Christian Worldview – Herman Bavinck

Herman Bavinck, Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, James Eglinton, and Corry C. Brock, Ed. Christian Worldview (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 140.

“And in this struggle, every man of Christian profession should assemble under the banner of the King of truth,” writes Herman Bavinck in Christian Worldview. This volume was originally translated from the updated edition which appeared in 1913.

The editors get to the core of Bavinck’s agenda:“It is only the Christian worldview that provides true harmony between God and the world, God and the self, and the self and the world.” The answer, then, to the deepest questions of the human heart are found in the Christian worldview.

Unfortunately, as Bavinck argues, “A unified world-and-life view is lacking, and therefore this word is the slogan of our day.” This is a lamentable reality, especially since the author is writing over one hundred years ago. Since that time, the Christian worldview has slowly eroded in many minds which render the church weak and ineffective.

The church would do well to recover the basic tenets of the Christian worldview. My own view, however, is that Bavinck’s work is probably not the first place to turn. Christian Worldview is designed for those who have been theologically trained and understand the fine-tuned arguments that he presents. Readers would be better off exploring Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey, Worldviews in Conflict by Ronald Nash, Revolutions in Worldview by W. Andrew Hoffecker, Ed. or Tactics by Gregory Koukl.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

One thought on “Christian Worldview – Herman Bavinck

  1. Thank you for this review! I have passed it along to some pastor friends of mine. I have valued Bavinck’s works for many years, but understand how dated this particular title is considering developments since even this 2nd edition was published. I would, however, register an objection to one item in your concluding recommendation which begins, “Readers would be better off exploring The Universe Next Door bv James Sire…” Despite the popularity of James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1976) which went to its 5th ed. in 2009 (IVP Academic), and its obvious usefulness in understanding the competing “isms,” I have grave concerns about Sire’s own theistic worldview. I would be much more comfortable recommending one of the other more recent works you prefer, especially Ronald H. Nash’s Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids, IL: Zondervan, 1992). Compare the following statements from Sire (page numbering is from the 1st ed.).

    “The system is open, and that means it is not programmed. God is constantly involved in the unfolding pattern of the ongoing operation of the universe. And so is man! The course of the world’s operation is open to reordering by either….Each action of each man, each decision to pursue one course rather than another, changes or rather “produces” the future….If the course of events were determined, our decisions would have no significance. So theism declares that the universe is orderly but not determined.” (Sire, op. cit., pg. 28)

    “Man is created in the image of God and thus possesses personality, self-transcendence, morality, gregariousness and creativity.” (op. cit., pg. 29)

    “In this each man reflects (as an image) the transcendence of God over his universe. God is totally unconstrained by his environment….nothing external to God can possibly constrain him.” (op. cit., pp. 29–30)

    “So man participates in part in a transcendence over his environment. Except at the very extremities of existence — in sickness or physical deprivation (utter starvation, cooped up in darkness for days on end, for example) — a person is not forced to any necessary reaction.”

    “…man has personality and is capable of transcending the cosmos in which is placed in the sense that he can know something of that cosmos and can act significantly to change the course of both human and cosmic events. This is another way of saying that the cosmic system God made is open to reordering by man.” (op. cit., pg. 30)

    My conclusions: The theological and anthropological flaws evident in these statements not only weakens the Christian position when it comes to critiquing the ungodly isms, but makes Sire an untrustworthy guide for those who proceed under his influence. He passed away in 2018, but The Universe Next Door has been translated into over a dozen languages. Try and imagine hearing such statements from a candidate for ordination. How would you react if you did? And yet, due to his position as editor of InterVarsity Press, and his worldwide popularity in university classrooms until his death early in 2018 Sire gets a pass. I have yet to see a review of this work with criticisms raised about these fundamental errors. If you have I would appreciate being pointed to them. On these theological and anthropological issues despite its age I would find Bavinck a more trustworthy guide.

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