendien in de heilsorde een
ernstig decadentie-proces een wees er op, dat ze—in de dogmatische betekenis van
het woord—eerst in de 18e eeuw tot ontwikkeling was gekomen.”
Ibid. “In die ontwikkeling bespeurt men dan in de voortgaande systematisering
een sterk speculatief, rationalistisch element òf men ziet in dit proces een
groeiende belangstelling, niet zozeer voor de rijkdom van het heil des Heren als
wel voor de wedergeboren of gelovige mens in de verschillende stadiën van z’n
leven en in al de psychologische variatie van z’n bestaan.”
“In dit verband wijst men er op, dat de Reformatie simpeler en daardoor
zuiverder handelde, toen zij de weg des heils spande in het éne raam der
 Ibid., 24. “en zo meende men vooral in
later tijd die verschuiving te kunnen waarnemen, die als vanzelf leidde tot een
schematisering van het heil, een ‘Symptom der Zersetzung.’ Men ziet heir vooral
de fout, dat men in the Reformatie-tijd, toen Bullinger sprak van de
‘dispensatio salutis’ nog allereerst dacht aan God als Schenker en Uitdeler van
het heil, terwijl men later in de heilsorde meer op de gelovige mens was gericht
en op de orde van het heil meer nadruk legde dan op het heil
 Ibid. “In dezelfde richting ligt wel het bezwaar, dat
Miskotte inbrengt tegen Bavinck’s dogmatiek, waarin hij het bedenkelijk acht
‘dat er eigenlijk geen locus over de Heilige Geest is, omdat de leer van het
werk Jesu Christi onmiddellijk voortschrijdt naar de ‘heilsorde’ en de ‘weldaden
 Ibid., 24-25.
 Ibid., 25. “Men ziet
er een miskenning in van de objectiviteit van het heil Gods en meent deze ook
daarin te bespeuren, dat de rechtvaardiging van haar allesbeheersende plaats
verdrongen wordt en geworden is tot een ‘phase’ in het
 Ibid., 26. “De lijnen, waarlangs God de mensen leidt
tot Zijn heil, zijn zo gevarieerd, dat het onmogelijk is dit proces in vaste
stadia te fixeren.”
 Ibid. “Dat het orde-moment geen zelfstandige
betekenis heeft, maar alleen vanuit de volheid van het heil wordt bepaald, wordt
vooral hierin duidelijk, dat de dogmatiek niet samenvalt met de psychologie der
bekering en niet beschrijft alle stadia, waarin de mens op de weg des heils
 Ibid. “Het gaat er veelmeer om ‘de schatten van heil en
zaligheid ten toon te stellen, welke God door Christ voor Zijn gemeente heeft
laten verwerven en door de Heilige Geest aan haar uitdeelt’ en zo ‘al de
weldaden te doen kennen, die in het éne grote werk der verlossing begrepen
zijn.’” Berkouwer is quoting from GD32:596-597.
 Ibid., 27, citing
 Ibid. “. . .met grote nadruk onderstreept Calvijn,
dat alleen door de Heilige Geest de belofte der zaligheid in onze harten
doordringt. De Heilige Geest kan de sleutel genoemd worden, waardoor de schatten
van het hemelse koninkrijk ons ontsloten worden.”
 Ibid. “Zo
centraal is voor Calvijn deze visie op het door de Heilige Geest gewerkte
geloof, dat het al z’n uiteenzettingen over de weg des heils blijft
 Ibid. “Men kan Calvijns uiteenzettingen beschrijven
als een voortdurend cirkelen om het ene middelpunt: het heil in
 Ibid., 28. “Ook als is er bij Calvijn niet een
‘heilsorde’ in de latere zin des woords, er is wèl een orde, die vanuit het heil
in Christus bepaald is.”
 Ibid. “En alle lijnen, die vanuit dit
middelpunt getrokken worden, raken de verhouding tussen het geloof en het heil
 Ibid., 31. “Het gaat immers in het heil om het
menselijk leven, tot in alle diepten der subjectiviteit.”
“Daarom is het nodig zich voortdurend rekenschap te geven van het feit, dat het
uiteindelijk op de ganse weg des heils ‘slechts’ gaat om de exclusiviteit van
het ‘sola fide’ en het ‘sola gratia’. Want alleen zo kan beleden worden, dat
deze weg Christus is.”
 See G.W. de Jong, De Theologie van Dr. G.C.
Berkouwer, Een Strukturele Analyse (Doctoral dissertation, Free University of
Amsterdam), (Kampen: Kok, 1971.) and J.C. de Moor, Towards a Biblically
Theo-Logical Method, A Structural Analysis and a Further Elaboration of Dr. G.C.
Berkouwer’s Hermeneutic-Dogmatic Method, (Doctoral dissertation, Free University
of Amsterdam), (Kampen: Kok, 1980.)
 H. Berkhof, “De Methode van
Berkouwers Theologie, in Ex Auditu Verbi, (Kampen: Kok, 1965), pp. 37-55.
 W.D. Jonker, “Dogmatiek en Heilige Skrif,” in
Septuagesimo Anno, (Kampen: Kok, 1973), pp. 86-111. Hereafter DHS.
Berkhof, Methode, 40, “Eerste fase: het volstrekte gezag der Schrift. Berkouwers
dissertatie van 1932 was tegelijk een methodologisch program. Zij richt zich
tegen de ‘subjectief-objectieve polariteit’ zoals deze in de nieuwere duitse
theologie wordt voorgedragen.”
 Ibid., 44.
44-45, “In deze periode valt ook een duidelijke polemiek tegen
intellectualistische element in de eigen calvinistische traditie (Kuyper,
Hoekzema [sic], Van Til e.a.).”
 Ibid., 48.
 Ibid., 55, “Elke ware dogmaticus heeft kritisch en thetisch er
voor te waken dat de Schrift verstaan wordt zo als ze hier en nu gehoord moet
worden. Berkouwer gebruikt daarvoor de correlatie-methode om ons, Gereformeerden
en Nederlanders, van ons dogmatisme te bevijden [sic].”
DHS, 86, Waarin bestaan presies die kenmerkende van die teologie van Berkouwer?
In haas alles wat gedurende die afgelope aantal jare oor Berkouwer geskryf is,
word hierdie vraag beantwoord deur te wys op Berkouwer se oortuiging dat die
korrelasie tussen geloof en openbaring ‘n fundamentele rol in ons teologiese
denke behoort te speel. Vanuit hierdie uitgangspunt, word dan gesê, kom
Berkouwer tot sy tipies eksistensiële en nie-spekulatiewe dogmatiek wat daarin
geslaag het om die dreigende skolastiek binne die kerklike kringe waarin hy
beweeg, af te weer en die dogmatiese besinning tot ‘n nuwe, bybelse oriëntasis
te lei.” Emphasis mine—R.G.
 Ibid., 87.
 Ibid. “Dit is
hierdie oorweginge wat ons die vrymoedigheid laat neem om—na alles wat daar al
oor Berkouwer geskrywe is—not ‘n keer die aandag te vra vir die kenmerkende van
sy teologie. Na ons mening moet die daarin gesoek word dat Berkouwer in alle
erns probeer het om te doen wat volgens Ebeling nog nie met sukses in die
reformatoriese teologie gedoen is nie, nl. om nie net die Heilige Skrif te
beskou as die unicum principium cognoscendi wat die inhoud van die dogmatiese
uitsprake betref nie, maar óók om ‘die Bedeutung des sola scriptura für das
Verfahren der Theologie methodologisch durchzureflektieren.’ Die resultaat
hiervan was die ‘bybelse teologie’ wat so tipies van Berkouwer
 Ibid., 89-90, “As hy in één ding geslaag het, dan was dit
daarin dat hy ons bewus gemaak het van die verband tussen dogmatiek en eksegese.
Die woord eksegese moet daarby onderstreep word, omdat dit vir Berkouwer nie
slegs gegaan het om die aanhaling van bepaadle Skrifplekke as bewyse vir
leerstellige uitsprake (dicta probantia) nie, maar om ‘n luister na die Skrif
self in sy vreemdheid.”
 Ibid., 92.
 Comp. G.C. Berkouwer, De Heilige Schrift, Vol. II, (Kampen:
Kok, 1967), pp. 395, 404.
 Jonker, DHS, 92, “Dit is duidelik dat
Berkouwer hom alleen op hierdie standpunt kan stel, omdat hy die Heilige Skrif
nie benader as ‘een metafysisch document’, of as ‘n opslagplek van ‘n aantal
geopenbaarde waarhede wat maklik in skema gebring kan word nie, maar ‘als een
levend instrument, dat God dient in de verkondigning van de boodschap des
heils”, as die Woord van God ‘waarin de levende God sprekend met de mens wil
 Ibid., 93, “Dit is die kondlusie dat die grens van die
spreke van die Skrif ook die grens is vir die teologiese
 Berkouwer, GR, 23.
 Ibid. “Men ziet hier vooral de fout, dat men in de
Reformatie-tijd, toen Bullinger sprak van de ‘dispensatio salutis’ nog
allereerst dacht aan God als Schenker en Uitdeler van het heil, terwijl men
later in de heilsorde meer op de gelovige mens was gericht en op de orde van het
heil meer nadruk legde dan op het heil zelf.” Italics Berkouwer.
Ibid., 26, “De lijnen waarlangs God de mensen leidt tot Zijn heil, zijn zo
gevarieerd, dat het onmogelijk is dit proces in vaste stadia te
 Ibid., 27.
 Ibid. “Zo centraal is voor
Calvijn deze visie op het door de Heilige Geest gewerkte geloof, dat het al z’n
uiteenzettingen over de weg des heils blijft beheersen.”
 Ibid. “Calvijn is zich van z’n concentrisch denken goed
bewust, want hij noemt de rechtvaardiging de voornaamste pijler, waarop de
godsdienst rust. Ook hier gaat het enkel en alleen om de correlatie tussen
geloof en rechtvaardiging. En na deze relatie opnieuw in ‘t licht gesteld te
hebben van de boodschap der Schrift, gaat hij spreken over de Christelijke
vrijheid, over het gebed en over de verkiezing.”
 Ibid., 29.
 Ibid., 30.
 Ibid., 35, “Niet de logische systematiek is de hoogste lof
voor de bezinning der kerk, maar de duidelijke uitschakeling van alle wegen,
waarop Christus niet meer exclusief als de Weg wordt beleden.”
Ibid., 32, “Men zag dan niet meer, dat het in de heilsorde gaat om de
fundamentele vraag of in elke analyse der heilsorde nog consequent Christus
alleen als ‘Weg des heils’ wordt verstaan en beleden.”
 Cf. Berkouwer, ZV, 235-366. Also see Sidney Greidanus, Sola
Scriptura. Problems and Principles in Preaching Historical Texts, (Toronto:
Wedge Publishing Foundation, 1970), for a
 It should be remembered
that Dr. Hoekema wrote his doctoral dissertation on the doctrine of the covenant
in Bavinck’s theology.
 A.A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989).
 Hoekema, SBG, 13. In support of this
point, Hoekema interestingly quotes from Bavinck, GD32:682 approvingly. His
translation of Bavinck reads as follows: “Regeneration, faith, conversion,
renewal, and the like, often [in the Bible] do not point to successive steps in
the way of salvation but rather summarize in a single word the entire change
which takes place in man.”
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 14.
 Ibid., 15-16. Italics his.
 Ibid., 15, quoting GD13:485, “Dienovereenkomstig is de
heilsorde in drie loci te behandelen: roeping en wedergeboorte (in enger zin),
geloof en rechtvaardigmaking, heiligmaking en volharding, cf. Voetius, Disp. II
432 sq. In den eersten locus treedt Christus voornamelijk op als profeet, die
door zijn woord ons onderwijst te zaligheid; de H. Geest is daarbij de getuige
van Christus, die zijn officium elencticum uitoefent, en door de gratia
praeparans, praeveniens en operans ons het beginsel des nieuwen levens schenkt.
In den tweeden is Christus voornamelijk de priester, die door het geloof ons
zijne gerechtigheid schenkt en van de schuld der zonden ons bevrijdt; de H.
Geest oefent daarbij zijn munus paracleticum uit en maakt ons door de gratia
illuminans van onze zaligheid zeker. In den derden treedt Christus voornamelijk
op als onze koning, die ons door het geloof regeert en beschermt; de H. Geest
volbrengt daarbij zijn munus sanctificans en herschept ons door de gratia
cooperans, conservans, perficiens naar het evenbeeld van Christus. In Rom. 8:30
noemt Paulus evenzoo drie weldaden op, waarin de prognwsij zich realiseert, n.l.
roeping, rechtvaardigmaking en verheerlijking. Al deze weldaden vallen in den
tijd; ook het evdoxasen slaat niet op de verheerlijking na den dood of den dag
des oordeels, maar blijkens den aoristus op de verheerlijking, die de geloovigen
in Paulus’ dagen reeds op aarde ontvingen door de inwoning des Geestes, cf. 2
Cor. 3:18, en die in de glorificatie bij de opstanding ten jongsten dage zich
voltooit, 1 Cor. 15:53, Phil. 3:21. Zij worden in het geloof alle tegelijk aan
de uitverkorenen geschonken, cf. Ook 1 Cor. 6:11, maar daarom bestaat er onder
haar nog wel eene logische orde; en deze wordt in den ordo salutis voorgesteld,
cf. Gennrich, Studien zur Paulin. Heilsordnung, Stud. U. Krit. 1898 S. 377-431.”
 Ibid., 15, quoting GD33:689.
 Ibid. Hoekema cites 2 Corinthians
5:17;12:2; John 15:4-5, 7; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 1:4;
2;10; Philippians 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; & 1 John 4:13.
Ibid., 55. In this regard, Hoekema cites the following texts: Galatians 2:20;
Colossians 1:27; Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 13:5; & Ephesians
 Ibid. Hoekema points to John 6:56; 15:4; & 1 John
 Ibid., 56-57. Italics—RG.
 Hoekema cites John 10:26-28; 6:39;
17:2, 6, 24; Matthew 1:21; Ephesians 5:25; & Titus 2:14.
Hoekema, SBG, 59. “Having looked at the roots of and the basis for union with
Christ, we now go on to see what the Bible has to say about the actual union
established between Christ and his people in the course of
 Ibid., 60.
 Ibid., 61.
Hoekema is aware that this aspect of the union can be taken in an impersonal
manner so he adds the following correction. “Sometimes we are tempted to
understand Christ’s work for us as ‘having paid for our sins’ on the cross in a
totally impersonal way; we then think of ourselves as accepting this payment
also in an impersonal way, apart from fellowship with Christ. . . . The Bible
teaches that we can appropriate the saving work of Christ for us, and thus be
justified, only in a personal way, through living union with him.” Italics
 Ibid., 62.
 Ibid., 63.
 Ibid. Hoekema cites Romans 14:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:16;
Revelation 14:13 and Q/A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism to support his
 Ibid., 64.
 Ibid., 65.
 Ibid., 66.
Quoting from Smedes’ book Union with Christ, pg. 92.
 Ibid., 66-67.
 GD3:494, “De
uitstorting des Heiligen Geestes is na schepping en vleeschwording het derde
groote werk Gods.”
 GD3:492, “In de apostolische verkondiging wordt
dit alles veel breeder uitgewerkt. De verhouding van de objectieve verwerving en
de subjectieve toepassing des heils treedt dan helderder in het
 Ibid. “De toepassing is van de
verwerving onafscheidelijk. Het is één werk, dat aan den middelaar is
opgedragen; en Hij zal niet rusten, voordat Hij het gansche koninkrijk voltooid
den Vader overgeven kan. Maar toch, hoe onverbrekelijk verwerving en toepassing
der zaligheid ook samenhangen, er is onderscheid. Gene bracht Christus tot stand
op aarde, in den staat der vernedering, door zijn lijden en sterven, deze
volbrengt Hij van uit den hemel, in den staat der verhooging, door zijne
profetische, priesterlijke en koninklijke werkzaamheid aan de rechterhand des
Vaders. Daarom oefent Hij deze toepassing der zaligheid ook uit door den
Heiligen Geest.” Italics—RG.
“Maar bij de hemelvaart is de Heilige Geest in zulk eene mate het eigendom van
Christus geworden, dat deze zelf als de Geest kan worden aangeduid. In zijne
verhooging is Hij geworden tot levendmakenden Geest, 1 Cor.
 Ibid. “De
eerste werkzaamheid, welke Christus na zijn verhooging verricht, bestaat daarom
in de uitstorting van den Heiligen Geest.”
 Ibid. “De eene werkzaamheid bestaat daarin, dat de Heilige
Geest, in de harten der discipelen uitgestort, hen troosten, in de waarheid
leiden en eeuwig bij hen blijven zal, Joh. 14:16, 15:26, 16:7.”
Ibid. “Daarentegen oefent de Heilige Geest in de wereld eene gansch andere
werkzaamheid uit, n.l. deze, dat Hij, in de gemeente wonende en van daaruit op
de wereld inwerkende, haar overtuigt van zonde, gerechtigheid en oordeel, en op
al deze drie punten haar in het ongelijk stelt, Joh. 16:8-11.”
 GD3:500, “De Heilige Geest is het, die de innigste
gemeenschap tusschen Christus en zijne gemeente en tusschen alle geloovigen
onderling tot stand brengt.”
 Ibid. “Maar deze objectieve,
rechterlijke weldaad der vergeving is de eenige niet; zij wordt door de ethische
en mystische weldaad der heiligmaking gevolgd. Christus neemt de schuld der
zonde niet alleen weg, maar breekt ook hare macht.”
 Ibid. “De Heilige Geest is daarom niet alleen degene, die
het geloof werkt en van het kindschap verzekert, maar Hij is ook auteur van een
nieuw leven; en het geloof is niet maar aanneming van een getuigenis Gods, doch
ook aanvang en beginsel van een heiligen wandel, 2 Cor. 5:17, Ef. 2:10, 4:24,
Col. 3:9, 10.”
“Indien het toch waar is, dat de allereerste weldaad der genade reeds de
gemeenschap aan den persoon van Christus onderstelt, dan gaat de toerekening en
schenking van Christus aan de gemeente aan alles vooraf.”
“Ten eerste kon de fides nu veel inniger met de justificatio in verband
gebracht, en deze zuiver in juridischen zin als eene vrijspraak Gods worden
opgevat. . . . En het tweede voordeel bestond daarin, dat aan de poenitentia nu
zonder vreeze eene ethische beteekenis kon worden toegekend.”
 GD3:583. Italics mine—RG.
 GD4:233-234; ORF, 469.
 Comp. Inst.3.2.16, 561.
 GD3:601, “Alle weldaden des
heils, welke de Vader aan de gemeente van eeuwigheid heeft toegekend en de Zoon
in den tijd heeft verworven, zijn tevens gaven des Heiligen Geestes; door den
Geest neemt Christus, en door Christus neemt de Vader zelf al zije kinderen in
zijne innigste gemeenschap op.”
 GD3:500; 507.
GD3:567, “Het is de heilsorde, ordo or via salutis, die daarop antwoord zoekt te
geven. Want daaronder is te verstaan de wijze waarop, de orde waarin, of de weg,
waarlangs de zondaar in het bezit komt van de weldaden der genade, die door
Christus verworven zijn.”
 GD3:578, “Alle weldaden des verbonds,
welke Christus verwierf en de Heilige Geest toepast, kunnen samengevat worden
onder den naam van genade.”
 GD3:583, “En daarom moet de genade ook
een zoodanige zijn, die het verstand verlicht en den wil buigt, die dus niet
alleen zedelijk, maar ook hyperphysisch werkt en de krachten herstellt. Doch bij
Rome is deze physische werking der genade een tegenstelling van de ethische, in
elk geval eene de ethische verre te boven gaande; bij de Reformatie is en blijft
zij ethisch.” Italics mine—RG.
Continua Herman Bavinck