Reading Recommendations

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DW1689

Puritan Board Freshman
Brothers,

Am in need of a bit of guidance here and hope you could all help...

I'm looking for a big read for 2016 to introduce me to true Reformed theology. My family and I became Reformed Baptists about a year and a half ago and up until this point, the only Systematic Theology I've read cover to cover is Grudem, which I enjoyed and which helped me to embrace the 'broadly' Reformed faith...but obviously it is only broadly Reformed and I want something truly Reformed to dig my teeth into.

I've spent the last two years reading and re-reading Calvin's Institutes, Owen, Flavel, Watson and listening to a load of lectures etc. It's been fantastic and I've built some solid foundations, but now I'd like really like to work through a Reformed ST.

I've got both Frame & Berkhof's ST's (which I've dipped into), but they're on Kindle and I'm not a huge fan of doing a big read on kindle since I like to mark up and write in my books. So, I'm basically thinking of doing a two-year read through of Bavinck's RD (Volumes 1-2 in 2016 and 3-4 in 2017). Other options I've thought about would be to simply buy a hard copy of Berkhof and read through it in six months or so, or read Frame or Horton's ST and then start Bavinck. However, I feel like I just want to go straight to Bavinck first!

Anyway, what would you recommend - straight for Bavinck? Or, something else first?

Many thanks in advance,

D
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Really? After all those, you need our help finding something else? I thank maybe we need to be listening to your advice. :)

I too like Bavinck. And have you considered studying theology from a different angle than systematics? A good biblical theology work, perhaps?
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Or there might be a locus within dogmatics you would want to explore. Or perhaps a certain angle. My own reading follows this pattern:

1. Some aspects of Calvin on epistemology and doctrine of God.
2. Post-Nicene fathers, with an emphasis on Gregory of Nazianzus.
3. Plantinga and Wolterstorff.
4. I try to be conversant with postmodern philosophy (trigger warning: I said conversant, not endorse!).
5. Reformed Christology
6. Critical reception and evaluation of Barth, Torrance, McCormack, etc.
7. Analyses of the Hegelian tradition (trigger warning: Hegel is bad). Guys like Magee, O'Regan, etc.
8. Christian responses to the occult, necessitating, among other things, how the occult manifested from the Renaissance until today. This has helped me more than anything else in evangelism.

That's my general reading list.
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
Hi, and welcome to the PB!

Looks like you've begun establishing a good foundation already.

Consider next for building on that foundation:

Bavinck (if you're not up for a 2-year project, the abridgment is helpful),
J. P. Boyce (founder of SBTS),
The Hodges (both Charles and A.A.)

At that point perhaps begin reading on specific areas of inquiry, i.e., the atonement or theology proper, etc.

But a good biblical theology will also be helpful in your growth in grace.

Consoder:

Biblical Theology, Vos
Progress of Redemption, Van Gemeren
Christ of the Covenants, Robertson
The History of Redemption; The End for which God Created the World, J. Edwards
Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ, John Owen & N. Coxe

This should get you started on learning.

Remember to read on your knees, as Warfield exhorted his students; to read with the Bible open, testing all things by Scripture; to read to be conformed to Christ; and to read to know God.

Ours is a wonderful time, to have so many resources available for growth in godliness.

May he work in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Christ Jesus.

Grace to you.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
For a more concise, though very helpful book, consider The Reformed Faith by Robert Shaw. It's an exposition of the Westminster Confession.

You say you want "true Reformed Theology." Stick to authors that have bound themselves strictly to a Refomed confession (Frame doesn't fit that category--he, too, is "broadly reformed"), and focus on works that make good use of the Reformed confessions.
 

DW1689

Puritan Board Freshman
Really? After all those, you need our help finding something else? I thank maybe we need to be listening to your advice. :)

I too like Bavinck. And have you considered studying theology from a different angle than systematics? A good biblical theology work, perhaps?

I have indeed. I've done a lot more study in Biblical Theology than Systematics, plus I wanted a good introduction into Reformed Systematics :)
 

DW1689

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks a lot for this - very helpful!

I've worked through both of the Edwards recommendations and I'll hopefully get round to the Coxe/Owen volume this year...I worked through Pascal Denault's book six months ago and absolutely loved it!

Might think about pairing up Bavinck & Vos (or something similar)

Thanks again!
 

DW1689

Puritan Board Freshman
Bavinck (if you're not up for a 2-year project, the abridgment is helpful),

Is the abridgement worth reading? My only issue is money. Either I work through each of Bavinck's volumes as I get the money for each one (hence the two-year read through!) or I buy the abridgement now along with a good biblical theology recommendation and work through both this year...
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
I found Hodge invaluable in my own journey. He's extremely confessional and explains a lot of the background. I really appreciate how he takes the opposing views, explains why they are wrong (but in a fair way) and then presents the Scriptural view.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Bavinck (if you're not up for a 2-year project, the abridgment is helpful),

Is the abridgement worth reading? My only issue is money. Either I work through each of Bavinck's volumes as I get the money for each one (hence the two-year read through!) or I buy the abridgement now along with a good biblical theology recommendation and work through both this year...

It's good, but there are so many important discussions in Bavinck's prolegomena that I would hate to miss them.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
You won't go wrong with reading the Bavinck. Other options include Turretin, Hodge, a'Brakel (a'Brakel is especially helpful if you want someone who ties in ST to practical considerations), Witsius. I would NOT recommend Frame. He is off on justification, especially his defense of Norman Shepherd. Horton is excellent, but a bit quirky in a few places. Since you are looking for something mainstream Reformed, Bavinck is far superior, especially as a representative of regular, non-quirky vanilla Reformed theology. I also would recommend you not read the abridgement. I would recommend Vos's Reformed Dogmatics as high as any of these, by the way. Four of the five volumes are now published, and they are pure gold.
 

DW1689

Puritan Board Freshman
You won't go wrong with reading the Bavinck. Other options include Turretin, Hodge, a'Brakel (a'Brakel is especially helpful if you want someone who ties in ST to practical considerations), Witsius. I would NOT recommend Frame. He is off on justification, especially his defense of Norman Shepherd. Horton is excellent, but a bit quirky in a few places. Since you are looking for something mainstream Reformed, Bavinck is far superior, especially as a representative of regular, non-quirky vanilla Reformed theology. I also would recommend you not read the abridgement. I would recommend Vos's Reformed Dogmatics as high as any of these, by the way. Four of the five volumes are now published, and they are pure gold.

So helpful, thanks my friend!
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Also depends on why you would read Frame or Horton:

Frame: definitely a go-to on ethics and epistemology.

Horton: One of the few (only?) modern Reformed guys to interact with the big guns of other traditions. His Covenant and Eschatology is sheer genius several times over. Of course, I wouldn't go to Horton on political ethics.
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
Bavinck (if you're not up for a 2-year project, the abridgment is helpful),

Is the abridgement worth reading? My only issue is money. Either I work through each of Bavinck's volumes as I get the money for each one (hence the two-year read through!) or I buy the abridgement now along with a good biblical theology recommendation and work through both this year...

If the only issue is money, I'd say you should purchase C. Hodge from CBD Reformed for a song and work through it while saving up for the 4-vol Bavinck set. Hodge is outstanding and you'll be greatly helped by his clear, biblical reasoning. (Incidentally, that's also one of the reasons I appreciate Boyce so much.)

The abridgement of Bavinck is helpful, and better than no Bavinck at all, but the full set is best.

I also highly commend Witsius and a'Brakel, and will add that you would find the Marrow men helpful (i.e., W. Ames' Marrow of Theology and E. Fisher's Marrow of Modern Divinity.) For that matter, Thomas Boston's first 2 vols are his treatment of the Catechism; Reformation Heritage sells them as his 'Body of Divinty' (and they were ~50% off the last time I checked), and Thomas Watson's Body of Divinity, 10 Commandments, and The Lord's Prayer comprise his 'systematic theology' and are also well-worth your time.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
If the only issue is money, I'd say you should purchase C. Hodge from CBD Reformed for a song and work through it while saving up for the 4-vol Bavinck set. Hodge is outstanding and you'll be greatly helped by his clear, biblical reasoning.

I think so, too. Hodge is cheap. Work up to Bavinck, but do begin with Prolegomena. SO many important discussions that are often missed in modern Reformed STs.
 

DW1689

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks guys, really appreciate all the advice!

Will have a look around the web and wait for my birthday next week to see who/what I can afford!
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
If money is a constraint and you want to read through an entire systematic this year in print, then there are a couple of excellent and inexpensive options.

Berkhof's Systematic Theology remains eminently useful. If you get the Eerdman's edition you won't miss the discussion of prolegomena, which Jacob rightly notes to be a question of great importance.

John Brown's Systematic Theology (also known as A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion) is extremely good. He's very adept at distilling complex discussions, and is both generous and heartfelt in the way he writes.

Obviously Bavinck or Turretin's sets will ultimately give you more detail and better grounding, but if practical considerations mean leaving them for later, the two mentioned will be very helpful, and I think are largely free of Hodge's occasional squirreliness.
 

rickclayfan

Puritan Board Freshman
Historical Theology by William Cunningham, to see the historical significance and development of the doctrines.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
If reading pixels is no problem, but $ is...

Berkhof S.T. is public domain:
http://books.biblicaltraining.org/Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof.pdf
https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/berkhof/systematic_theology.html
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/berkhof/systematictheology.i.html

The above edition is (as originally) sans his Introduction to Systematic Theology, published separately.
See: http://www.alibris.com/Introduction-to-Systematic-Theology-Louis-Berkhof/book/3319305

Charles Hodge:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology1.html
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology2.html
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology3.html

Witsius' Economy of the Covenants only partly available here: https://witsius.wordpress.com/resources/downloads/
But see also his Exposition of the Creed (2vols), which was a frequent Reformation era pre-systematic theological Introduction. These were originally lectures to students (pity about a number of missing pages from this scan)
 
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py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I'd point to a few items that seem to me to leave him with explaining to do.

On the task of theology:
The Bible is no more a system of theology, than nature is a system of chemistry or of mechanics. We find in nature the facts which the chemist or the mechanical philosopher has to examine, and from them to ascertain the laws by which they are determined. So the Bible contains the truths which the theologian has to collect, authenticate, arrange, and exhibit in their internal relation to each other. This constitutes the difference between biblical and systematic theology. The office of the former is to ascertain and state the facts of Scripture. The office of the latter is to take those facts, determine their relation to each other and to other cognate truths, as well as to vindicate them and show their harmony and consistency. This is not an easy task, or one of slight importance.

On Protestant scholastic 'speculation':
The possibility of knowledge in God is virtually denied by those who deny any distinction between knowledge and power. Knowledge, which is power, ceases to be knowledge; and therefore if omniscience is only a different name for omnipotence, it ceases to be a distinct attribute of God. It makes little difference whether we expressly deny a given perfection to God, or whether we so determine it as to make it mean nothing distinctive. It is deeply to be regretted that not only the Fathers, but also the Lutheran and Reformed theologians, after renouncing the authority of the schoolmen, almost immediately yielded themselves to their speculations. Instead of determining the nature of the divine attributes from the representations of Scripture and from the constitution of man as the image of God, and from the necessities of our moral and religious nature, they allowed themselves to be controlled by à priori speculations as to the nature of the infinite and absolute.

On Christ's 'power to sin':
The Mediator between God and man must be sinless. Under the law the victim offered on the altar must be without blemish. Christ, who was to offer Himself unto God as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, must be Himself free from sin. The High Priest, therefore, who becomes us, He whom our necessities demand, must be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. (Hebrews vii. 26.) He was, therefore, “without sin.” (Hebrews iv. 15; 1 Peter ii. 22.) A sinful Saviour from sin is an impossibility. He could not have access to God. He could not be a sacrifice for sins; and He could not be the source of holiness and eternal life to his people. This sinlessness of our Lord, however, does not amount to absolute impeccability. It was not a non potest peccare. If He was a true man He must have been capable of sinning. That He did not sin under the greatest provocation; that when He was reviled He blessed; when He suffered He threatened not; that He was dumb, as a sheep before its shearers, is held up to us as an example. Temptation implies the possibility of sin. If from the constitution of his person it was impossible for Christ to sin, then his temptation was unreal and without effect, and He cannot sympathize with his people.
 

Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
Well, you're definitely already off to the races.
Bavinck on Prolegomena is essential.
AA Hodge: Outlines of Theology
AA Hodge or Shaw (or both) on the Confession
Berkhof cannot be touched as a "One stop shopping) ST
Personally, I'd wait a bit on Turretin--go at him topically. This isn't a put-down, but he's deep water without a life-jacket swimming.

Ruben--I know I'm in the minority (and will likely get excoriated for this) but I think Charles Hodge is dead on the money regarding Christ and temptation. To me, that is the most profound aspect of his Incarnation---he never broke--not for a second; e give in so easily. As a pastor, I continually point people to Hebrews 2 and 4 and it's a great source of comfort and strength. No I'll not debate ye!
 

DW1689

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi all,

Thanks again for all the recommendations. I ended up going with Bavinck..volumes 1-2 are in the post! Hodge was a no go since you just can't get him for a reasonable price in the U.K (his ST was more expensive than buying the 2 volumes of Bavinck).

So, I plan on working through Bavinck from start to finish over roughly the next 18-20 months, whilst no doubt supplementing him with all the other recommendations.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Personally, I'd wait a bit on Turretin--go at him topically. This isn't a put-down, but he's deep water without a life-jacket swimming.

So it isn't just me that has a little trouble here. Now I don't feel quite as dumb. Still dumb but just not quite as much.
Thanks!
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
Hi all,

Thanks again for all the recommendations. I ended up going with Bavinck..volumes 1-2 are in the post! Hodge was a no go since you just can't get him for a reasonable price in the U.K (his ST was more expensive than buying the 2 volumes of Bavinck).

So, I plan on working through Bavinck from start to finish over roughly the next 18-20 months, whilst no doubt supplementing him with all the other recommendations.

I take it CBD doesn't ship to the UK? I didn't realize that.

Hope you enjoy Bavinck!
 
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