Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 22:2 (May 1960)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

G. C. Berkouwer: Faith and Perseverance (Studies in Dogmatics). Translated by Robert D. Knudsen, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1958. 256. $4.00.

The translation of another of the “Studies in Dogmatics” now makes Berkouwer’s trilogy on soteriology available in English. The subject of Faith and Perseverance is “so directly and unmistakably tied in” with Faith and Justification and Faith and Sanctification that Berkouwer states “we cannot believe for a moment that we are approaching a totally new subject” (p. 9). While the Reformers were in fundamental agreement on justification by faith, there came to be a significant difference between the Lutherans and the Reformed on the question of the perseverance of the saints. The underlying motif of this volume is to indicate the basic misunderstanding of the Lutherans and to reaffirm the genuinely biblical perspectives of the Reformed doctrine. The heart of Berkouwer’s argument is that “the perseverance of the saints is not primarily a theoretical problem but a confession of faith….According to the deepest intention of the Church, the doctrine…is a song of praise to God’s faithfulness and grace” (p. 14).

The brief opening chapter speaks of the “timeliness and relevance” of this subject. The central problem of perseverance concerns the question of “continuity”, and this question “has again become prominent especially through the dialectical theology [which] puts great emphasis on the activistic character of faith” (p. 12). The remainder of the work falls into two main parts: two chapters presenting a creedal and an historical survey (pp. 9–80), and five chapters presenting a biblical analysis of the problems of admonition, prayer, temptation, consolation and the reality of perseverance (pp. 83–239).

In the brief survey of the Reformed Creeds, Berkouwer is mainly concerned to show that the Lutheran understanding of the Reformed view, especially as set forth by Schneckenburger, is really a caricature. The Heidelberg Catechism is shown to have “nothing to do with a theoretical, tensionless, and lifeless construction” of perseverance (p. 23). Its entire

context may be called “‘soteriological-Biblical’“ for “it is the stability of God’s faithfulness in Christ Jesus, of whom faith speaks here without ceasing” (p. 22). Although the Belgic Confession is admittedly different in its design, Berkouwer demonstrates over against the contention of the Lutheran KÖberle, that it is in “complete agreement” with the Catechism and the entire “soteriological perspective” of the Reformation (p. 25). Nor is there any deviation from this view ...

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