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Back to Basics: Rediscovering the Richness of the Reformed Faith Paperback – January 1, 1996
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"An excellent, concise presentation of the essence of Reformed faith. . . . a much needed wake-up call to the church." --R. C. Sproul
"Newcomers to Reformed thinking will be introduced to the wonderful majesty and unity of the great doctrines of the faith. Long-time members . . . will be able to fill in gaps in their understanding." --Marvin Olasky
". . . to the point . . . useful and intriguing . . . well suited to reach out to people in our age." --James Montgomery Boice</>b
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The book is divided into four sections, each written by a different author:
Doug Wilson contributes the chapters on salvation. He very able covers justification and predestination. Doug Jones contributes the section on covenantal theology. Covenant theology is the true heart of the Reformed viewpoint. These few chapters ably lay out the scriptural basis for it and explore the implications of it. A third section concerns the church, including its nature, the sacraments, and church discipline. This is the weakest section of the book, but still adequate for the overall purpose. Particularly, one wishes that more time would have been spent on the nature of worship and on the place of the sacraments in the corporate life of the church. Finally, Hagopian himself handles the section on the Christian life, which is mostly a theology of sanctification. This is perhaps the most immediately practical of the sections.
Each chapter ends with a dozen or so review questions. We are considering using this book in a Sunday school class, so that is a very definite plus. Any criticism that could be leveled against the book would be on the basis that it could have treated a subject more thoroughly, but doing so would have necessitated expanding the book beyond its purpose.
A risk with any work that has multiple authors, and this one has four sections, with a different author in each, is that the writing will be uneven and that thoughts developed in one part of the book will be dropped totally later on. As such, even in good books, with well written ideas, stand alone chapters are better remembered than others.
In this book, the chapters on sanctification, or how the Christian grows in his faith and what that means for his vocation and all areas of life; and the section on the covenant nature dealings between God and his people are nicely done. The sections dealing with the doctrine of God and the role of the church do read dryly at times.
The general reader, who is interested in a high view of a personal yet universal God of the Bible and who is looking for a clear, succint teaching on justification and how that applies to the whole life of the individual will find this work useful. Unfortunately, there has much contention historically, and even in recent years among different parties in the Protestant world, between the covenant and dispensational or even more recently towards things like open theism. Some of these arguments have been needlessly distracting from the heart of the gospel. What the authors of Back to Basics have done, is to write a genearlly lucid explanation for how Reformed theology flows into every other area of the Christian life, and to do that in a way that is not argumentative or contentious. And for that, the reader should be grateful, and should find the book a fine complement to their personal study.