Herman Bavinck Quotes

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), a Dutch Reformed theologian, was a contemporary of Abraham Kuyper and B. B. Warfield, both of whom he knew well. He graduated magna cum laude in 1880 from Leiden with a double major in Systematic Theology and Old Testament. His doctoral dissertation was on the concept of the State in Zwingli’s theology. Bavinck taught at the Theological Seminary in Kampen, Holland – where he also pastored – before accepting the position of professor at the Free University of Amsterdam. He is best known for his magnum opus, Reformed Dogmatics (Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, in 4 volumes). Bavinck is one of the most balanced and solidly Reformed theologians Holland ever produced.

Bavinck introduced the notion of organic inspiration of the Scriptures and also developed a solution to the infra/supralapsarian conundrum. Although Bavinck passed away in 1921, he remains a powerful force in Reformed theology. Several important Reformed theologians owe large debts to his work, including Cornelius Van Til and Louis Berkhof.


“The doctrine of God’s immutability is of the highest significance for religion. The contrast between being and becoming marks the difference between the Creator and the creature. Every creature is continually becoming. It is changeable, constantly striving, seeks rest and satisfaction, and finds this rest in God, in Him alone, for only He is pure being and no becoming. Hence, in Scripture God is often called the Rock.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“When you wish to do something evil, you retire from the public into your house where no enemy may see you; from those places of your house which are open and visible to the eyes of men you remove yourself into your room; even in your room you fear some witness from another quarter; you retire into your heart, there you mediate: He is more inward than your heart. Wherever, therefore, you shall have fled, there He is. From yourself, whither will you flee? Will you not follow yourself wherever you shall flee? But since there is One more inward even than yourself, there is no place where you may flee from God angry but to God reconciled. There is no place at all whither you may flee. Will you flee from Him? Flee unto Him.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Heaven and earth and all creatures, herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea and all things declare God. There is not an atom of the universe in which God’s power and divinity are not revealed.” ~ Herman Bavinck



“Ascribed to God, grace is His voluntary, unrestrained, unmerited favor toward guilty sinners, granting them justification and life instead of the penalty of death, which they deserved.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“It is completely incomprehensible to us how God can reveal himself and to some extent make himself known in created beings: eternity in time, immensity in space, infinity in finite, immutability in change, being in becoming, the all, as it were, in that which is nothing. This mystery cannot be comprehended; it can only be gratefully acknowledged.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“God the Father has reconciled His created but fallen world through the death of His Son, and renews it into a Kingdom of God by His Spirit.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Whoever isolates himself from the church, i.e., from Christianity as a whole, from the history of dogma in its entirety, loses the truth of the Christian faith. That person becomes a branch that is torn from the tree and shrivels, an organ that is separated from the body and therefore doomed to die. Only within the communion of the saints can the length and the breadth, the depth and the height, of the love of Christ be comprehended.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Gratitude & joy drove them to do good works before the thought that they had to do them even crossed their mind.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The Gospel is temporary, but the law is eternal and is restored precisely through the Gospel. Freedom from the law consists, then, not in the fact that the Christian has nothing more to do with the law, but lies in the fact that the law demands nothing more from the Christian as a condition of salvation. The law can no longer judge and condemn him. Instead he delights in the law of God according to the inner man and yearns for it day and night.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“A theologian is a person who makes bold to speak about God because he speaks out of God and through God. To profess theology is to do holy work. It is a priestly ministration in the house of the Lord. It is itself a service of worship, a consecration of mind and heart to the honour of His name.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The essence of Christianity consists therein: that the creation of the Father, destroyed by sin, is again restored in the death of the Son of God and recreated by the grace of the Holy Spirit to a Kingdom of God.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“In this simple but profound psychological way Scripture tells the history of the fall and of the origin of sin. In this way sin continues still to come into being. It begins with the darkening of the understanding, continues with the excitement of the imagination, stimulates desire in the heart, and culminates in an act of the will.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“God saves by causing Himself to be known and enjoyed in Christ.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“One human nature is common to all the descendants of Adam, and it is, for all men, guilty and polluted” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Faith and repentance are as much benefits of the covenant of grace as justification . . . . faith and repentance themselves . . . . are components of the gospel, not the workings or fruits of the law.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“We can shed some light on the possibility of the fall, but the transition to the actuality of it remains shrouded in darkness. Scripture makes not so much a single effort to render this transition understandable” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Both for unbelievers and believers, the doctrine of election is a source of inexpressibly great comfort. If it were based on justice and merit, all would be lost. But now that election operates according to grace, there is hope even for the most wretched. If work and reward were the standard of admission into the kingdom of heaven, its gates would be opened for no one. Or if Pelagius’s doctrine were the standard, and the virtuous were chosen because of their virtue, and Pharisees because of their righteousness, wretched publicans would be shut out. Pelagianism has no pity. But to believe in and to confess election is to recognize even the most unworthy and degraded human being as a creature of God and an object of his eternal love. The purpose of election is not—as it is so often proclaimed—to turn off the many but to invite all to participate in the riches of God’s grace in Christ. No one has a right to believe that he or she is a reprobate, for everyone is sincerely and urgently called to believe in Christ with a view to salvation. No one can actually believe it, for one’s own life and all that makes it enjoyable is proof that God takes no delight in his death. No one really believes it, for that would be hell on earth. But election is a source of comfort and strength, of submissiveness and humility, of confidence and resolution. The salvation of human beings is firmly established in the gracious and omnipotent good pleasure of God. ~ Herman Bavinck


“The resurrection is the fundamental restoration of all culture.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“For it is not we who call God by these names. We do not invent them. On the contrary, if it depended on us, we would be silent about Him, try to forget Him, and disown all His names. We take no delight in the knowledge of His ways. We tend continually to oppose His names: His independence, sovereignty, righteousness, and love, and resist Him in all His perfections. But it is God himself who reveals all His perfections and puts His names on our lips. It is He who gives Himself these names and who, despite our opposition, maintains them. It is of little use to us to deny His righteousness: every day He demonstrates this quality in history. And so it is with all His attributes. He brings them out despite us. The final goal of all His ways is that His name will shine out in all His works and be written on everyone’s forehead (Rev. 22:4). For that reason we have no choice but to name Him with the many names His revelation furnishes us.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“These two things, the love of God and Christ’s satisfaction, had to and could go hand in hand because we were simultaneously the object of His love as His creatures and the object of His wrath as sinners.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The Gospel is sheer good tidings, not demand but promise, not duty but gift. But in order that as promise and gift it may be realized in us, it takes on the character of moral admonishment in accordance with our nature. It does not want to force us, but it wants nothing other than that we freely and willingly accept in faith what God wants to give us. The will of God realizes itself in no other way than through our reason and will. That is why it is rightly said that a person, by the grace He receives, himself believes and himself turns from sin to God.”  ~ Herman Bavinck


“Religion is inconceivable apart from revelation, and revelation cannot occur apart from the existence of a spiritual world above and behind this visible world, a spiritual world in communion with the visible world.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Where God’s Word is, there is God Himself, there God’s Spirit is at work, there God establishes His covenant, there He plants His church.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Conversion is a necessary and moral duty for every man.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Conversion means a religious and moral change in man, by which he gives up his sinful ways and learns to know, love, and serve with his whole heart the true God who has revealed Himself in Christ;” ~ Herman Bavinck


“God does not say that He will be our God if we do this or that thing. But He says that He will put enmity, that He will be our God, and that in Christ He will grant us all things. The covenant of grace can throughout the centuries remain the same because it depends entirely upon God and because God is the Immutable One and the Faithful One.”  ~ Herman Bavinck


“The Gospel is so rich, and the salvation purchased by Christ contains so many and diverse benefits, that the most varied needs of men are satisfied by it, and the richest powers of human nature are brought to development.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“All culture, whatever significance it may have, just as all education, civilization, development, is absolutely powerless to renew the inner man.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Religious experience is neither the source nor the foundation of religious truth” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Conversion is not the source of truth, but the source of certainty with regard to the truth.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Either humanity, with all its culture, is a means for the unconscious, unreasonable, and purposeless world-power, or it is a means for the glorifying of God.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“God is above the world, and is also above sin and all evil. He allowed it because He could expiate it. So He maintained through all centuries and among all men the longing and the capacity for redemption, and wrought that redemption Himself in the fullness of time, in the midst of history, in the crucified Christ.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The cross is the divine settlement with the divine condemnation of sin.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The cross of Christ divides history into two parts — the preparation for and the accomplishment of reconciliation” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Christ is not the founder of Christianity, nor the first confessor of it, nor the first Christian. But He is Christianity itself, in its preparation, fulfillment, and consummation” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The highest ideal for the Christian is not to make peace with the world, with science, with culture at any price, but to keep himself from the evil one.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“God’s will is the will of the Creator of heaven and earth, who cannot repudiate His own work in creation or providence, and who cannot treat the human being He has created as though it were a stock or stone. It is the will of a merciful and kind Father, who never forces things with brute violence, but successfully counters all our resistance by the spiritual might of love. The will of God realizes itself in no other way than through our reason and our will. That is why it is rightly said that a person, by the grace he receives, himself believes and himself terms from sin to God.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“There is great danger that modern culture, progressing in its anti-supernaturalistic course, will be stirred against the steadfastness of believers and attempt to accomplish by oppression what it cannot obtain by reasoning and argument.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The truth and value of Christianity do not depend on the fruits which it has borne for civilization and culture: it has its own independent value; it is the realization of the kingdom of God on earth” ~ Herman Bavinck


“But the electing love of God is at the same time a forgiving love. God not only elects and calls, but gives Himself to his people; He joins Himself to them so intimately and tenderly that He charges their guilt and transfers it, as it were, to Himself.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Man can as little make propitiation for his sin as he can forgive it himself. But God can do both, atone and forgive; He can do the one just because He can do the other.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“One thread runs through the history of mankind, namely, the operation of the sovereign, merciful, and almighty will of God, to save and to glorify the world notwithstanding its subjection to corruption.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Race instinct, sense of nationality, enmity, and hatred, these are divisive forces between peoples. This is an astonishing punishment and a terrible judgment, and cannot be undone by any cosmopolitanism or leagues of peace, by any ‘universal’ language, nor by any world-state or international culture.

If ever there is to be unity among mankind again it will not be achieved by any external, mechanical rallying around some tower of Babel or other, but by a development from within, a gathering under one and the same Head (Eph 1:10), by the peacemaking creation of all peoples into a new man (Eph 2:15), by regeneration and renewal through the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:15), and by the walking of all people in one and the same light (Rev 21:24).” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The notion that all peoples are on the road to progress is as incorrect as that they are continuously declining and degenerating.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Life often mocks every system; it is richer and fuller than the deepest thinker in all his wisdom can imagine.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“All religion is supernatural, and rests upon the presupposition that God is distinct from the world and yet works in the world.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Beneath the head lies the heart, out of which are the issues of life.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The church’s holiness must not be sacrificed for its catholicity, and the church’s catholicity may not be surrendered in favor of its holiness. For in denying either, we lose both. Both attributes by nature characterize the one Christian church.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The whole man is taken into fellowship with that one true God; not only his feelings, but also his mind and will, his heart and all his affections, his soul and his body.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“If there ever is to be a blessed humanity it must be preceded by a radical change in human nature.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“There is no knowledge of or fellowship with Christ apart from Scripture.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The preaching of the gospel is neither ineffective nor useless.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“All “permission” is an act of God’s will; he willed to permit it. But God is never the agent of sin; only creatures are.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Without losing Himself, God can give Himself, and, while absolutely maintaining His immutability, He can enter into an infinite number of relations to His creatures.” ~Herman Bavinck


“The Kingship of Christ over his church consists in that by this Word and Spirit He gathers and governs His own and protects and keeps them in the redemption acquired.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Scripture does not give us data to interpret; it is itself the interpretation of reality, the shaper of a distinct worldview.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“They are most to be feared who become very rich in book learning but remain unlearned as Christians.” ~Herman Bavinck


“God, and God alone, is man’s highest good.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Suffering is not always a consequence of personal sin, but it is nonetheless still a consequence of sin in general.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Divine inspiration, accordingly, is a permanent attribute of Holy Scripture. It was not only “God-breathed” at the time it was written; it *is* God’ breathing.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“In Christ, suffering is the road to glory, the cross points to a crown, and the timber of the cross becomes a tree of life.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Man is an enigma whose solution can be found only in God.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The two things we have in common with all men are the image of God and our need for Jesus.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“If predestination were founded on human merits, all would be lost.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“It is not God who finds His destiny in His creatures; rather, they find their destiny in Him.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“That which unites all true Christians is always more than that which separates them.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The resurrection of Jesus is the ‘Amen!’ of the Father placed upon the ‘It is finished!’ of the Son.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The law demands perfect righteousness, but the Gospel grants it.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“It is God Himself who reveals all His perfections and puts His names on our lips.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Objectively and subjectively, from beginning to end, the work of salvation is a work of God’s grace and of His grace alone.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Christ gives more than sin took away.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Sanctification is both gift and task.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Truth always seeks to be honored as truth and can never be at peace with error and deception.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The knowledge of God leads to adoration and worship; to know God is to live.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“There is no faith without struggle.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The human heart, in which God has placed eternity, is so huge that all the world is too small to satisfy it.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“God hears the voice of his Son in the prayers of his people.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The aim of theology, after all, can be no other than that the rational creature know God and, knowing him, glorify God.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“While physical training is of some value, the main thing is godliness in conjunction with righteousness and self-control.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The cross is the highest judgment and the richest grace.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“It is our calling to resist in a powerful way every hostile force that undermines the foundation of the family.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“The first duty of every theologian is to be humble.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Theology is never a dry and academic exercise; it is eminently practical and superlatively fruitful for life” ~ Herman Bavinck


“In the end there are no atheists; there is only argument about the nature of God.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Every human soul is beset by a restlessness that no scientific reasoning can remove.” ~ Herman Bavinck


“Christ not only acquired what Adam lost but also what Adam, in the way of obedience, would have gained.” ~ Herman Bavinck