Presbyterian and Reformed, 2006, 2007. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)
From 1643-1646 English and Scottish churchmen met at Westminster to formulate a new creed. Dominated as it was by Calvinists, the creed followed a certain theological trajectory. The result is, it became the classic exposition of Calvinist theology, and the standard formulation of Presbyterianism.
It is certainly one of the major Christian creeds, although non-Calvinists of course may find plenty of problematic areas. Obvious areas of contention include the related doctrines of election, predestination and free will. Those of a non-Reformed persuasion will demur both with the Confession itself and Sproul’s exposition of it.
But the Confession is still one of the most important creeds of the Christian church. Indeed, Sproul argues that the Westminster Standards are “the most precise and accurate summaries of the content of biblical Christianity ever set forth in creedal form”.
While he has very high praise for many of the other great creeds, such as the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, he still regards the Westminster creed as superlative: “in my judgment, no historic confession surpasses [it] in eloquence, grandeur, and theological accuracy”.
Reformed theologian R.C. Sproul here offers in three volumes a detailed and systematic exposition of the 33 sections of the Confession. It is written for the layman, so no footnotes or bibliographies clutter the pages. While it may be an easy-to-read, popular treatment of the Confession, it is no lightweight affair.
This is serious theology illuminated by a serious theologian. Sproul is well placed to tackle this assignment, and it is a fantastic read. He thoroughly covers all the 33 sections, and brings to life the Confession, showing its relevance for 21st century believers. Indeed, Sproul not only dissects in some detail the theological and ecclesiastical concerns of the Confession, but he offers plenty of contextualisation and up-to-date illustrations and application of these ancient truths.
Volume One deals with the first eight sections of the Confession, tackling such major topics as Scripture, God, creation, fall and covenant. Volume Two covers the next 14 sections, with the person and work of Christ, the nature of redemption, and the means of salvation carefully examined. Volume Three takes on the final 11 sections of the Confession. In it, matters of civil society, family, ecclesiology, and eschatology are carefully explored.
Also included as appendices in Volume Three are the Larger and Shorter Westminster Catechisms. Taken together, we have an excellent presentation here of Christian doctrine in general, and Reformed theology in particular.
In short, the 900 pages make for an easy-to-read, yet quite profound, systematic theology. All of the bases of the Christian faith are covered here, and this work comes close to comparing with some of the great systematic theologies now available.
R.C. Sproul, author of over 60 books, has been one of our finest Christian thinkers, and a top defender of the Reformed worldview. These three volumes are a very welcome addition to his ever-expanding corpus. They deserve wide and careful reading.