Friday, 18 May 2007

On textbooks: Hendrikus Berkhof

I reckon one of the best texts for theological students is Hendrikus Berkhof’s profound and exciting work, Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Study of the Faith (Eerdmans, 1979). Although this book is dated in several important respects, in other respects it’s still far more “up to date” than many recently published works. Berkhof is a real theologian who really knows what theology is all about: he grapples intensely with the history of theology, with the best biblical scholarship, with the surprises and possibilities of other Christian traditions, and with the specific demands of contemporary faith and proclamation.

In the opening pages of Christian Faith, Berkhof rightly notes that systematic theology is “not something to learn so much as something to do and practice” (p. xii), so that the task of a textbook is simply to induct students into this practice. Or, as he puts it in a later essay: “Theology is not so much a set of convictions, but a way of discoveries.”

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