Berkouwer and Systematic Theology

Sometimes, it is said that Berkouwer’s theology is not very systematic. In my book, I comment on this kind of criticism. I think that, to appreciate the systematic quality of Berkouwer’s theology, you need to get deeply into it, reading quite a bit of his work and thinking along with him.
I have tended to regard his work on ‘Holy Scripture’ & ‘Divine Election’ as important though admittedly, many others are less happy with these volumes).
The more I reflected on these books, the more I felt that he wasn’t being unsystematic. He was opening up perspectives which shed new light on to these doctrines.
In my book, I expound Berkouwer’s doctrines of Scripture & election, seeking – along the way – to defend his approach against his critics.
An important aspect of Berkouwer’s approach is summed up in the two principles – Speak where Scripture speaks. Remain silent where Scripture remains silent.
There is, however, another aspect of Berkouwer’s approach which is worthy of mention. He was a creative thinker. The first book to alert me to Berkouwer was P E Hughes (ed.), Creative Minds in Contemporary Theology’. By describing him as a creative thinker, I’m not suggesting that he goes his own way, creating his own theology while paying little attention to the Scriptures. He has, however, shown a willingness to re-think theological interpretations which many have thought were settled & not up for discussion.
An example of this is found in his way of handling the doctrine of election where, being unwilling simply to set divine sovereignty & human responsibility over against each other and leave it at that, he suggests a way in which we might affirm both in a more harmonious manner.
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2 thoughts on “Berkouwer and Systematic Theology

  1. Thanks, Andy, for your question. I’ve posted a new article on this question. It’s called “The Heart of the Church.” I hope you’ll find it helpful. God bless you.

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