Louis Berkhof (October 14, 1873 – May 18, 1957) was an American-Dutch Reformed theologian whose works on systematic theology have been influential in seminaries and Bible colleges in the United States, Canada, Korea and with individual Christians in general throughout the 20th century.
Berkhof was born in 1873 in Emmen in the Netherlands and moved in 1882 with his family to Grand Rapids (Michigan). About the time he graduated from the seminary he married Reka Dijkhuis. They had four children before her death in 1928. He then married Dena Heyns-Joldersma who had two daughters.
Education and career
In 1900, he graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids after which he was appointed pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church in Allendale Charter Township, Michigan. Two years later he attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he earned his B.D. in two years. He returned to Grand Rapids to pastor Oakdale Park Church. In 1906, he joined the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary and taught there for almost four decades. For the first 20 years he taught Biblical Studies until in 1926 he moved into the systematic theology department. He became president of the seminary in 1931 and continued in that office until he retired in 1944.
Berkhof wrote twenty-two books during his career. His main works are his Systematic Theology (1932, revised 1938) which was supplemented with an Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology (1932, which is included in the 1996 Eerdman's edition of Systematic Theology) and a separate volume entitled History of Christian Doctrines (1937). He wrote a more concise version of his Systematic Theology for high school and college students entitled Manual of Christian Doctrine, and later wrote the even more concise Summary of Christian Doctrine. He also delivered Princeton Theological Seminary's Stone Lectures in 1951. These were published as The Kingdom of God. In addition to this, he worked on many papers for the Christian Reformed Church as well as collections of sermons.
Berkhof was not known for being original or speculative but for being very good at organizing and explaining basic theological ideas following in the tradition of John Calvin, Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck. Theologian Wayne Grudem has called Berkhof's Systematic Theology "a great treasure-house of information and analysis [...] probably the most useful one-volume systematic theology available from any theological perspective." Berkhof's writings continue to serve as systematic presentations of Reformed theology. They are organized for use in seminaries and religious education as well as individual reference, though his systematics works are demanding reads.
- Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994, pg. 1225
- L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology[permanent dead link]
- L. Berkhof, Summary of Christian Doctrine (This is a complete, free e-book edition.)
- L. Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine (This is a complete, free e-book edition.)
- `Louis Berkhof´, op website http://www.calvin.edu
- G. Kirkland (2009), Louis Berkhof: an Ardent Apologist, a Passionate Pastor, and a Scrupulous Scholar (pdf), website http://vassaloftheking.com
- F. Klooster, `Louis Berkhof´ (pdf), in: W. Elwell (1993), Handbook of Evangelical Theologicans, pp. 254–294, website: https://web.archive.org/web/20140220061509/http://www.davidcox.com.mx/
- H. Zwaanstra, `Louis Berkhof´, in: D. Wells (1985), Reformed Theology in America. A History of its Modern Development, pp. 153–71, website https://books.google.com/