Berkouwer and Catholicism

Disputed Questions


Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer (1903-1996) was a great master of dogmatic and ecumenical theology. He was a Reformed Protestant thinker, with roots in Dutch neo-Calvinism, a holder of the Chair in Dogmatics (1945-1974) at the Free University, Amsterdam, a position previously held by his two illustrious neo-Calvinist predecessors, Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) and Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). Echeverria provides a much needed in-depth analysis and critique of his theology, particularly his evolving relationship with Catholicism in light of Vatican II. His contention is that Berkouwer’s careful and nuanced examination of Catholic theology—as well as possible responses to his critiques—offers important clues for the contemporary ecumenical project.

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Eduardo J. Echeverria, Ph.D. (1981), Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, is Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, USA. He has published, most recently, "In the Beginning. . ." A Theology of the Body (Pickwick Publications, 2011).
"With ecumenical dialog between Catholics and evangelical Protestants at what may be an all time high, the forgotten legacy of Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer has never been more relevant. Few modern Protestants dealt as carefully, fully, or sympathetically with twentieth-century Catholicism as did Berkouwer. Eduardo Echeverria's meticulous study admirably brings Berkouwer's work to a contemporary audience." – Dr. Peter Leithart, Senior Fellow of Theology, New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho
"This is an ecumenically sensitive and historically contextualized study of G. C. Berkouwer, the most important Reformed theologian of the twentieth century next to Karl Barth. Eduardo Echeverria offers here a fresh Catholic engagement with the great Dutch theologian who was at once a deeply committed confessional Protestant and a hopeful interlocutor with the Catholic Church." – Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture
"This fascinating book [is] not just a book in historical theology, but in systematic theology and in practical theology as well, and Echeverria manages to discuss all three aspects without becoming diffuse or complicated." – Herman Selderhuis, in: Theologische Literaturzeitung 139 (2014) 5
"Echeverria’s substantial tome is an impressive work. [...] The volume can be recommended for those interested in Berkouwer and in Reformed – Roman Catholic dialogue. For the more general student of systematic theology, Echeverria’s work is a good case study in theological dialogue that invites emulation in analogous projects on other theologians and traditions." – Peter-Ben Smit, in: Ecclesiology

Acknowledgements ... ix
Foreword ... xi

Introduction ... 1

1. The Renewed Church and the Nouvelle Théologie ... 20
Essential and Accidental Protestantism
Hermeneutical Principle
Ressourcement and Aggiornamento
Revelation and Truth: Different Expressions of the Same Truth
Hierarchy of Truths

2. Revelation, Faith, and the Knowledge of God ... 110
General Revelation, Natural Theology, and Special Revelation
Unity and Distinctness of God’s Revelation
Berkouwer’s Reformed Objections to Natural Theology

3. On the Dynamics of Faith and Reason: The Differentiated Unity of Nature and Grace ... 187
What does General Revelation mean for acquiring a Natural Knowledge of God?
Is Natural Theology implied in an acceptance of General Revelation?
What can man’s reason, if anything, truly know of God after the Fall?
Nature and Grace, Structure and Direction
After Vatican II: Did Berkouwer change his mind about the relation between faith and reason as well as Natural Theology?

4. Scripture and Tradition in Relation to Revelation and to the Church ... 273
An Introductory Orientation
Focus of this Chapter and the Next
Before, During and After the second Vatican Council
Implications for the Principle of Sola Scriptura

5. Scripture, Tradition and Theological Authority ... 319
Objection I: Reply
Objection II: Reply
Objection III: reply
Objection IV: Reply

6. The Development of Dogma ... 394
Berkouwer on Dogmatic Development
What is the Nature of Dogmatic Development?
Truth and Noetic Progress
Truth and the Inadequacy of its Formulations
Faithfulness to the Gospel
What are the Issues at stake in Dogmatic Development?
Theological Epistemology
In what sense is faith a way of knowing divine reality?
Marian Dogma
A Minimalist Reply to Berkouwer’s Objections

The Significance of Berkouwer for the Adventure of Ecumenicity ... 472

Bibliography ... 489
Index ... 503
All interested in Berkouwer’s fresh, constructive and critical evaluation of Vatican II and of the classical issues that have divided the Catholic Church and the Reformed tradition.
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