I do not come from a Reformed Church background. Over the first 25 years of my life, I attended three typically evangelical churches and over the past two years, I have been the pastor of a non-denomination church. I am grateful for this background and wouldn’t have it any other way. However, a couple years ago, through his radio ministry, I discovered the teachings of R.C. Sproul. This name was not new to me, but I was not overly familiar with his ministry. The more I listened to Dr. Sproul, the more I had an appetite for his teachings. Over time, God provided a way for me to attend the 2009 Ligonier National Conference in Florida (Ligonier is Dr. Sproul’s ministry) and I was deeply impacted by that conference. Ever since then, I have sought to gain more of an understanding of the teachings of Reformed Theology. For all you other inquirers out there, the best place to start would have to be John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” While I have read the abridged version and have the full version (over 1000 pages!) of the “Institutes” in my library, I realize that for some this might be an intimidating place to start. If that describes you, my advice for you would be to get Daniel R. Hyde’s book “Welcome to a Reformed Church.” It is very readable and is a fantastic introduction to the Reformed movement.
Hyde starts off by giving a little history lesson on the Reformed Church, which is always a necessary starting place for this kind of book. In chapter 2, Hyde looks at the confessional element of Reformed Theology. He writes on page 34, “I wholeheartedly encourage you to read the Three Forms of Unity the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort—and the Westminster Standards—the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism—to find out for yourself what a Reformed church is all about in its breadth and depth.” This chapter proves to be very important because for the remainder of the book, he relies heavily on these historic confessions for their doctrinal content.
In chapter 3, Hyde describes the high view of Scripture that Reformed churches are known for and how that acts as a guide for everything in Reformed Churches. Chapter 4 looks at the theme of “covenant,” which is also central to Reformed theology. Sometimes “covenant theology” and “reformed theology” are even used interchangeably. I particularly liked chapters 5 and 6 which cover justification and sanctification. How John Calvin and the tradition that followed him have dealt with these has to be one of the greatest strengths of Reformed Theology.
Finally, chapters 7,8,9 deal with the practical out-workings of the Reformed doctrinal system. I found chapter 7 to be very helpful as it dealt with the distinguishing marks of the church: 1.The pure preaching of the Gospel, 2. The pure administration of the sacraments, 3. The exercise of church discipline. A Reformed ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) is desperately needed in our churches because there is so much confusion today concerning what the church should be and do. Chapter 8 and 9 cover worship, preaching and sacraments.
In the final analysis, I found this book to be very helpful and would highly recommend it. While I can’t say that I agree with everything in the Reformed movement – infant baptism being one such example – I am grateful to God for this incredibly rich tradition and how He is mightily using men like R.C. Sproul for his glory.
Book Review for Reformation Trust