It Creates No New Cosmos But Rather Makes The Cosmos New

In the modern reprint of Herman Bavinck’s magnum opus, Reformed Dogmatics, editor John Bolt makes the following comment about the central theme of Bavinck’s theological system:

Here in this trinitarian, world-affirming, but nonetheless resolutely antithetical Calvinism, Bavinck found the resources to bring some unity to his thought. “The thoughtful person,” he notes “places the doctrine of the trinity in the very center of the full-orbed life of nature and mankind… . The mind of the Christian is not satisfied until every form of existence has been referred to the triune God and until the confession of the trinity has received the place of prominence in our thought and life.” Repeatedly in his writings Bavinck defines the essence of the Christian religion in a trinitarian, creation-affirming way. A typical formulation: “The essence of the Christian religion consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and re-created by the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God.” Put more simply, the fundamental theme that shapes Bavinck’s entire theology is the trinitarian idea that grace restores nature.

The evidence for “grace restores nature” being the fundamental defining and shaping theme of Bavinck’s theology is not hard to find. In an important address on common grace, given in 1888 at the Kampen Theological School, Bavinck sought to impress on his Christian Reformed audience the importance of Christian sociocultural activity. He appealed to the doctrine of creation, insisting that its diversity is not removed by redemption but cleansed. “Grace does not remain outside or above or beside nature but rather permeates and wholly renews it. And thus nature, reborn by grace, will be brought to its highest revelation. That situation will again return in which we serve God freely and happily, without compulsion or fear, simply out of love, and in harmony with our true nature. That is the genuine religio naturalis.” In other words: “Christianity does not introduce a single substantial foreign element into the creation. It creates no new cosmos but rather makes the cosmos new. It restores what was corrupted by sin. It atones the guilty and cures what is sick; the wounded it heals.” [18]