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The Philosophy of Revelation (Edited for the 21st Century) Kindle Edition
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Bavinck then gives a tour-de-force of modern philosophy. While he firmly rejects these philosophies, he doesn't give hysterical reductions of everything to Pantheism, Hegelianism, Darwinism, Insert-Bad-Guy-ism. He sees clear advances they make against other secular alternatives.
idealism: correct in that reality is mediated by consciousness. False when it infers from that the object of perception is within the mind itself (36). Idealism confounds act with content.
self-consciousness: the unity of real and ideal being. We know it immediately. Here Bavinck anticipates later Reformed Epistemology: self-consciousness is a properly basic belief. We do not know it by reasoning from prior beliefs.
Christian revelation imparts a new kind of certainty (40). This certainty is a confidence in God’s promises.
Augustine’s claim on knowing God and the self:
a. Augustine descended beyond thought alone: life precedes thought; faith, knowledge
b. the essence of the soul is not simply thought alone. He found ideas, norms, laws of certainty, truth.
c. Memoria, intellectus, voluntas.
Echoing later neo-Calvinist themes, Bavinck sees that each branch of knowledge (science, theology) has a barrier around it, not a boundary. Each branch must respect its own object of knowledge and character. Kant unwittingly showed that when science tries to peer into the “essence” of things, it creates antinomies (57).
The only way unity can preserve true differentiation is when it includes and enfolds the entire world seen as the product of divine wisdom (57-58).
Bavinck, like Van Til after him, was incapable of giving a precision strike against a target. Sometimes the chapters seemed to go on and on. On the other hand, Bavinck, like Van Til, was able to carpet bomb and thoroughly cover an entire area.
Some pages were simply beautiful. Bavinck has a magnificently stirring section contrasting the Bible with Babylonian magick (112ff). He writes, "The Bible did not come from Babylon, but in its fundamental thought is in diametrical opposition to Babylon, and made an end to Babylon's spiritual dominion over the peoples." That last clause is crucial: Babylon was never merely a political oppressor, but brought to bear her demonic, albeit immaterial personalities to its politics.
While brief, this book is not particularly easy reading. Bavinck assumes that you are relatively familiar with continental philosophy in the 18th and 19th centuries. Further, most of his footnotes are in German, Dutch, or Latin. Finally, my edition (AlevBooks) has larger pages and more words on a page than you would normally expect.
In these lectures, Bavinck discusses the importance of revelation in the major fields of human investigation, including philosophy, nature, history, religion, Christianity, religious experience, culture, and the future. He shows that in each of these areas, people have in various ways attempted to reduce the explanation of the phenomena to one original, universal principle (monism). However, as long as they ignore and deny the reality of God's revelation, they must seek this original, universal principle within the world. In each case Bavinck shows that these attempts end in futility and an inability to explain and understand the diversity of phenomena, which can only be understood intelligibly on the basis of the reality of revelation from God. In this context he considers a vast number of different theories that have been advanced in these fields by various thinkers. It is interesting how often the concept of evolution, which Bavinck notes has "become a magic formula", was championed in many fields outside of biology as the cornerstone of intelligibility. The chapter on religious experience is also of paramount interest in the context of the contemporary church and its obsession with personal experience, almost always with an (at best) tenuous association with objective revelation. Those who are familiar with Van Til will readily recognize the line of thought in Bavinck leading in that direction, and will happily find this volume much easier to read and understand. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.