Blogging Bavinck 5 – Reformed Dogma

“Reformed Theology begins with Zwingli…in the radical dependence of humanity on a sovereign and gracious God…”

Chapter 6 (175-206) necessarily begins with the Lutherans in Germany and how the differed with the Swiss Reformation and Zwingli. The largest difference being the view of the Lord’s Supper. However, it grows to Reformed theology being focused on thinking theologically, while Lutherans think anthropologically. For the Reformed, election is the main doctrine, for Lutheran, it is justification.

Lutheran Theology takes hold in Germany, but the history of Reformed dogma is harder to pin down. It starts in Switzerland, but spreads to many other countries, France, German, Spain and finds strongholds in Britain and the Netherlands. He briefly notes the impact of scholastics and then the challenges of Rationalism and mysticism. I went dive too much into these because they were cover so much elsewhere.

He points to the importance of the Westminster Assembly and that the development of theology in the reformed churches in all countries were more or less constant. However, Presbyterians shrink of Westminster and there is a rise in Non-conformists, especially with John Owen, and Baptists, culminating in the London Baptist Confession of Faith, which really was only different from Westminster in church government and baptism. He makes an interesting point that Baptist grew and multiplied especially in America, but not necessarily though theologians, but rather great preachers. I don’t want to digress, but this is a very significant development in American Christianity that I will write on later.

Next come the decline of Reformed theology in the 18th century and the influence of the Enlightenment in the 19th century, particularly with Kant and Schleiermacher. Their influence in Germany so destructive he writes that at the time of writing there is in Germany, ‘not a single university…on the basis of the Reformed confession.’ Continue reading