The Riddle of Life
Eerdmans has just published a volume first appearing in Dutch back in 1940 (and they’ve sent a review copy) that I can only describe with one word: beautiful. The blurb runs thusly:
In the spirit of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, this book by eminent Calvinist thinker J. H. Bavinck offers a compact and compelling treatise on Christian belief.
Addressing big questions that haunt every thinking human being — Why are we here? Where do we come from? What is our destiny? How should we live? — Bavinck’s Riddle of Life also explores such essential topics as sin and salvation, Jesus the Redeemer, faith and idolatry, God’s great plan for creation, and the ultimate purpose behind our lives.
This lucid new translation by Bert Hielema of a classic text will make Bavinck’s profound reflections on faith and the meaning of human life accessible to a new generation of seekers.
The little book is exceptionally well written and authentically breaths the spirit of the best of Reformed theology. Indeed, it reminds me a good deal of Emil Brunner’s superb ‘Our Faith‘ (a book that ought to be required reading in theological circles, schools, and seminaries and which can be read and downloaded here).
In his little treatise (it’s just north of 100 pages- so an afternoon will see the interested through it), Bavinck provides thinking Christians (and every Christian should be a thinking Christian) with plenty to ponder. The questions he asks and answers are so central and so significant that hardly anyone can make it through life without asking them.
Eerdmans has done us all a favor by bringing this little volume out. When, for instance, in chapter nine Bavinck discusses the idolatry of money it’s as though he were writing today and not in the late 1930’s.
Money is the magic wand that unlocks the doors to elegant hotels, picturesque palaces, and glorious gardens. … Then we see how money is like a god, completely absorbing them. … Money is not merely something you possess: it also changes your makeup, changes who you are (p. 42-43).
Bavinck would surely say exactly the same today.
But money isn’t the only idol Bavinck discusses: he also looks at other popular gods- honor and the pursuit of pleasure. This naturally leads into a discussion of the topic of sin.
Bavinck, then, doesn’t merely offer interesting and quotable answers to the most basic of life’s questions. Like Brunner, he provides a basic introduction to Christian theology for a day in which too few think deeply enough about the meaning of their faith and even fewer actualize the implications of that faith.
I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is the best theological treatment you’ll read this Summer. This book is not only relevant, it is revelatory.