Within the Eighteen Nineties, in a small but iconic city within the Netherlands on the river IJssel named Kampen, Herman Bavinck wrote and printed his Reformed Dogmatics in 4 volumes. He wouldn’t have recognized then that in 2023, and for the final decade, his readership has grown from the small neighborhood there to span six continents. Right now, there’s an ever-growing motion all around the world to translate and skim works from Bavinck and his elder colleague Abraham Kuyper. In a twist of historical past, the so-called neo-Calvinist motion born of their pens in a specific late Nineteenth- and early Twentieth-century Dutch context gave beginning to a convention presently present process restoration and refinement. The query is “Why the curiosity?”

This query is much more applicable once we take into account what number of methods this time period, “neo-Calvinism,” has been used since first showing as a prototradition in Kampen and Amsterdam—a lot of them damaging. Typically the phrase is used as a pejorative to discuss with theological actions that overemphasize one facet of theology and lose what’s most vital. Has neo-Calvinism deserted doctrines like justification by religion, seeing God because the hope of recent creation, pilgrim theology, or the evangelical mission of the church?

Whereas in its travels to 6 continents over the past century, neo-Calvinism’s tributaries or “prolonged household” did typically change or go away behind a few of what was most vital to the unique motion. But in the present day, many are revisiting its claims as a result of, for the primary time in historical past, its authentic and most vital sources can be found in English, Korean, and Mandarin, amongst different languages.

In our new guide Neo-Calvinism: A Theological Introduction with Lexham Press, we search to know what this motion was in its authentic kind to be able to clarify the rising curiosity in neo-Calvinism. We look at most of the central theological contributions of neo-Calvinism by an in depth studying of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck on the theological factors of reference that, of their views, wanted rearticulation and refinement.

Above all, we recommend the motion was primarily theological but sought to articulate a imaginative and prescient for what it may appear to be to be a Calvinist within the trendy, ever-changing world of the Twentieth century and past. Neo-Calvinism was—and is in the present day—a motion that needs to know what it means to be a Reformation Protestant, below the tutelage of the Reformer of Geneva however in a special cultural panorama than Calvin ever knew.

Because of the conflicting explanations of neo-Calvinism, we may be led to ask “Who’s a neo-Calvinist?” However a greater query may be “How does the theology of the Reformer of Geneva matter for in the present day?” The latter query frames the difficulty so the Reformed Christian neighborhood can all, to a level, subscribe. And to reply this query, we should always discover three neo-Calvinist instincts and 16 summarizing theses to assist us perceive the impulse of the unique motion and to function a information for a way we use the time period and implement neo-Calvinism in the present day.

Neo-Calvinism is a motion that needs to know what it means to be a Reformation Protestant, below the tutelage of the Reformer of Geneva however in a special cultural panorama than Calvin ever knew.

Neo-Calvinism Is Historic But Fashionable

Kuyper and Bavinck labored laborious to convey how orthodoxy and modernity exist in a reciprocal relationship. When contemplating the creedal and confessional theology of the previous—notably present in Reformation Protestantism—we should perceive each its affect on the fashionable world and the way the fashionable setting requires contemporary articulation of that theology for the sake of the individuals of in the present day. Emphasizing orthodoxy at the price of the fashionable results in a conservatism that forgets our work as theologians will depend on the very situations that enabled us to be right here within the first place. We can also overlook the items of divine windfall and customary grace manifest within the twenty first century.

We will’t return in mere retrieval. We will be grateful for a lot within the current age. A contemporizing intuition leads us to keep away from nostalgic eager for a bygone golden age of theology, as if such an age ever existed, and fuels affected person optimism that rests on God’s sovereign plan. As Bavinck typically reminded us, the God who saved us in Christ Jesus is similar God at work in historical past in the present day.

However, an emphasis on the fashionable on the expense of our confessional, scriptural, and historical moorings for­will get that our trendy age continues to be indebted to the theological and moral tradition it rejects. Seeking to the previous and future with thankfulness and hope produces the culture-affirm­ing but sin-rejecting, hopeful however sober posture that may proceed to gasoline current theologians. It protects us from a malformed, curmudgeonly spirit that both appears to be like down on the previous with chronological snobbery or appears to be like at present with whole suspicion.

Neo-Calvinism Rests on Revelation

God’s revelation is the key to understanding our lives. The Christian name towards seeing all issues within the mild of God is a crucial Calvinist posture that emphasizes the wealthy and manifold elements of actuality. Theologians should perceive that philosophies round us not resting on revelation will produce false binaries and reductionisms.

We are going to encounter philosophies searching for to scale back the immaterial to the fabric or the fabric to the immaterial—physique to spirit, topic to object, and vice versa. We could not be wrestling with the particularities of the debates Kuyper and Bavinck participated in throughout the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, however our current circumstances name out much more for a renewal of their posture.

The church in our period should search to resolve false binaries by discovering a 3rd method ahead and use affected person interdisciplinary studying to oppose syncretism and reactionary alarm­ism. The doctrines of revelation, widespread grace, the company character of humanity, and the organism of the church all lend themselves towards these holistic postures that we consider would produce mental virtues required for the dogmatic duties forward. They additional attune us to work with the grain of actuality, which is rather more capacious than trendy individuals typically assume.

Neo-Calvinism Is Dedicated to Catholicity

We have to be catholic Christians and perceive the implications of catholicity. Neo-Calvinism’s theological commitments spotlight the true universality of the Christian religion. Christianity is a pearl—it’s the gospel for all locations and all instances. Christianity can be a leavening energy: it might take root in and affect all locations and instances and in a range of the way. This emphasis on the unity and variety of the Christian religion means an extra commit­ment to philosophical eclecticism.

Seeking to the previous and future with thankfulness and hope produces the culture-affirm­ing but sin-rejecting, hopeful however sober posture that may proceed to gasoline current theologians.

Christianity doesn’t want a single cul­ture or philosophical handmaiden however quite is pliable and intellectually versatile. It’s free to make use of any philosophy or tradition it finds, it might reshape any philosophy or tradition it encounters, and it isn’t married to any single mental or cultural milieu. Too typically, shows of Christianity can look suspiciously like a name to a conversion to a specific nation’s tradition or a philosophical system quite than a conversion to the common claims of Christ.

Neo-Calvinism makes a agency distinction, then, between the philosophies and cultures Christianity turned provi­dentially tethered to previously and Christianity itself. Christianity’s kind could look totally different in every time and place, however the substance and revelation stay the identical. Taking the claims of Bavinck and Kuyper seri­ously means adopting a posture of humble anticipation when believers (and students) from differing philosophical commitments search to articu­late the Christian religion in ways in which may sound totally different from ours. Simply as Bavinck argued Christianity in America shouldn’t be anticipated to sound or look the identical as Christianity within the Netherlands, so ought to we not confuse our Christian expression with the dominion of God itself. These postures ought to develop a hopeful and prayerful disposition in us.

What Is Neo-Calvinism?

Under are 16 theses we consider present a wholesome understanding of the core of neo-Calvinist theology. If these are compelling, you could find enlargement, rationalization, and software in fuller kind in our guide.

  1. Neo-Calvinism is a crucial reception of Reformed orthodoxy, contextualized to handle the questions of modernity.
  2. Christianity can problem, subvert, and fulfill the cultures and philosophical techniques of all ages.
  3. Neo-Calvinism rejects theological conservatism and progressivism. As a substitute, it applies historic creedal and confessional theology to the considerations of the modern world.
  4. The triune God created the world and all creatures as a residing unity in range, with a particular objective and purpose.
  5. “Organism” and “natural unity” are becoming phrases to explain creation’s many unities in diversities, because it analogically displays the triune God.
  6. The picture of God is the top of creation’s natural form, referring to humanity collectively, female and male, and the self as a unity.
  7. The issue with the world isn’t ontological however moral—sin has corrupted a lot (in reality, all the pieces).
  8. Out of the sinful mass of the organism of humanity below Adam, God elects to regenerate people into a brand new, sanctified natural humanity below Christ, thus asserting a covenantal antithesis between the seed of the girl and the seed of the serpent.
  9. By the Spirit’s work in widespread grace, God restrains sin and items fallen humanity with ethical, epistemic, and life-giving items to take pleasure in, for the sake of redemption in Christ.
  10. God has revealed himself to each individual—each objectively and subjectively. This implanted affection and information of God isn’t a human willpower because the product of cause (or natu­ral theology) however God’s normal revelation by the Holy Spirit.
  11. The Bible is God’s revelation of himself, because the Spirit conjures up a range of human authors to jot down all that God intends to speak. The Bible serves as the final word norm and agent of unity, although not the only real supply, for the fields of information.
  12. The triune God and his revelation matter for the complete human life as a result of each individual all the time stands earlier than the face of God.
  13. Knowledge factors us to a Christian worldview: Christian the­ology ought to self-discipline the insights of each philosophy and the assorted sciences. Christians ought to conform their complete selves to the lordship of Christ.
  14. Re-creation occurs by divine company alone and brings creation to its authentic purpose: that God would make his dwell­ing place with humankind, in a consummated and sanctified cosmos.
  15. Jesus Christ’s messianic dominion as King of God’s kingdom is the purpose of God’s work in historical past and the aim of creaturely redemption.
  16. The seen church exists as an institute and an organism: as an institute to evangelise the gospel and administer the sacraments and as an organism of people certain collectively by the Spirit to witness to new creation.

These theses are useful to handle urgent questions like the next:

  • How may we proceed to trans­mit and translate the older theologies of the previous into the modern philosophical idioms of the day?
  • How may we proceed to accommo­date the real findings of latest scientific scholarship with out compromising the substance of our theological commitments?
  • How will we not merely inform however present that the Christian religion continues to be rel­evant for our age and for each age?

As Tim Keller has additionally prompt in a latest podcast episode, neo-Calvinism has assets to assist us present the worldwide and perennial relevance of the Christian religion. We hope these 16 theses and our guide may assist towards that finish.


Editors’ notice: 

This text is tailored from Neo-Calvinism: A Theological Introduction by N. Grey Sutanto and Cory C. Brock (Lexham, February 2023).

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