To Think God’s Thoughts After Him

Johannes Kepler

Bavinck comments on the proper practice of systematic theology, and the relevance of the unity of truth:

There is no room in dogmatics for a system in which an attempt is made to deduce the truths of faith from an a priori principle, say, from the essence of religion, from the essence of Christianity, from the fact of regeneration, or from the experience of the devout. For dogmatics is a positive science, gets all its material from revelation, and does not have the right to modify or expand that content by speculation apart from that revelation. When because of its weakness or limitations it is faced with the choice either of simply letting the truths of faith stand alongside of one another or, in the interest of maintaining the systematic form, of failing to do justice to one of them, dogmatics must absolutely opt for the former and resist the desire for a well-integrated system. On the other hand, one must maintain the position that such a dilemma can occur only as a result of the limitations of our insight. For if the knowledge of God has been revealed by himself in his Word, it cannot contain contradictory elements or be in conflict with what is known of God from nature and history. God’s thoughts cannot be opposed to one another and thus necessarily form an organic unity.

The imperative task of the dogmatician is to think God’s thoughts after him and to trace their unity. His work is not finished until he has mentally absorbed this unity and set it forth in a dogmatics. Accordingly, he does not come to God’s revelation with a ready-made system in order, as best he can, to force its content into it. On the contrary, even in his system a theologian’s sole responsibility is to think God’s thoughts after him and to reproduce the unity that is objectively present in the thoughts of God and has been recorded for the eye of faith in Scripture. That such a unity exists in the knowledge of God contained in revelation is not open to doubt; to refuse to acknowledge it would be to fall into skepticism, into a denial of the unity of God. [Reformed Dogmatics, vol 1, pp. 44-45]