Jul 25, 2012

10 Books (and One Letter) Every New Calvinist Needs to Read

4 Min Read

When I first discovered Reformed theology, I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. I didn’t know what I should read first as I attempted to learn more. I was on my own.

Recent years have witnessed large numbers of people travelling the same path I travelled twenty years ago. In the interest of saving them time, money, and bad authors, I offer here a suggested reading list for those who are new to the Reformed faith and who wish to know where to begin in their studies.

1. John Newton’s letter "On Controversy"

Although it’s not a book, I would encourage every new Calvinist to read and re-read this letter. Newly minted Calvinists have a tendency to engage in arguments and sometimes in the beginning, they do more harm than good. Newton’s letter is a helpful look at how Calvinists should engage in controversy.

2. John Calvin - Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Given that the most recent English translation is a full two volumes, this work may look intimidating to a new Calvinist, but it is a must read. Most of the chapters are helpfully subdivided into sub-sections that are rarely more than a page, so anyone can read a few of these subsections a day and make it through the entire work in a year.

3. Robert Bruce - The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper.

If there is one matter that will be a shock to many new Calvinists, it is discovering the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. This series of sermons on the subject by the sixteenth century Reformed preacher Robert Bruce, is an excellent introduction to this subject.

4. John Owen - The Mortification of Sin.

John Owen was not only one of the greatest Reformed theologians in the last five hundred years, he was one of the greatest theologians in the last five hundred years. His work on the mortification of sin is an outstanding example of how he applied his mind to a most practical issue.

5. Robert Letham – The Holy Trinity.

Many people come to the Reformed faith out of backgrounds that offered very little solid teaching on the doctrine of God. Letham’s award-winning book should be on the reading list of every new Calvinist. In it he carefully explains the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity in a clear and compelling way.

6. Sinclair Ferguson – The Christian Life.

Do not let the title mislead you. This little book is an outstanding introduction to the Reformed doctrine of salvation. In it, Ferguson covers God’s work of redemption from the Fall to the last day. This was one of the first great Reformed books I discovered after becoming a Calvinist. It should be on the top of the reading list of every Christian.

7. J.V. Fesko – Justification.

The doctrine of justification has come under renewed attack in recent years from a number of different corners. Most Christians are ill-prepared to state, much less defend, the biblical doctrine. This new book is a very helpful introduction to the doctrine and to the assaults that have been launched against it.

8. Cornelis Venema – The Promise of the Future.

Eschatology is a difficult and controversial subject, and many of those who are new to Reformed circles do not know what the Reformed churches teach on the subject. Venema’s book is an outstanding introduction to the subject.

9. R.C. Sproul – Chosen by God.

Many readers, including myself, consider this book to be the single best introduction to the difficult subject of predestination. Few issues raise more questions, but Dr. Sproul answers them here in a clear and concise manner accessible to all.

10. Roland Bainton – Here I Stand.

Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther is something of a modern classic and should be read by all who are discovering the riches of the Reformation for the first time.

11. Nathan Hatch – The Democratization of American Christianity.

Hatch is not Reformed, but this book is the most helpful volume I’ve read in explaining how the American church got to the state it is in today. An absolutely brilliant book.