G C Berkouwer on “Faith and Sanctification”

Publisher’s Review

Faith and Sanctification is the first volume to appear in the First American Edition of a series of monographs covering the whole field of Christian theology. This major contribution to the current literature of theology, destined to exert its influence within the main current of American religious thought, it the work of Prof. G. C Berkouwer, occupant of the Chair of Systematic Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands-a country with a long tradition for great theologians. In his ambitious series, Prof. Berkouwer easily keeps the tradition alive. The translation of his books for American readers marks an important literary event. In this volume Professor Berkouwer sets forth the gravity of the Christian’s responsibility: “For there is nothing hid, save that it should be manifested; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light—-that gives it its peculiar character.

This is precisely where the unbeliever would put Christianity on trial. Says Berkouwer, “Are the children of God in fact a different breed of men? And why cannot Christians somehow acquire a common vision of the Good with other men to work toward a “sanctified society?” These are the questions we must ask. For implicit in them is the intent to destroy the connection between justification and sanctification, as well as the bond between faith and sanctification—.But the man who understands [this relation] knows that he can pave his way into real life only by keeping these connections intact. [And] although,” points out Berkouwer, “the sanctity that is out to make recruits may never be immune from the dangers of becoming theatrical, these dangers are not overcome by a denial of the rationale involved. Our only safeguard is to keep the muscles of sanctity attached to the tendons of our faith.” Faith and Sanctification is an excellent introduction of Berkouwer to American readers.

My own comment

In Ephesians 2:8-10, the emphases ‘by grace’ and ‘through faith’ lead directly on to the emphasis ‘for good works’. Berkouwer underscores this connection between ‘Sola Fide and Sanctification’ (Faith and Sanctification, Chapter II, pp. 17-44). He emphasizes that the true nature of good works cannot be understood apart from Christ who is our ’sanctification’ (1 Corinthians 1:30) (p. 21). Sanctification is not ‘the humanly operated successor to the divinely worked justification (p. 78). ‘Genuine sanctification’ has a ‘continued orientation toward justification’ (p. 78). Berkouwer emphasizes the ‘by grace … through faith’ context in which the ‘for good works’ character of sanctification expresses itself. He draws attention to the nature of the Spirit’s work in sanctification: ‘The Spirit alone could perform the miracle of making man walk on the road of sanctity without a sense of his own worth’ (p. 78). The life of sanctification has a gracious character which Berkouwer observes in the parable of the unprofitable servants (p. 41) and a social context which he sees in the parable of the good Samaritan (A Half Century of Theology, p. 191). A Reformed theology, grounded in the ‘Scripture alone’ principle, seeks to rightly represent the purpose of Scripture – ‘to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus … that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15, 17). Berkouwer, in his discussion entitled ‘The Imitation of Christ’ (Chapter VII, pp. 135-160), emphasizes both the gracious character and the social context of the Biblical teaching concerning sanctification.

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