Bavinck Warned that Without Christianity, Racism and Nationalism Thrive

The Dutch theologian argued the biblical worldview is fundamentally incompatible with ethnocentrism.

It’s no secret that Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck has enjoyed a renaissance in the past few years, as James Eglinton also pointed out in a previous piece for CT.

Ever since the English translation of Bavinck’s landmark work, Reformed Dogmatics, was released in 2008, there’s been a constant stream of fresh readings of his life and thought. More recently, new translations of lesser known but no less important texts include his Christian Worldview, Christianity and Science, and Guidebook for Instruction in the Christian Religion; and new editions have been published of Philosophy of Revelation, based on his 1908 Stone Lectures, and The Wonderful Works of God.

Theologians like me are also rediscovering the neo-Calvinist tradition shaped by Bavinck and his fellow Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, and examining how these thinkers might engage with cultural issues today, including our nation’s reckoning with racism. And while many have recently (and rightly) criticized Kuyper’s checkered legacy on this issue, they have often neglected Bavinck’s contributions on the subject, which many scholars see as an improvement on Kuyper.

Bavinck’s assessment has enduring lessons for American Christians living in a polarized political climate. Similar to Bavinck’s own context of 19th-century Europe, those in the US today are confronted by the challenges of living in an increasingly post-Christian culture. This has led to heated debates on the identity of America, Christian nationalism, and how we can all find common ground amid our substantial differences.

Bavinck and Kuyper’s neo-Calvinist Christian worldview, for instance, affirmed the diversity of reality but saw …

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