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When Herman Bavinck ate Poison for Breakfast
This is a slightly different post today, it’s something of a dual book review, but mostly just me expressing my love for two pieces of literature through the medium of a blog post. Life has been incredibly hectic as of late and though this isn’t what I thought I’d be posting, I hope that you still enjoy it. Feedback, as always, is very welcome.
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Thanks to the wonders of Audible Plus, I’ve recently been able to acquaint myself with authors, stories, and history which I never otherwise would have picked up. I’ve loved exploring the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and following Jonathan Harker into Transylvania. I’ve learned about caffeine, George Whitfield, and sat at Luther’s table. This past week though I followed an old friend, Lemony Snicket, through an exploration of language and literature which he embarked upon after receiving a bewildering note informing him that he had consumed poison for breakfast. Snicket is best known for his work as a children’s author, having penned the Series of Unfortunate Events which followed, as you may have guessed, some events which happened to be rather unfortunate. This book was in the same vein, but though it was by no means a book meant for adults, it wasn’t one for children either. Set in the same universe as his previous writings, a parallel to our own, he writes specifically to those who love words. I’ve just this moment had a conversation with one of the guys we live with, in which he voiced his surprise that, upon finding out Anna and I were bibliophiles, lovers of reading, he was forced to wrestle with the idea that anyone could sit to read simply for the love of reading, for no other reason than to read. We both indeed love the sheer act of reading and of consuming words, hence, this book was seemingly tailor-made for me. I cannot promise you will have a similar experience as I had, however, if you have an active audible account, you could do worse than to set aside 3 or 4 hours to listen to this work. You’ll know fairly soon whether or not you will like it.
“What,” you may be asking, “does this have to do with Bavinck?”
“Well,” I answer, “Words.”
I was able to follow Snicket’s journey through his roundabout way of explaining things, down the road lined with poetry, and onto the intersection which binds words together in the study of etymology, I can even join him in wondering at the authors and writers we both love. When it comes, however; to understanding the ultimate source of the power behind the words, as well as our innate love thereof, he falls short. Bavinck, unlike Snicket, understands this in a way only a child of the King can and has written one of the most powerful works on the subject I’ve ever read. Hidden in Preaching and Preachers, a work recently translated into English for the first time by James Eglinton, the world’s leading expert on hermaneutics, the study of Herman Bavinck. As we’re going to be going through the first volume of his reformed dogmatics on the podcast next year, I thought it would be worth recommending a gateway to Bavinck’s wider work that you may be able to pick up, read, and enjoy in a single afternoon. (It comes in at under thirty pages long.)
Snicket wrote about consuming poison, Bavinck actually did it. I don’t know for sure that he did so over breakfast, but let’s pretend for now that he did. At some point in Bavinck’s life, he swallowed deathly poison, the gospel of truth, this proved fatal and he died to his sins, died to himself, and began instead to live new life in Christ. This act of stepping beyond the veil allowed him to track the power of words back to their true source and meet with the eternal God who once spoke the entirety of creation into being.
I was astounded at the level of detail that Bavinck was able to go into without needing to be expansive in his examination. In the same way, as we go through his Reformed Dogmatics next year, I would encourage you that though it at times may seem über-detailed and theology dense, it’s not coming from a place of rigid scientific deliberation about the matters at hand. The same man who died to himself and lived again by the new birth has written these too and he’s doing so out of love for the Creator and for the created.
I encourage you to follow us through it and learn along with us. For now though, pick up Preaching and Preachers by Herman Bavinck, collected and translated by James Eglinton to get a general jist for what you might be in for.
Grace and Peace,
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