Trinity and organism: towards a new reading of Herman Bavinck’s Organic motif
Eglinton, James Perman
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This thesis attempts to provide a new reading of the organic motif as found in the works of the Dutch Neo-Calvinist theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). Noting the recent collapse of the previously dominant 'two Bavincks‘ hypothesis, one explores the impact of this now defunct hermeneutic on the normative reading of Bavinck‘s organic motif in the work of Jan Veenhof. In probing Veenhof‘s general reliance on the failed 'two Bavincks‘ model and view of the motif through this lens, it becomes evident that a new general reading of Bavinck (which will be used to interpret specific portions of his theology) is required. One must 'reunite‘ the 'two Bavincks‘ by tracing the basis for conceptual unity in his thought. This basis for unity is located in Bavinck‘s doctrine of God. In handling the divine paradigm of unity-in-diversity via both triadic and non-triadic emphases, one argues that Bavinck attempts to understand all of nature and history as a broad sweep of Trinitarian divine self-revelation. The redemption and modification of the Augustinian notion of the vestigia trinitatis enables Bavinck to see the Trinity revealed in all of life. He thus commandeers the common organic language of nineteenth century Europe and, in so doing, loads it with Trinitarian meaning. The working hypothesis developed is that for Bavinck, a theology of Trinity ad intra leads to a cosmology of organism ad extra. Such a hypothesis is probed in chapters on Bavinck‘s doctrines of God, general revelation, Scripture and ecclesiology. In all of these, one finds that Bavinck invokes the organic motif to explain the sense in which the archetypal unity of the Godhead acts as the foundation for all consequent ectypal unity in the creation. As such, the organisch is understood to be Bavinck‘s motif of choice when accounting for the triniformity which abounds in all created reality. In this exploration, it becomes apparent that as Bavinck uses the organic motif, he draws on the heritage of both Patristic and Reformation theology. However, he does not merely repristinate this tradition. Rather, his use of the motif is a highly creative development in the intellectual context of the late nineteenth century.