RFC: Researching the Kuyperians and "Common Grace"

The blog has been pretty inactive for about a year, while I've been working on projects that it's not easy or necessarily desirable to blog. But as I gear up for field exams (really, this time) I expect to be increasing my output as a way to keep thoughts associated on topic.

The first of those topics was going to be orders of creation in the Reformation strands, but I realized that there's just no way to do that justice at the level of detail I need. So—quite opposed to my initial Lutheran instincts—I found that if I had to focus on one strand, it was going to be the Kuyper–Bavinck-rooted strand of Dutch Calvinism. These folks are a key antithesis to Barth's doctrine of creation, and they have practically all of the features I could possibly want, including the political implications of believing that culture is in any way providential or natural. I'll be focusing particularly on "common grace," which as I understand it will require a bit of digging into "sphere sovereignty" and possible connections to the reaction against Modernist revolutionary tendencies (i.e. the French Revolution of 1792).

So far, I have Kuyper and Bavinck as contemporaries and roots of the tree, Berkouwer as a necessary point of interaction with Barth constructively, and Van Til as a necessary point of refusal of Barth through modification of this "common grace" tradition. Mouw appears to be useful as a present-day exemplar. I'm not learning Dutch for this; English resources will have to do. Fortunately, the Kuyper translation project has the first volume of Common Grace published, even though I'll have to do without the rest of it and Pro Rege.

This will contribute to my dissertation, to the extent that exponents and students of this tradition are practically the only ones who have reliably seen what I'm looking for in Barth—even if they see it and recoil. But I need to have a solid grasp of where they're coming from, because I need to oppose them fairly and well. They are possibly the best and most thorough exponent of what Barth rejects, and their theology works, even if in diametrically opposed fashion to Barth's own.

I know I have readers who will at the very least be more well-acquainted with this strand as members of the Reformed tradition and students or graduates of Reformed institutions. Suggestions and advice are welcome, especially on what constitutes good secondary literature. Please, help keep me accountable.


  1. Matt, I'm an occasional dabbler in Bavinck, but I did find his *Essays on Religion, Science, and Society* fascinating and I think several essays there are apropos of your topics. Surely you must be aware of this fine website already: https://bavinckinstitute.org/society, which links to a scholarly journal devoted to Bavinck. It seems to me John Bolt is the major authority on Bavinck in the U.S.

    1. Okay, that's starting my Bavinck section. I knew I was going to have to dig into the Reformed Dogmatics, and I have pulled down a couple of essays ("Common Grace" and "Calvin and Common Grace"), but I've only just gotten to Bavinck systematically after dealing with Kuyper.

      Bolt is on my list from Kuyper already, as is James Bratt. John Bolt also popped up in connection with Wingren's critique of Barth's doctrine of creation, using it to support the same Kuyper–Bavinck angles.


    2. The weird thing? My school library, JKM, has Bavinck's dogmatics ... in Dutch. Not in English.


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