The Wonderful Works of God

by Herman Bavinck

Westminster Seminary Press (2019)

110 years after its original publication, The Wonderful Works of God remains one of the finest single-volume systematic theologies ever written. Adapting the magisterial systematic theology found in his four-volume Reformed Dogmatics, this is perhaps Bavinck’s most eminently practical work – a single, accessible volume for the college classroom and the family bookshelf. Previously published in America as Our Reasonable Faith, this book has had a deep and lasting influence on the growth and development of Reformed theology. It is the publisher’s hope that in its new form, this book continues to astonish readers with the wonderful works of God, and provide a deeper knowledge of their triune God.

 

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Preface

  • xxv – “A theologian is a person who makes bold to speak about God because he speaks out of God and through God. To profess theology is to do holy work. It is a priestly ministration in the house of the Lord. It is itself a service of worship, a consecration of mind and heart to the honor of His name.”
  • xxviii – “Indeed, the kingdom of heaven is not of this world. But it does demand that everything in this world serve it.”
  • xxix – “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.”

Foreword

  • xxxi – “Herein lies the thought that the Christian religion does not exist merely in words, in a doctrine, but that it is a work of God, in word and fact, which was accomplished in the past, is being worked out in the present, and will be fulfilled in the future.”
  • xxxiii – “If the works of God are viewed by their own light, they naturally compel admiration and worship. Then we see that the Christian faith does not merely convey much to its own favor, but it also displays an internal beauty and, by its inherent truth and glory, commends itself to the consciences of humanity.”

Chapter 1 – Man’s Highest Good

  • p1 – “God, and God alone, is man’s highest good.”
  • p1 – “Even though [man] has, because of sin, lost the glorious attributes of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness which lay contained in that image of God, nevertheless there are still present in him “small remains” of the endowments granted him at creation; and these are enough not merely to constitute him guilty but also to testify of his former grandeur and to remind him continually of his Divine calling and heavenly destiny.”
  • p2 – “[Man] is indeed a citizen of a physical order of affairs, but he also rises above this order to a supernatural one. With his feet planted firmly on the ground, he raises his head aloft and casts his eye up in a vertical look.”
  • p2 – “What he is really seeking for is not a tangible reality, but spiritual truth, a truth which is one, eternal, and imperishable. His understanding can find rest only in such an absolute Divine truth.”
  • p3 – “God makes everything beautiful in His time, He makes everything happen at the right moment, at the moment He has fixed for it, so that history in its entirety and in its parts corresponds to the counsel of God and exhibits the glory of that counsel.”
  • p3 – “[Man] is a sensuous, earthly, limited, and mortal being, and yet he is attracted to the eternal and is destined for it. It is of no profit to a man that he should gain wife and children, houses and fields, treasures and property, or indeed, the whole world, if in the gaining, his soul should suffer loss.”
  • p3 – “There is no one so rich that he can by any means redeem the soul of his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; the redemption of the soul is too precious for any creature to achieve.”
  • p4 – “Any science, philosophy, or knowledge which supposes that it can stand on its own pretensions, and can leave God out of its assumptions, becomes its own opposite, and disillusions everyone who builds his expectations on it.”
  • p5 – “For knowledge without virtue, without a moral basis, becomes an instrument in the hands of sin for conceiving and executing greater evil, and then the head that is filled with knowledge enters into the service of a depraved heart.”
  • p5 – “Art is there fore in the first place an evidence of man’s ability to do and to make. This ability is spiritual in character and it gives expression to his deep longings, his high ideals, and his insatiable craving for harmony…And because art thus paints for us a picture of an other and higher reality, it is a comfort in our life, it lifts the soul up out of consternation, and fills our hearts with hope and joy.”
  • p5 – “When we compare how the poor and the sick, the miserable and the destitute, the widows and the orphans, the insane and the imprisoned were frequently dealt with in former ages with the way in which they are very generally treated now, we certainly have cause for happiness and gratitude.”
  • p6 – “But right alongside of this our present time shows us such a fearful pageantry of gruesome vice, of mammonism, prostitution, alcoholism, and like abominations, that we are embarrassed to answer the question whether we are moving forwards or backwards.”
  • p6 – “…if the life of service for humanity, of love for the neighbor, is not rooted in the law of God, it loses its force and its character.”
  • p6 – “Indeed, the love for the neighbor can maintain itself only if on the one hand it is based on, and laid upon us, by the law of God, and only if on the other hand that same God grants us the desire to live uprightly according to all His commandments.”
  • p6 – “The conclusion, therefore, is that of Augustine, who said that the heart of man was created for God and that it cannot find rest until it rests in the Father’s heart. Hence all men are really seeking after God, as Augustine also declared, but they do not all seek Him in the right way, nor at the right place.”
  • p6 – “He seeks for God and loses himself in the creature. He is born son of the house and he feeds on the husks of the swine in a strange land.”
  • p7 – “…science does not know of his Divine origin, nor of his profound fall. But the Scriptures know of both, and they shed their light over man and over mankind; and the contradictions are reconciled, the mists are cleared, and the hidden things are revealed. Man is an enigma whose solution can be found only in God.”

Chapter 2 – The Knowledge of God

  • p8 – “God is the highest good of man–that is the testimony of the whole Scriptures.”
  • p8 – “Christ is God expressed and God given. He is God revealing Himself and God sharing Himself, and therefore He is full of truth and also full of grace.”
  • p9 – “God gives Himself to His people in order that His people should give themselves to Him.”
  • p9 – “The prophets and the apostles…did not sit and philosophize about God in abstracted concepts, but rather confessed what God meant to them and what they owed to Him in all the circumstances of life.”
  • p9 – “All that the world has to offer in discrete and sub-divided goods was to them an image and likeness of the unfathomable fulness of the salvation available in God for His people.”
  • p10 – “For the saint, heaven in all its blessedness and glory would be void and stale without God; and when he lives in communion with God he cares for nothing on earth, for the love of God far transcends all other goods.”
  • p10 – “The Father has given Him power over all flesh in order that the Son should give eternal life to a many as the Father has given Him. Such eternal life consists of nothing other than the knowledge of the one, true God and of Jesus Christ who was sent to reveal Him (John 17:1-3).”
  • p10 – “The knowledge of God of which Jesus spoke differs from the knowledge of created things in its origin and object and in its essence and effects.”
  • p10 – “It can be said in a certain sense that we get all of our other knowledge by reason of our own insight and judgment, by our own effort and study. But as for this knowledge of the one true God, we, like children, must let Christ give it to us.”
  • p11 – “Nothing in the being of the Father is hidden from the Son, for the Son shares the same nature, the same attributes, and the same knowledge. No one knows the Father except the Son (Matt. 11:27).”
  • p11 – “We did not know God and took no interest in a knowledge of His ways. But Christ caused us to know the Father.”
  • p11 – “He is dependable in His revelation of God, because He is Jesus Christ who was sent.”
  • p11 – “…the knowledge of God differs from all other knowledge in point of its object.”
  • p11 – “For men, knowing God from nature, have not glorified or praised Him as God, but have become vain in their imaginings, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like the creature.”
  • p12 – “And if you, O man, want to know who God is, do not ask the wise, the Scribes, the disputers of this age, but look upon Christ and hear His word!”
  • p12 – “At His cross the full content of the faith of the Old Testament is unfolded: Gracious and merciful is the Lord God, longsuffering and abundant in goodness. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor reward us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
  • p13 – “But real knowing includes elements of personal concern and involvement and an activity of the heart.”
  • p13 – “He was not a theologian by profession, nor was He a doctor or professor in divinity. But He knew God by direct, personal sight and insight; He saw Him everywhere, in nature, in His word, in His service; He loved Him above all else and was obedient to Him in all things, even in death on the cross.”
  • p13 – “It is the product not of scientific study and reflection but of a childlike and simple faith.”
  • p13 – “God is known in proportion to the extent that He is loved.”
  • p14 – “If the knowledge of visible things can enrich life, how much more will the knowledge of God make for life? For God is not a God of death and of the dead, but of life and the living.”
  • p14 – “Knowing God in Christ brings with it eternal life, imperturbable joy, and heavenly blessedness. These are not merely effects, but the knowing of God is itself immediately a new, eternal, and blessed life.”
  • p15 – “…Calvin began his Genevan Catechism with the question, What is the chief end of man? And the answer came, clear and resounding: To know God by whom he was created.”