Berkouwer on the Spirit and the Scriptures

Berkouwer emphasizes the present activity of the Spirit in pointing men to Christ through the words of the Bible - "Scripture is the Word of God because the Holy Spirit witnesses in it of Christ” (Holy Scripture, p. 162, emphasis mine); “the purpose of the God-breathed Scripture is … to witness of the salvation of God unto faith” (p. 180); “the unmistakable aim of Scripture is the knowledge of faith, which … is life eternal” ( p. 180). He insists that this understanding of the relation between the Spirit and “Scripture opens up a perspective that is not locked in the past” (Holy Scripture, p. 344). He emphasizes that “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.” (Berkouwer, Holy Scripture, p. 166). 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). In his doctoral dissertation, written under Berkouwer's supervision, J. C. VanderStelt gave a helpful summary of this understanding of the relationship between the Spirit and the Scriptures: “Scripture does not work rationally apart from the Spirit, and neither does the Spirit work mystically apart from the Scriptures.” (Philosophy and Scripture, p. 331).

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