Living God or Loving God?

Bolt Bavinck Imitatiode wit voorkant

This week I received a review copy of John Bolt, A Theological Analysis of Herman Bavinck’s Two Essays on the Imitatio Christi: Between Pietism and Modernism, with a foreword by David Van Drunen (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2013), which is a somewhat revised edition of Bolt’s 1982 doctoral dissertation. While my review is to be published elsewhere, Bavinck lovers will be happy to know that the book does not only include Bolt’s analysis of an important theme in Bavinck (especially discussed in comparison to Abraham Kuyper), but also an English translation of Bavinck’s own essays on following Jesus Christ.

In his book Bolt refers to my book On the Way to the Living God: A Cathartic Reading of Herman Bavinck and an Invitation to Overcome the Plausibility Crisis of Christianity (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2011) [available in print, in Logos electronic format, and as a free pdf]. Remarkably enough, both on page 4 and on page 447, Bolt changes the title of my book slightly: instead of On the Way to the Living God he writes On the Way to the Loving God.

What shall I say? I think I should forgive Bolt this distortion of the title: one can hardly imagine a more innocent “distortion”—it goes without saying that the living God is the loving God.

Or does it? In the face of evil, questions like “Is the living God truly loving?” and “Is the loving God truly living?” can become truly urgent. In fact, section 5.7 of On the Way to the Living God addresses such questions:

One can play the problem of evil down and maintain with Richard Dawkins that it is only a weak argument for atheism because it shows that God is not good rather than that he does not exist. However, according to classical theology the statement “God is not good” is a contradiction in terms: “The word ‘God’ means that He is infinite goodness.” And even if we are reluctant to give a definition of God, we hope that the living God will quench the thirst of our hearts, not with bitterness, but with love. (read more)

Hopefully, Bolt’s slip of the pen will make people think and help them discover, even when faced with evil,  that the living God is the loving God.

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