Concise Reformed Dogmatics, J. Van Genderen and W.H. Velema (translated by Gerrit Bilkes and Ed M. Van der Maas), Phillipsburg: P & R, 2008. Hardcover, 922 pages, $59.99.
This volume was first published in Dutch in 1992 as Beknopte Gereformeerde Dogmatiek. In terms of adoption as a textbook for Reformed systematic theology training, it became the Dutch equivalent of Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology. Consequently, it seemed a good idea for the John Calvin Foundation to make efforts for the publication of a translation. Perhaps a translation would even supplant Berkhof in the English-speaking world as a standard text.
Concise Reformed Dogmatics (CRD) was authored by two men who served as professors at the Theological University of the Christian Reformed Churches (CGK — Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerken) in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. The equivalent of the CGK in North America are the Free Reformed Churches. J. van Genderen passed away in 2004 and so was not able to contribute to the publication of the English translation. His colleague W.H. Velema, however, did participate – even though he originally authored only chapters 8, 9, and 12.
As far as the translation goes, the John Calvin Foundation found itself in the unusual position of having two complete English translations, one by Gerrit Bilkes and the other by Ed van der Maas. A team of editors merged the two translations and the resulting work was published in its present format by P & R. Unfortunately, as we will see, the end product leaves much to be desired in many formal respects.
With regards to content, confessionally Reformed readers of CRD will find much with which to be pleased, stimulated, and challenged. The book reflects a serious commitment to the authority of Scripture and to the derivative authority of the Reformed confessions. Van Genderen and Velema endeavoured to build on the foundations laid by John Calvin and Herman Bavinck. They clearly state that their goal was to write a Reformed systematics. Furthermore, they indicate that for them “Reformed” means “confessionally Reformed which implies that we hold that the Reformed confession must be allowed to speak for itself” (xi). That approach (and its successful execution) deserves applause.