Monday, 10 July 2006

For the love of God (23): Why I love G. C. Berkouwer

A guest-post by Charles Cameron

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 Dutch theologian G. C. Berkouwer (1903-1996). Some of my conversations with this theological student focused on Berkouwer.

After the conference, I showed the Dutch students around our capital city, Edinburgh. We visited a Christian bookshop where I bought the book Creative Minds in Contemporary Theology, which contains an article on Berkouwer (written by Lewis B. Smedes). Describing Berkouwer’s contribution to contemporary theology, Smedes writes: “Berkouwer has called orthodox Reformed theology away from its love affair with metaphysics…. [H]e has called it back to its proper and humble service as hand-maid to the preaching of the gospel” (p. 96). For Berkouwer, “divine election is identical with the grace of God that was revealed in Jesus Christ … [and is] not to be confused with a notion of an arbitrary, graceless decree of a purely Sovereign Deity” (p. 74). After reading this I said, “I must read Berkouwer!”

In 1976, while visiting Canada, I bought Berkouwer’s book Holy Scripture. Living out of a suitcase, I didn’t have many books with me. What did I do? —I read Berkouwer. Reading became studying and writing. By the time I met him in his home in 1986, I had written a PhD thesis based on his writings. I spoke with him for one hour, but I felt like I had known him for a decade. Long before I ever laid eyes on him, I had loved him as a “father in the faith” (1 Cor. 4:15). He had helped me to praise God and to preach the gospel of grace with joyful thanksgiving.

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