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Get the Big Picture of Reformed Theology
on July 12, 2005
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. Anyone who reads this hoping that it is will be rather disappointed. It is more accurately a description of Reformed theology. The Westminster Confession and Reformed thinkers are cited almost as much, if not as much, as the Bible. Many points of Reformed theology that are described are not argued for, though he does take up arguments for and/or against a few doctrines.
As a descriptive work it's fairly well done. However, I'm afraid there is a limited audience who will appreciate this book. Those educated and trained in theology will likely find the book simplistic. Those who aren't may find it hard to follow. Dr. Sproul goes into some great explanations of terms like justification, but in the process he uses other terms that he doesn't even bother to define. There is a glossary, however it only contains foreign (Latin and Greek) words that he uses. A more substantive glossary would have been very helpful for this book.
For me, and I suspect others from similar backgrounds, What is Reformed Theology? is helpful in bringing to bear the big picture of Reformed theology, as well as the history of the doctrines. R.C. Sproul is enjoyable and informative, as he usually is. I recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand Reformed theology, though, they will likely need to look elsewhere to be persuaded of it if they're not already.