• James Eglinton. Bavinck: A Critical Biography. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. 450 pp. (review)

    Reinder Bruinsma
    Tom de Bruin (see profile)
    Spes Christiana (journal)
    Item Type:
    Book review
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    John Bolt, an emeritus professor at Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI) and an expert on Calvinism, endorsed James Eglinton’s new biography of Herman Bavinck with these words: “This will be the definitive Bavinck biography for generations.” Time will tell whether Bolt is correct in this assessment, but after reading this fascinating book I tend to agree. Eglinton, who teaches Reformed Theology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, is (so far) the last in a series of seven biographers of Bavinck (1854‒1921). Therefore, much was already known about the life and work of this prominent Dutch theologian, but Eglinton was able to access some new sources. The newness of his book is, however, especially due to the fact that he fundamentally disagrees with the widely accepted view that there were “two Bavincks”, who, respectively followed orthodox Reformed theology and allied himself with the modernism of his times (p. xviii). Eglinton wondered whether Bavinck was able to “hold orthodoxy and modernism in some kind of critical equipoise” (p. xix), and concluded that the answer is affirmative: A close examination of Herman Bavinck’s theology and his approach to practical issues shows that he consistently tried to keep the two poles of orthodox Calvinism and the “modern” approach to Christianity together. For him “orthodoxy” was never a static concept. “Rather it put down roots in diverse historical locations” (p. 260). It would seem that this element justifies the term “critical” in the subtitle of the book.
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