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The History of Christian Doctrines (Berkhof)

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The study of doctrinal truth, apart from its historical background, leads to a truncated theology. There has been too much of this in the past, and there is a great deal of it even in the present day. The result has been the lack of a sound understanding and a proper evaluation of the truth. There was no appreciation of the fact that the Holy Spirit guided the Church in the interpretation and development of the truth as it is revealed in the Word of God. The checks and the road-signs of the past were not taken into consideration, and ancient heresies, long since condemned by the Church, are constantly repeated and represented as new discoveries.

The lessons of the past are greatly neglected, and many seem to feel that they should strike out entirely on their own, as if very little had been accomplished in the past. Surely, a theologian must take account of the present situation in the religious world, and ever study the truth anew, but he cannot neglect the lessons of the past with impunity. May this brief study of the history of doctrines serve to create a greater interest in such historical study, and lead to a better understanding of the truth.

Table of Contents:


1. The Subject-Matter of the History of Dogma

2. The Task of the History of Dogma

3. Method and Divisions of the History of Dogma

4. History of the History of Dogma

Preparatory Doctrinal Development

1. The Apostolic Fathers and Their Doctrinal Views

2. Perversions of the Gospel

3. Reform Movements in the Church

4. The Apologists and the Beginnings of the Church’s Theology

5. The Anti-Gnostic Fathers

6. The Alexandrian Fathers

7. Monarchianism

The Doctrine of the Trinity

1. The Trinitarian Controversy

2. The Doctrine of the Trinity in later Theology

The Doctrine of Christ

1. The Christological Controversies

2. Later Christological Discussions

The Doctrine of Sin and Grace and Related Doctrines

1. The Anthropology of the Patristic Period

2. The Pelagian and Augustinian Doctrines of Sin and Grace

3. The Anthropology of the Middle Ages

4. The Anthropology of the Period of the Reformation

5. Anthropological Views of Post-Reformation Times

The Doctrine of the Atonement or of the Work of Christ

1. The Doctrine of the Atonement Before Anselm

2. The Doctrine of the Atonement From Anselm to the Reformation

3. The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Period of the Reformation

4. The Doctrine of the Atonement After the Reformation

The Doctrine of the Application and Appropriation of Divine Grace

1. The Soteriology of the Patristic Period

2. The Soteriology of the Scholastic Period

3. Reformation and Post-Reformation Soteriology

The Doctrine of the Church and the Sacraments

1. The Doctrine of the Church

2. The Doctrine of the Sacraments

The Doctrine of the Last Things

1. The Intermediate State

2. The Second Advent and the Millennial Hope

3. The Resurrection

4. The Last Judgment and Final Awards 


"This work is a truly great one and it promises to retain for a long time its place among the most valuable books in theology. It is especially serviceable as a handbook on the special subject dealt with. As might be expected from a man holding so high a position in the theological world as to be in line with such princely theologians as Charles Hodge and Benjamin Warfield, the book is ably executed, and forms a worthy companion to those by the same author, which preceded it. It makes a fitting completion of the set on Dogmatics. The matter is so well arranged and marked, that as a textbook, and for convenience of reference by the ordinary reader, it is ideal in construction. Attached to each section also is a number of questions as aids to further study. A list of books on each subject is also given. These add very considerable to the value of this volume." - The Evangelical Quarterly.


Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) was a Reformed systematic theologian whose written works have been influential in seminaries and Bible colleges in the United States and Canada and with individual Christians in general throughout the 20th century.