To My Young And Aspiring-Theologian Friend
To my young and aspiring-theologian friend,
Thank you for expressing to me your interest in the Christian faith and its distinct Reformed expression. I'd like to encourage you to keep on reading and studying the Bible seeking to trust the Lord and to obey His Word in every area of your life.
You may also start reading the confessions of Reformed churches. You can begin either with the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Such confessions will help you grasp the basic teachings of the holy Scripture. Remember that they are not replacements of the Bible but helpful supplements in understanding its teachings.
If it would be of help to you, I have here a list or compilation of some of the introductory books on theology from a Reformed and Presbyterian perspective. These books could help you understand theology at an elementary to intermediate level.
Before I went to seminary, I've started reading Berkhof's "Manual of Christian Doctrine" and R. C. Sproul's "Essential Truths of the Christian Faith." These books were really helpful for me in having basic understanding of the Reformed faith. I always go back to these two books before embarking on serious reading of Berkhof's larger and thicker "Systematic Theology" or other Reformed theologians' multi-volume dogmatics or systematic theology.
I also read Sinclair B. Ferguson's "The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction" prior to my seminary studies. Again that small book helped me a lot in surveying key biblical themes, especially pertaining to the doctrine of salvation.
While in seminary I was introduced to Richard A. Muller's "Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms." This book is a real gem. Reading Louis Berkhof's and Charles Hodge's "Systematic Theology" was made easier by Muller's dictionary. I think it has a new edition now. I am not familiar with the new edition whether it has new entries or revised articles.
Another book that was quite helpful for me while I was on my first year in seminary was Joel R. Beeke's and Sinclair B. Ferguson's "Reformed Confessions Harmonized." It's not really a book but a helpful guide in comparing different confessional statements of a certain doctrine in various major Reformed confessions. The annotated bibliography of Reformed theological writings at the end of the book is also worth the price.
Herman Bavinck's "Our Reasonable Faith" and Cornelius Van Til's "An Introduction to Systematic Theology" are proven to be fine theological writings which I have discovered while in seminary. I am not yet done reading them but the truths I am learning from these two Dutch Reformed dogmatic theologians are precious.
After seminary I was given three more introductory books on theology by a friend: William Ames's "The Marrow of Theology," Thomas Watson's "A Body of Divinity," and A. A. Hodge's "Outlines of Theology." The first two volumes were written in 1600s but the truths they contain are timeless. The third book was first written in 1860 and was revised and reprinted in its final form in 1878 by one of the most able old Princeton Seminary theologians of the latter part of 1800s.
Just recently, I have been enjoying reading J. I. Packer's "Concise Theology." I like Packer's presentation of basic Christian doctrines in this book. It's truly packed, with characteristic brevity and clarity that only J. I. could articulate. It is, by the way, similar to Sproul's "Essential Truths..." Packer came from an evangelical and Reformed Anglican tradition.
Lastly, Robert White's latest English translation of John Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" (from the first French edition of 1541) published by the Banner of Truth is a new favorite introductory book on theology. It is not as extensive as the Ford Lewis Battles' translation of the 1559 edition, but it does cover essential Christian doctrines and practical living as Calvin had envisioned it.
Depending on your time and interest, reading a couple of these books will deepen your understanding of the Christian faith. It might even increase your appetite to read the larger volumes of theology that are out there. Regardless which ones you will decide to read first, I hope that as you grow in the knowledge of God and in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you will also grow in humility, patience, and self-control. Knowledge of theology, as you may know, can cause someone to puff up.
May the Lord spare you from the woes and troubles of being proud because of too much knowledge of spiritual things! May He grant you gentleness and meekness as your mind is being renewed by the Spirit of truth and your heart is being filled with joy and adoration of God's greatness and goodness!
Your brother in Christ, Pastor Vic
Posted with permission from Ptr Vic Bernales, Pastor, Davao Covenant Reformed Church
Original from a Facebook post here.