Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In response to a question recently asked of me: who is your favorite theologian and why, I responded as follows:

Well, I’d have to say that my favorite theologian has come to be Louis Berkhof. I must post my caveat up front that I know he’s covenantal in hermeneutic and that he’s a “baby-baptizer” in ecclesiological practice, and both of which I wholeheartedly disagree with and find no Scriptural basis for, but nevertheless I’ve come to really appreciate a number of things about Berkhof over the last month that has given me a deep respect for and a great indebtedness to this man. (Also, it may have something to do with the fact that I don’t know if there’s another theologian out there whose material I’ve read more of than Berkhof.)

First, his commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture is worthy to be modeled on many fronts. He absolutely rejects the humanistic, rationalistic, existential philosophies of secular minds (or frankly, religious minds for that matter). His stance that God’s Word is inherently inspired and authoritative because God breathed His Words into the book undergirds all his argumentation and apologetics. He also seeks to derive his theology from the entire Bible. He is a systematic theologian at heart. His philosophy of hearing what the Bible has to say about a given topic and then systematizing it and presenting it in a logical and coherent fashion is helpful and educational.

Second, his commitment to the sovereignty of God is undoubtedly seen throughout the corpus of his writings. That Berkhof believes in a sovereign, holy, righteous, and perfect God and that man is sinfully depraved, hopelessly lost, and inwardly corrupt proves to be a theme Berkhof emphasizes numerous places. But the foundation upon which Berkhof builds much, if not most, of his theology is the sovereignty of God. God sovereignly calls sinners to salvation. God sovereignly draws them through the internal and irresistible calling of God’s Spirit. That God sovereignly orchestrates all that happens in life for His good purposes are truths Berkhof stands upon.

Third, his heart and passion for bold and fearless preaching of the Word of God was unknown to me before I started reading his books and articles about him. Apparently Berkhof pastored a couple of different churches and had a great passion for the heralding of God’s Word in the pulpits. Perhaps this is why he remained as a professor for so long. He knew that he could impact men with the truths of the Word who would then enter churches and preach God’s Word from the pulpits to God’s people who would then take that truth which they heard and share it with their friends. Berkhof recognized the scary, watered-down state of the “average” pulpit and he expressed that concern often in his lectures. This was usually followed by a passionate plea for men to remain confident in God’s Word and preach it as a bear standing upright against its foe.

Fourth and finally, given some of the practical situations I find myself in at our church, I found great comfort and encouragement to press on from Berkhof’s love for and his passion for the local church; specifically, the purity of the local church. Berkhof notes three primary ingredients to the local church that are indelibly printed on my brain. First, the church must have the true preaching of the Word of God. Second, the church must have a regular and right practice of the ordinances of baptism and communion. Third, the church must practice discipline.

I recognize that none of these points center on Berkhof’s methodology or presuppositions per se as they do his practical theology and love for God’s Word. But in my study of Berkhof, these are some of the primary ingredients that have grown me to appreciate him and be refreshed by much of (not all of!) his theology.


Jason Alligood said...

Great insights about a great man of God!

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