06 November 2009

Bavinck: Regeneration

In reading stuff on the Great Awakening, the transatlantic revival of the early 1740s, two doctrines seem to have fueled that movement of God, emerging again and again in the writing and preaching of Edwards, Whitefield, the Wesleys, and the Tennents: justification and the new birth. Yet while justification is as front and center today as any other doctrine, regeneration is, it seems to me in my limited view from the nosebleeds, strangely neglected.

It is stabilizing and clarifying, therefore, to discover how our most reliable guides from the past understood the new birth. Bavinck is one who does it justice. It's difficult to imagine, for instance, how to improve on his concluding summary of the new birth as taught throughout the whole Bible. (I find especially intriguing Bavinck's correlation between Christ's resurrection and our new birth)

[I]n the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, while there is a difference between them in language and manner of presentation, there is essentially complete agreement. Whether rebirth is called 'the circumcision of the heart,' the giving of a new heart and a new spirit, 'efficacious calling,' a drawing by the Father, or birth from God, it is always in the strict sense a work of God by which a person is inwardly changed and renewed. It has its deepest cause in God's mercy; it is based on the resurrection of Christ and is brought about in communion with Christ, to whom the Word bears witness, and manifests itself in a holy life.

--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4:52

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