Berkouwer, G. C.
Publisher Review:This thirteenth volume in the widely hailed series Studies in Dogmatics by Amsterdam theologian G. C. Berkouwer discusses the doctrine of Scripture with the catholic scope and penetrating insights into the theological issues that readers of earlier volumes have come to expect. It is a Reformed Christian doctrine of Scripture which Berkouwer articulates, but the centrality of the Bible in all Christendom and his own aversion to any form of parochialism make it impossible for him to forge his positive statement without regard to a lengthy roster of committed thinkers from time past and present. Behind these theologians, of course, stand the creeds and confessions; behind them the Bible itself, always looming large in Berkouwer’s writing-not as a reservoir of prooftexts but as a vital and refreshing stream of revealed truth which gives theology its meaning and energy.
Berkouwer treats here a broad range of topics. His discussion of the doctrine of inspiration (or, as he prefers, the doctrine of the God-breathed character of Scripture) follows upon four chapters of groundwork: Scripture and certainty; the witness of the Holy Spirit to the believer’s acceptance of the Word; the rise and meaning of the idea of a canon of Scripture; and the authority and interpretation of Scripture.
Among the key implications of the Reformers’ confession that “Holy Scripture is the Word of God” is that one need not fear taking a searching look, with rigorous methods, at the Bible in its verbal humanness, even though this research does present certain dangers. We err as badly when we think to “protect” the Bible by ignoring its human dimension in favor of the divine as we do when we pretend to come to Scripture with complete “objectivity,” as though it were just any document from antiquity.
Freedom from fear is near the very heart of the doctrine of Scripture worked out in this book. When there is true confession of Scripture as God’s Word and humble willingness to place oneself in obedience to that Word, problems like those of translating the Bible, of its historicity, reliability, clarity, and sufficiency are viewed from a new and truly liberating perspective. Then one can also preach the Word of God-an activity the Reformed confessions accord enormous significance. Through the preaching, God-breathed Scripture comes again and again as a promise correlative to faith, a key the kingdom itself.
To read Berkouwer is constantly to be impressed by his total integration of monumental erudition and warm concern for the person in the pew, without attention to whose doubts and fears theology is a charade.