Book Review: What is Reformed Theology? Understanding the Basics, by R. C. Sproul
Reformed theology seems to be making a comeback among prominent church leaders. At least, you see more pastors and writers claiming to be reformed. Since I had an inadequate understanding of Reformed theology, I welcomed the chance to read and review R. C. Sproul’s book, What is Reformed Theology: Understanding the Basics. The book was originally published in 1997 and was repacked and rereleased this year.
Sproul divides the book into two parts. In the first section, he lays out the five foundational principles of Reformed theology. In the second section, he explains the five points of Reformed theology. As he explains in the introduction, the book is not intended to be
a textbook on systematic theology, nor a detailed, exposition of each and every article of Reformation doctrine. It is, instead, a compendium, a shorthand introduction to the crystalized essence of Reformation theology.
The first foundational principle is that Reformed theology is centered on God. “Reformed theology is first and foremost theocentric rather than anthropocentric. That is, it is God-centered rather than man-centered.” Secondly, it is based on God’s Word alone. This is the “sola Scriptura” of the Reformation. Third, Reformed theology is committed to faith alone, the “sola fide” or justification by faith alone, of the Reformation. Fourth, Reformed theology is devoted to Jesus Christ as prophet, priest, and king. The final foundational principle of Reformed theology is that it is centered on three covenants. This is where it gets the nickname of Covenant Theology.
Part two covers the five points of Reformed theology, also known as the five points of Calvinism. (1) Total depravity—Humanity’s radical corruption; (2) Unconditional election—God’s sovereign choice; (3) Limited atonement—Christ’s purposeful atonement; (4) Irresistible grace—The Spirit’s effectual call; and (5) Perseverance of the saints—God’s preservation of the saints.
I found the book to be well written and easy to understand. While I appreciated the author’s presentation and learned much about Reformed theology, I wasn’t persuaded to change my own theological perspectives. I’m not convinced God and theology can fit nicely into a small package. I’m willing to live with the tension of seeing that Scripture teaches both God’s sovereign choice and man’s free will, and both a limited and unlimited atonement. While I understand Reformed theology better, I’m still dispensational in my understanding and leanings.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.