By Steve Bishop
There has been a recent surge in interest in neo-Calvinism – not least in the works of two of the fathers of neo-Calvinism Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) and Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). This is due, in part, to the recent English translations of their works. The translators are often unknown heroes. This is a short piece acknowledging their work in translating Bavinck into English. Elsewhere Kuyper’s translators have been discussed.
This ngram shows this surge (data extracted from Google books):
One of the first of Herman Bavinck’s major works to appear in English was his 1908 Stone Lectures, Philosophy of Revelation
The translators were
- Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) of Princeton Theological Seminary– on Vos see here.
- Nicholas Martin Seffens (1839-1912) was a professor of theology at The Western Theological Seminary in Holland MI. He came to America in 1872 prior to that he studied at the Theological School in Kampen and was a pastor at Emdben.
- Henry Elias Dosker (1855-1926) of Louisville. Dosker was the professor of Church History at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Kentucky. He was the author of Outline Studies in Church History (1913). He delivered the Stone lectures in 1918 on the Dutch Anabaptists. He also wrote a short piece introducing Bavinck to the North American audience: ‘Herman Bavinck’, Princeton Theological Review 20, no. 3 (1922): 448-464.
These three were also involved in the translation of Kuyper’s Stone Lectures.
Vos was also responsible for the translation of Bavinck’s:
- “Recent Dogmatic Thought in the Netherlands.” The Presbyterian and Reformed Review 3 (1892): 209–28.
- “The Future of Calvinism.” The Presbyterian and Reformed Review 5 (1894): 1–24.
- Calvin and Common Grace.” In E. Doumergue, A. Lang, H. Bavinck and B. B. Warfield, Calvin and the Reformation. Four studies, 99–130. New York: Revell, 1909. It was also published in the Princeton Theological Review 7 (1909): 437-465.
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921), a colleague of Vos and professor of theology at Princeton (1887-1921), translated Bavinck’s
- “Christological Movements in the Nineteenth Century.” Bibliotheca Sacra 68 (1911): 381–404.
Also appearing in The Princeton Theological Review (no translator details were given) was:
- “The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.” The Princeton Theological Review 8 (1910): 433–60.
Another of Bavinck’s papers, “Creation and Development” Methodist Review 83 (1901) was translated by Rev. J. Hendrik de Vries, when he was pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Princeton. De Vries was Kuyper’s “authorized translator”.
Another book of Bavinck’s was The Sacrifice of Praise
This was first translated by Revd John Dolfin (1880-1943), Pastor of the Bethany Christian Reformed Church, Muskegon, Michigan. He served as president of the Board of Trustees of Calvin College and Seminary as well as for the Christian Reformed Sunday School Association.
It was also translated by Gilbert Zekveld (1928-2002) – a Dutch farmer from Lindsay, Ontario – for the SpindleWorks website.
It was later retranslated by Cam Clausing and Greg Parker Jr.– see below.
The Doctrine of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1951/ Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977) was the first part of Reformed Dogmatics Vol 2. It was translated by William Hendriksen (1900-1982). Hendriksen was perhaps best known for his Banner of Truth New Testament commentaries. He was Professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary from 1942 to 1952.
Henry Zylstra was the translator ofOur Reasonable Faith (1956) – Bavinck’s own condensed version of his Reformed Dogmatics. From 1950 Zylstra was professor and chairman of the Department of English at Calvin College.
Our Reasonable Faith was later published as The Wonderful Works of God: Instruction in the Christian Religion according to the Reformed Confession (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2019). This edition includes Bavinck’s 1909 preface (translated by N. Gray Sutanto).
Revd A. A. Pfanstiehl was the translator of “Christ and Christianity.” The Biblical Review, I, 1916, pp. 214-236. He was a pastor of the 2nd church of Somerville, NJ.
“The problem of war” Banner of Truth (1977) was translated by Stephen Voorwinde, a lecturer in New Testament at the Reformed Theological College in Geelong, Australia, between 1985 and 2011
Harry der Nederlanden (1944-2008) was the editor of the Christian Courier. He translated
The Certainty of Faith (1980)
Raymond C. van Leeuwen, an emeritus professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, provides a helpful introduction to and translation of
- “Common Grace” Calvin Theological Journal 24 (1989): 38-65.
Al Wolters, perhaps best known as the author of the classic neo-Calvinist introduction Creation Regained. He began his academic career as a philosopher and then switched to biblical studies. He is an emeritus professor at Redeemer University, Ancaster, Ontario. For more on Wolters see here. He is responsible for the translation of:
- Herman Bavinck on Scripture and Science Calvin Theological Journal 27 (1992): 91-95 – an excerpt from Reformed Dogmatics 1.
- “Christianity and the Natural Sciences.” Translated by A. Wolters. In J. M. van der Meer, ed., Facets of Faith and Science, vol. 2, The Role of Beliefs in Mathematics and the Natural Sciences: An Augustinian Perspective, 47–52. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1996.
John Vriend (1942-2018)
The translator behind the four volumes of Bavinck’s magnum opus, The Reformed Dogmatics.
Three earlier sections had appeared in book form: In the Beginning and The Last Things and The Doctrine of God.
Vol 1 Prolegomena (2003)
Vol 2 God and Creation (2004)
Vol 3 Sin and Salvation (2006)
Vol 4 Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (2008)
John Bolt the editor of the Reformed Dogmatics and the Jean and Kenneth Baker Professor of Systematic Theology emeritus at Calvin Theological Seminary. He is also the editor of the Bavinck Review and the director of the Bavinck Institute at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Bolt was also the translator of:
- “The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church” Calvin Theological Journal 27 (1992): 220-251.
- “General Biblical Principles and the Relevance of Concrete Mosaic Law for the Social Question Today (1891).” Translated by John Bolt. Journal of Markets & Morality 13, no. 2 (2010): 437–46.
- “The Theology of Albrecht Ritschl.” Translated by John Bolt. The Bavinck Review 3 (2012): 123–63.
- John Calvin: A Lecture on the Occasion of his 400th Birthday, July 10, 1509—1909. Bavinck Review 1 (2010): 57-85.
- “The Imitation of Christ I (1885-86)” and “The Imitation of Christ II (1918).” In John Bolt, A Theological Analysis of Herman Bavinck’s Two Essays on the Imitatio Christi: Between Pietism and Modernism, 402–40. Lewiston, Queenston and Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2013.
Harry Boonstra (1935-2017) and Gerrit W. Sheeres
Essays on Religion, Science, and Society. Edited by John Bolt. Translated by
Revd Boonstra was the editor of Reformed Worship and librarian at Calvin Theological Seminary. He was an ordained pastor in the CRC.
Revd Sheeres is a retired pastor ordained in 1963. He served the East Paris CRC (1990-97).
Nelson Kloosterman is the Executive Director and Ethics Consultant for Worldview Resources International. He has previously been a professor of Ethics and New Testament at Mid-America Reformed Seminary.
- Saved by Grace: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Calling and Regeneration. Edited by J. Mark Beach. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008
- “The Kingdom of God, The Highest Good.” Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman. The Bavinck Review 2 (2011): 133–70.
- The Christian Family. Edited by Stephen J. Grabill. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian’s Library Press, 2012
- “The Pros and Cons of a Dogmatic System.” Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman. The Bavinck Review 5 (2014): 90–103.
- “Conscience.” Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman. The Bavinck Review 6 (2015): 113–26.
- “Foundations of Psychology.” Translated by John Bolt, Nelson D. Kloosterman and Jack Vanden Born. The Bavinck Review 9 (2018): 1–244.
This is an updated translation of Bavinck’s Beginselen der Psychologie originally translated in 1981 by Jack Vanden Born for his Master of Christian Studies degree at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Henk van den Belt, theprofessor of Reformed Theology at the University of Groningen, translated:
- “Herman Bavinck on Scottish Covenant Theology and Reformed Piety.” Introduced and translated by Henk van den Belt. The Bavinck Review 3 (2012): 164–77. (The title of translation: “Preface to the Life and Works of Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine”)
- Henk van den Belt and Mathilde de Vries-van Uden. “Herman Bavinck’s Preface to the Synopsis Purioris Theologiae.” The Bavinck Review 8 (2017): 101–14.
Willem J. de Wit – is from the Netherlands and lecturers in theology at the Evangelical Seminary in Cairo, Egypt.
James Eglinton is the Meldrum Senior Lecturer in Reformed Theology at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of the definitive biography of Bavinck and in his PhD on Bavinck exposed the fallacy of the “two Bavincks hypothesis” and showed Bavinck’s predilection for an “organic motif”. He supervised Cory Brock, Gray Sutanto, Bruce Pass, Cam Clausing, Xiamian Xu, and Gregory Parker Jr all of whom produced doctoral theses on Bavinck.
Eglinton is responsible for:
- “Letters to a Dying Student: Bavinck’s Letters to Johan van Haselen.” Introduced and translated by James Eglinton. The Bavinck Review 4 (2013): 94–102.
- Herman Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers. Edited and translated by James Eglinton. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2017
- “Herman Bavinck’s ‘My Journey to America’.” Dutch Crossing 41, no. 2 (2017): 180–93
- Christian Worldview. Edited and translated by Cory C. Brock, James Eglinton and Nathaniel Gray Sutanto. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2019.
Nathaniel Gray Sutanto and Cory Brock produced an annotated edition of Bavinck’s Philosophy of Religion, are authors of the forthcoming Neo-Calvinism published by Lexham, and editors of Handbook on Neo-Calvinism to be published by T&T Clark. Both were doctoral students supervised by Eglinton. Sutanto is an assistant professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington DC, and Brock is a minister at St Columba’s Free Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Cameron Clausing and Gregory Parker Jr
- Sacrifice of Praise Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2019
- Guidebook for Instruction in the Christian Religion. Edited and translated by Cameron Clausing and Gregory Parker. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2022.
Clausing completed his doctorate on Bavinck at Edinburgh University and is a lecturer in Applied Theology and Missional Engagement, and the Dean of Students at Christ College, Sydney.
Gregory Parker Jr -recently completed his doctorate supervised by James Eglinton and is an assistant professor in the School of Divinity at Cairn University, Langhorne, PA. He has translated the following:
- “Calvin’s Doctrine of Sin.”. The Bavinck Review 10 (2019): 102–8
- “Head and Heart.” Modern Reformation 30:6 (2021)
- “Reading, Thinking, Speaking.” Modern Reformation 30:1 (2021).
- What Is Christianity? Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2022.
- “Faith and Love.” Triquetra: A Publication of Cairn University (Spring 2022).
Bruce Pass is Director of Postgraduate Studies and lecturer In Christian Thought and History at the Brisbane School of Theology. He has translated four of Bavinck’s orations in:
- On Theology: Herman Bavinck’s Academic Orations Leiden: Brill, 2021.
Kloes obtained his PhD at Edinburgh University in 2016 – James Eglinton was one of his supervisors. He is the author The German Awakening: Protestant Renewal After the Enlightenment, 1815-1848(2019).
Raymond Blacketer, Harry Boonstra (1935-2017), Anthony and Femke Elenbaas, Gerrit Sheeres, and Harry Van Dyke.
- Reformed Ethics: Created, Fallen, and Restored Humanity. Vol. 1. Edited by John Bolt. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019.
Harry Van Dyke is Professor Emeritus in History at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, and Director of the Dooyeweerd Centre for Christian Philosophy. He studied under H. Evan Runner and M. C. Smit. His doctoral dissertation was on Groen van Prinsterer and supervised by A. Th. van Deursen. There is an interview with van Dyke here. He is alsoresponsible for the translation of:
- Reformed Ethics: The Duties of the Christian Life. Vol. 2. Edited by John Bolt. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021
Steve Bishop is an independent researcher based in Wales, UK. He maintains the neo-Calvinist website www.allofliferedeemed.co.uk. He is a trustee of Thinking Faith Network and an Associate Fellow at the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology. He earned his doctorate at the North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa (2019), supervised by Renato Coletto. He is the co-editor of On Kuyper: A Collection of Readings on the Life, Work & Legacy of Abraham Kuyper (Dordt Press, 2013).
 For a list of doctoral theses on Bavinck see https://stevebishop.blogspot.com/2022/08/doctoral-theses-on-herman-bavinck.html