Bavinck on the exclusivity of grace

Herman Bavinck includes this important footnote in his Reformed Dogmatics, 3:491-92.  It comes from Max Müller in a speech he gave at the turn of the twentieth century. 

“I may say that for 40 years, as at the University of Oxford I carried out my duties as professor of Sanskrit, I devoted as much time to the study of the holy books of the East as any other human being in the world.  And I venture to tell this gathering what I have found to be the basic note, the one single chord, of all these holy books—be it the Veda of the Brahmans, the Purana of Siwa and Vishnu, the Qur’an of the Muslims, the Sendavesta of the Parsis, etc.—the one basic note or chord that runs through all of them is salvation by works.  They all teach that salvation must be bought and that your own works and merits must be the purchase price.”

“Our own Bible, our sacred book from the East, is from start to finish a protest against this doctrine.  True, good works are also required in this holy book from the East, and that even more emphatically than in any other holy book from the East, but the works referred to are the outflow of a grateful heart.  They are only the thank offerings, only the fruits of our faith.  They are never the ransom of the true disciples of Christ.  Let us not close our eyes to whatever is noble and true and pleasing in those holy books.  But let us teach Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims that there is but one book from the East that can be their comfort in that solemn hour when they must pass, entirely alone, into the invisible world.  It is that holy book which contains the message—a message which is surely true and worthy of full acceptance, and concerns all humans, men, women, and children—that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”







4 responses to “Bavinck on the exclusivity of grace”

  1. It seems to me that we’ve already had this discussion – all other religions are essentially Pelagian, or works-based. You thought I was nuts at the time I made that claim, but I guess you’re willing to take Bavinck’s word (or, rather, Bavinck’s word on Muller’s words) over mine. It’s a good thing you made me read Augustine’s anti-Pelagian writings, since Auggie’s apologetic is effective against virtually every non-Christian theory of salvation. Wait, does that mean I learned something useful in seminary?

  2. Ah, Gospel, sweet Gospel.
    Grace is the heartbeat of God’s message to us.
    If we miss this, we miss it all!

    Thanks for posting.

  3. mikewittmer


    You need to stop projecting every conversation you have ever had on me! I can’t imagine disagreeing with your claim, as I’ve been saying it ever since I met you. Wait, did I learn something from you?!

  4. Mike:

    Wait, you mean that not every little thing in my life comes back to something I learned from you? Room spinning… everything is getting blurring… nothing makes sense anymore….

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