What authors should I be reading?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Stope, Nov 30, 2016.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore

    Would posters mine listing out 5 or so authors that are most important to read that you would recommend to me?

    I always thought I was sort of "Reformed" but now I realize after being on this board Im not as much as I thought... As for me my go-tos are:
    -Lewis (qualified)
    -Begg, Allister
    -Chandler, Matt
    -Carson, D.A.
    -Wright (qualified)
    -Gospel coalition blog/s

    This year I will read Institutes, and will read some of the cappadocian fathers writings (any suggestions?), unless I hear better suggestions from you guys
  2. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Starting out, keep it basic and simple:

    Calvin's Institutes
    Any of the Westminster Puritans (Burroughs (on Worship, on Earthlimindedness, On Christ Inviting Sinners), Calamy (Mediation), Spurstowe (Wells of Salvation Opened), etc.)
    Any of the good puritans (Watson (Anything by him), Ranew (Meditation), Brinsley (Anything), Owen (Communion with God and the Mortification of Sin), Sibbes (Anything), Byfield (Anything), Love (Anything), etc.)
    Anything by Jonathan Edwards
    Almost Anything by Augustine (start with his Confessions)
  3. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I think you'd be well served to get some systematic theology texts and study them thoroughly, along with comparing various confessions. Many of the authors you've listed here are known for writing devotional or Christian living type material (although certainly not mindless fluff) or else is a mixed bag at best, as you've noted with a few.

    Some of the ones that are widely recommended are:

    Berkhof (some will argue he is somewhat outdated, but I think he might still be the most mainstream in the sense that no one is going to say that this or that teaching of his is "not Reformed" or is dangerous in the way that some would allege is the case with aspects of more recent texts like Frame, Horton or Reymond. I've found that Berkhof is also generally quite good at accurately stating the beliefs of those with whom he disagrees, whereas others sometimes attack a straw man.)

    Bavinck (4 vols, recently translated from the original Dutch. There is a one volume edition too. I don't know how the 1 vol edn compares to Berkhof. I don't have either one. Some say dispense with Berkhof because he was basically a distillation of Bavinck.)

    Charles Hodge
    A.A. Hodge (Outlines of Theology)
    Thomas Watson--Body of Divinity (SGCB has just published the three vols in one with Spurgeon's appendix on baptism). You can't go wrong with anything by Watson, one of the more accessible of the Puritans.

    Beeke and Jones--A Puritan Theology (The Kindle edition was recently on sale) This is highly recommended although I haven't thoroughly familiarized myself with it. I was disappointed to see that the Baptist that they chose to highlight appeared to be rather idiosyncratic and not representative of mainstream Particular Baptist teaching. But I'd have to check it again to see why I thought that.

    In general, many of the Puritan Paperbacks are good on Christian living and provide an interesting contrast with what many latter day Calvinistic teachers teach on the subject.

    I'm not sure that there is a Baptist systematic theology that I can recommend off the top of my head without some caveats. Grudem, Erickson and Culver are all good in some respects but also all have their weaknesses and deviations from Reformed theology. Older writers like Dagg (Manual of Theology) and Boyce (Abstract of Systematic Theology) are helpful. You can get those online. (I have a copy of Boyce that I might be persuaded to part with.) A lot of Baptists have been content to let the Presbyterian and Reformed write the theology textbooks and then supplement it. That's understandable up to a point but lamentable when people then conclude that Baptists can't do theology. Since you are a Baptist, look into some of the books published by Reformed Baptist Academic Press (RBAP).
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2016
  4. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would suggest the following books from five different writers to start with.

    Thomas Watson for doctrine (Body of Divinity, Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer). Easy to read, straightforward, solid.

    Sibbes (Bruised Reed, Heavenly Conference between Christ and Mary: two wonderful, spiritually sweet works which are also short and very easy, though by no means shallow, reads. Then read more Sibbes.)

    Fisher's Catechism: a wonderful companion which gives you Reformed doctrine at its very best; precise and experiential. You will keep going back to this volume.

    Samuel Rutherford's Letters: a much-loved treasure trove of Christian teaching and experience from one of the most pre-eminent ministers of the church (John Newton's letters are also excellent).

    Bunyan: Pilgrim's Progress and The Holy War to start with.

    Also find good sermons to read. The best way to learn theology, other than reading the Bible, is hearing the Bible preached. Preaching is the best commentary on the Bible. If you can find good, warm, experiential sermons to read then read them. Many sermons aren't made for reading; but there are a good number which are and which bear much fruit. The Erskine brothers (Ebenezer and Ralph), Rutherford's "Communion Sermons", Frelinghausen, Hugh Martin's "Christ for Us", M'Cheyne, Edwards. Good sermons are very beneficial.

    By all means read the great doctrinal and theological tomes if you enjoy them. But when I first started learning Reformed theology I felt the need to plough my way through big books and I didn't often enjoy them. I would say start small. Puritan Paperbacks (Banner of Truth) are a great place to start.
  5. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!! This is such great feedback, thank you so much brother! I will review this thread later this eve and might have some follow up questions.

    Again, thank you
  6. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    I will second Chris' nomination of Berkhof. It is probably the most trusted "go to" work on the fundamentals of Reformed theology. Start with Berkhof. Digest all he has to say. Then you will be very grounded on the basics of Reformed theology.

    And when in doubt about a particular doctrinal matter, checking in with Berkhof is always a wise starting point. Berkhof is generally studious in noting opposing views, such that the reader can seek out more deeper treatments of these particular topics if he or she is so inclined.

    An electronic version (pdf, epub, or online) of Berkhof's work, absent his prolegomena, is available here:


    The shorter summary of Berkhof's work (pdf, epub, or online) is also available here:


    Also, one treasure written by Berkhof, on the assurance of the faith, is something I recommend for all persons:


    After Berkhof, I would recommend Hodge's three-volume work. Then A. A. Hodge's Outlines. Afterwards tackle Turretin. An outline of Turretin's three volumes can be seen here:


    The outline is instructive all by itself. ;)

    Of course, Calvin's Institutes should be on everyone's list, but I do not recommend tackling it until gaining a solid grasp of basic theological fundamentals. Calvin's work is not written in the classic systematic theology style. It was a work that evolved over decades as Calvin matured in his walk of faith.

    Bonus: While not Reformed in all its content, Culver's massive work, published when he was in his late eighties, is worth adding to one's library. It is a treat to read, no matter how much you may disagree with some of his views.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  7. Toasty

    Toasty Puritan Board Sophomore

    Charnock's Existence and Attributes of God - There is an in-depth discussion of God's attributes. Charnock writes about how God's attributes applies to our lives.
  8. Titus2

    Titus2 Puritan Board Freshman

    All very good answers!
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Shedd's Dogmatic Theology. Not as "uniform" as Berkhof but magnificent in many places (and no more difficult to read).

    If you are going to read the Cappadocians, get Nazianzus'On God and Christ: Five Theological Orations along with Basil's On the Holy Spirit.

    Rutherford, Trial and Triumph of faith, Banner of Truth.

    I think A. A. Hodge's Outlines might be better served before Charles's Systematic Theology. While both are more accessible than one would expect of 19th Century divines, I think AA is a bit easier.

    John Owen, volumes 2 and 10, Communion with God and Death of Christ, respectively. And get the Works edition. The Puritan Paperbacks is better than nothing, but nothing close to a substitute for the original. And I don't think Owen and Edwards are near as difficult as John Piper makes them out to be.
  10. Toasty

    Toasty Puritan Board Sophomore

  11. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I'm sure I'll think of others, but these were foundational for me:

    Closer to modern authors:

    > John Murray
    > O Palmer Robinson on covenant
    > Anything you can read or listen to from Sinclair Ferguson
    > Gerhardus Vos (start with sermons preached at Princeton)

    And much older authors
    > Luther's Bondage of the Will
    > Henry Scougal The Life Of God In The Soul Of Man
    > Ditto to Jonathan Edwards listed above (once again, his sermons are a good starting point)
  12. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Your list is quite similiar to mine!

    Would read Calvin Institutes, Berkhof, Hodgh

    With qualifications, would also advise Grudem, disregard his spiritual gifts passage, and Erickson, good summary of current theological thoughts, not strictly reformed...

    I have read John Frame works, and learned a lot from him, but some reformed have real issues with him!
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2016
  13. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    The classical documents are good. There will be many others who are helpful to supplement, but it's better to get the main lines down first and then fill in the details.

    I would suggest something along these lines:

    The Bible
    The Westminster Standards
    The Three Forms of Unity
    Robert Shaw, The Reformed Faith
    Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology
    John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion; Commentary on Romans
    Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology
    Augustine, Confessions; City of God; On the Trinity
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I second this recommendation for reading. It will help you understand Puritan theology.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Someone mentioned R. Shaw on the Confessions. He's really good on effectual call.
  16. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore

    I was reading City of God (a guided reading with some folks here on the PB) and it was a chore to say the least. It seemed saturated in old plays/mythology and Roman characters, I had no idea who he was referencing... I kept waiting to get some good old Gospel and Bible but it never arrived...
  17. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Yeah, and it really doesn't arrive. He is deconstructing the Roman metanarrative.
  18. Clark-Tillian

    Clark-Tillian Puritan Board Freshman

    Now, that's a mixed bag of thinkers. First, decide your purpose. Pre-seminary? Ruling Elder or Deacon? General knowledge? That helps clarify things; if you're just starting out a chap such as Poythress might be a tough road. I always advocate the Confessional documents first. You're SBC so I'd go to the LBC, but I strongly urge you to get Morton Smith's "Harmony of the "Westminster Confession and Catechisms"; even if it doesn't push you into Presbyterianism you'll find it invaluable. A good basic systematics text is also a must. Berkhof is tried and true and not hard on the budget. Frankly, I'd avoid Wright. RC Sproul on many topics is excellent--a bit soft on the RPW. Gerstner's Primers are great. Biblical Introduction is very neglected--Carson and Moo on the NT is very good.
  19. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I think this is probably right, and it is probably why Banner has had it in print for all these years. It is a briefer and perhaps more straightforward presentation of his father's teaching. A.A. Hodge might be a little easier to use than Dabney as well. I had Hodge's "Outlines" years before I acquired Berkhof but now that I have Berkhof I think it might be the best place to start.
  20. Clark-Tillian

    Clark-Tillian Puritan Board Freshman

    Definite agreement. A.A. is more easily accessible than his father, especially if one is just starting out. The writing style is different, and the format of the Outlines is an excellent tool for pedagogy. But Berkhof is still the first stop on the systematics journey.
  21. Toasty

    Toasty Puritan Board Sophomore

    The Attributes of God by A.W.Pink
    Essential Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson
    Foundations of the Christian Faith by James Montgomery Boice
  22. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks crew!

    I began reading Berfkhof this morning that I downloaded from Monergisim here... I saw that above a brother posted this one at BiblicalTraining.org as a link as well... I just wanted to confirm that I have the unabridged one, can anyone confirm that? Also, I just want to make sure Im not reading an "updated" version, because it is very very very very easy to read and I was expecting some lofty language but I have come to find it reads more like conversational in tone (which I LOVE, but only if that's really that original)?
  23. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Both sites you reference are the unabridged versions without any changes to Berkhof's own words. There is a version of Berkhof's systematic that also contains a chapter on his discussion of the meaning of theology, the prolegomena, that is only available in some printed versions.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  24. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore


    I must say then, he already appears to be a great communicator - I Look fwd to the read. Thanks guys!
  25. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Some complain that Berkhof's style is sterile. I like his style of stating the facts, explaining the issues, and concluding how he sees the topic at hand. Berkhof's work was a summary of Bavinck's huge Reformed Dogmatics, which was only available in the Dutch at the time Berkhof published his volume.

    Fortunately, Bavinck is now available in English, so if you want to read all that Berkhof was summarizing, including Bavinck's pastoral style and commentary, read Bavinck's four volumes:


    Consider Berkhof an abridgement of Bavinck. ;)
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  26. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore

    Brother - what is the difference between "the good puritans" and "Westminster Puritans"? Also, is there a site I can download these per chance?
  27. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore

  28. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Read both Father and Son, and think the Son was better at getting to the point quicker...
  29. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Westminster Puritans would subscribe to the confession that they wrote. Good (but not Westminster) puritans would subscribe to things like the Savoy and be congregationalists or even Baptists.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page