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Saved by Grace: The Holy Spirit's Work in Calling and Regeneration Hardcover – January 1, 2008
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About the Author
- Publisher : Reformation Heritage Books (January 1, 2008)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1601780524
- ISBN-13 : 978-1601780522
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
Best Sellers Rank:
#4,640,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #24,397 in Christian Church History (Books)
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'That only is true evangelicalism, therefore, in which sounds clearly the double confession that all the power exerted in saving the soul is from God, and that God in His saving operations acts directly upon the soul.' BB Warfield, The Plan Of Salvation Warfield accorded Bavinck respect not least because of the way Bavinck acknowledged common ground with old Princeton.
Now collected in book form we have what was first published as a series of articles that addressed the problem of presumptive grace, particularly as it applied to the children of Reformed believers. Bavinck had to delve deeply into the Canons of Dordt to prevail over the confusion caused by his predecessor, Abraham Kuyper, whose view was tolerated as defensible in the Netherlands. Bavinck seemed to echo Warfield's sentiment: 'Of all of those truths, the doctrine of immediate regeneration occupies a central place, especially in Reformed theology. In the closest possible connection to this teaching lies the relationship between Word and Spirit, between Scripture and church, between doctrine and life, between mind and heart.' p 5
Why their preoccupation with the direct or immediate regeneration of the believer? Those who opposed the specific wording of the Synod of Dordt admitted of an internal, secret working of the Holy Spirit, but were never prepared to call it an immediate work. They preferred 'congruent grace', making salvation dependent upon the will of man co-operating with the grace offered in the gospel. The Remonstrants hereby continued to resist the biblical teaching that election and effectual calling precede conversion. Thus to them regeneration followed on conversion. Bavinck insisted on the complete opposite by distinguishing that regeneration is real 'apart from his knowing and willing...it is absolutely independent of any consent of one's intellect or of any act of one's free will.' p 17 God, through the Holy Spirit, acts graciously, sovereignly, immediately and directly upon the soul of the believer. For Bavinck, it is God who works both the willing and the doing so that saving grace lies in God's hand and not in something created.
Secondly, Bavinck recounted the history of those who conditioned salvation by teaching that the 'disposition of faith does not precede the actual believing, but is the fruit thereof, and is acquired through continual exercise.' p 27 Anabaptism, though insisting on immediate spiritual regeneration, excluded the use of means, specifically the mediation of the Word. Such recklessness rarely met with a good end in 16th century verse and before long the Anabaptists were attacked from all sides. Through the different outcomes of the parable of 'the sower and the seed' the Canons taught that salvation is not dependent on men, and not determined by men (Heads III-IV, Art. 16). Divine initiative working with the Word and by the Spirit induces regeneration, ergo the Word being sowed first. So regeneration is causally prior to faith. 'On the basis of Holy Scripture, the Synod of Dordt made this distinction between regeneration and conversion (faith) the common property of the Reformed church and of Reformed theology.' p 29 In an appropriate manner Bavinck captured the imagination of the Dutch by reminding them of human accountability, that in the external call God offers the gospel 'to all persons promiscuously and indiscriminately' (Head II, Art. 5) and that the person who despises this call has only himself to blame for his unbelief.
From the way Bavinck masterfully dealt with this issue, his newly translated work could be his most important to date. Of no little importance, Bavinck placed regeneration before conversion, reminding us that this distinction properly belongs to Dordt, for the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism had not ventured this far in their soteriology (p 40). In so doing, Bavinck placed salvation even further beyond the reach of mere men, and continues to deny one of the most popular heresies of our day: auto-soteriology.
Bavinck treats well the topics of calling, regeneration, the means of grace, the covenant of grace, the errors of the anabaptistic notion that grace is opposed to nature, as well as the doctrine of the church. This book could also be called a treaty on the covenant of grace as he shows the biblical truth that the covenant of grace is made with believers and their seed. He also explains the Reformed distinctions of the visible/invisible church, external/internal calling, the covenant of works/grace, common/special grace, the external/internal aspect of the covenant of grace, as well as the law/gospel distinction. In these treatments, Bavinck utilizes and explains the Reformed scholastics' teachings and builds on them.
If you're studying the Canons of Dort, this would be a great commentary on it; if you're studying covenant theology, this would also be a helpful book to utilize as Bavinck stands on the orthodox shoulders of those who paved the way before him. The book contains a Scripture, confession, subject, and topic index as well. One more note: the introductory essay by J. Mark Beach is an awesome addition to an already helpful volume.
If you're a student of the Reformation and the robust covenant theology of Reformed churches, you'll certainly want this book to push you further into these truths. Alternatively, if you're not Reformed but want a window into classic Reformed soteriology, you'll benefit from this book as well.