June 27, 2012 by Matthew Mason
In relation to creation, the gospel is not a crown on a canary. God’s purposes in Christ do not replace, subvert, or alter his original design in creation; rather they redeem and deepen it, bringing it to completion. Grace does not replace nature; grace restores nature and brings it to its proper perfection. As John Bolt explains, this was the heart of Herman Bavinck’s understanding of the Christian religion.
Repeatedly in his writings Bavinck defines the essence of the Christian religion in a trinitarian, creation-affirming way. A typical formulation: “The essence of the Christian religion consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and re-created by the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God.” Put more simply, the fundamental theme that shapes Bavinck’s entire theology is the trinitarian idea that grace restores nature.
…In an important address on common grace…Bavinck sought to impress on his Christian Reformed audience the importance of Christian sociocultural activity. He appealed to the doctrine of creation, insisting that it s diversity is not removed by redemption but cleansed. “Grace does not remain outside or above or beside nature but rather permeates and wholly renews it. And thus nature, reborn by grace, will be brought to its highest revelation. That situation will again return in which we serve God freely and happily, without compulsion or fear, simply out of love, and in harmony with our true nature. That is the genuine religio naturalis.” In other words, “Christianity does not introduce a single substantial foreign element into the creation. it creates no new cosmos but rather makes the cosmos new. it restores what was corrupted by sin. it atones the guilty and cures what is sick; the wounded it heals.” (John Bolt, ‘Editor’s Introduction’ to Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, 17).