Faith and Sanctification

Except for one reference to A Half Century of Theology, all of the quotations in this post are from Faith and Sanctification.Berkouwer approaches social concern from a Biblical and Reformed perspective. 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 …

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Berkouwer and Barth on Universalism

More about Berkouwer, see The Theology Of G C Berkouwer ----- Barth has tried to affirm universal election without moving from there to universal salvation. There have been different reactions to his theology.   (a) Some have written positively about this approach - affirming universal election without embracing universal salvation. (b) Others have moved on from …

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G C Berkouwer – “a father in the faith” (1 Corinthians 4:15).

This post, written by myself, was first posted at the "Faith and Theology" blog -  For the love of God (23): Why I love G. C. Berkouwer At a conference for Scottish students in 1975, I met two Dutch visitors, one of whom was a theological student. On the bookstall, there were some books written by the …

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Berkouwer’s Theology – Systematic And Experiential

For many years, G C Berkouwer (1903-1996) served as the Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free Univesity of Amsterdam. He wrote many substantial books on Christian doctrine. These books are known collectively as his ‘Studies in Dogmatics’. In his work as a systematic theologian, Berkouwer emphasized that Christian faith is to be experienced. It …

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Berkouwer’s Theology of the Christian Life

Berkouwer places great emphasis on the practical character of theological reflection. This emphasis is grounded in his understanding of the doctrines of (a) God; (b) revelation; and (c) reconciliation. Underlying his interpretation of these doctrines is his understanding of grace. The divine grace which comes to us through revelation and reconciliation is not, in Berkouwer’s …

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G C Berkouwer and Apologetics

Berkouwer, Gerrit C. (1903-1996) Throughout his lengthy career as Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, he sought to understand the gospel more deeply. Best known for his multi-volumed Studies in Dogmatics, his chief work was in dogmatics rather than apologetics. His writings contain valuable insights relating to the work of apologetics. …

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Assessing G. C. Berkouwer’s Critique Of Karl Barth’s Refusal to Affirm Universal Salvation

In his book, “The Knowledge of the Holy” (a book on the Attributes of God in the Christian Life), A. W. Tozer spoke about an ocean liner travelling across the Atlantic from Liverpool to New York. The destination has been set for the ship’s journey. The travellers can do as they wish while they are …

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Calvin’s Description of Christ as ‘the Mirror of Election’

On the whole, Berkouwer shows considerable agreement with Calvin. Where there is disagreement, this tends to be minimized through sympathetic interpretation which accentuates their agreement. Whenever disagreement is inevitable, it is always respectful disagreement. Berkouwer’s criticisms of Calvin are never offered without the greatest respect for the great Reformer. While Berkouwer offers much sympathetic exposition …

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Berkouwer’s Contribution to the Ecumenical Movement

The challenge of the  theological  discussion of the doctrine of the Church extends far beyond the bounds of Protestantism. E. Schlink emphasizes that “the Reformation Churches … do not take ecumenical discussion seriously unless they are prepared to enter upon discussion with the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church” (The Coming Christ and the Coming …

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G C Berkouwer, “A Half Century of Theology”

In my book on Berkouwer ("The Problem of Polarization: An Approach based on the writings of G C Berkouwer"), I wrote quite a bit about his book, “A Half Century of Theology.” I focused on what he had to say about apologetics and social concern. The discussion ranged quite widely, drawing upon passages from all …

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Berkouwer and Barth : Christ at the Centre

For Barth, Christ is the key to understanding our human life. If Christ, God’s revelation, is taken away, man is thrown into an abyss of meaninglessness. Man cannot, by himself, bring meaning to his life. Christ alone can reveal to man the meaning of his life. This insight lies at the heart of Barth’s radical …

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Understanding Ourselves Theologically

(a) ‘Theology is a work of faith’; (b) ‘Theological truth is not created by faith’; (c) ‘(T)ruth is Christian truth only within the framework of faith’ - In these three statements, L B Smedes has highlighted three important aspects of Berkouwer’s approach to theology (’G C Berkouwer’ in P E Hughes (ed), Creative Minds in …

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G. C. Berkouwer: "Seeking and Finding"

Berkouwer was a prolific writer. In 1990, at the age of 86, his largest book was published, Zoeken en vinden (Seeking and Finding). In that volume Berkouwer narrated a number of memories and experiences from more than seventy years of theological endeavour. The professor of dogmatics was himself one of the main characters in this …

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Warfield and Berkouwer: The Evangelical Attitude toward the Bible

On the differences between Warfield and Berkouwer, P. Rees speaks wisely, “is it not right to say that there is a difference between the evangelical attitude toward the Bible and an evangelical’s views about the Bible? Go back to Warfield and Berkouwer. Their views of how to construe the Bible’s matchless revelatory quality and authority …

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The Free University of Amsterdam – A. Kuyper, H. Bavinck, V. Hepp and G. C. Berkouwer

Berkouwer and the Free University of Amsterdam Berkouwer’s confrontation with scholasticism has been immediate. The Free University of Amsterdam, at which he taught, as Professor of Systematic Theology, from 1945 until his retirement in 1973, provides an interesting study of the influence of scholasticism in Dutch Reformed theology. Berkouwer’s predecessors in the Chair of Systematic …

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Berkouwer on Bonhoeffer

Berkouwer’s discussion of christology and theodicy refers to insights from theologians of different eras – Paul, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Moltmann (‘A Half Century of Theology’, pp. 254-257). The lessons he draws from this analysis are profound: ‘ … what is involved is not a theoretical answer to the enigma of evil … but an …

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Systematic Theology and Experiential Theology

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the “Introductory Preface” of my PhD thesis / book:  “The Problem of Polarization: An Approach based on the Writings of G C Berkouwer”. —– “With the writings of G C Berkouwer providing its focal-point, this study may be regarded as a study in systematic theology …. attention is …

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Berkouwer and Speculative Theology

It has been said that, in Berkouwer's writings, there is a polemic against speculative theology'. We should take care not to overstate this point. His theology can be described as a polemic against scholasticism. In his exposition of divine election, he has identified a scholastic outlook as unhelpful in its representation of the various sides …

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Preaching the Gospel with Joy and Urgency

In this post, I am drawing on the writings of G. C. Berkouwer. —– The gladness of salvation cannot be proclaimed where theological speculation  where theological speculation restricts the scope of the Gospel (Divine Election, (Grand Rapids, 1960),pp. 218-227 / Dutch edition, 1955); A Half Century of Theology, (Grand Rapids, (1977), pp. 98-104 / Dutch …

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A Critique of C. W. Bogue’s booklet, “A Hole in the Dike: Critical Issues of Berkouwer’s Theology”

In his critique of Berkouwer’s theology - A Hole in the Dike: Critical Issues of Berkouwer’s Theology, (1977), Carl Bogue shows distinct displeasure with Berkouwer’s treatment of ‘reprobation’ and with his interpretation of the Canons of Dort. At p. 7, n. 6 and p. 8, n. 9, Bogue draws attention to Berkouwer’s article, “Vragen Rondom …

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Berkouwer, Barth and Brunner: A Discussion of General Revelation and Natural Theology

In his book, ‘General Revelation’, Berkouwer rejects natural theology while affirming the doctrines of general revelation & common grace. He places himself between Barth and Brunner. Barth rejects both general revelation & natural theology. Brunner teaches both general revelation and natural theology. In connection with common grace, here are two important observations made by Berkouwer: …

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A divine gift

“In Scripture the election of God ... does not come out of works but out of grace. God's electing plan prepares the way of salvation in which man learns that salvation is obtained only as a divine gift an never as an acquisiton because of good works.”― G C Berkouwer

G C Berkouwer comments on the “Nature Psalms”

"This understanding, and seeing, and hearing, is possible only ... in the enlightening of the eyes by the salvation of God ... But this seeing and hearing is not a projection of the believing subject, but an actual finding and seeing, and hearing! Here nothing is 'read into', but is only an understanding of the …

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G C Berkouwer – Scholarly, Pastoral And Evangelical

These comments are taken from the Jack Rogers book, "Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical" (Philadelphia, 1974). Berkouwer was reared in a denomination which "began in rather conservative isolation ... he has developed a scholarly, pastoral, evangelical stance. And he has brought a whole denomination with him" (p. 143) - "you can become less conservative and …

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Let us keep listening to one another.

“Dilemmas always are a source of polarization. We quickly move over to simplistic either-or’s… in which the fulness of truth is torn apart. And in the atmosphere of false polarities, we often stop listening to each other’s words. With this, irritation and pique poison the theological discussion. But it is striking and, at the same …

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Listening to what God says to us in His Word

Berkouwer and Philosophy Berkouwer approaches the questions of God, man and evil differently from philosophical theology. It should not, however, be thought that his approach is unphilosophical. He is concerned to think clearly about these issues. He is, however, concerned to deal with “actual knowledge of God” (This expression is used by T. F. Torrance …

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Berkouwer and Barth on Divine Revelation

The Question of "Christomonism" An important question in the assessment of Barth's theology revolves around his view of the relationship between natural theology and general revelation, Discussing "Karl Barth's Offensive Against Natural Theology" (General Revelation (GR), Chapter II, pp. 21-33), Berkouwer notes that "Barth's conception of revelation ... is frequently called 'Christomonism' " (GR,p. 25). …

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Berkouwer on "Divine Election"

In his discussion of the 'pre' element in predestination, Berkouwer insists that "he who speaks of God's counsel in terms of human categories will have to be aware of the inadequacy of his words" (Divine Election, p. 152). In this respect, Berkouwer closely follows Bavinck who, in his discussion of predestination, insists that "one cannot …

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Believing in the love of God and being changed by the love of God

In The Providence of God, G C Berkouwer relates providence to both the love of God as the object of the believer's faith and the believer's faith by which providence is subjectively experienced. "in the doctrine of providence we have a specific Christian confession exclusively possible through a true faith in Jesus Christ ... this …

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Grounded in God’s grace – our assurance of faith; trusting in God’s grace – our confession of faith; inspired by God’s grace – our obedience of faith

In his contribution to Clark Pinnock (editor), Grace Unlimited (1975), G. R. Osborne states that Berkouwer, in his bookm Faith and Perseverance, pp. 9-10, “speaks of the timelessness of the doctrine of final perseverance, founded on ‘the richness and abidingness of salvation” (p. 188, emphasis mine). This single-sentence comment on Berkouwer’s view hardly gives a …

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Carl Bangs, “Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation”

In this post, I will draw comparisons between Arminius and Berkouwer.  * Bangs points out that the historical situation in Holland was not a simple one - Calvinism coming in, Arminius nearly ruining it and the Synod of Dort restoring it: “The earliest Dutch Reformed leaders don’t seem to be Calvinists at all. They rise …

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Berkouwer’s reinterpretation of election – not a devaluation of divine sovereignty

Berkouwer emphasizes that his reinterpretation of election "has nothing to do with a devaluation of divine sovereignty. It is not motivated by respect for the autonomy of the free man" (A Half Century of Theology, p. 95). He sought to affirm divine election while avoiding the dangers of determinism. Describing the process by which he …

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Berkouwer’s "A Half Century of Theology"

In his post, Theological autobiography, Ben Myers writes, "Although there hasn’t been much theological autobiography in the past century, G. C. Berkouwer’s A Half Century of Theology(1977) deserves mention. It’s a stimulating discussion of major developments in twentieth-century theology from the perspective of Berkouwer’s own experience and development."

What are we to say about ‘biblical criticism’?

Berkouwer presents a view of biblical criticism which promises to overcome theological polarization. Keeping the Gospel at the centre of his thinking, he maintains that it is possible to acknowledge that there are “hesitations and doubts … present at many points (which) do not in themselves indicate a deep and final uncertainty” (A Half Century …

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G. C. Berkouwer On Spiritual Commitment And Social Concern In The Old Testament.

Serving God is incomplete if it doesn't lead to serving others.  "The service of the God of Israel and total concern for life within our horizon are inseparable... His people can truly give all their attention to him without being lured away from their neighbors."(G. C. Berkouwer, A Half Century of Theology, p. 193). Serving …

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Berkouwer’s "Studies in Dogmatics"

Faith and Sanctification Author: G. C. Berkouwer Publisher: Eerdmans Publication Date: 1952 Pages: 196 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 …

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The Triumph Of Grace In The Theology Of Karl Barth

G C Berkouwer’s book on Barth is entitled, The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth. Barth was not happy with this title. He felt that it might create the misunderstanding that grace is to be viewed as an impersonal principle which can be isolated from the person of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Barth …

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I believe in the Church.

Concerning the confession 'Credo Ecclesiam' (I believe in the church), Berkouwer insists that the church's objectivity is not subjectivized by the affirmation that "the only framework in which the Church can remain the Church of the Lord (is) the framework of faith, prayer, obedience and subjection" (The Church, p. 19).

Berkouwer and Barth: The Character of Certainty

Certainty is concerned with knowing and is, therefore, closely related to truth. One can only know when the truth has been made known to one. For Barth, God’s “Yes” is the all-important decision (Berkouwer, The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth (TG), pp. 30. 33). God’s gracious affirmation of sinful man is …

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Berkouwer, Calvin and Calvinism

Berkouwer has close affinities with 'the old Dutch biblical piety, not seized by dogmatic insights but steadily pressing toward a purified life of faith according to the Scriptures' (Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation, p.21). This 'old Dutch biblical piety' is similar to Berkouwer's insistence that election is not a special gnosis …

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