Why Study Theology? A New Translation of a Timeless Word from Herman Bavinck

In this foreword, Bavinck casts a vision for theological learning for all believers.

While this translation is a layperson’s translation of the text, in many ways, that fits the vision cast by Bavinck: for the everyday church member to labor in theology to grow in the knowledge of God. May you be blessed to read this new translation of Bavinck’s words.

 

Why should I study theology if I’m just a ordinary church member?

In a newly-translated foreword to Herman Bavinck’s Magnalia Dei (known in English as Our Reasonable Faith), Bavinck richly engages this question.

Over the course of this year, I’ve been leading a church book discussion on Our Reasonable Faith. One of our members, Barbara Blum, was actually able to read Bavinck’s work in the original Dutch. As part of her study, she translated Bavinck’s introduction to this magisterial work. Previous English translations of the work have not included Bavinck’s foreword, so this previously-untranslated introduction has not been readily accessible to the English reader of Bavinck.[1]

In this foreword, Bavinck casts a vision for theological learning for all believers. To a generation full of distractions and opposition to faith, Bavinck writes with great hope that all believers will grow to proclaim the great works of God. His words are as fitting today as they were in 1907.

And while this translation is a layperson’s translation of the text, in many ways, that fits the vision cast by Bavinck: for the everyday church member to labor in theology to grow in the knowledge of God. May you be blessed to read this new translation of Bavinck’s words.


Under the title of Magnalia Dei, the great works of God, I would like to give a simple explanation in a book of modest size, of the Christian faith, just as it is confessed in the Reformed Churches of all lands and times.

The name is borrowed from Acts 2:11. There it is recounted that the disciples of Jesus, as soon as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, proclaimed the great works of God in languages understood by all. With these great works of God we aren’t compelled to think of one distinct fact, such as the resurrection of Christ, as is the case elsewhere, but we think of the whole household of salvation, which God had established through Christ. And the Holy Spirit is poured out precisely so that the congregation would learn to recognize these works of God, glory in them and thank and praise God for them.

Therein lies the thought that the Christian religion exists not only in words, in a doctrine, but that it is in word and in fact a work of God which was brought into being in the past, worked out in the present, and will first be completed in the future. The content of the Christian faith is not a scientific theory, not a philosophical formula for explaining the world, but an acknowledgement and confession of the great works of God, which have been wrought throughout the ages, including the entire world, and first attain their completion in the new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

This is no longer generally nor completely understood. The knowledge of the truth, which leads to godliness, continually falls behind. The interest in the mysteries of the kingdom of God diminishes by the day, not only outside but also inside the Christian circles. And the number continually decreases of those who live by the truth with their whole heart and soul and feed themselves with it day by day. Those who still accept the truth seem to consist mainly of a group of scholars, who do earn credibility but who exist apart from real life and have little or nothing to do with the present.

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