Bavinck on supra/infra-lapsarian predestination

, posted by Godismyjudge

I recently read Herman Bavinck on supralapsarian and infralapsarian predestination (link). Bavinck’s approach is intriguing. He argues that both the supralapsarian and infralapsarian systems have their strengths and weaknesses, so he cherry-picks the strengths and discards the weaknesses as he presents his own unsystematized views on the subject of predestination. To be clear, he is not saying that he is unable to systematize predestination, but rather that the topic cannot be systematized.

This approach has its drawbacks. Without a logical order, the topic can’t really be explained, nor can Bavinck be sure his system is free from contradiction. Advocates of Bavinck’s approach claim greater freedom to interpret scripture, but if your interpretation of one passage is in tension with another passage, you can never be sure your interpretation is correct. Systematic theology is a lot of hard work. You have to keep many pieces in view simultaneously to ensure you don’t run into contradiction. Defining terms, uncovering implications, deriving deductions and organizing explanations help ensure your system is free from contradiction. But you can never take the shortcut of forcing your system on a passage of scripture; again systematic theology is hard work.

Bavinck accepts conclusions from the supra and sublapsarian positions that are derived from contradictory premises. To avoid contradiction, Bavinck simply avoids the premises, but then where did the conclusion come from? To me, that’s like admiring the roof of a house while laying dynamite to the foundation in the hope that the roof will just float. More to the point, scripture states a house divided against itself cannot stand and that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Perhaps Bavinck’s approach is “the new Calvinism”. This post on Pen & Parchment explains why Calvinism is the least rational option. This style is quite different than the Calvinism I am used to. Successful or not, Hodge, Edwards and Turretin seem insistent on attempting to reconciling apparent discrepancies. So on the one hand, it’s tempting to simply dismiss Bavinck as “not the reformed view”, but on the other hand his views perhaps represent many Calvinists.