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History of Christian Doctrines Hardcover – December 1, 1996

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Banner of Truth; Revised edition (December 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0851510051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0851510057
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sam Adams on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The copyright on this book is 1939. On the title page we are told: "This volume is a companion volume to the author's "Systematic Theology" and contains the historical material to be used with that work." In a preface dated 1949, Berkhof says that this book was the "Historical Volume of what was originally called "Reformed Dogmatics"." So it sounds like "Reformed Dogmatics" was repackaged into the two books "The History of Christian Doctrines" and "Systematic Theology".

The book under review is a synopsis of the positions held by "Christian" intellectuals on topics foundational to Christianity, i.e. dogma. It is as much an overview of the unorthodox as the orthodox.

"The task of the History of Dogma is, briefly stated, to describe the historical origin of the dogma of the Church and to trace its subsequent changes and developments; or, in the words of Seeberg [Textbook of the History of Doctrines, Philadelphia, 1905, 2 vols., tr. Charles E. Hay], 'to show how the Dogma as a whole and the separate dogmas have arisen and through what course of development they have been brought to the form and interpretation prevailing in the churches of any given period'." (20)

In the Prolegomena, Berkhof distinguishes between dogma and doctrine. "A doctrine is often the direct, naive, expression of a religious truth. It is not necessarily formulated with scientific precision and when it is, may be merely the formulation of a single person. A religious dogma, on the other hand, is a religious truth based on authority and officially formulated by some ecclesiastical assembly." (16) Dogmas, in this sense, are not found in Scripture.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By spence3338 on January 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It must be mentioned at the onset what the scope of this work appears to be, and that is to provide an brief and succinct overview of the major topics in theology through the history of the church, and in my estimation, this work succeeds in reaching this goal. It is apparent that the author is well studied and read in history and theology, and with this foundation he goes on to provide a very limited but clear distillation of all consulted sources. This is invaluable for the student who just wants a survey with clear and solid statements on theological positions as they have developed in the history of the church. The work is limited, because of its scope, therefore the theological views that developed during certain time periods through certain proponents are presented in a very summary fashion, but again with very clear historical and theological summary statements.

The weaknesses of this book are related to the scope, and with this understood do not incline me to rate it lower than five stars. The work is clearly limited in scope, not going into a great depth of detail describing theological positions, the lives of historical proponents, or the general historical setting of the varying time periods; but again, this is not necessarily the intention of the work.

The positive is that the book is a very helpful survey/introduction to historical theology, and is a nice launching pad to start interacting with other historical/theological works. This book is like historical theology cliff notes and can be referred to when other works on historical theology/theology written by primary proponents in the past do not make sense.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gary H. Graff on March 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Why is it that whoever placed this book on Amazon does not think that a detailed description is necessary? They may not, but I do, so here goes. This book covers the development of some of the doctrines of the ancient church and almost none of the present day doctrinal questions. The periods it covers is: Apostolic Fathers (as Jewish and Gnostic perversions); Reformed; Apologists; Anti-Gnostic Fathers; Alexandrian Fathers; Monarchianism. It also covers the doctrine of the Trinity, of Christ, of sin and grace, the atonement, divine grace, the church and the sacraments. It does cover "The doctrine of the last things" but only in a very limited way: the intermediate state; the second advent and the Millennial hope; the resurrection; the last judgment and final awards. It does not cover such things as the question of the post or pre-tribulation rapture or other similar or modern concerns. All that it does cover, it covers briefly, a few pages per question, and does not go into deeper (or boring) detail. This book is supposed to be a companion to the writer's Systemic Theology and is supposed to give the historical background for the subjects covered in that book. I suppose that when viewed for that purpose, it is a good book. Just don't expect too much from it. It is about 7/8 thick (hardback book). It does not compare with the wide volumes I have found at the seminary libraries. That's where you need to go if you want detail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gaboora on March 28, 2015
Format: Hardcover
A whole section of this history is devoted to the History of the History of Dogma. This is a generous way of introducing the reader to the subject matter that the author is about to take up, especially since one could be led by this charitable gesture to bail out, and jump into, instead, one of the many attractive histories advertised there. But Berkhof’s contribution is a perfect place to start: something to lead into rather than exchange, or something to keep as an introduction to a more thorough handling of the same. Though prior acquaintance with theological terms, if not a theological dictionary, may be necessary, this light production is an easy entry point into the history of doctrines. It can be no simple task to maintain historical flow in a subject about which so many lines of thought must be brought from start to finish each in turn. Because Berkhof manages to invest a sense of continuity against formidable odds, the reader not so used to studying networks of dogma is less apt to get bogged down. But probably because there are few anecdotes, the content is dry enough. It took me two tries before I could stick with it.

The approach is declared to be subjective; that is, not so detached and merely objective as to be without judgment through the prism of the writer’s particular creed (p.28.) In spite of this declaration, this history feels quite disinterested. What Berkhof believes to be the correct position on a doctrine is usually presented in a subtle way. For instance, he might show one position over another by emphasizing how one of them falls short (p. 173.
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