Original Research

Herman Bavinck and same-sex marriage: A current application of older theological concepts

Willem van Vlastuin
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 57, No 1 | a2955 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v57i1.2955 | © 2023 Willem van Vlastuin | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 March 2023 | Published: 20 September 2023

About the author(s)

Willem van Vlastuin, Department of Beliefs and Practices, Faculty of Religion and Theology, Vrij Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Department of Historical Theology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


It seems like an anachronism to turn to Herman Bavinck for a vision of homosexual relationships in the church. It is indeed an anachronism when we look at Bavinck’s treatment of this phenomenon. Except for a reference to ‘unnatural sin’, he does not explicitly reflect on this theme. Yet, his theological concepts may offer possibilities for creating an openness to same-sex marriage in the church. This article examines four of Bavinck’s concepts, namely the concepts of catholicityhermeneuticssubjectivation and worldview. While the first three concepts suggest an openness, it is different with the fourth concept. This leads to the question of how to value it. Added to this, it is uncertain how Bavinck’s later hermeneutical insights relate to his Christian worldview. In this article, these insights are weighed, and the conclusion is drawn that there is no evidence that the relativisation of historical and natural worldviews in the Bible also applies to Bavinck’s moral biblical worldview. Therefore, it seems that Bavinck’s concepts do not lead to openness for same-sex marriage in the church. If we make use of these concepts today, we must again account for the weight we assign to the various concepts, their interrelationship and the relative weight of each concept with respect to other concepts.

Contribution: This research contributes both to the understanding of the tensions in Bavinck’s theology, to the consciousness of Bavinck’s hermeneutics, and to the reflection on same-sex relationships in the church.


homosexuality; same-sex marriage; catholicity; hermeneutics; evolution; subjectivation; worldview.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 5: Gender equality


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