I would definitely recommend R.C. Sproul's newest book, Everyone's A Theologian. It is a good, solid introduction to the basics of the Christian faith, or, if you prefer, an introduction to systematic theology.
Like his teaching series, Foundation, it is divided into eight sections:
- Introduction to Theology
- Theology Proper
- Anthropology and Creation
message titles in his teaching series which leads me to believe that at last this wonderful series has been made available in print format. I haven't listened to the series in its entirety, but, I can tell you that what I've listened to in the past matches up with what I've just read.
One of the first things Sproul does is to argue that every believer needs theology. He writes,
Many people believe that theological study holds little value. They say, "I don't need theology; I just need to know Jesus." Yet theology is unavoidable for every Christian. It is our attempt to understand the truth that God has revealed to us--something every Christian does. So it is not a question of whether we are going to engage in theology; it is a question of whether our theology is sound or unsound. It is important to study and learn because God has taken great pains to reveal Himself to His people. He gave us a book, one that is not meant to sit on a shelf pressing dried flowers, but to be read, searched, digested, studied, and chiefly to be understood. (12)I agree with him, do you?
There is one thing about Everyone's a Theologian that I absolutely love, love, love, and I think YOU will appreciate it as well. This book must have been designed with real readers in mind. Each and every chapter is SHORT. Each chapter is straight-forward and stays on task or on target! There are some authors that I love and appreciate very, very much, but, when I'm being honest, I have to admit that some books stay intimidating--no matter how rich--because of long chapters. Because this book has such short chapters, because reading another never felt undoable, I read this relatively thick nonfiction book in just three days!
Another strength of Everyone's A Theologian is that it is well organized, very planned and structured. I'll just give a brief example of one section:
Part Four: Christology
- The Christ of the Bible
- One Person, Two Natures
- The Names of Christ
- The States of Christ
- The Offices of Christ
- Why Did Christ Die?
- Substitutionary Atonement
- The Extent of the Atonement
This book would be a good choice for anyone who is serious about learning and growing in the faith.
God is never required to be merciful or gracious. The moment we think that God owes us grace or mercy, we are no longer thinking about grace or mercy. Our minds tend to trip there so that we confuse mercy and grace with justice. Justice may be owed, but mercy and grace are always voluntary. (69)
Many people ask me how they can know the will of God for their lives, but rarely does anyone ask me how he can know the law of God. People do not ask because they know how to understand the law of God--they find it in the Bible. They can study the law of God in order to know it. The more difficult question is how we can do the law of God. Some are concerned about that, but not too many. Most people who inquire about the will of God are seeking knowledge of the future, which is closed. If you want to know the will of God in terms of what God authorizes, what God is pleased with, and what God will bless you for, again, the answer is found in His preceptive will, the law, which is clear. (75)
There are many things taught in Scripture that we simply do not want to hear, so we find ways to distort the Bible in order to escape the judgment it brings to our consciences. (110)
The primary difference between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace is that the former concerns the relationship God had with Adam and Eve before the fall, while the latter concerns the relationship God has with the descendants of Adam after the fall. (123)
We tend to think of redemption as the regaining of the paradise that Adam and Eve lost, but that is a misunderstanding. Redemption is not merely a restoration to where Adam and Eve were before they fell, but a promotion to the state that they would have achieved had they been successful in obeying the covenant terms. (123)
In the New Testament usage of this title, the Son of Man is a heavenly person who descends to earth, and He represents nothing less than the authority of God. He comes to bring judgment to the world because He embodies the divine visitation, the day of the Lord. Therefore, this is an exalted title given uniquely to Jesus in the New Testament. As you read through the Scriptures and come upon this title, look at its context, and you will begin to see that it is a majestic and exalted designation for Jesus. Every name and title given to Jesus in the New Testament has significance. Each one reveals something to us about who He is and what He has done. (142)
Justice and righteousness are distinguished in the Bible, but never separated. Justice is a necessary element of true righteousness, and by extension it is a necessary element of goodness. (157)
Justice is something that is earned or merited by our works… In contrast, grace is undeserved; that is, it is not earned or merited. Rather, grace is given freely by God. He is not obligated or required to give it… Grace is always a divine prerogative, never a requirement. It is critical that we understand this, because we are prone to thinking that God owes us something. We often believe that if God were really good, He would give us a better life in some way, but if we think that God owes us something, we are actually thinking about justice, because grace is never owed. God is not obligated to give grace to anyone. (216)
When Paul introduces the ideas of predestination and election in this passage [Eph. 1:3-6], he speaks of our being blessed. Paul did not see divine predestination in a negative light; rather, it evoked within him a sense of exaltation and gratitude, and it moved him to glorify God. In other words, the Apostle saw the doctrine of predestination as a blessing. It is indeed a blessing that should evoke in us also a sense of profound gratitude and praise.
When Reformed theologians talk about the doctrine of predestination, the discussion includes what we call "the doctrines of grace." With the doctrine of predestination, perhaps more than any other doctrine, we are confronted with the depths and riches of the mercy and grace of an almighty God. If we separate our thinking about predestination from the context of that blessedness, we will struggle endlessly with this doctrine. (221)
If we are going to be biblical in our theology, we must have some doctrine of predestination, because the Bible--not Augustine, Luther, or Calvin--clearly introduces the concept. There is nothing in Calvin's doctrine of predestination that was not first in Luther's, and there is nothing in Luther's doctrine of predestination that was not first in Augustine's, and I think it is safe to say that there is nothing in Augustine's doctrine of predestination that was not first in Paul's. This doctrine has its roots not in theologians of church history but in the Bible, which sets it forth explicitly. (222)
The fallen human will is always and everywhere opposed to God, so the only way anyone will ever choose Christ willingly is if God intervenes to make him willing by re-creating his soul. He raises people from spiritual death and gives them spiritual life so that they not only can and will choose Christ, but also do it willingly. Underlying the regeneration is the change of heart whereby the unwilling are made willing by the Spirit of God. In regeneration, those who have hated the things of God are given a whole new disposition, a new heart. That is exactly what Jesus said--unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it (John 3:1-5). (229)
The basic difference between Reformed theology and non-Reformed theology is the order of salvation with respect to faith and regeneration. The vast majority of professing evangelicals believe that faith comes before regeneration. In other words, in order to be born again, one has to believe. One has to choose Christ before rebirth can occur. If that were the case, we would have absolutely no hope of salvation, because a spiritually dead person at enmity with God cannot choose Christ. We cannot change others' hearts through evangelism, either. We can preach the gospel; we can argue for it and try to be convincing. Yet only God can change the heart. Since only God has the power to change the nature of a human soul, we must say that regeneration precedes faith. That is the essence of Reformed theology. The Holy Spirit changes the disposition of the soul before someone comes to faith. Does that mean, when we come to believe, that God believes through us? No, we are the ones doing the believing. Do we choose Christ? Yes, we choose Christ. We respond. Our wills are changed so that what we once hated, we now love, and we rush to the Son. God gives us the desire for Him in our souls. (229)
The great myth of popular culture, which has penetrated the church, is that people can earn the favor of God, even though Scripture states clearly that by the works of the law no one shall be justified (Gal. 2:16). We are debtors who cannot pay our debt. That is why the gospel is called "good news." (232)
For Protestants, the ground of justification remains exclusively the righteousness of Christ--not the righteousness of Christ in us but the righteousness of Christ for us, the righteousness that Christ achieved in His perfect obedience to the law of God. This righteousness, the first part of the ground of justification, is applied to all who put their trust in Christ. (235)
This means we are saved not only by the death of Jesus but also by His life. A double transfer takes place, a double imputation. As the Lamb of God, Christ went to the cross and suffered the wrath of God, but not for any sin God found in Him. He voluntarily took upon Himself our sins. He became the sin bearer when God the Father transferred or reckoned our sins to Him. That is what imputation is--a legal transfer. Christ assumed our guilt in His own person; our guilt was imputed to Him. The other transfer occurs when God imputes Christ's righteousness to us. (235)
We cannot have affection for Christ until we recognize and acknowledge that we are sinners and that we desperately need His work on our behalf. Repentance includes a hatred for our sin, which comes with the new affection we are given for God. (239)
Hell is separation from God in a certain sense but not in an absolute sense. It is separation from the grace, care, and love of God, but not from from God Himself. The biggest problem for those in hell is not the devil; it is God. God is in hell, actively punishing the wicked. When we are saved, we are saved from God. We are saved from exposure to His fierce wrath and punishment. (329)© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible