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What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics Paperback – June 1, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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From the Back Cover

What do the five points of Calvinism really mean?

There are a lot of misconceptions in popular culture and the church regarding Reformed theology. Some references to it are positive, some negative. It's time for a full, understandable explanation of what it really is and why it matters.

What Is Reformed Theology? is an accessible introduction to a set of beliefs and concepts that have been immensely influential in the evangelical church. In this insightful book, R. C. Sproul walks you through the foundations of the Reformed doctrine and explains how the Reformed belief is centered on God, based on God's Word, and committed to faith in Jesus Christ. Sproul explains the five points of Reformed theology and makes plain the reality of God's amazing grace.


R. C. Sproul has served the church as a seminary professor, pastor, and author of more than ninety books. He is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, and his teaching can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which broadcasts daily on more than three hundred radio outlets in the United States and in more than fifty countries.

About the Author

R. C. Sproul has served the church as a seminary professor, pastor, and author of more than ninety books. He is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, and his teaching can be heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which broadcasts daily on more than three hundred radio outlets in the United States and in more than fifty countries.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801065593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801065590
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger N. Overton on July 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Growing up in a Baptist church, I knew very little about Reformed theology. When I started attending a "Reformed" church my only concern was how dogmatically they might teach Calvinism- which in my mind had something to do with TULIP and God forcing people to believe in Him. I have no doubt that many others have seen Reformed theology in a similar light. In What is Reformed Theology? Dr. R.C. Sproul attempts to distill the doctrines of the reformers into a simple and accessible format, and correct many of the misunderstandings many of us have had of it.

Dr. Sproul begins in the introduction affirming that what is being discussed is not a Reformed religion, but more appropriately Reformed theology. It is "not merely a religion without theology. It is driven first and foremost by its understanding of the character of God." (20)

The book is divided into two parts. The first consists of five chapters on the foundations of Reformed theology- 1) Centered on God 2) Based on God's Word Alone 3) Committed to Faith Alone 4) Devoted to Prophet, Priest, and King 5) Nicknamed Covenant Theology.

Part two is Dr. Sproul's explanation of what is commonly known as TULIP- 6) Humanity's Radical Corruption 7) God's Sovereign Choice 8) Christ's Purposeful Atonement 9) The Spirit's Effective Call 10) God's Preservation of the Saints.

Throughout the book Dr. Sproul draws Reformed theology up against Roman Catholicism and Pelagius, periodically against Dispensationalism, and at a couple of points against Lutheranism. This is often helpful in order to more fully understand the Reformed position, but I suspect at some points the opposing views are short changed and dismissed without a fair hearing.

This is not a book defending Reformed theology.
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Format: Paperback
Most Christians have heard of Reformed theology. Most think they have a good handle on it. But experience has shown me that few really know it as well as they think they do. And that goes for people who claim to be Reformed as much as those who do not. This cannot be said of R.C. Sproul. Not only does Sproul have an amazingly broad but detailed grasp of Reformed theology, but he has also been gifted with the ability to explain complex theology in a way that is both interesting and understandable. That is no common gift.

What Is Reformed Theology?, which was formerly published under the more obscure title Grace Unknown, is Sproul's attempt to help others understand the basics of Reformed theology. Surprisingly, only fifty percent of the book is dedicated to a discussion of the Five Points. The first half provides the foundations for Reformed theology which so many similar books have overlooked. Without first understanding the foundations, the reader will have a much more difficult time understanding the Five Points. And so Sproul begins by discussing God's sovereignty; the importance of Scripture as the only infallible rule for our faith; faith alone; Christ's threefold office of Prophet, Priest and King; and Covenant Theology. Each of these is explained in detail, yet with sufficient precision that they are simple enough to understand.

The second half of the book is an examination of the Five Points of Calvinism: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverence of the Saints. Like many other theologians, Sproul has come to see that this acrostic, while helpful, does as much to obscure the points as it does to clarify them.
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As a student of Scripture that disagrees slightly with Calvin, but is in ministry with some Reformed people, I picked up this book in hopes of understanding Reformed theology. Dr. Sproul's book does a superb job of this.

The book is designed to center around the central themes in Reformed theology. He begins with what Reformed theology is not, and gives a short description of how Reformed theology came to be. He does not use the standard terms in his descriptions, like the 5 Solas or the 5 points of Calvin, aka TULIP. Basically, Sproul uses the evidence he proposes to work into these terms instead. He discusses how Reformed theology relates to other Christian theologies, namely Catholicism and Lutheranism. In my ministry, I have been in contact with some from the Reformed theology that puts their beliefs in pretty harsh language when comparing it to others' theology. Sproul makes his case without this harsh language, which I thought refreshing.

His discussion is scholarly without being too much for lay-people to understand. He discusses the history and controversies throughout, and many early and current theologians. He does not ignore the arguments used against ideas such as perseverance of the saints, and gives the opposition a fair shake.

This is a superbly written and thorough introduction to Reformed theology. He does not go to tradition or teachings of others first and then go to Scripture as some do in their defense of Reformed theology. And, he follows the Christian precept given in 2 Tim 4:2 telling us to carefully instruct by speaking in less harsh tones. Overall, this is a perfect book to learn about Reformed theology's teachings.
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