Thursday, 24 September 2015

Berkouwer’s Contribution to the Ecumenical Movement

The challenge of the  theological  discussion of the doctrine of the Church extends far beyond the bounds of Protestantism.
E. Schlink emphasizes that “the Reformation Churches … do not take ecumenical discussion seriously unless they are prepared to enter upon discussion with the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church” (The Coming Christ and the Coming Church (1967), p. xii). 
Berkouwer’s major ecumenical contribution has been concerned with the relation between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. His theological method is also of relevance to the East-West conflict.
Berkouwer’s theological method is (a) doxological and (b) confessional.
(a) Doxological  - “The work of theology must be climaxed, not with the satisfaction of having solved an intellectual problem, but with a doxology to the God of grace” (L. B. Smedes, “G. C. Berkouwer” in P. E. Hughes, (editor), Creative Minds in Contemporary Theology, edited by , p. 69).
This theological method is similar to the approach to “(d)ogma in the Eastern Church (which) is quite apparently determined to a large degree by the structure of doxology” (E. Schlink, p. 272).
(b) Confessional - “Only those matters that the believer can and ought to confess as his  personal faith… are the proper conclusion of theology” (L. B. Smedes, pp. 65-66).
This theological method is similar to the Eastern approach to “dogma (which) is determined by the creedal confession of the services of worship” (E. Schlink, p. 272).
These points of similarity suggest that Berkouwer’s approach might prove fruitful in the East-West dialogue.
Since, however, Berkouwer has concentrated his attention more directly on Protestant- Roman Catholic relations, I will, in this series of posts, focus attention on that particular Berkouwer “was invited by Pope John XXIII to be an official observer at the Second Vatican Council” (The Second Vatican Council and the New Catholicism (1965), p. 4 , from L. B. Smedes’ Translator’s Preface).
With his involvement in both the World Council of Churches and the Second Vatican Council, Berkouwer would agree with the Roman Catholic scholar, Hans Kung, who has written, “The work of the World Council of Church on the one hand and the Second Vatican Council on the other is bearing fruit” (The Church (1968), pp. 276-277).
Berkouwer has written two earlier books on Roman Catholicism - The Conflict with Rome  and Recent Developments in Roman Catholic Thought (both 1958).
Highlighting the major importance of Berkouwer's book, The Second Vatican Council and the New Catholicism -  Berkouwer, “extremely well qualified to report on the theological problems” associated with Vatican II”, has written “both wisely and critically - just the way we Catholics need it!” (from the outside, rear dust cover of the book).

Berkouwer and Barth on Universalism

Barth has tried to affirm universal election without moving from there to universal salvation. There have been different reactions to his theology.

(a) Some have written positively about this approach - affirming universal election without embracing universal salvation.
(b) Others have moved on from universal election to universal salvation.
(c) Berkouwer has protested against both universal election and universal salvation.
Here are a couple of comments from Berkouwer, which relate to Barth's doctrine of election.
Barth’s view is described thus by Berkouwer: “”Man’s being, man’s nature, is to stand in grace, God’s grace; this is the truth we discern in the election of the man Jesus Immanuel (God with us) … his essence is to be an object of God’s grace. This essence is indeed covered and hidden by sin, but how can something which has its basis in God’s grace be wholly destroyed? There is and remains a ‘continuum, an essence unchanged and unchangeable by sin’” (Man, p. 91, citing Kirchliche Dogmatik (KD), Vol. III, 2, pp.43-50, 54-55 as a general reference).
For Barth, God’s “Yes” is the all-important decision (Berkouwer, The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth (TG), pp. 30. 33). God’s gracious affirmation of sinful man is precisely the content of the doctrine of election. This understanding of election leads him to adopt the highly speculative concept of the ontological impossibility of unbelief (Berkouwer, TG, p. 266, citing Kirchliche Dogmatik (KD), Vol. IV, 1, p. 835).
2. By asking us to consider the question, "How convincing is Barth's rejection of universalism?", Berkouwer is really calling in question Barth's understanding of election. He is really asking, "Does Scripture teach this idea of universal election?"
Colin Brown has also been forthright on this point. He suggests that Barth’s reservation with regard to universalism should have taken place not at the point of drawing possible consequences from his theology. It should have taken place at the outset of his Christological approach to theology.He maintains that “the trouble is that all Barth’s theology is made to centre around an idea of Christ. But it is not exactly the biblical idea of Christ” (KB, p. 138). Brown concludes that “it is a Christ-idea that often gives Barth his characteristic emphases” and that this has meant that “Some important aspects of the New Testament teaching had to be stretched to make them fit, while others had to be lopped off” (KB, p. 152. See also p. 12).
Contrasting Barth’s idea of Christ with the Biblical idea of Christ, Brown writes, “Whilst God deals with men through Christ, Christ is not equally all things to all men. To some he is Saviour, to others He is Judge. According to … the New Testament …, God deals with men in two ways … as they are in themselves apart from Christ. And … as they are in Christ. The two spheres are not identical … All men are by nature in the first. Some are by grace in the second” (KB, p. 139).
G W Bromiley is also critical of Barth's theology. He has summarized Barth’s view thus: “The lie cannot overthrow the truth, but God may finally condemn the liar to live in it” (“Karl Barth”, Creative Minds in Contemporary Theology(CM), edited by P E Hughes, p. 49, citing CD, Vol. IV, 3, Section 70, 2), Bromiley observes, in Barth’s view, “the trend toward an ultimate universalism” while acknowledging that “universalism in the sense of the salvation of all individuals is not a necessary implicate of Barth’s Christological universalism” (CM, p. 54). Bromiley suggests, however, that Barth’s reservation with respect to ultimate universalism is “not really adequate” (CM, p. 54). What Bromiley says here is similar to what Berkouwer has said. He acknowledges that Barth and others after him have attempted to dissociate themselves from universal salvation. The question remains, "How convincing is their rejection of universalism? If we find it unconvincing, we can either (a) go with those who tells us that universal election leads us on to universal salvation; or (b) move back from our questioning of the idea of universal salvation to think of election differently from Barth.
The view of Donald G. Bloesch is also of interest. Following Barth's suggestion that 'Jesus is Victor' expresses his theological emphasis better than Berkouwer's title, 'the triumph of grace', D G Bloesch, entitled his book on Barth, Jesus is Victor! - Karl Barth's Doctrine of Salvation. Bloesch, nevertheless, reached similar conclusions to those of Berkouwer. Acknowledging that Barth's idea of universal election is neither a metaphysical presupposition nor a rational conclusion but an affirmation of faith and hope, which Barth holds, is implied in the Biblical witness, Bloesch argues that Barth has failed to to hold together the objective and subjective poles of salvation and that his logic leads in the direction of universalism.
Since Bloesch's title takes account of Barth's reaction to Berkouwer's title, we should pass comment on Barth's comments on Berkouwer's title While seeking to be fair to both Barth and Berkouwer, we may ask whether Barth's criticism of Berkouwer's title has really done very much to lessen the force of Berkouwer's argument - 'the asking of the apokastasis question (universalism) ... is warranted by the simple fact of taking Barth seriously' 'Barth's express rejection of the doctrine of the apokatastasis must be fully taken into account but it is precisely when we do so that the tensions within his teaching become the more visible' (The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth, 112, 266 - brackets and emphasis mine).
It is precisely because Barth is, by his own profession, not a universalist that the discussion of his theology is so important. The answer to the question, 'Is Karl Barth a Universalist?', must, if we take Barth's own words seriously, be 'No'. This, however, raises another question, 'Is Karl Barth's rejection of universalism convincing?' This is the central issue raised by Berkouwer. He never states that Barth is a universalist on the basis that he must be a universalist. He acknowedges that Barth dissociates himself from universalism. He does, however, question the effectiveness of Barth's rejection of universalism ( T of G, Chapter X, 'The Universality of the Triumph', 262-296).
Berkouwer commends Barth for his concentration on Jesus Christ. This is what gives Barth's theology its 'triumphant and joyful character' (T of G, 212). While he does not suggest that human sin should be taken more seriously than divine grace, Berkouwer does insist that we need to take great care if we are to understand the precise nature of the relationship between divine grace and human sin. He insists that 'there can never be a question of too strongly accenting the grace of God'. He emphasizes that 'the question is, how shall we lay the proper emphases and how can we most purely praise this grace. It is never the full accent but the wrong accent that obscures the gospel of God's grace' (T of G 349).
In his critique of Barth's theology, Berkouwer lays great emphasis on the importance of both grace and faith. His emphasis on faith ensures that his theology does not lean towards the kind of universalism which Barth seeks to avoid. By emphasizing that 'faith has significance only in its orientation to its object - the grace of God' (Faith and Justification, 29), he seeks to avoid the kind of theology which draws our attention away from the God of grace.
We may ask, whether Berkouwer - with his great emphasis on our response of faith as well as the initiative of divine grace - leads us away from the sovereignty of God over the whole of reality to a sovereignty of God within the heart of the believer. It may be argued that Berkouwer proclaims the sovereignty of God no less emphatically than Barth. He does, however, offer interpret divine sovereignty differently from Barth.
The sovereignty of God over the whole of reality may be viewed as the demonstration that salvation is salvation in God's way - by grace through faith. When salvation in God's way - by grace through faith - is properly understood, there is no suggestion that we are moving away from the sovereignty of God over the whole of reality to a sovereignty of God within the heart of the believer. In God's way of salvation, we see the sovereignty of God over man. God's way of salvation - by grace through faith - is vindicated over against man's attempt at achieving salvation through his own works.
This view of God's gracious sovereignty maintains that reconciliation is God's work, accomplished in God's way. There is no movement in the direction of universal reconciliation. There is no wrong emphasis on faith which leads us to give faith a significance that is independent of divine grace.
The question is not one of human decision versus divine decision. Rather, it concerns the understanding of the truth.
The idea of a single truth concerning mankind seems far removed from the Biblical emphasis on the decisiveness for his eternal destiny of man’s relation to the truth. In one sense, there is a single truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth. The Truth concerning Him is that He is the Way by which men receive Life (John 14:6). This understanding of Truth requires to be carefully distinguished from the idea of a single truth concerning mankind which can be deduced from the affirmation of Christ as the Truth without reference to the presence or absence of faith in a man.
3. When we speak of "election", we speak as those who have come to know God our Father through His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We do not think, without any reference to the experience of God's salvation through faith in Christ, in terms of either "all are elect" or "some are elect." Drawn by the love of the Father and the power of the Spirit, we come to the Saviour. Having come to the Saviour, we speak of what the Lord has done for us, offering the praise of our hearts to Him. One of the ways in which Scripture praises the God of our salvation is to speak of our being God's "elect." This is a way of praising God, it is a way of looking away from ourselves and saying, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23). It is a way of saying, "Not to us, Lord ... but to Your Name give glory ... " (Psalm 115:1).
Recognizing the inadequacy of human language, Berkouwer seeks to understand the language of predestination in connection with what he calls the “depth-aspect” of salvation (Divine Election, pp. 113, 150, 168). He emphasizes that “the depth-aspect of salvation … is not a matter of hiddenness which goes beyond the knowledge of faith … not something far distant, not a vague, threatening reality, but the foundation of salvation …” (pp. 113-114; Here, he is discussing Biblical statements concerning “the Book of life”).
With this idea of the depth-aspect of salvation, Berkouwer seeks to understand the idea of ‘before the foundation of the world’ (For a biblical statement which uses this expression, see Ephesians 1:4. This phrase also occurs in John 17:24 and 1 Peter 1:20. In interpreting these passages, it is important that we take into account the context and content of each passage rather than artificially imposing a uniformity of use and meaning.)
He emphasizes that “These words do not occur in Scripture as a threat, but in the decisive depth-aspect of salvation. they are not placed in a context in which they make us dizzy in the face of an unapproachable ‘eternity’, … but they are intended to show us the source of our eternal salvation … ‘Before’ indicates that this divine act of salvation, preached to us by the gospel, is free from what we know in the world to be arbitrary and precarious … in this depth-aspect of God’s salvation it becomes … evident that this salvation did not originate in our flesh and blood, and that it is by no means of human merit or creation. But precisely this fact does not obscure the way; on the contrary, it illumines it. ‘Before the foundation of the world’ means to direct our attention to what can be called the opposite of chance and contingence” (pp. 150-151). Berkouwer also stresses that the depth-aspect of salvation should be recognized in the use of the expression, “God’s good pleasure”, concerning which he writes, “This pleasure does not stand in contrast to the historical gospel” (p. 151). In his article on “G. C. Berkouwer” in Creative Minds in Contemporary Theology, (edited by P. E. Hughes), L. B. Smedes writes, “The ‘good pleasure of God’ according to which we are chosen in Christ is sometimes taken to mean that God simply does anything that He arbitrarily decides, whereas the ‘good pleasure of God’ is His gracious purpose to save: Christ is the revelation of His ‘good pleasure’” (p.77, n. 32). The idea of God’s good pleasure occurs in the Authorized Version’s rendering of Ephesians 1:5, 9. The idea of God’s good pleasure is also found in Philippians 2:13 (Authorized Version and Revised Standard Version) and 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (Authorized Version). In these latter passages, the theme is sanctification and there is no suggestion of arbitrariness at all.)
Berkouwer’s basic understanding of the depth-aspect is defined thus: “When we speak of the depth-aspect, we mean that eternity does not stand in contrast with what in time becomes historical reality, but rather that the salvation accomplished by Christ’s death of reconciliation cannot be merely historical, but that it has its eternal foundation in the love of God” (p. 168).
In any attempt to understand the nature of divine grace, five important observations require to be made.
(1) Man only knows of grace through revelation.
(2) Divine revelation comes to man in the form of human language.
(3) The inadequacy of human language as a vehicle of divine revelation demands that due care be taken in the interpretation of Scripture.
(4) The idea of an open concept indicates a depth-dimension which points beyond the limitations of human language to profound spiritual realities.
Berkouwer's concept of the depth-aspect of salvation may be viewed as a serious attempt to understand the complex problem of the relation of human language to divine revelation. It should be noted that he does not advocate a 'spiritualism' which devalues the words of Scripture (Holy Scripture, pp. 57-59, 288-290). Berkouwer's idea of the depth-aspect of salvation is not a denial of what Scripture says. Rather, it is an interpretation of what Scripture says, an attempt to understand what a particular passage teaches in relation to the "entire Biblical message" (Divine Election, p. 18). The recognition of a depth-aspect of salvation does not involve a denial of Biblical authority. Rather, we are asking the question, "Is this really what the Bible is teaching?" In asking this question, we make a clear distinction between Scripture itself and theological interpretations of Scripture.
Berkouwer recognized that Barth himself held back from explicitly teaching universal salvation.This did not prevent Berkouwer from offering a penetrating critique of Barth's theology. Berkouwer is appealing to others, who may, through the influence of Barth's writings, be drawn towards universal salvation. He is really saying, "Let's closely look closely at the basis on which Barth builds his theology - universal election." He is really saying that, if we follow Barth on the doctrine of election, we may find ourselves drawn towards universal salvation, regardless of the fact that Barth said that he was not prepared to go there (even though he did recognize that theological consistency seemed to be leading him in that direction). Berkouwer's work may be seen as a warning against a universalist ethos, which, even if it is not always made explicit, would strip the preaching of the Gospel of any real sense of urgency.

Marx’s Call for a World-Changing Philosophy: Herbert Marcuse’s Interpretation of Marxism

Interpreting Marx’s intention, Marcuse maintains that “far more was involved than the liberation and rational utilisation of the productive forces, namely, the liberation of man himself” (Reason and Revolution (RR), p. 435, emphasis mine).
Marcuse notes that “Marx’s conception of the ‘free’ proletariat as the absolute negation of the established social order belonged to the model of ‘free’ capitalism” (RR, pp. 435-436). He argues that history has taken a different course from that envisaged by Marx because of “the transformation of free into organized capitalism” (RR, p. 435). This movement away from unrestrained capitalism has, according to Marcuse, “transformed Marxism into Leninism and determined the fate of Soviet society .. its progress under a new system of repressive productivity” (RR, p. 435). He maintains that “The consolidation of the capitalist system was greatly enhanced by the development of Soviet society … (in which) the repressive and exploitative features of capitalist industrialization (were) … reproduced, on a new basis” (RR, p. 438).
While the “increasingly efficient organisation” of capitalism may have rendered revolutionary communism less effective, it has not, in Marcuse’s view, invalidated Marx’s insistence on the irrationality inherent in the productive forces of unrestrained capitalism” (RR, p. 436).
Marcuse insists that the revolutionary hope for the liberation of man  must not be surrendered: “the triumph of regressive and retarding forces does not vitiate the truth of this Utopia. The total mobilization of society against the liberation of the individual … indicates how real is the possibility of this liberation” (RR, p. 439).

Revelation and Reconciliation

'Serious reservations ... must be voiced against the dominant position of the idea of revelation in theology, with its corollary that man's essential predicament is his lack of knowledge ... if the ignorance of man stands at the center, then the fact of revelation relieves that plight; but if man's guilt is the problem, then not revelation but reconciliation must become the theological centrum' (C E Braaten, History and Hermeneutics, p.14).
Building on Braaten's comment, we emphasize two important points:
(i) Man's basic need lies in his sinfulness rather than his finitude;
(ii) That need is met by reconciliation to God rather than mere knowledge about God.
In his treatment of the doctrine of Scripture, Berkouwer places the doctrine of reconciliation at the centre. Divine revelation is not merely an antidote for human ignorance. Scripture must be understood with respect to its specific intention (Holy Scripture, p.125), which is 'most closely related to salvation' (p. 142). An adequate doctrine of Scripture demands a proper understanding of the function as a pointer to Christ, through whom believing man receives eternal life (p.125). The revelation that comes to us through the Scriptures is precisely '(t)he powerful operation of the Spirit' which 'centres in the salvation that has appeared in Christ' (p.49). This work of the Spirit, pointing to a salvation that calls for the response of faith, is central to Berkouwer's understanding of the doctrine of Scripture:
'Believing Scripture does not mean staring at a holy and mysterious book, but hearing the witness concerning Christ. The respect for the concrete words is related precisely to this, and the 'is' of the confession (Scripture is the Word of God) points to the mystery of the Spirit, who wants to bind men to Christ through these words, through this witness' (p.166).
'It is possible to live with Scripture only when the message of Scripture is understood and is not considered 'a metaphysical document', but a living instrument serving God for the proclamation of salvation' (p. 333).
The relation of God's Spirit to Scripture is essentially connected with the concepts of guilt and reconciliation rather than the 'revelation' of a knowledge which is primarily cognitive. Assurance concerning the authority of Scripture is directly related to Christian experience. Such assurance is the expression of the faith which trusts Christ and finds Him trustworthy (p.241).
The assurance that God's Spirit continues to speak through Scripture concerning Christ is quite different from the kind of rationalism which turns the 'is' of the confession - Scripture is the Word of God - into 'a rationally developed infallibility of Scripture that was supposed to preclude all doubts' (p.32). (Note: It should not be supposed that Berkouwer has no doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture. His criticism is directed not aginst the notion of Biblical infallibility as such but against a particular conception of infallibility - 'a rationally developed infallibility').
Berkouwer's criticism of 'a rationally developed infallibilty of Scripture that was supposed to preclude all doubts' is directed against an approach to Scripture which operates primarily on a cognitive level with its concern for infallible and inerrant information. He suggests that this formalized notion of infallible and inerrant truth threatens to undermine the true meaning of faith.
Faith is not simply an addendum to cognitive knowledge concerning infallible and inerrant truth. It is misleading to place cognitive assent to a certain theory of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture prior to believing trust in Jesus Christ. When ' rationally developed infallibility of Scripture that was designed to preclude all doubts' is made the prerequisite of reliable knowledge of Jesus Christ, this suggests that one believes the Bible with a different 'faith' from the faith which trusts Christ. Such a notion involves concepts of faith, truth and knowledge that are primarily intellectual in nature. The suggestion is that faith is to be thought of as assent to an external authority.
Critical of this rather static understanding of truth, Berkouwer directs our attention to the dynamic aspect of truth suggested by Bible passages which describe faith's relation to truth in terms of doing the truth (John 3:21), walking in the truth (2 John 4; 3 John 4), being set free by the truth (John 8:32) and being sanctiifed by the truth (John 17:19).
In making this criticism of 'a rationally developed infallibility of Scripture designed to preclude all doubts', Berkouwer is encouraging us to take care to avoid building our doctrine of Scripture on a concept of knowledge that is so generalized that it fails to appreciate the truly religious nature of our knowledge of God: 'For the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is not at all to provide a scientific gnosis in order to convey and increase human knowledge and wisdom, but to witness of the salvation of God unto faith'. Clarifying his meaning, he comments, ' This approach does not mean to separate faith and knowledge. But the knowledge that is the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith' (p.180).
Berkouwer's perspective is not concerned with infallible information secured by inspiration. Holding that 'the nature of the God-breathed character of Scripture cannot be deduced by means of various analogies to the inspiration', Berkouwer contends that 'Scripture is the Word of God because the Holy Spirit witnesses in it of Christ' (p.162).
By speaking of the Holy Spirit's witness to Jesus Christ, Berkouwer does not intend to draw our attention away from the human witness to Jesus Christ. Rather, he seeks to direct our attention to the 'deep dimension of the human witness'. Concerning this 'deep dimension', he writes, 'This witness does not well up from the human heart but from the witness of God, in which it finds its foundation and empowering as a human witness' (p.165). With this conception of Scripture as 'human witness empowered by the Spirit', Berkouwer maintains that 'the Word of God does not draw us away from the human but involves us with the human' (p.167).
Berkouwer's appreciation of the human aspect of Scripture, his insight into the relation between the Spirit and Scripture, and his distinction between the nature of the knowledge of God and other types of knowledge each constitute important elements in an adequate doctrine of Scripture.
Berkouwer is in basic agreement with Braaten's remark that the concept of reconciliation, as an antidote to man's guilt, should be more central in our theological thinking than the concept of revelation as an antidote to man's ignorance. It should not, however, be assumed that he is ready to dispense with the idea of revelation and replace it directly with the idea of reconciliation.
Berkouwer's understanding of the relation of revelation and reconciliation can be explored further by turning our attention to a book which contains the word, 'revelation', in its title - General Revelation.
Here, Berkouwer emphasizes both the reality of God's revelation in creation and sinful man's inability to understand this revelation. He maintains that there is 'an objective revelation of God in His works which man ... can no longer read because of the darkening of his understanding'. Taking account of human sin without denying the divine revelation in creation, Berkouwer affirms that 'the spectacles of special revelation ... are needed in order to read the revelation in creation' (p.30).
Expanding on this point, he emphasizes that general revelation can only be understood through grace. He insists that the one who has come to experience the grace of God in salvation is alone able to understand the revelation of God in creation. Writing on 'The Nature Psalms', he states this succinctly: 'nature is not seen isolated from the salvation of the God of Israel ... man in and by the salvation of God is delivered from the tenacity of the egocentric and commences to sing of the glory of God. It is this salvation that opens doors and windows towards God's handiwork ... This understanding, and seeing, and hearing, is possible only in the communion with him, in the enlightenment of the eyes by the salvation of God' (pp.128, 131).
Berkouwer affirms that while there is an objective revelation of God in creation, we can only understand that revelation properly when we experience reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ. While the idea of reconciliation is central to Berkouwer's theology, it should not be assumed that that God's act of reconciliation in Jesus Christ constitutes the entirety of God's revelation. God revealed Himself first in creation prior to man's sin and, therefore, prior to the need for reconciliation. Since man has sinned, he is no longer able to rightly understand this revelation. Man's sin, therefore, occasioned the need for 'the revelation of reconciliation' (p.26).
The redemptive revelation should not be seen as replacing the creational revelation. God has revealed Himself redemptively because of the failure of sinful man, and not because of any failure in His creational revelation. The purpose of creational revelation was not redemptive, for, prior to his sin, man did not require to be redeemed. Redemptive revelation has a restorative character. Man's original relationship with God, spoiled by his sin, is restored through the revelation of reconciliation.
The full process of the revelation of reconciliation includes five elements:
(a) The creational revelation through which God gave Himself to man in a relationship not yet marred by sin. That revelation remains revelation after man's sin, though it is not properly understood until man's sinful blindness is removed through God's redemption.
(b) The incarnation in which God Himself became man with the purpose of delivering man from sin and death (The Work of Christ, p.28).
(c) The Scriptures which serve as 'a living instrument serving God for the proclamation of the message of salvation' (Holy Scripture, p.333).
(d) Proclamation which calls for the Church to be joyful and faithful servants of the Redeemer and His mesasage of redemption. Through the Church's very human witness, Christ speaks His divine Word to the world. (Proclamation is used here in a broad sense. It is not to be identified exclusively with 'preaching' or 'pulpit ministry').
(e) The Spirit of God whose activity is indispensable if there is to be reconciliation. Without the Spirit's presence, Christ's incarnation would remain a matter of past history, the Scriptures would be no more than a record of Jewish religion and the proclamation of the Church would be empty religious tradition. Whatever there may be of past and present tradition, there would be no reconciliation, for it is the Spirit who enables the message of Christ in the Scriptures and the proclamation of the Church to be a message of reconciliation which actually brings us into a new living relationship with God.
As we reflect on the importance of each of these five elements, we must emphasize the integral unity of the whole process of revelation through which God comes to us as our Creator and our Redeemer. No part can be ignored without affecting the whole.
(i) The loss of the perspective of creational revelation results in the loss of an adequate perspective on man's sin, for man's sin 'is unmasked in its guilty character precisely because there is and remains revelation' (General Revelation, p.31).
(ii) Without Christ, there can be no Christian faith, for without Christ, we have no Saviour.
(iii) Without the Scriptures, we would not have the message of Christ available to us (Holy Scripture, p.57 - Here, Berkouwer cites favourably 'Calvin's rejection of a spiritualism that makes great display of the superiority of the Spirit, but rejects all reading of Scripture itself').
(iv) Without the Church's proclamation of the message of reconciliation, that message would remain in the Bible without reaching those for whom it is intended (The Return of Christ, p.132 - Here, Berkouwer comments on our call to be a missionary Church. He insists that there can be 'no distinction in this area between the "being" and the "well-being" of the church. It is a matter of the church's very being to turn towards the world').
(v) To lose the perspective of the Spirit is to open the door to the kind of barren rationalism which kills rather than giving life (2 Corinthians 3:6).
We need the presence and power of the Spirit if our knowledge of God is to be heart-knowledge of the kind which enables us to say, with Paul, 'we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit' (2 Corinthians 3:18).