Dr James Eglinton to give lectures in Amsterdam and Oxford

On 2 and 8 May, Dr James Eglinton will give lectures based on his current monograph project - a new biography of Herman Bavinck - in Amsterdam and Oxford

In Amsterdam, his lecture - entitled (Re)writing a religious biography: on the life and times of Herman Bavinck - will be held on May 2nd, at 3.30pm, and has been organised by the Amsterdam Centre for Religious History at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. 


Why write a new biographical account of a religious figure whose life has already been chronicled by several earlier biographers? This question is central to my current monograph project, which is a new account of the life and times of the neo-Calvinist theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). In this lecture, I will discuss both the reasons for this project, and the challenges (both methodological and practical) involved. I will also explore why the development of digital humanities research has opened up exciting possibilities for biographers working on late modern religious figures: in my case, it led to the discovery - amongst other things - of an autobiographical account by Bavinck himself that was previously unknown to scholarship.



In Oxford, he will give a public lecture on Herman Bavinck and the late modern Dutch social experiment, organised by the John Owen Society. This lecture will take place on May 8th, 7.30pm, at Wycliffe Hall.


Prior to key recent developments in scholarship on Bavinck, the dominant trend was to set his participation in orthodoxy and modernity in antithesis. This led to the creation of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ view of Bavinck as a figure constantly torn between these poles. This tendency has now been replaced with a more united view, in which Bavinck is seen to have held modernity and orthodoxy in critical equipoise. Such a shift in perspective requires careful thought on the sense in which Bavinck participated in modernity, and why he did so.


In this lecture, I will explore the historical and social circumstances of Bavinck’s orthodox Reformed participation in modern culture. It will focus in particular on the liberalisation of Dutch society in 1848, when the drafting of a new constitution created a free, level playing field for all religious groups (including the previously persecuted Seceder group to which Bavinck’s parents belonged), and required each group to carve out its own place in the late modern Dutch social experiment. This perspective will be used to explain, for example, Bavinck’s choice to pursue theological studies at a mainstream university, and his eventual support for a ‘pillarised’ model of society.