About the Author
Berkhof's loyalty to the well-defined lines of the Reformed Faith, his concise and compact style, and his up-to-date treatment have made this work the most important twentieth century compendium of Reformed Theology. "The work seemed particularly important to me", writes the author, "in view of the widespread doctrinal indifference of the present day, of the resulting superficiality and confusion in the minds of many professing Christians, of the insidious errors that are zealously propagated even from the pulpits, and of the alarming increase of all kinds of sects. If there ever was a time when the Church ought to guard her precious heritage, the deposit of the truth that was entrusted to her care, that time is now".
Professor Berkhof, who was the President of Calvin Seminary and professor of Systematic Theology at the same in the first half of the twentieth century, has given us an excellent compendium of Reformed theological thought in this hefty volume. The subject is treated in the classical style, moving through the Doctrines of God, Man in Relation to God, the Person and Work of Christ, the Application of the Work of Redemption, the Church and the Means of Grace, and the Last Things.
His treatment of the Doctrine of God covers a lot of territory, but leaves something to be desired in covering the Attributes of God. His chapter on the Trinity, however, is most helpful.
He is decidedly Calvinistic in his approach to soteriology, giving an excellent treatment of the classical Reformed view of the "doctrines of grace." His chapters on the Atonement are among the best in Reformed theology; and his chapters on the respective parts of the Application of Redemption (regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, etc.) are helpful.
His doctrine of the Church is Presbyterian to the last, which is a demerit to the book, in my judgment. The final section on Last Things gives a helpful overview of futurist eschatalogy, with Berkhof rejecting premillenialism. His critique of Dispensationalism is helpful (and scathing!).
The strength of the book is its clear coverage of the Reformed position. At times it is too brief, especially when dealing with divergent views of the various subjects - but that is almost necessary in a book like this.
The greatest fault of the book is the author's lack of actual exegesis of texts. Most of his theology is sound, but his exegetical defense of it is not as clear as one could desire. Too often the passages are only referenced in brackets with little or no quotation. Hence, one could easily read this book and become a Reformed theologian without knowing how to use the Bible to substantiate his or her beliefs.
That notwithstanding, this is a book to be read and studied by pastors and theologians. It is not the only book on theology to be digested, but it is a key one.