Old Testament Shell

The New Testament views itself—and there can certainly be no doubt about this—as the spiritual and therefore complete and authentic fulfillment of the Old Testament. The spiritualization of the Old Testament, rightly understood, is not an invention of Christian theology but has its beginning in the New Testament itself. The Old Testament in spiritualized form, that is, the Old Testament stripped of its temporal and sensuous form, is the New Testament. The peculiar nature of the old dispensation consisted precisely in the fact that the covenant of grace was presented in graphic images and clothed in national and sensuous forms. Sin was symbolized by levitical impurity. Atonement was effected by the sacrifice of a slain animal. Purification was adumbrated by physical washings. Communion with God was connected with the journey to Jerusalem. The desire for God’s favor and closeness was expressed in the longing for his courts. Eternal life was conceived as a long life on earth, and so forth. In keeping with Israel’s level of understanding, placed as Israel was under the tutelage of the law, all that is spiritual, heavenly, and eternal was veiled in earthly shadows. Even though the great majority of the people frequently fixated on the external forms—just as many Christians in participating in the sacraments continue to cling to the external signs—and while devout Israelites with their hearts indeed penetrated to the spiritual core that was hidden in the shell, they nevertheless saw that spiritual core in no other way than in shadows and images.

 

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics V4, pg 660

God is Without Parts

This simplicity is of great importance, nevertheless, for our understanding of God. It is not only taught in Scripture (where God is called “light,” “life,” and “love”) but also automatically follows from the idea of God and is necessarily implied in the other attributes. Simplicity here is the antonym of “compounded.” If God is composed of parts, like a body, or composed of genus (class) and differentiae (attributes of differing species belonging to the same genus), substance and accidents, matter and form, potentiality and actuality, essence and existence, then his perfection, oneness, independence, and immutability cannot be maintained. On that basis he is not the highest love, for then there is in him a subject who loves—which is one thing—as well as a love by which he loves—which is another. The same dualism would apply to all the other attributes. In that case God is not the One “than whom nothing better can be thought.” Instead, God is uniquely his own, having nothing above him. Accordingly, he is completely identical with the attributes of wisdom, grace, and love, and so on. He is absolutely perfect, the One “than whom nothing higher can be thought.”

 


Christ's Reliance on the Holy Spirit

At this point it is important to note that this activity of the Holy Spirit with respect to Christ’s human nature absolutely does not stand by itself. Though it began with the conception, it did not stop there. It continued throughout his entire life, even right into the state of exaltation. Generally speaking, the necessity of this activity can be inferred already from the fact that the Holy Spirit is the author of all creaturely life and specifically of the religious-ethical life in humans. The true human who bears God’s image is inconceivable even for a moment without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In addition, in Christ the human nature had to be prepared for union with the person of the Son, that is, to a union and communion with God as that to which no other creature had ever been dignified. If humans in general cannot have communion with God except by the Holy Spirit, then this applies even more powerfully to Christ’s human nature, which had to be unified with the Son in an entirely unique manner.

 

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics V2, pg 292

On not needing exhaustive knowledge

...there are objections and conundrums in every science. Those who do not want to start in faith will never arrive at knowledge. Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is the first principle of philosophy, but it is riddled with mystery from start to finish. Those who do not want to embark on scientific investigation until they see the road by which we arrive at knowledge fully cleared will never start. Those who do not want to eat before they understand the entire process by which food arrives at their table will starve to death. And those who do not want to believe the Word of God before they see all problems resolved will die of spiritual starvation.

 

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, Volume 1, 442.

Person in the Trinity

All this was worked out in greater detail by Augustine. He does not derive the Trinity from the Father but from the unity of the divine essence, nor does he conceive of it as accidental but rather as an essential characteristic of the divine being. It belongs to God’s very essence to be triune. In that regard personhood is identical with God’s being itself. “For to God it is not one thing to be and another to be a person, but it is altogether the same thing” (De trin., VII, 6). For if being belonged to God in an absolute sense, and personhood in a relative sense, the three persons could not be one being. Each person, therefore, is identical with the entire being and equal to the other two or all three together.

 

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Volume 2, p. 303-304