Friday, October 12, 2012

Bavinck Contra NL2K/R2K

In this post, I argue that to be human is to be in need of both natural and special revelation.

In this article, Dr. Cornelis P. Venema discusses Herman Bavinck's view of the image of God. He quotes the following:

In this [Lutheran] theology the lines of demarcation between the spiritual and the worldly, between the heavenly and the earthly, are so sharply drawn that the result is two hemispheres, and the connection between nature and grace, between creation and re-creation is totally denied. The supernaturalist [or dualist] view is still at work here; the image of God stands alongside nature, is detached from it, and is above it. The loss of the image, which renders man totally deaf and blind in spiritual matters, still enables him in earthly matters to do much good and in a sense renders him independent from the grace of God in Christ . . . [In Reformed theology] sin, which precipitated the loss of the image of God in the narrower sense and spoiled and ruined the image of God in the broader sense, has profoundly affected the whole person, so that, consequently, also the grace of God in Christ restores the whole person, and is of the greatest significance for his or her whole life and labor, also in the family, society, the state, art, science, and so forth (RD 2:553–4)

He then makes a footnote comment:

Though it is anachronistic to put it this way, Bavinck offers in his criticism of the Lutheran view of the image of God an insightful assessment of what today is sometimes called the "two kingdom/natural law" view. Bavinck's point is that, just as sin pervasively corrupts all of human life "before God," so God's grace in Christ restores and perfects all of human life under Christ's lordship. To be restored and perfected as an image bearer of God is not to be elevated to a higher plane of supernatural life and existence, but to be perfected in the fullness of natural (that is, creaturely) human life in communion with God.

It is interesting to see how NL2K/R2K owes much to Roman Catholic nature/grace dualism.


  1. True, total depravity calls for total redemption.

  2. "Owes much" may have been too strong a description. However, the RCC conception of the distinction of "image" and "likeness" in the image of God, with the former belonging to the realm of nature and the latter the realm of grace (donum supperadditum) seems analogous to the NL2K idea of the unbeliever as able to function as fully human with only the light of nature to guide him.

    The thing is that in Bavinck's anthropology, the image of God must be considered in a broad and narrow sense, the former referring to rationality and morality, and the latter to knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.

    After the fall, man, by nature, is still reckoned as a human being in the image of God in the broad sense, though not in the narrow sense. He needs the grace of redemption in order to consolidate the narrow and broad sense of the Imago Dei. However, does this mean that man in his natural state only requires the light of nature (natural law/revelation) in order to be fully human even in just the broad sense?

    This is the issue that I've been ruminating on, and it appears that Bavinck and Van Til posit that both natural and special revelation are incumbent upon man, both as an image-bearer of God in the broad and narrow senses.

    "Such a conception of the image of God permits the whole teaching of Holy Scripture to come into its own. It is a conception which at one and the same time maintains the relationship and the distinction between nature and grace, creation and redemption. Gratefully and eloquently this conception acknowledges the grace of God which, after the fall, too, permitted man to remain man and continued to regard him and deal with him as a rational, moral, and responsible being. And at the same time, it holds that man, bereft of the image of God, is wholly corrupted and inclined to all evil. Life and history are available to confirm this. For even in its lowest, deepest fall, human nature yet remained human nature. And, no matter what acme of achievement man may accomplish, he remains small and weak, guilty and impure. Only the image of God constitutes man true and perfect man." (Bavinck)

  3. Warren,

    What is the difference between R2K and NL2K?

  4. R2K is chiefly ecclesiological in its orientation, positing a radical separation of church from the state and matters of civil affairs.

    NL2K is chiefly epistemological, positing that the unbeliever can make do with simply general revelation.


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