Herman Bavinck and Catholic epistemology

HermanBavinck.org has posted audio files of a recent conference on Bavinck, including:

“The God of Philosophy and of the Holy Scripture: Herman Bavinck and John Paul II” by Eduardo J. Echeverria of Sacred Heart Major Seminary. A helpful lecture wherein I learned, among other things, how to pronounce “Matthias Scheeban” properly. Regardless of the title, the lecture is not limited to Bavinck and JPII but, instead, covers the convergence in Reformed and Catholic thought on the natural knowledge of God. Echeverria argues that there is a greater convergence among recent Dutch Reformed theology (Kuyper-Bavinck-Berkouwer) and recent Catholic theology (Maritain, Gilson, von B, JPII) than many realize. He also argues that the Vatican Council (1870) did not teach that knowledge of God could be “philosophically demonstrated,” though He can be known apart from special revelation.



  1. Thanks, John, for the link. In the bio essay, I especially liked:

    “Among the poignant memories recorded of visits with Bavinck at the time was his reply to the question of whether he was afraid to die: ‘My dogmatics avail me nothing, nor my knowledge, but I have my faith, and in this I have all.'”

  2. Kepha,

    I did get around to listening to the rest. I highly enjoyed the lecture. I don’t have too much to say except that I agree with his assessment, to the extent that I’m actually knowledgeable enough to agree. I would not have known much of anything Dr. Echeverria discussed except that Dr. Francesca Murphy at Aberdeen taught me most of everything I know about this development in RC thought, away from a so-called “rationalist neoscholasticism” and toward a more authentic (=Christian) philosophy. Away from a bifurcated approach to God (where philosophy is strictly independent of faith in a sort of two tier system, i.e., philosophy gets you God’s existence and most attributes, then add revelation, which gets you the covenants) and toward a conception of philosophy which for the Christian can never be abstracted from faith. Murphy thanks Gilson a lot for this, so I was glad that Escheverria quoted him extensively. Usually de Lubac is the guy quoted.

    I began studying theology with Jonathan Edwards and then my first real dogmatics was that of Emil Brunner, then some Barth, Torrance, et al. Simultaneously, I was studying philosophy where all of my Christian alternatives were mostly Roman Catholic (e.g., Elizabeth Anscombe, Robert George). The Calvinists didn’t help me much. E.g., I honestly found Barth’s Romerbrief intellectually fascinating but repugnant (at a certain level). Of course, Barth is extreme in his absolute “No” to natural knowledge of God, but even other Reformed thought is rather scant in its ability to explicate this natural knowledge in compelling terms. At the same time, I’m too much of a Kantian to buy into the sort of rationalizing going on by the neoscholastics (and apologists everywhere). So, Catholic thought like that of Gilson and von B (and Newman) are exactly the sort of balance I’m looking for, incorporating the concerns of mainstream Reformed thought on natural law, such as Echeverria sees in Bavinck and Berkouwer (and, I would add, Brunner and Torrance).

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