This simple observation, from the opening paragraph of Louis Berkhof’s Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology, has always struck me as profoundly right:
God certainly sees the truth as a whole, and it is the duty of the theologian to think the truths of God after Him. There should be a constant endeavor to see the truth as God sees it, even though it is perfectly evident that the ideal is beyond the grasp of man in his present condition.
—Louis Berkhof, Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology [orig., 1932], in Systematic Theology: New Combined Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 15.
I’ve read every word of Berkhof’s ST, and lately I’ve been rereading portions of it. In many ways it’s a distillation of Herman Bavinck’s magisterial work, which at the time had not been fully translated into English. So it’s not surprising to find similar sentiments in Bavinck’s prolegomena:
The imperative task of the dogmatician is to think God’s thoughts after him and to trace their unity. His work is not finished until he has mentally absorbed this unity and set it forth in a dogmatics.
Accordingly, he does not come to God’s revelation with a ready-made system in order, as best he can, to force its content into it.
On the contrary, even in his system a theologian’s sole responsibility is to think God’s thoughts after him and to reproduce the unity that is objectively present in the thoughts of God and has been recorded for the eye of faith in Scripture.
—Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), p. 44.