Karl Barth and Herman Bavinck:
The Deus Dixit and the Proper Task of Dogmatics
One of Herman Bavinck’s most profound contributions to theology can be found in his prolegomena to Dogmatics (RD 1) in which, he seeks to bring forth a necessary and fundamental starting point for all further elucidations on the proper task of dogmatics. This starting point as such begins with Bavinck’s affirmation that “God has spoken,” Deus dixit. The significant impact of Bavinck and his exposition of the Deus dixit can be found in his influence on Karl Barth. Barth subsequently took up Bavinck’s use of the Deus dixit, and in the same light as Bavinck, furthered its use by way of his development of a three-fold word of God and commentary on the proper task of dogmatics. Barth, in preparation for his Göttingen lectures, read closely the Gereformeerde Dogmatiek of Herman Bavinck and incorporated Bavinck’s understanding of the Deus dixit into his lectures. The influence of Bavinck and the Deus dixit, did not cease at the completion of the Göttingen lectures, but continued to impact Karl Barth’s theology. It is important to note that although Barth was heavily influenced by Bavinck’s declaration, that “God has spoken,” he continued to develop this theological axiom. Barth was working both with, and beyond Bavinck. Although Barth’s use of the Deus dixit has been examined in studies by Bruce L. McCormack and John Vissers, it is my intention to go beyond the examination of Barth’s appreciative use of Bavinck and to examine the differences and similarities of Barth and Bavinck’s dogmatic use of the Deus dixit.