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Dutch Calvinist theologian Herman Bavinck, a significant voice in the development of Protestant theology, remains relevant many years after his death. His four-volume Reformed Dogmatics is one of the most important theological works of the twentieth century. James Eglinton is widely considered to be at the forefront of contemporary interest in Bavinck's life and thought. Af Dutch Calvinist theologian Herman Bavinck, a significant voice in the development of Protestant theology, remains relevant many years after his death. His four-volume Reformed Dogmatics is one of the most important theological works of the twentieth century. James Eglinton is widely considered to be at the forefront of contemporary interest in Bavinck's life and thought. After spending considerable time in the Netherlands researching Bavinck, Eglinton brings to light a wealth of new insights and previously unpublished documents to offer a definitive biography of this renowned Reformed thinker. The book follows the course of Bavinck's life in a period of dramatic social change, identifying him as an orthodox Calvinist challenged with finding his feet in late modern culture. Based on extensive archival research, this critical biography presents numerous significant and previously ignored or unknown aspects of Bavinck's person and life story. A black-and-white photo insert is included. This volume complements other Baker Academic offerings on Bavinck's theology and ethics, which together have sold 90,000 copies.


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Dutch Calvinist theologian Herman Bavinck, a significant voice in the development of Protestant theology, remains relevant many years after his death. His four-volume Reformed Dogmatics is one of the most important theological works of the twentieth century. James Eglinton is widely considered to be at the forefront of contemporary interest in Bavinck's life and thought. Af Dutch Calvinist theologian Herman Bavinck, a significant voice in the development of Protestant theology, remains relevant many years after his death. His four-volume Reformed Dogmatics is one of the most important theological works of the twentieth century. James Eglinton is widely considered to be at the forefront of contemporary interest in Bavinck's life and thought. After spending considerable time in the Netherlands researching Bavinck, Eglinton brings to light a wealth of new insights and previously unpublished documents to offer a definitive biography of this renowned Reformed thinker. The book follows the course of Bavinck's life in a period of dramatic social change, identifying him as an orthodox Calvinist challenged with finding his feet in late modern culture. Based on extensive archival research, this critical biography presents numerous significant and previously ignored or unknown aspects of Bavinck's person and life story. A black-and-white photo insert is included. This volume complements other Baker Academic offerings on Bavinck's theology and ethics, which together have sold 90,000 copies.

30 review for Bavinck: A Critical Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark Jr.

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars Herman Bavinck's fame as a theologian has been steadily growing in my circles—especially since the Dutch Translation Society began putting out his Reformed Dogmatics in English in 2003. All four volumes sit proudly on my own shelves along with the first volume of his Reformed Ethics. I like to know the stories and circumstances of my theologians. I like to know what concerns drove them, what conversations they found themselves in. And this book delivers. It's not a warm-hea My rating: 5 of 5 stars Herman Bavinck's fame as a theologian has been steadily growing in my circles—especially since the Dutch Translation Society began putting out his Reformed Dogmatics in English in 2003. All four volumes sit proudly on my own shelves along with the first volume of his Reformed Ethics. I like to know the stories and circumstances of my theologians. I like to know what concerns drove them, what conversations they found themselves in. And this book delivers. It's not a warm-hearted book (more on that in a moment), but it reads as eminently careful. The footnotes and the discussions very strongly suggest that Eglinton has made himself the master of Bavinck's writings—in Dutch, no less. He is a servant to Bavinck, not a lord: he helps readers of today understand who Bavinck was in his own mind and in his own times. I received a review copy from the publisher, but I don't review books I don't choose: I chose this one, and I'm glad. My opinions were not affected in any way that I'm aware of. This is about to be the squishiest criticism I've ever given of a book, the most subjective: I did feel that Bavinck failed to come alive for me in Eglinton's work. He was treated as a third party about whom it was helpful for us all to have a discussion but who didn't himself get to speak much. His relationships to key people in his life, namely his wife and Abraham Kuyper, felt as if they were taking place somewhere very distant from the reader. Bavinck's friendship with Snouck Hugronje was well rounded, but I come away from this book feeling like I still haven't met Bavinck. This is a "critical" biography, but I still feel a little sense of loss. David McCullough makes his subjects seem alive; somehow that makes a deeper impression on me. Nonetheless, I received a truly excellent and rigorous summary of his life and views, a set of considered and (it sure seems to me) reliable judgments on some significant areas of dispute among Bavinck biographies, and a picture of the man and his times that will most certainly aid me greatly as I embark on reading through his works in the coming year or so. Bavinck's early biographer Hepp comes in for regular and—again it seems to me, though I have only Eglinton's word to go on—just critique. Experienced readers know when an author has done his or her homework; Eglinton surely has. Certain things clicked into place for me. Bavinck, I've long known, was a key Neo-Calvinist thinker. He was a key popularizer of the concept of "biblical worldview." I am his direct heir in two books. I see better now, however, the soil from which his views grew. And it's so interesting to me that the soil was similar to my own. He was a "son of the secession"; I was nurtured in "separatism." He was Reformed; so was I (without initially knowing it very well). He wanted to bring the Bible to bear on all of life; I've always wanted that, too. At the very simplest levels, I identify with Bavinck—and I hope I don't flatter myself too much in doing so. One of the things that most impressed me about Herman Bavinck from this biography was the combined dependence and independence of his mind. He was dependent on Scripture and Christian theology and not on his times. He was able to see his culture as only one among many. He applied his theology of grace restoring nature to his own tribe. This comes out most markedly—in Eglinton's telling—in Bavinck's views on women's suffrage. Kuyper was distinctly unhappy with Bavinck at this point, but Bavinck was able to think both in ideal terms and in practical ones. He was able to hold onto his Bible while traversing the hidden barrier between the 19th and 20th centuries. Bavinck was a truly great man, and this is a worthy biography. It wasn't a page turner, exactly, but I never felt bored, either. The pace was stately. A good fit for its subject.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A biography tracing the origins, significant life events and theological scholarship of Dutch neo-Calvinist theologian Herman Bavinck. Interest has grown in recent years in the life and work of Herman Bavinck. In 2008, the four volumes of his Reformed Dogmatics, published in Dutch in 1905 was finally published in English translation. It became more widely apparent that Bavinck was one of the most significant theological minds of the 20th century. The arrival of James Eglinton’s Bavinck: Summary: A biography tracing the origins, significant life events and theological scholarship of Dutch neo-Calvinist theologian Herman Bavinck. Interest has grown in recent years in the life and work of Herman Bavinck. In 2008, the four volumes of his Reformed Dogmatics, published in Dutch in 1905 was finally published in English translation. It became more widely apparent that Bavinck was one of the most significant theological minds of the 20th century. The arrival of James Eglinton’s Bavinck: A Critical Biography only enhances our understanding of this key theological figure. Eglinton begins with Bavinck’s family of origin, so significant in the shape of his career and thought. His father, Jan, was part of the group of those who seceded from the Dutch Reformed Church in 1834, pastoring a seceding churches, facing the opprobrium of the first generation, and preceding Herman in teaching at the Theological School at Kampen. Yet in the education of Herman, his parents avoided the parochial bubble, a temptation with a group seceding to affirm doctrinal orthodoxy. It began in sending Herman to the gymnasium at Zwolle. Then after a year at Kampen, Herman got permission to study at the much more “modern” Leiden. It reflected an early sense on the part of Herman of wanting to preach and teach a neo-Calvinism at once orthodox and engaging the modern and scientific currents in the wider society. He completed in 1880 his thesis under two of Leiden’s leading lights, Scholten and Kuenen, although still formally recognized as a student at Kampen. Many cast aspersions on Bavinck’s bona fides yet he passed his ordination exams and received a call to a large congregation in Franeker that grew during his year as pastor. A year later, in 1882 he joined the faculty at Kampen, along with his rival Lucas Lindeboom. Lindeboom challenged his efforts to do reformed theology in a modern context, and his increasing efforts with Abraham Kuyper to realize a Reformed vision in Dutch society. During this period, Bavinck refuses several attempts to recruit him to Kuyper’s Free University. Eglinton explores the tension between Bavinck’s loyalty to the Christian Reformed Church and his scholarly ambitions. Eventually, as Lindeboom’s forces pushed him and a colleague out, he was able to complete his migration to the Free University, succeeding Abraham Kuyper in the chair of theology at the Free University of Amsterdam in 1902. Even before this, with diminished teaching loads, Bavinck was able to realize his scholarly work of a theological work that reflected his vision, the Reformed Dogmatics, as well as scholarly articles, and an unfinished Reformed Ethics (currently being translated into English). Eglinton also digs into his view of scripture. One one hand he affirmed a high commitment to the divine inspiration and authority of scripture. At the same time, his understanding of this fully divine and fully human document also raised doubts for him that two of his students took further to the detriment of their careers. The Amsterdam period reflected a broadening out of his influence as he brought theological principles to bear in the spheres of education, psychology, and politics. He served briefly as party leader during Kuyper’s absence and was elected to the first chamber of the Dutch government. In 1908, he is honored in America with a meeting with Teddy Roosevelt and the invitation to give the Stone Lectures. His insights on America both during this and his earlier visits make interesting reading. The text of his account of his first visit is included as an appendix. One of the interesting aspects of Bavinck’s life was his marriage to Johanna. She was a strong partner who probably both encouraged and extended Bavinck’s efforts to recognize the rights and roles of women in society. Most of her children engaged in resistance against Hitler, a number at the cost of their lives. She wasn’t his first choice. He kept a flame for a number of years for Amelia den Dekker but was refused by her father and rebuffed by her. My sense is that Johanna was the better partner. This is an outstanding biography. Having read a bit of Bavinck, I wondered about the readability of this work. My wonderings were unfounded. One encounters at once both an extensively researched and flowing narrative of Bavinck’s life. If you are interested in exploring the work of this theologian, Eglinton’s Bavinck is a great place to begin. ____________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    An astounding achievement for this generation's leading Bavinck scholar. I've been trying to read all of Bavinck's work in English for the past few years, as well as articles published by up-and-coming Bavinck scholars. Eglinton has already done incredible work through the "Edinburgh school" of Bavinck studies overseeing important doctoral dissertations and scholarly articles. His work *Trinity & Organism* is a watershed for Bavinck studies. With this new biography, he has outdone himself. Eglin An astounding achievement for this generation's leading Bavinck scholar. I've been trying to read all of Bavinck's work in English for the past few years, as well as articles published by up-and-coming Bavinck scholars. Eglinton has already done incredible work through the "Edinburgh school" of Bavinck studies overseeing important doctoral dissertations and scholarly articles. His work *Trinity & Organism* is a watershed for Bavinck studies. With this new biography, he has outdone himself. Eglinton has clearly immersed himself in the primary and secondary literature on Bavinck and has presented Bavinck in all of his splendor. Through this biography, we learn about Bavinck's tenuous relationship with Kuyper, Bavinck's stance toward culture throughout his life, the development of Bavinck's thought over his illustrious career, and even Bavinck's rumination on America. This book was a feast for people who have found in Bavinck a fellow traveler—one who is fully orthodox, yet seeking to be faithful within modern life and culture. Some biographies are hagiography and leave you feeling the subject to be unapproachable or otherworldly; other biographies disabuse you of the subject's righteousness and leave you feeling jaded. This biography does what all good biography seeks to do: present the person in all of their subjectivity, context, and place, yet show the reader the greatness that nevertheless remains. I come away from this biography loving Bavinck more, not because it was an exercise in flattery, but that we see Bavinck as he was: an orthodox Calvinist, modern Christian, faithful witness to the triune God.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Parker

    The good: + The most important part, to my mind, is that Eglington presents Bavinck as a theologian of unitary mind, as opposed to the orthodox/modern split-personality that has long been attributed to him. + Although I usually hate endnotes, I appreciate them here because they are made up mostly of Dutch quotations translated in the main body of the text. + Eglington is very careful to avoid overstatement and apocryphal details. + The author writes in a very clear style that is easy to follow. + Egl The good: + The most important part, to my mind, is that Eglington presents Bavinck as a theologian of unitary mind, as opposed to the orthodox/modern split-personality that has long been attributed to him. + Although I usually hate endnotes, I appreciate them here because they are made up mostly of Dutch quotations translated in the main body of the text. + Eglington is very careful to avoid overstatement and apocryphal details. + The author writes in a very clear style that is easy to follow. + Eglington helpfully casts Bavinck's life against Kuyper's, comparing and contrasting them as he goes. The bad: + The book borders on hagiography. Only one major failing of Bavinck's is really acknowledged, and despite how awful his actions were in that moment, and the implications they have for Kuyperian neo-Calvinistic politics, Eglington appears to gloss over them as a minor misstep. + I think more space should have been given to Bavinck's specific views on theological issues. Eglington does this, to a decent extent, with his opinions on Scripture, but not on other subjects. We are not told how but only only that Bavinck's ideas differed from his liberal professors, his Vermittlungstheologie dialogue partners, his hyper-conservative colleagues, etc. All in all, this is a good biography, and I'd certainly recommend it to anybody looking to understand more about my favorite theologian and polymath.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andy Dollahite

    James Eglinton is as superb a biographer as Chernow and McCullough. Already a respected interpreter of Herman Bavinck's writing, he provides a vivid yet sensitive portrait of a most worthy subject. As noted by many, the strengths of the book include: establishing Bavinck as an orthodox Reformed Calvinist faithfully engaging a modern world on its terms; correcting or reframing popular misunderstandings of Bavinck's upbringing, training, and relationship to Abraham Kuyper; connecting Bavinck the m James Eglinton is as superb a biographer as Chernow and McCullough. Already a respected interpreter of Herman Bavinck's writing, he provides a vivid yet sensitive portrait of a most worthy subject. As noted by many, the strengths of the book include: establishing Bavinck as an orthodox Reformed Calvinist faithfully engaging a modern world on its terms; correcting or reframing popular misunderstandings of Bavinck's upbringing, training, and relationship to Abraham Kuyper; connecting Bavinck the man to his scholarship, brilliantly illuminating the latter. It is particularly this last quality I appreciate most. (This work has already added depth to my return to *Reformed Dogmatics*.) On rare occasions I wished Eglinton had more directly connected assertions about Bavinck's sociological/cultural views to primary sources (particularly those produced in the closing decade of his life). I won't summarize every chapter or section, but will note the chapters exploring Bavinck's response to Nietzsche were particularly compelling. Also, included in the appendices is Bavinck's reflection on his first journey to America. This hybrid travel diary/cultural commentary is richly insightful and quite often convicting.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Excellent. Bavinck is indeed a needed voice and example for our time. It is incredible how little of Bavinck was available in the English world until recently. I think I was most impressed by Bavinck's vision of the university and of theology's place in its center as the queen of the sciences. I had questions/concerns in a few places, mainly in sections where the author dealt with the development of Bavinck's thought with regards to Scripture. Those events and quotes may need a better and clearer Excellent. Bavinck is indeed a needed voice and example for our time. It is incredible how little of Bavinck was available in the English world until recently. I think I was most impressed by Bavinck's vision of the university and of theology's place in its center as the queen of the sciences. I had questions/concerns in a few places, mainly in sections where the author dealt with the development of Bavinck's thought with regards to Scripture. Those events and quotes may need a better and clearer interpretation. The comparisons with Kuyper were informative and helpful, and the author's view on the two figures transpires as the book progresses, but as someone who does not know him very well, I was left wondering whether there was another side to some of the author's takes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scott Carter

    Eglinton, James. Bavinck: A Critical Biography. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020. $44.99 Knowing a critical commentary on Herman Bavinck is one of the events I most anticipated this year. Hearing such critical acclaim throughout the year created an even great sense of hopefulness. All of it lived up to expectations! James Eglinton sets an example of understanding a modern, complex theologian in Bavinck: A Critical Biography. His premise surrounds taking another look at Herman Bavinck while s Eglinton, James. Bavinck: A Critical Biography. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020. $44.99 Knowing a critical commentary on Herman Bavinck is one of the events I most anticipated this year. Hearing such critical acclaim throughout the year created an even great sense of hopefulness. All of it lived up to expectations! James Eglinton sets an example of understanding a modern, complex theologian in Bavinck: A Critical Biography. His premise surrounds taking another look at Herman Bavinck while setting aside the “Jekyll and Hyde” assumptions resulting from the apparent contradictions between the orthodox and modern sides of Bavinck. Eglinton’s biography argues Bavinck had the capacity to “as a creative thinker whose theological imagination allowed him to envision a distinctive articulation of the historic Christian faith within his own modern milieu.” Bavinck contains 11 chapters broken into five parts chronologically progressing through his life. Part 1, consisting of the first three chapters, provides background and begins Bavinck’s childhood and early schooling. Part 2 dives further into his life as a student and part 3 at his life as a pastor. Parts 4 and 5 examine at his time as a professor at both Kampen and Amsterdam respectively. Each chapter is broken into sections ranging anywhere from a half-page to 3-4 pages. Approaching each chunk of text allows Bavinck to be considerably more attainable. The first chapter inundates the reader with so much information and background. This is all relevant and necessary for understanding Herman Bavinck’s environment, but it is difficult to process and retain the unfamiliar Dutch traditions. I found myself bookmarking what I presumed to be important details in order to refer back. For example, knowing the difference between the Reformirte Kirche and the Old Reformed Church will help in the next chapter. Chapter two is much the same way as it turns to the subject’s parents. I increasingly saw the relevance in the little details; each little piece shaping and building the Bavinck family and Jan’s (Herman’s father) values and perspective. The third chapter approaches Herman as a youth and his early schooling. Eglinton challenges the romanticized understanding of Herman’s childhood as being a “diamond in the rough” and sees Herman as receiving a good education for the time and capable of receiving class prizes at the conclusion of the high school equivalent. Chapters 4 and 5 each look specifically at his time as a student at the Theological School of Kampen and the University of Leiden. Herman Bavinck served as a pastor from 1881-82 and chapter 6 surveys this period. Eglinton devotes chapters 7-8 to his tenure as a professor in Kampen where he moved to in 1882 to be a professor. He would remain there until 1902, during which time he would also publish the well known four volumes of Reformed Dogmatics. Chapter nine focuses on Bavinck's move to Amsterdam and his early years there including his response to Nietzsche as he moves. We get a close view of Bavinck's shift from writing to his engagement in broader political and cultural affairs of the time. These themes continue in Chapter 10 as we see Bavinck continue engaging in apologetics and evangelism in the public sphere along with his time during WWI. Chapter 11 brings a somber close to the life of Herman Bavinck. The depth of the material necessitates rereading at times to grasp Bavinck’s background. Eglinton’s contribution cannot be understated — however challenging the meticulous background details may be. He approaches Bavinck with humility. While the overall outlook is favorable towards Herman Bavinck, Eglinton treats him fairly, not assigning motive where we do not have clear and guiding information. He engages other biographies and critiques them along the way. We see Herman Bavinck humanly, as a Christian and churchman finding a path in a changing political and cultural environment. The praise this volume has received is well deserved. I look forward to having a copy on my shelf and reading this volume again soon. I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley for review purposes. My comments are independent and my own. Quotations could change in the finished book. Pages for quotations are not provided due to receiving an unfinished manuscript.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dan Marks

    Eglinton has created a very readable account of Bavinck's life that sheds light on his important contributions to theology, education, politics, and overall culture. I particularly appreciated understanding how Bavinck identified the terrible influences of Nietzsche on European culture and by extension the world. Bavinck and Kuyper were used by God as a temporary bulwark against a secularizing tide sweeping the West. It's sad to read that even late in his life, Bavinick had to defend against cha Eglinton has created a very readable account of Bavinck's life that sheds light on his important contributions to theology, education, politics, and overall culture. I particularly appreciated understanding how Bavinck identified the terrible influences of Nietzsche on European culture and by extension the world. Bavinck and Kuyper were used by God as a temporary bulwark against a secularizing tide sweeping the West. It's sad to read that even late in his life, Bavinick had to defend against challenges to the authority of scripture in his own church. After his seminal four-volume "Reformed Dogmatics" was translated into English in 2008, Bavinck's influence in biblical Christian circles has only increased. The postscript describes how his grandchildren were active in the Dutch resistance against Nazi rule and some gave their lives. Fifty years after Bavinck's death the eventual rot in the GKN would result in it revising its historical confession.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ian Clary

    I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of one of my favourite theologians. Eglinton does an excellent job at covering the course of Bavinck's life, paying attention to the successes and failures, with a sensitivity to Bavinck's theological concerns. Drawn from extensive research conducted in the Netherlands, Eglinton proves himself to be one of the leading--if not the leading--experts on Bavinck. I came away from this book regretting that it I had completed it, which is always a good sign for a wri I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of one of my favourite theologians. Eglinton does an excellent job at covering the course of Bavinck's life, paying attention to the successes and failures, with a sensitivity to Bavinck's theological concerns. Drawn from extensive research conducted in the Netherlands, Eglinton proves himself to be one of the leading--if not the leading--experts on Bavinck. I came away from this book regretting that it I had completed it, which is always a good sign for a writer. I certainly have a greater understanding of who Bavinck was, beyond what had been gleaning from his theological and psychological writings over the years. Anyone who has an appreciation for Bavinck needs to read this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Mercado

    What a wonderful book. Don’t let the adjective “critical” deceive you. This is a well written and penetrating book. Thoroughly engaging from beginning to end. I found it to be an encouragement to be “orthodox, yet modern.” We may not be as brilliant as Bavinck, but we should seek to bring to bear our faith into all aspects of life as Bavinck did.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Smith

    Very interesting story about a man who tried to "bring" his convictions into the modern age. This hasn't been a very successful endeavor throughout modernity, but Herman Bavinck is quite an exceptional man. He possessed a towering intellect and a love for orthodoxy. There has been a revival in his popularity, and I imagine that this will only continue. There are a lot of interesting ideas in here, and I hope to read more from Bavinck after being introduced to him in this critical biography. Very interesting story about a man who tried to "bring" his convictions into the modern age. This hasn't been a very successful endeavor throughout modernity, but Herman Bavinck is quite an exceptional man. He possessed a towering intellect and a love for orthodoxy. There has been a revival in his popularity, and I imagine that this will only continue. There are a lot of interesting ideas in here, and I hope to read more from Bavinck after being introduced to him in this critical biography.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jacob London

    Incredible. Please do Kuyper next!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Graham Shearer

    A meticulously researched biography, Eglinton places Bavinck within his social and historical context as someone seeking to integrate his Reformed convictions with the modern age. Eglinton draws out the painful and sometimes tragic personal life that provided the backdrop for his scholarship. I was left with two questions: i) to what extent is the wide engagement with political, intellectual and cultural life open to those of his theological stripe today? ii) how successful was Bavinck in achiev A meticulously researched biography, Eglinton places Bavinck within his social and historical context as someone seeking to integrate his Reformed convictions with the modern age. Eglinton draws out the painful and sometimes tragic personal life that provided the backdrop for his scholarship. I was left with two questions: i) to what extent is the wide engagement with political, intellectual and cultural life open to those of his theological stripe today? ii) how successful was Bavinck in achieving the integration that he sought? Eglinton emphasises what might be called the progressive, yet still orthodox, elements of his thought. Yet is was striking that his widow and daughter left Bavinck's denomination to join a church started by one of Bavinck's students ejected from the denomination for his lower view of Scripture. Bavinck's vision of a modern orthodoxy is no doubt inspiring but how do we perpetuate the orthodoxy while engaging with the modern? For stimulating these reflections and much else, Eglinton's book is a must read for anyone engaging with Bavinck's thought, which should be anyone interested in the cause of orthodox Christianity.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Henry Hoekstra

    Herman Bavinck is my favorite theologian. Job well done James Eglinton. You succeeded in painting an historically accurate picture of Herman Bavinck that anyone will see to be true upon reading the mans works. Bavinck was a modern man (as all are in their particular context), but by God’s Grace he was an orthodox Christian through and through. I appreciate the reawakened desire to study Bavinck mainly for its work in breaking down the false “Jekyll and Hyde” narrative that is so often given as th Herman Bavinck is my favorite theologian. Job well done James Eglinton. You succeeded in painting an historically accurate picture of Herman Bavinck that anyone will see to be true upon reading the mans works. Bavinck was a modern man (as all are in their particular context), but by God’s Grace he was an orthodox Christian through and through. I appreciate the reawakened desire to study Bavinck mainly for its work in breaking down the false “Jekyll and Hyde” narrative that is so often given as the frame for seeing Bavinck through. Bavinck’s theological organicism and turn from separation to integration is the major key for the Church today in coming to a holistic world-and-life view. I am looking forward to more English translations of Bavinck’s works and wish to study him deeper in an academic setting.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matt Pelto

    Dr. Eglington's biography is a masterpiece, not only of the man, but of the genre as well. One feels as though he knows the man from reading this book. And that is made all the more impressive considering the complex religious, cultural, political, and societal shifts taking place during his life. The research that went into this book is astounding, and no wonder considering the scope of Bavinck's impact on The Netherlands, Neo-Calvinism, and Reformed Theology as a whole. I heartily recommend th Dr. Eglington's biography is a masterpiece, not only of the man, but of the genre as well. One feels as though he knows the man from reading this book. And that is made all the more impressive considering the complex religious, cultural, political, and societal shifts taking place during his life. The research that went into this book is astounding, and no wonder considering the scope of Bavinck's impact on The Netherlands, Neo-Calvinism, and Reformed Theology as a whole. I heartily recommend this work to anyone, especially a student of Reformed Theology.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Creedy

    Absolutely superb book It’s carefully written - readable AND rigorous. It is theologically rich and also culturally fascinating - with parallels between Bavincks context ans the present day reality being plain to see. It is thoroughly researched and rigorously referenced - beautiful book (dat cover tho) and with comprehensive everything. Only 300/450 pages are the biography - 150 pages of notes, appendices etc. just excellent!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I have to admit I was excited about reading James Eglinton’s Bavinck: A Critical Biography. My interest in Bavinck (1854-1921) came as a result of my early readings of Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987). From Van Til it doesn’t take long to notice the name Herman Bavinck which repeatedly comes up in Van Til’s texts, footnotes, and lectures. Van Til was so influenced by Bavinck he used to say of Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek (Reformed Dogmatics) is “the greatest and most comprehensive statement of I have to admit I was excited about reading James Eglinton’s Bavinck: A Critical Biography. My interest in Bavinck (1854-1921) came as a result of my early readings of Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987). From Van Til it doesn’t take long to notice the name Herman Bavinck which repeatedly comes up in Van Til’s texts, footnotes, and lectures. Van Til was so influenced by Bavinck he used to say of Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek (Reformed Dogmatics) is “the greatest and most comprehensive statement of Reformed systematic theology in modern times.” From such a glowing endorsement I became interested in Bavinck the theologian and have gained a wealth of insight yet without ever really knowing very much about Bavinck the man. Bavink lived during a great transitional period in Dutch life. The Netherlands had migrated from an authoritarian monarchy to a state-sponsored liberal democracy. Under the state, there were many restrictions over religion. The government executed full control over religion from the songs that were sung to the sermons preached by the pastor. These state sponsored Churches were not known for their brimming orthodoxy but appear to have been institutions for the propagation of modernity. Out of this modernist movement were churches who opposed the heterodoxy of the state-sponsored churches and stood for orthodox Reformed Christianity. Against the backdrop of these modernist Churches, the orthodox Calvinistic Churches seemed out of place or out of touch with the new modernity. It was out of this tension between orthodoxy and modernity that Bavinck emerged as one of the most important theologians in Dutch history and one of the shining lights of Christendom. As a young man, he received a traditional rigorous education. He was trained in the classical languages, Humanities, Music, Mathematics, and Logic. He transferred to the University of Leiden where his Christian convictions were at odds with the student party life. “Three hundredth anniversary of founding of Leiden, I was not in a festive mood and thus didn’t enjoy it much I saw the teeming crowd, that only uses the day as a reason for excess and debauchery, and then I thought, how little God is recognized for what he gives us.” “In those early student days, Bavinck found it hard to feel at home in a city where few felt any need to live Coram Deo. Life in Leiden was jarringly secular.” While that kept him from certain aspects of student life his pastor at Leiden was able to mentor Bavinck and taught him to have a more integrated existence on campus. But it wasn’t just the social life at Leiden that Bavinck found troubling. Many of his Professors were celebrity liberal Theologians whose teachings challenged the teachings of his upbringing. For Bavinck, his college experience wasn’t just academic. He had to learn to exist in an environment that was hostile to his faith and at the same time learn how to engage it with his conservative orthodoxy. It was that dualistic approach that became his method for his entire career. For some, it has caused so much confusion that some writers view him as a double-minded figure. But for Eglinton, this ability to speak orthodoxy into the modernist vernacular simply demonstrated Bavinck’s genius. Bavinck went on to become a Pastor, Professor, Theologian, Journal editor, and Statesman. I’m not sure if anyone-besides Eglinton- has written a critical biography on Herman Bavinck yet. A “critical biography” sounds like something one would write to dismantle and poke holes in a person’s life and expose hypocracies or theological inconsistencies. But, a critical biography looks at the sources of the individual’s life and allows them to speak for themselves. Letters, notes, essays, publications, diaries, newspaper articles all become the subject of inquiry in a critical biography so that it wouldn’t be as if the biographer was simply telling the story he wants to tell about the individual void of any significant evidence. Good or bad the critical biography gives a well-examined account of the individual’s life and because of his extensive research into Bavinck there is no one better suited to give that account than Eglinton. Bavinck consists of five parts that are in order of chronology as they progress through Bavinck’s life. Among the five parts are eleven chapters broken into five parts chronologically progressing through Bavinck’s life. Part one covering the first three chapters discusses Bavinck’s life and family context and begins with his childhood and early schooling. Part two develops further into his early education and part three explains his life as a pastor. Parts four and five discuss professorship at both Kampen and Amsterdam. Bavinck is a fantastic read that many in the church today can identify with. I would give Bavinck by James Eglinton 5 stars out 5. James P. Eglinton is the Meldrum Senior Lecturer in Reformed Theology at the University of Edinburgh. He previously served as senior researcher in systematic and historical theology at the Theologische Universiteit Kampen. He is the author of Bavinck: A Critical Biography (Baker, 2020), and Trinity and Organism (Bloomsbury, 2012). He edited and translated Herman Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers (Hendrickson, 2017), co-edited and co-translated Christian Worldview (Crossway, 2019), and co-edited Neo-Calvinism and the French Revolution (Bloomsbury, 2012). He also serves as associate editor of the Journal of Reformed Theology.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David Szomor

    What would the theological landscape look like if Bavinck's dogmatics were translated into English in the 20th century? What if Bavinck lived long enough to have interacted with Barth? Amazing biography. Deeply edified. Certainly refreshing to see that one can be deeply confessional, deeply passionate, and deeply charitable. The church needs another Bavinck. What would the theological landscape look like if Bavinck's dogmatics were translated into English in the 20th century? What if Bavinck lived long enough to have interacted with Barth? Amazing biography. Deeply edified. Certainly refreshing to see that one can be deeply confessional, deeply passionate, and deeply charitable. The church needs another Bavinck.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Devon Bowman

    A superb biography. Well researched, a pleasurable read, nuanced, and quick to acknowledge the complexities in the person without an immediate need to explain them away. My new standard for biography. I highly recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    Eglinton has written a masterpiece in this critical biography. The depth of research is astounding from cover to cover. Bavinck is a complex, courageous, and compelling figure. The more I read by or about Bavinck, the more I’m convinced by his theological vision.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Josh Shelton

    Top notch!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Great bio of one of the most influential reformed dogmaticians of recent times.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zach Hollifield

    Really excellent.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Justin Ariel

    A stunning achievement. The most I've enjoyed a biography since Peter Brown's biography of Augustine. A stunning achievement. The most I've enjoyed a biography since Peter Brown's biography of Augustine.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nick Roark

    World-class

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris Bennett

    Superb, well researched, and about one of the most of the important figures in Christian theology that has ever lived. May some Dutch people turn the rest of his writings into English!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Z

    Excellent biography, enjoyable read, insightful. Recommended!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell Traver

    I really enjoyed James Eglinton's style of writing. Very thorough, and critically composed. Throughout the book, he frequently engages previous scholarship on Herman Bavinck, often times offering correction to false information and poorly made assumptions. In doing so, Eglinton clearly demonstrated how well-researched his scholarship on Bavinck was, and opened the door to better and deeper insights into the person of Herman Bavinck. Though, what struck me most was not necessarily the skill of Ja I really enjoyed James Eglinton's style of writing. Very thorough, and critically composed. Throughout the book, he frequently engages previous scholarship on Herman Bavinck, often times offering correction to false information and poorly made assumptions. In doing so, Eglinton clearly demonstrated how well-researched his scholarship on Bavinck was, and opened the door to better and deeper insights into the person of Herman Bavinck. Though, what struck me most was not necessarily the skill of James Eglinton's writing, but rather the character of Herman Bavinck as he is presented in this biography. Seeing the connections of world history, theological triage, cultural heritage, and familial engagement was a pretty remarkable experience. The book opened my eyes to all of the forces at work in the life of a man, and what is more, how the Providence of God plays out in a myriad of ways. I had never heard of Herman Bavinck until recently, nor did I know anything about the Dutch Reformed movement. Thanks to James Eglinton, Herman Bavinck has become someone I'm very familiar with and can now learn from, not only through his works, but in how he sought to life his life. Indeed, the crux of the book, as far as I'm concerned, is this: "Orthodox, yet Modern." Herman Bavinck clearly sought to be "in the world, but not of it." He didn't shy away from going against the grain of culture - whether in the theological or secular realm. Rather, he consistently sought integration while holding fast the theological orthodoxy, and it seems he did so simply out of love for God and love for neighbor. Herman was very much convinced that faithfulness requires neither cultural retreat nor theological compromise. If anything, Herman's life is a testament to the fact that truth is timeless and our lives should be marked by an interconnectedness with the environment we find ourselves in. Herman Bavinck clearly recognized the needs of his day, and he sought to address them with ancient orthodoxy and present-day nuance. We need more Bavinck's today - I'm grateful to the LORD for his witness, and am greatly encouraged by his life.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elijah Brook

    The authoritative and comprehensive biography who may soon become one of the most important theologian of not only the last 200 years, but in all church history, is an absolute joy to read. The research is impeccable, the writing clear and engaging, and it’s purpose meaningful and timely. Eglinton continues to show the non-Dutch speaking Western world just how magnificent and essential Herman Bavinck was as a theologian, thinker, writer, statesmen, and overall figure to our world. One day he wil The authoritative and comprehensive biography who may soon become one of the most important theologian of not only the last 200 years, but in all church history, is an absolute joy to read. The research is impeccable, the writing clear and engaging, and it’s purpose meaningful and timely. Eglinton continues to show the non-Dutch speaking Western world just how magnificent and essential Herman Bavinck was as a theologian, thinker, writer, statesmen, and overall figure to our world. One day he will be considered side by side with Calvin, Augustine, Luther, and the other giants as one of the true greats. This book, and the previous and future work concerning Bavinck are the reason why.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alan

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