Herman Bavinck, perhaps most notably known for Reformed Dogmatics, is one of the worlds most well-known Reformed pastors and theologians. He is known for his “eloquent” language and writing ability. He is consistently and thoroughly Reformed (Calvinistic sense) and is appreciated by many for his Reformed thought. However, what he may not be well-known for is his preaching; and further, thoughts on preaching.
Herman Bavinck: On Preaching and Preachers provides a window for students and teachers of preaching, and preachers, through which to look into a lesser-known aspect of this great theologian. This little volume (literally!) is broken down in the following way:
- Eloquence: This is the lecture given to university theology students which, in essence, discusses the power of language in the preacher’s tongue:
- By speaking he [God] creates all things…But what is this in majesty compared to he exalted words of the Scriptures: he speaks and it is so, he commands and it is done. Behold the absolute, divine, original power of the word. (23)
- The Sermon and Service: On this topic Bavinck says:
- The preacher’s calling, especially in the present day-now that this true attitude [toward worship] is being lost-is to teach people the meaning of the church service…that preaching is not the highest and only feature [of the church service], but we [also] gather together as believers, in order to serve together as priests. (61)
- On Preaching in America: A timely chapter for the social and political climate preachers face today.
- Appendix: On Language
There are numerous advantages to reading this book. First, Bavinck reorients the reader’s perspective on language itself. God used/uses language to create and recreate. Romans 10 tells us that we come to faith by hearing the Word of God preached to us. Keeping this Scripture in mind, and Bavinck’s lecture, I think it would serve contemporary preachers well to watch their language; to use their language wisely and effectively. The second advantage I see in this book is we are able to read a published sermon by Bavinck. This sermon is entitled The World-Conquering Faith. Once again, Bavinck is ahead of his time and prophetically preaching to a generation of students and pastors today. Finally, the author includes a three-page (85-88) snippet on Bavinck’s experience of preaching in America. Bavinck’s opening line is this:
And as regards religious life, it is beyond doubt that [America’s moralistic, optimistic, deistic, and experience-led culture] leads to great superficiality. (85)
This is an incredible statement to make in Bavinck’s time. And I am all the more thankful he did. May pastors across the world learn from Bavinck’s wisdom and preach faithfully the gospel of Christ.
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