Since I already know John Calvin pretty well (having studied under Richard Muller and taught a course on Calvin several times), I’ve decided to celebrate the 500th anniversary of his birth by reading Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics (Baker).
In my reading for today, I came across some quotes which, though perhaps not persuasive to many emergent Christians, should carry weight with my friend and interlocutor Kevin Corcoran, who teaches at Calvin College (being Dutch Reformed, they rightly appreciate Kuyper and Bavinck there).
Here Bavinck says that “belief that” logically precedes and generates “belief in,” and both are essential to authentic Christianity.
Bavinck wrote that “For the knowledge (cognitio) as Calvin views it includes trust (fiducia), and trust in turn is not possible without knowledge. The two do not just stand in juxtaposition, nor are they merely linked by the words ‘not only but also,’ but they are organically interconnected” (4:130).
Bavinck observed that the need to believe in Jesus was so important that in Scripture “‘believers’ is another word for Christians (Acts 10:43; 1 Tim. 4:3, 12)” (4:106).
He added that “From the very beginning this faith included two elements: (1) acceptance of the apostolic message concerning the Christ and (2) personal trust in that Christ as now living in heaven and mighty to forgive sins and to bestow complete salvation” (4:106).
Me: (1) is “belief that” and (2) is “belief in.”
Finally, Bavinck said that “Believing always includes acceptance of the witness God has given of his Son through the apostles as well as unlimited trust in the person of Christ. The two are inseparable. Those who truly accept the apostolic witness trust in Christ alone for their salvation; and those who put their trust in Christ as the Son of God also freely and readily accept the apostolic witness concerning that Christ. The two together, subjectively speaking, constitute the essence of Christianity.”
“If Christ were only a historical person who by his doctrine and life had left us an example, historical belief in the witness handed down to us would be sufficient. However, in that case Christianity would never mature into true religion, that is, into true communion with God, and Deism would be right.”
“Conversely, if Christ, in keeping with the pantheistic view, were not the historical but solely the ideal Christ, belief in an apostolic witness would be totally superfluous, and Christ would be nothing other than the life of God in us, but then there could not be true communion between God and us either, for such communion presupposes an essential distinction between the two” (4:107-8).
Me again: I’m not saying he is a pantheist, but Peter Rollin’s refusal to admit belief in the historical resurrection of Jesus looks similar to what Bavinck is refuting in this last paragraph.