February 19th, 2012
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics I. pp.267-269
But when, as in Schleiermacher, feeling is detached from faith, from the religious representation, it loses its own quality and becomes completely independent of the categories of truth and untruth, good and evil. Then every individual feeling is already as such religious, true, good, and beautiful. And that was romanticism’s great fault as a whole.
One then, naturally, also slips into the error of confusing and equating religious feeling with sensual and aesthetic feeling. Known to us all from history is the kinship between religious and sensual love and the passage from the one to the other. But equally dangerous is the confusion of religious and aesthetic feeling, of religion and art. The two are essentially distinct. Religion is life, reality; art is ideal, appearance. Art cannot close the gap between the ideal and reality. Indeed, for a moment it lifts us above reality and induces us to live in the realm of ideals. But this happens only in the imagination. Reality itself does not change on account of it. Though art gives us distant glimpses of the realm of glory, it does not induct us into that realm and make us citizens of it. Art does not atone for our guilt, or wipe away our tears, or comfort us in life and death. It never turns the beyond into the here and now. Only religion does. It is and conveys reality. It bestows life and peace. It poses the ideal as the true reality and makes us participants in it. Aesthetic feeling, accordingly, can never take the place of religious feeling, any more than art can replace religion. Granted, the two are connected. From the very beginning religion and art went hand in hand. The decline of the one brought with it the decay of the other. The ultimate driving force of art was religion. In recent years this fact is being acknowledged by increasing numbers of people who keenly realize the indispensability of religion to art. In religion, specifically in worship, the imagination has its rightful place and value. “Also the imagination, mind you, is involved in the religious process, not as the generative principle, but only as the principle of experience. The power of the imagination can never do more than shape the already available materials and drives; it is powerless to give birth to religion itself.” [Nitzsch, Lehrbuch der evangelische Dogmatik] The stage is by no means cut out to be a moral institution (Schiller). The theater cannot replace the church, nor is Lessing’s Nathan a suitable substitute for the Bible (Strauss). The ideals and creations of imagination cannot compensate for the reality that religion offers. Religious feeling, however intimate and deep it may otherwise be, is pure only when it is evoked by true ideas.
The result, accordingly, is that religion is not limited to one single human faculty but embraces the human being as a whole. The relation to God is total and central. We must love God with all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength. Precisely because God is God he claims us totally, in soul and body, with all our capacities and in all our relations. Admittedly, there is order in this relation of a human being to God. Here, too, every faculty exists and functions in a person according to its own nature. Knowledge is primary. There can be no true service of God without true knowledge: “I do not desire anything I do not know” (Ignoti nulla cupido). To be unknown is to be unloved. “Whoever would approach God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Faith comes from what is heard (Rom. 10:17). Pagans fell into idolatry and unrighteousness because they did not acknowledge God (Rom. 1:18ff). But that knowledge of God penetrates the heart and arouses there an assortment of affections, of fear and hope, sadness and joy, guilt feelings and forgiveness, misery and redemption, as these are pictured to us throughout Scripture but especially in the Psalms. And through the heart it in turn affects the will: faith is manifest in works, in love (James 1:27; 1 John 1:5-7; Rom. 2:10, 13; Gal. 5:6; 1 Cor. 13, etc.). Head, heart, and hand are all equally—though each in its own way—claimed by religion; it takes the whole person, soul and body, into its service.
For that reason religion also comes into contact with all the other cultural forces, especially science, morality, and art. Proudhon once stated: “It is astonishing how at the base of all things we find theology.” But to that statement Donoso Cortes correctly replies: “The only astonishing thing in that fact is Mr. Proudhon’s astonishment.” Religion as the relation to God indicates the place in which human beings stand in relation to all other creatures. It embraces dogma, law, and cult and is therefore closely connected with science, morality, and art. It encompasses the whole person in his or her thinking, feeling, and action, in the whole of his or her life, everywhere and at all times. Nothing falls outside of its scope. Religion extends its power over the whole person, over all of humanity, over family and society and state. It is the foundation of the true, the good, and the beautiful. It introduces unity, coherence, and life into the world and its history. From it science, morality, and art derive their origin; to it they return and find rest. “All the higher elements of human life first surfaced in alliance with religion.” [Bousset, Das Wesen der Religion] It is the beginning and the end, the soul of everything, that which is highest and deepest in life. What God is to the world, religion is to humanity.
Nevertheless, religion is distinguished from all the forces of culture and maintains its independence from them all. Religion is central; science, morality, and art are partial. While religion embraces the whole person, science, morality, and art are respectively rooted in the intellect, the will, and the emotions. Religion aims at nothing less than eternal blessedness in fellowship with God; science, morality, and art are limited to creatures and seek to enrich this life with the true, the good, and the beautiful. Religion, accordingly, cannot be equated with anything else. In the life and history of humankind, it occupies an independent place of its own, playing a unique and all-controlling role. Its indispensability can even be demonstrated from the fact that at the very moment people reject religion as an illusion they again turn some creature into their god, thus seeing to compensate for their religious need in some other way.
February 5th, 2012
But when in Scripture and the church the revelation of God that appeared in Christ has become a constituent of the cosmos, a new dispensation begins. Just as up until this time everything had been prepared with a view to Christ, now everything is traced back to him. Then Christ was made to be the head of the church; now the church is made to be the body of Christ. Then Scripture was completed; now it is worked out. No new constitutive elements can any longer be added to special revelation now, because Christ has come, his work is finished, his Word completed. The question of whether the gift of prophecy (prediction) and of miracles has continued after the apostolic age and still continues is, therefore, of secondary importance. The testimonies of the church fathers are so numerous and powerful that for the most ancient times this question can hardly be answered in the negative. But even if those extraordinary gifts and powers have in part remained in the Christian church, the content of this special revelation, which is concentrated in Christ and recorded in Scripture, is not enriched by them; and if, in line with Augustine’s view, they have diminished or ceased, special revelation is not impoverished by this fact. The case is different when with Rome people believe in an ongoing progressive revelation in the tradition, or with the “enthusiasts” in a special inspiration of God in the pious individual, or with the evolutionists in the surpassibility of Christianity. Scripture clearly teaches that God’s full revelation has been given in Christ and that the Holy Spirit who was poured out in the church has come only to glorify Christ and take all things from Christ (John 16:14).
-Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, I. p.347.