Review: Berkouwer’s Half Century Theology

This is partly GC Berkouwer’s theological autobiography.  Rather than giving an analytical review, I’ll post my observations:

  1. The book is heavily influenced by Bavinck.  This is significant.  Bavinck’s stature had a kind of stabilizing influence among those otherwise influenced by Barth.
  2. The second chapter apologetics has some helpful reflections on Dooyeweerd.
  3. Harnack was irritated with Barth that he read guys like Cocceius.
  4. The best chapter was on election (Heart of the Church).  Here we seen Berkouwer moving away from traditional Reformed thought. He wanted to avoid positing any kind of “behind the back” of God. God’s actions are not in a dark hinterland, but are revealed in Christ.
  5. Vollenhoven rejected an impersonal human nature (anhypostasia).  An impersonal human nature is not a complete human nature.  Otherwise, it is an instrument of the Logos.

This really isn’t an inspiring read.  20th century theology, especially in its critical manifestations, is one colossal failure of nerve.  The only bright spots–in this volume anyway–are the Dutch Neo-Calvinists.  And Oscar Cullmann.


About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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5 Responses to Review: Berkouwer’s Half Century Theology

  1. Jason says:

    I find it interesting that you say “20th century theology, especially in its critical manifestations, is one colossal failure of nerve.”. Might you elaborate a bit (and perhaps notate who you do find valuable in the 20th century)?


    • Sure. 20th century critical theology began from the premise that if it could happen according to a 19th century view of the universe, it’s obviously myth. To be fair, there were pushbacks. Even Barth called a stop at some point.

      John Murray
      Cornelius Van Til
      John Frame
      Klaas Schilder


  2. How could I forget Torrance?


  3. Pingback: Review: Schilder’s Struggle for the Unity of the Church | Kingdom Authority

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