Bavinck on Natural Theology

I’m excited to see how Bavinck treats special and general revelation later in this first volume. So far, his preliminary remarks will warm the heart of anyone sympathetic to Barth or, on the Catholic side, to Henri de Lubac. In fact, the following comments can be found nearly verbatim in books treating the revolt against natural theology in the likes of Barth and in la nouvelle théologie of Henri de Lubac. Bavinck, of course, does not go as far as Barth, nor does Bavinck reorient his theology around Christology and election like Barth. So, my guess is that Bavinck would be more aligned with the Catholic nouvelle théologie and their undermining of the modern (Cartesian) method in constructing a natural theology upon rational certainty. Likewise, he follows la nouvelle théologie in rejecting the scholastic two-tier approach of first building a natural knowledge of God, upon which special knowledge through revelation is placed.

Originally natural theology was by no means intended to pave the way, step by laborious step, for revealed theology. In adopting it, one was not assuming the provisional stance of reason in order next, by reasoning and proof, to mount to the higher level of faith. But from the very outset the dogmatician took a stand on the ground of faith and, as a Christian and believer, now also looked at nature. [p. 87]

The method that arose already with scholasticism and later found acceptance also among Protestants, viz., of first treating the natural knowledge of God (the preamble of faith) and then all the historical and rational proofs (motiva credibilitatis) supporting revelation, must be rejected. At the very outset and in principle it abandons the viewpoint of faith, denies the positive character of dogmatics, moves onto the opponent’s ground, and is therefore in fact rationalistic, and makes dogmatics dependent on philosophy.

…Over against such a rationalization of religion and theology, one has to maintain (along with Schleiermacher, Rothe, Frank, Ritschl, etc.) the positive character of dogmatics. The foundations of faith (principia fidei) are themselves articles of faith (articuli fidei), based not on human arguments and proofs but on divine authority.

[p. 108-109]


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