What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul

The book is What is Reformed Theology by R.C. Sproul. It was originally published in 1997 and I read the 2016 paperback edition from Baker Books publishing. 

R.C. Sproul was a seminary professor, pastor, and author of over ninety books. He was the founder of Ligonier Ministries and Tabletalk magazine. Sadly Sproul died in 2017. 

I read this book because I saw it on a friend’s shelf and I hadn’t read it. It was one of those that I knew I needed to eventually read. I love R.C. Sproul. I’ve read several of his other books and I subscribe to Tabletalk, so of course I needed to read his What is Reformed Theology? 

My biggest takeaway from this book came in chapter 5, title Nicknamed Covenant Theology. Sprouls is Presbyterian and from what I gather, presbys love their covenants. I read Oliphant’s Covenantal Apologetics and they’re all about baptising babies into the “covenant family.” As I write this in late September I’m looking at the October 2020 issue of Tabletalk entitled Covenant Theology. 

After reading this book, it’s clear why covenant theology is so important. In chapter 5 Sproul writes about the three big biblical covenants. The covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace. The covenants of works and grace seem pretty straight forward. The Old Testament is all about the law and works and the New Testament is all about the grace of God in spite of the law in the ultimate sacrifice of Christ for the atonement of our sins. What was new to me was the covenant of redemption. This is the first covenant in Reformed theology. 

The covenant or redemption does not involve human beings. It’s a covenant made between the three persons of the Holy Trinity, the triune God, between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a covenant rooted in eternity. It explains why creation is unfolding the way it is, from the Garden of Eden, to the fall, to the sacrificial system for God’s chosen people, to the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, to the sending of the Holy Spirit to be within us now. Sprould writes, “With the eternal and omniscient God, there is no such thing as ‘plan B.’ God worked out his plan of redemption before creation and even before the fall, though he conceived this plan in light of man’s fall and designed it to effect redemption from the fall.” (p.127). 

The three members of the Godhead are not against each other. The covenant of redemption explains the harmony in the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in total agreement. The covenant of redemption defines their roles in the plan of salvation. 

This was an amazing enlightenment for me because it explains why God has done things the way he has. I never had an answer for that before. When I’d explain Romans 9 or Ephesians 2 to someone, that man is evil and God is gracious. We fell and he redeems us. People would always ask why God didn’t just prevent the Fall in the first place. Why did God set up the universe to contain fallen sinners in need of a savior? I never had an answer. But the answer from the covenant of redemption is that the very God we read about in scripture could only create this sort of world. Given the eternal redemptive nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, if they were to create a reality it would be this one. God does not redeem lost sinners because he owes us anything or because we deserve it, he redeems lost sinners because that’s who he is. The purpose of creation is to reflect God’s glory back unto himself, and this is done in a way as to fulfill the covenant of redemption made in eternity past between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

There was nothing to dislike about this book. Sproul knocks it out of the park and knocks the back of my head right off. I recommend this book to any Christian wanting to know more about Reformed Theology. Sproul is a treasure for humanity that at age 78, was taken from us too soon. Read this book and learn from it.

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