Herman Bavinck is one of my favourite theologians of all time. He’s probably most well-known for his Reformed Dogmatics, which have been translated pretty recently making the wisdom of Bavinck available for a new English-speaking generation. The Dutch Reformed Theologian is often seen in a more academic light, most often on the shelves of pastors and theologians, and understandably so, and “The Sacrifice of Praise” certainly has a place on the shelves of this crowd. However, as the interpreter’s forward states, this short work is “best understood as a work of catechetical theology, suitable for sharing with baptized Christians on the occasion of their public profession of faith and admission to the Lord’s table.” This book is appropriate for a wide range of audience, as it is focused on the public confession of a Christian of Jesus as Lord in the context of first receiving the Lord’s Supper, but also speaks to a multitude of things relevant to a Christian walk. Confession does not end when proclaimed once before a congregation, it begins before this and extends beyond.
Confession of faith is a necessity in word, deed, and all of life. This confession is the central topic of this book of under 100 pages. There are 12 chapters of around 5 to 6 pages each. This makes it an ideal gift for the young person of faith to read before partaking of the Lord’s Supper. The chapters are short enough to maintain attention, but definitely rich with the wisdom of Bavinck. A wide variety of topics are addressed, from the foundation, rule, essence, and content of confession to its universality, opposition, obligation, strength, reward, and triumph.
The introduction lays out the historical context in which the book was written as well as some theological differences between Kuyper and Bavinck on assumed regeneration. To Bavinck, the public confessing of one’s faith helped guard against the false sense of salvific security that was a danger in Kuyper’s view. He lays out in this work that a public confession calls one to a life of repentance and faith, not just in one moment, but a continual part of the Christian life. The epilogue that is included is a review from when the book was originally published which shows how the book was originally received.
“The Sacrifice of Praise” will help the reader to see that confession is richer and deeper than just the doctrinal statements of various churches, but is a thing of the heart and requires genuine faith. Even though he has been dead for a hundred years, Bavinck will show modern readers that confession is more than just one solemn hour of confession before returning to life as before. Confession is closely connected to the childhood faith that precedes and the common life of daily confession that follows. Genuine confession comes from faith which is a gift of God and a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
This is not the only English translation of this work, but it uses more modern, updated language, and includes Scripture references where previously scripture was quoted but no citation given. It still has an air of being more on the academic side, but is still accessible to the average layman.
This little book is ideal for new believers, catechumens, and especially children of believers about to make a public profession of faith and partake of the Lord’s table. “The Sacrifice of Praise” is great for any age, though particularly young readers will likely need assistance in understanding. Though short, Bavinck’s “Sacrifice of Praise is a classic, fit for the Christian of any level of faith.
Many thanks to Hendrickson Publishers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.