For decades, Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology has remained one of the most important and widely-used systematic theologies. It provides the clearest and most succinct articulation of Reformed theology. From its first publication in 1932, Berkhof’s work was revised, reprinted, and translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese, and it had become a standard theological text by 1950. It has gained near-universal use in seminaries and Bible colleges across the world, and is widely cited and used by pastors, theologians, and students of nearly all denominational affiliations.
Although many of Berkhof’s ideas are not original—he wrote squarely within the Reformed tradition of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck—they are succinct, clear, and well-organized.
Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology was first published by Eerdmans in 1932 as a three-volume set: an introductory volume, plus two volumes entitled Reformed Dogmatics. Much of the material in these volumes was transcribed from his lectures at Calvin Theology Seminary between 1926 and 1928. In 1938, Berkhof revised the 2-volume Reformed Dogmatics, and it was published in smaller type by Eerdmans as a single volume entitled Systematic Theology. Berkhof’s Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology was published separately. For decades, both the Systematic Theology and its introductory volume have been reprinted as two-volume sets or combined one-volume editions.
“It is not Christ that leads us to the Church, but the Church that leads us to Christ” (Page 553)
“For us the existence of God is the great presupposition of theology. There is no sense in speaking of the knowledge of God, unless it may be assumed that God exists. The presupposition of Christian theology is of a very definite type. The assumption is not merely that there is something, some idea or ideal, some power or purposeful tendency, to which the name of God may be applied, but that there is a self-existent, self-conscious, personal Being, which is the origin of all things, and which transcends the entire creation, but is at the same time immanent in every part of it.” (Pages 20–21)
“The only proper way to obtain perfectly reliable knowledge of the divine attributes is by the study of God’s self-revelation in Scripture.” (Page 54)
“There are good reasons for starting with the doctrine of God, if we proceed on the assumption that theology is the systematized knowledge of God, of whom, through whom, and unto whom, are all things.” (Page 19)
“The world everywhere reveals intelligence, order, harmony, and purpose, and thus implies the existence of an intelligent and purposeful being, adequate to the production of such a world.” (Page 26)
There are a number of systematic textbooks that have appeared since Louis Berkhof wrote, but nobody, it seems to me, matches Berkhof for his skill in saying much, very straightforwardly in a small space. He goes to the heart of every truth. He says it quickly…what Berkhof gives you is constantly, point after point, good stuff.
— J.I. Packer
Abel C. Pol
Robert A. Lotzer