Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some Insider News and a Brief Reply To J.W. Stevenson

The latest edition of The Bavinck Review* has been (electronically) published, and is available to members of the Herman Bavinck Society. It will become publicly accessible in six months or so, I believe.

* Disclosure: I am a member of the editorial committee.

In the present issue I publish an essay entitled, "A Soft Spot For Paganism? Herman Bavinck and Insider Movements." If you do not wish to wait the scheduled length of time before it becomes public, you may subscribe by becoming a member of the society.

Also of interest in this issue is Professor John Bolt's warm and gracious review of my book on Bavinck, along with that of my editorial colleague and friend, James Eglinton. I am deeply grateful for such a reception of my (actually, "our" since our books are so complementary) work.

The Bavinck Review additionally gave J.W. Stevenson an opportunity to reply to my article, since I was particularly critical of some of his work in my essay. This blog is a perfect place to briefly comment on his response.

First, I thank him for a gracious reply, and am pleased that he found the latter portion of my essay, on nature and grace, helpful in evaluating Insider movements. I think it will continue to pay dividends in the future.

Second, I think Mr. Stevenson slightly overstates the extent to which I am accusing him personally of linking Bavinck to Insider thinking. My assessment in a footnote that he is "not an advocate of Insider thinking," which he indeed noticed, was intended to alleviate that concern. My concern is that in spite of this, his use and evaluation of one badly mangled quote from Bavinck lends itself to opening the door wide for precisely the kind of thinking about cultural contextualization amenable to Insider models. I am not alleging (at least, I'm not meaning to) that Mr. Stevenson himself is doing this.

Third, I note that Mr. Stevenson says nothing about how badly the quote is mangled, or why it omits pages of material via ellipses. My interpretation of what was left out is that the author wished to make Herman Bavinck sound controversial in the context of his own theological community. That seems to me exactly why Professor Mouw quoted it that way. Given the similarity between Mouw's and Stevenson's rendition of the quote, I could think of no other reason the Bible and church tradition was omitted from it. Having read Mr. Stevenson's response, I am still none the wiser.

I am pleased to hear, of course, that Mr. Stevenson was not intending to give support for Insider models by quoting Bavinck the way he did. But others may read differently, despite his best intentions. Which is why my main concern in the essay was to simply refute facile readings of a hugely misleading quotation. I'd like to think I'm heading off at the pass interpretations of Bavinck that Mr. Stevenson himself would want headed off. I apologize for trampling on his toes a bit along the way.

Fourth, he is correct that I should have dealt more thoroughly with J.H. Bavinck's stated disagreements with Herman. My view is that J.H.'s disagreement is a semantic one, but I should have indicated that and defended it. I believe uncle and nephew are largely on the same substantive page.

All in all, it seems as though Mr. Stevenson and I are in substantial agreement, and I thank him for a fine exchange.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciated your response. The label, "insider" is not that significant. Rather, it is a way of thinking, processing and filtering that matters. It is that conceptual ecosystem that tied insider movements proper, to analogous thinking that faces theology, missiology, ecclesiology, etc., with the same interpretive grid. To say that one is not an advocate of insider thinking is not the same as saying that he or she does not view theology, missiology, the theology of religions, and ecclesiology in similar ways.