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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group (August 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801065593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801065590
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #230,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

What do the "five points" of Calvinism really mean?

Perhaps you've heard of Reformed theology, but you're not certain what it is. Some references to it have been positive, some negative. It appears to be important, and you'd like to know more about it. But you want a full, understandable explanation, not a simplistic one.

What Is Reformed Theology? is an accessible introduction to beliefs 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 explain 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 is the author of more than sixty books, the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, and a professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

About the Author

Dr. R.C. Sproul has served the church as a seminary professor, preacher, and author for more than forty years. He is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and can be heard teaching daily on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which broadcasts on more than 300 radio outlets in the United States and throughout 50 countries. Dr. Sproul has written more than 60 books and serves as Senior Minister of Preaching and Teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida.

[updated 7/31/06]

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Stark on May 20 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book several years ago under it's original name--Grace Unknown. This new title, I think, is a better one, as it is more specific to what the book is - an explanation of the basics of Reformed Theology. One of Sproul's gifts is making things that could be complicated easy enough for the ordinary person to understand, and that's what he accomplishes in this book.

The basics of reformed theology are laid out for us in two sections, five chapters each. The first section has four chapters that correspond to four of the five solas of Reformation Theology, plus a chapter that explains the Reformed view of the covenants. The second section's five chapters each explain one of what we commonly call "the five points of Calvinism."

I'd forgotten, over the years, anything about the first section of this book except for the chapter on the covenants. Perhaps this is because this part of the book was more unfocused than the last part, with bits and pieces that seemed just a little haphazard, and it wasn't always clear exactly how everything fit into the whole. If you want a short explanation of the covenants of Covenant Theology, however, the chapter Nicknamed Covenant Theology will serve you well.

The second section of What Is Reformed Theology? explains the five points of TULIP, but Sproul renames them with names that more accurately reflect the ideas behind the points. Total Depravity becomes Humanity's Radical Corruption, for instance. Sproul doesn't exhaustively defend each of these points, but that's not his purpose. His purpose is more to explain exactly what each point is, although he does explain some of the reasons for believing each of the points to be right and also gives defenses to some of the more common arguments made against the five points.
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This book is very concise and to the point with no sidetraks in it.I guaraty that you would learn much for this read[[ASIN:0801065593 What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 69 reviews
122 of 125 people found the following review helpful
Get the Big Picture of Reformed Theology July 12 2005
By Roger N. Overton - Published on Amazon.com
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. 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.
83 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Sproul at His Finest July 19 2005
By Tim Challies - Published on Amazon.com
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. Sproul prefers to speak of Radical Corruption, Sovereign Choice, Purposeful Atonement, Effective Calling and Preservation of the Saints. These terms do much to clarify common misunderstandings. For example, it is easy to assume from the term "Total Depravity" that Reformed Christians believe humans are exactly as evil and depraived as they could be - their depravity is total. Yet Reformed theology teaches that while humans are corrupt, and even radically corrupt, they are so in extent, not in degree. Depravity extends to every aspect of the person, but thanks to the grace of God the degree may be more or less.

I must note that as helpful as this book is, it is not one to give your unsaved friend. Sproul assumes knowledge of the Bible and of Christian theology. Even a young Christian may have a difficult time wrestling with some of the terms and concepts. It is ideal, though, for the Reformed believer who is seeking to clarify his beliefs or for the non-Reformed Christian who wants to understand what Reformed theology is all about.

Accessible, biblical and educational, this is one of the best books I have read on the subject, and it just so happens that I have read quite a few. Sproul has done Christianity a service by so clearly articulating the foundations and beliefs of Reformed theology. Needless to say, I give it my recommendation.
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Superb overview of Reformed theology May 18 2006
By David C. Leaumont - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Explaining Reformed Theology July 26 2005
By Rebecca Stark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I read this book several years ago under it's original name--Grace Unknown. This new title, I think, is a better one, as it is more specific to what the book is - an explanation of the basics of Reformed Theology. One of Sproul's gifts is making things that could be complicated easy enough for the ordinary person to understand, and that's what he accomplishes in this book.

The basics of reformed theology are laid out for us in two sections, five chapters each. The first section has four chapters that correspond to four of the five solas of Reformation Theology, plus a chapter that explains the Reformed view of the covenants. The second section's five chapters each explain one of what we commonly call "the five points of Calvinism."

I'd forgotten, over the years, anything about the first section of this book except for the chapter on the covenants. Perhaps this is because this part of the book was more unfocused than the last part, with bits and pieces that seemed just a little haphazard, and it wasn't always clear exactly how everything fit into the whole. If you want a short explanation of the covenants of Covenant Theology, however, the chapter Nicknamed Covenant Theology will serve you well.

The second section of What Is Reformed Theology? explains the five points of TULIP, but Sproul renames them with names that more accurately reflect the ideas behind the points. Total Depravity becomes Humanity's Radical Corruption, for instance. Sproul doesn't exhaustively defend each of these points, but that's not his purpose. His purpose is more to explain exactly what each point is, although he does explain some of the reasons for believing each of the points to be right and also gives defenses to some of the more common arguments made against the five points.

If you don't know much about Reformed Theology, What is Reformed Theology? would be a good primer for you. You may not agree with Reformed Theology after reading it, but you will have a better understanding of it. If you like to argue against Reformed Theology, and people on the other side keep telling you you're misrepresenting their viewpoint, you might want to read this book so you can focus your arguments on what those who hold to Reformed Theology really believe. And if you're Reformed, this book is a good review of the basics of your theology.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Easy to follow along and relevant to today's culture July 12 2005
By D. McHone - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
R.C. Sproul brings years of instructional experience into this book, explaining various aspects of Reformed theology in ways that are not rushed and yet include all of the information needed to have a firm grasp of Reformed theology. The book could be used as a primer for a seminary education, but does not come across as a dry and dusty tome. It is extremely well-balanced, explaining the why's as much as the what's of theology.

For example, when discussing the fundamental differences between Roman Catholic theology and the theology of the Reformation, Sproul goes to great lengths to make sure we understand what Rome did and did not teach and what teachings were and were not authorized by Rome. The differences highlighted in the book are actually quite subtle and are very well explained in this book.

Missing from the Roman Catholic formula for justification is the crucial word alone. It is not an exaggeration to say that the eye of the Reformation tornado was this one little word.

-Page 66.

As the five solas are examined, the word "by" is also highlighted as an essential element. I have centered my attention on the main words such as "Fide" or "Scriptura" since this theology was introduced to me, but Sproul was able to explain the solas in such a way that each word is vital to our understanding of the corresponding disagreement between Rome and the Reformers.

Throughout the very generous first half of the book, Sproul was a model of one who defends truth in a spirit of love. There were many sections I felt compelled to read twice, just to take in his explanation of Catholic and Protestant doctrinal differences. These are responses worth modeling when discussions with Catholic apologists wish to discuss justification among other matters. It's not just a matter of mimicking the words used by Sproul, but the very loving way in which these matters of protest are presented.

Each of the five points of the TULIP are well defined and well defended, both for what they mean and also what they are often mistaken to mean. I took a great amount of interest in how they would be described by a respected professor of systematic theology and apologetics. Sproul did not disappoint to answer the most common objections to each of the five points, and did so again with a loving heart. I can only say this based on the tone of his responses in the book, and it serves as a wonderful example of how well this man expresses both the facts that may not be welcome to all ears and the love that must drive a servant of Christ if one is to honor our treasure.

I never thought I'd do this, but I believe I will use the dedication that R.C. Sproul used at the beginning of the book to help me close this review.

To Jim Seneff: A layman who embraces Reformed theology, loves Reformed theology, and lives Reformed theology.

After reading this book, I have a clearer understanding of what it means to live Reformed theology. A religion can be embraced and even loved on a certain level, but it takes a theology, a deeper understanding of God, for one to live according to their faith where it truly matters. That place is the heart, and Reformed theology fully endorses a change of the heart that the desires of man will follow.


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