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Herman Bavinck’s Trinitarian Theology: The Ontological, · PDF file 2020-03-04 · Doctrine of the Trinity Gayle Elizabeth Doornbos Doctor of Philosophy in Theology University of

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  • Herman Bavinck’s Trinitarian Theology: The Ontological, Cosmological, and Soteriological Dimensions

    of the Doctrine of the Trinity

    by

    Gayle Elizabeth Doornbos

    A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Wycliffe College and Graduate Centre for Theological Studies of the Toronto School of Theology. In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the

    degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Theology awarded by the University of St. Michael's College

    © Copyright by Gayle Elizabeth Doornbos 2019

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    Herman Bavinck’s Trinitarian Theology: The Ontological, Cosmological, and Soteriological Dimensions of the

    Doctrine of the Trinity

    Gayle Elizabeth Doornbos

    Doctor of Philosophy in Theology

    University of St. Michael’s College

    2019

    Abstract

    Recent scholarship on the Dutch, Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) has

    opened up new possibilities for examining the role of the doctrine of the Trinity in Bavinck’s

    systematic theology. Building on current research, this thesis suggests that Bavinck’s systematic

    theology can be identified as thoroughly trinitarian by identifying the ways that he uses the doctrine

    positively (structuring, norming, and informing) and negatively (apologetic) to construct his

    dogmatic theology. To do this, this dissertation utilizes an intriguing statement made by Bavinck

    within his treatment of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity in his Reformed Dogmatics

    concerning the ontological, cosmological, and soteriological dimensions of the doctrine of the

    Trinity as a framework for understanding his systematic project. Taking this statement to indicate

    a trinitarian line of reasoning within Bavinck, this thesis argues that Bavinck’s systematic theology

    can be understood as his articulation of the ontological, cosmological, and soteriological

    dimensions of the Trinity properly distinguished, developed, and related to one another.

    Primarily expositional in nature, constructive in analysis, and creative in its use of the

    ontological, cosmological, and soteriological dimensions, this dissertation situates the current

    thesis within Bavinck scholarship (Introduction), provides an extended defense of using the

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    dimensions (Chapter 1), and articulates each dimension and their relationships to one another

    (Chapters 2-4). While the primary goal of this thesis is to contribute to Bavinck scholarship, the

    closing chapter shifts to suggest Bavinck as a conversation partner to contemporary discussions

    concerning the systematic role of the doctrine of the Trinity and constructive development of

    doctrine (Chapter 5).

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    Acknowledgements

    One does not complete a dissertation without aid, support, and encouragement. Looking

    back, there are countless people without whom this dissertation would not have been completed.

    First, I must thank my supervisor, Dr. Joseph Mangina, who encouraged me to pursue a topic

    that I cared about and offered crucial feedback and assistance along the way. Thanks are also in

    order for the those who served on my committee: Dr. Robert Sweetman, Dr. John Vissers, and

    Fr. Gilles Mongeau, SJ. Dr. Vissers and Rev. Dr. Mongeau helped shape this project in its early

    stages, and Dr. Sweetman offered invaluable feedback on the project that shaped my finished

    project. I thank him for pushing me and engaging me throughout my thesis. The final product is

    better because of his input.

    Thanks are also due to the person through whom I was really introduced to Bavinck: Dr.

    John Bolt. His friendship, encouragement, and ongoing engagement with me have taught me a

    great deal. More than that, his love for the church and passion for theology have impacted me in

    innumerable ways. He has given me many great gifts. I also thank him for reading over the

    manuscript of this dissertation and offering encouragement and feedback.

    I also wish to thank the others who have guided me on my academic journey. Dr. John

    Cooper of Calvin Theological Seminary taught me how to read carefully and well—an

    invaluable gift. He also gave me a love for philosophical theology and a passion for seeing the

    relationship between theology and praxis. For these gifts, I am deeply thankful. My other

    professors at Calvin Theological Seminary deserve thanks for teaching me to love the Reformed

    tradition. And finally, I thank my professors at Redeemer University College for encouraging me

    to pursue academics. I would not be where I am today had they not advised me to pursue further

    education. I also want to extend gratitude to my teachers at the Toronto School of Theology as

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    well as to Dr. Timothy Connor whom I worked for as a Teaching Assistant and offered his

    encouragement and advice to me throughout my time at TST.

    In terms of support and encouragement, there are no adequate words to thank the two

    ecclesiastical communities that I was a part of during this process: Hebron CRC and Sonlight

    CRC. These communities not only prayed for me and supported me, but they kept me grounded

    during times of stress and trial. A special note of thanks is due to ladies involved in the Women’s

    Ministry at Sonlight CRC who were my ever-present cheerleaders, especially during the last

    stages of this dissertation.

    Finally, I owe thanks to the friends and family who have been with me throughout this

    whole process. To all my friends and extended family, of whom there are too many to name,

    thank you for your support and encouragement. To my dad, who from a young age taught me to

    love the church and its people, thank you. You were the first one who engaged me in theological

    conversation, and there is no doubt in my mind that you instilled in me a deep curiosity, love of

    learning, and delight in theology. Thank you. To my mom, who taught me from a young age to

    pursing your work with, joy, tenacity, and passion, thank you. Thank you also for the countless

    hours you spent providing counsel and support throughout my doctorate. And finally, to my

    husband Kyle, thank you for your love, support, encouragement, and patience. You have been an

    endless source of encouragement to me, and I could not have completed this dissertation without

    you. Your passion for theology and joy in serving the church have inspired me and continue to

    shape my own approach to theology. Thank you also for providing me with countless hours of

    joyful theological discussions and much needed distractions during this long journey.

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    Contents List of Abbreviations .................................................................................................................... ix

    Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 1 1. Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 1

    1.1 Thesis Statement ................................................................................................ 8 1.2 Development and Goals ..................................................................................... 8

    2. Herman Bavinck: The Neo-Calvinist between Two Worlds ......................................... 10 2.1 Early Life: Son of a Secessionist Pastor .......................................................... 11 2.2 Education: From Kampen to Leiden ............................................................... 12 2.3 Neo-Calvinism and Nineteenth-Century Dutch Protestant Theology ............. 14 2.4 Theologian, Philosopher, and Statesman: The Neo-Calvinist between Two Worlds ................................................................................................................... 17

    3. Current State of Bavinck Scholarship: Two Bavincks and The Doctrine of God (Status Quaestionis) ....................................................................................................................... 19

    4. Methodology .................................................................................................................. 31 4.1 Method and Sources: Chapters 1-4 .................................................................. 31 4.2 Limitations and the Question of Periodization ................................................ 33 4.3 Method and Sources: Chapter 5 ....................................................................... 35

    5. Structure ......................................................................................................................... 35 Chapter 1: An Extended Defense ............................................................................................... 38

    1. Introduction ................................................................................................................... 38 2. Bavinck’s Theological Prolegomena ............................................................................. 39

    2.1 Bavinck’s Theological Prolegomena in Historical Context ............................ 39 2.2 Irreducibly Theocentric: Dogmatics as the “Scientific System of the

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