In his discussion of evolution, Bavinck offers a modified theory of development, rooted not under a mechanistic and naturalistic worldview, as Darwin does, but under a theistic-friendly framework. Bavinck’s discussion of evolution as whole endorses a modified Aristotelian/Thomistic framework in order to understand the theory of development, and thus overcoming the challenges raised by Darwin’s naturalistic worldview to biblical revelation.
Current scholarship on Herman Bavinck’s view of the theory of evolution has tended to be unified in affirming that despite his criticism of it, Bavinck seems to provide some room for evolution. On one hand, from his discussion of Reformed Dogmatics (originally published in Dutch between 1895-1901) and other writings, it may be concluded that Bavinck fights fiercely against Darwin’s evolutionary project and seems to reject it completely. One the other hand, in those same discussions where he treats the topic, one also observes that Bavinck seems to be willing to concede some kind of evolution as well. For those who believe that Bavinck retains the notion of biological development of natural creatures in the Darwinian sense in order to integrate it into his understanding of biblical revelation, one issue emerges: while Bavinck appropriates the concept of development from the theory of evolution, he seems to use the term in an opposing sense from that of Darwinism. Therefore, in his discussion on evolution, Bavinck progressively endorses a modified Aristotelian/Thomistic notion of development in order to overcome the challenges raised by Darwin’s methodology and naturalistic worldview to biblical revelation.
When Bavinck debated evolution, he objected to a series of features of Darwin’s theory of development. These objections include the theory’s features of naturalism, its mechanistic understanding of the world, its atheistic worldview, and its teleological characteristic of natural organisms. Although there exists scholarship that discusses Bavinck’s approach to evolution; however, it largely overlooks how Bavinck understands the notion of development in his dialog with the theory of evolution.
*This is a summary of the paper published as “How Bavinck Responds to the Challenges of the Theory of Evolution,” Fides Reformata 26, no.1 (2021): 103-24. If you’d like to read this paper in full, please click here to download it in pdf format.