Faith and Reason 2

Herman Bavinck

I took this formulation from Bavinck’s discussion on “Faith and Theology: Reason Serving Faith.” From the sub title itself, one can perceive the role between reason and faith, and that is reason has to serve faith. The question is how?

In introducing the relationship between faith and reason, Bavinck recognizes the presence of an unhealthy relationship between them:

  • Some would assert that there is no correlation between faith and reason.
  • Others would claim that faith is superior to reason. Bavinck calls this supra (above).
  • Still others would argue that faith is opposed (contra) to reason.

To think of independent existence of both faith and reason, is dualism, says Bavinck. Other two threats identified by Bavinck in connection to the relationship between faith and reason, are rationalism and supernaturalism. Bavinck resolves such conflict by declaring that faith is actually “a disposition or habit of reason itself” (p. 616). He also claims further that faith “is the natural breath of the children of God” (ibid.). As such, the submission of God’s people “to the Word of God is not slavery but freedom” (ibid.). “Faith is not a sacrifice of the intellect but mental health (sanitas mentis)” (ibid). Bavinck adds, faith “does not relieve Christians of the desire to study and reflect; rather it spurs them on to that end” (p. 617). This is the context where reason must serve faith. Reason (mind, thinking) needs to be prepared and trained in the study of theology.

Reason has threefold tasks according to Bavinck in relation to theology.

  • Reason finds the material for theology. The material is not “a handful of proof texts” (ibid.). It must be built on the entire Scripture. Bavinck argues that theology “must arise organically from the principles that are everywhere present for that purpose in Scripture” (ibid.).
  • The acquired material must be intellectually processed. The important thing here is not the repetition of actual literal words found in the Scriptures but the substance, the idea, the thought of the Scriptures reflected on by the theologians even by employing “technical” terms.
  • The reflected acquired material for theology must be arranged and recapitulated systematically. The system must neither be externally imposed nor any intrusion of philosophical categories foreign to the Scriptures can be allowed. Instead, Bavinck explains the nature of this system as a continuous search of the mind for a system springing from the object of reflection itself. He designates this system of the knowledge of God or the unity of truth as the “supreme desideratum” of theology (p.618).

Summary: On The Basis Of Van Til’s Twofold Consciousness Of Man And Bavinck’s Correlation Between Faith And Reason

  • Reason is not contrary to faith.
  • Reason cannot be the standard of faith.
  • Faith is not superior to reason.
  • There is such a thing as believing reason, a reason restored and empowered by faith.


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