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G C Berkouwer and Apologetics

Berkouwer, Gerrit C. (1903-1996)
Throughout his lengthy career as Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, he sought to understand the gospel more deeply. Best known for his multi-volumed Studies in Dogmatics, his chief work was in dogmatics rather than apologetics. His writings contain valuable insights relating to the work of apologetics. From his Studies in Dogmatics, there are two important discussions - 'Apostolicity and Truth' in The Church and 'Faith and Criticism' in Holy Scripture. Also of considerable interest are two chapters in A Half Century of Theology - ' The Era of Apologetics' and 'Faith and Reasonableness'. Distinguishing between an authentic authority and an unwarranted authoritarianism, he affirmed the essential reasonableness of the gospel. The call to faith in Christ is not a call for blind obedience. Believing in Christ does not require a sacrifice of the intellect. He also affirmed the spiritual character of the gospel, distancing himself from the kind of apologetics which tends to place undue emphasis on the capacity of human reason to bring people to faith in Christ. He rejected the idea of faith as a sacrifice of the intellect without ever suggesting that faith is no more than an act of unaided human reason. Recognizing the value of apologetics without attaching an exaggerated importance to it, he emphasized the need for both humility and courage in the defence of the Christian faith. In humility, apologetics must take care to avoid an unattractively militant approach. Resisting the temptation to trim the content of its message in search of relevance, apologetics should, with courage, affirm the gospel's irreducible content. Emphasizing the gospel's own inherent apologetic significance, he was critical of the kind of apologetics which shows little interest in those elements of Christian faith adjudged to be less apologetically relevant.
Bibliography
G. C. Berkouwer, A Half Century of Theology (Grand Rapids, 1977), pp. 25-38, 144-178; Holy Scripture, (Grand Rapids, 1975), pp.346-366; The Church, (Grand Rapids, 1976), pp.232-256
C. M. Cameron, The Problem of Polarization: An Approach based on the Writings of G. C. Berkouwer, (Lewiston, Queenston and Lampeter, 1992), pp. 247-284

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I wrote this article for the "New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics."
New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics

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