Reformation Theology Reading Guide

 In bringing you this list, it is our hope to bring honor to God by exalting Jesus Christ in providing the biblical and theological works (both contemporary and classic) that we believe best reflect the Scriptires' teaching on grace and the Christian life. Below I've put together this concise guide to Reformation Theology literature which hopefully will be beneficial to all who want to do some deeper investigation of where we are, where we’ve come from and where we are going. To get you started this succinct guide places emphasis on Reformed soteriology (e.g. the doctrine of salvation), the five solas and covenant theology. The following all deserve a permanent place on your bookshelf:

  Our Top Recommendations:

(click on the links below if you want to learn more about a particular book)

ESV Study Bible
ESV Reformation Study Bible
The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin
A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith 2nd Edition by Dr. Robert L. Reymond
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vol. set by Francis Turretin
A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall
The Glory of Christ by John Owen
The Holy Spirit by John Owen
Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards
The Doctrine of God by John Frame

Basic Christianity

A Christian should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them. (1 Peter 3:15) Sinclair Ferguson in his excellent The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, is a great place to start learning how. Also, it is short, but I cannot recommend enough Walter Chantry's little book Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?. He refocuses our attention on the heart of the Gospel message. . With the new Christian or layperson in mind, David G. Hagopian offers us Back to Basics: Rediscovering the Richness of Reformed Faith.  To get an overview of the unity of the whole Bible Vaughan Roberts has written two excellent little books called God's Big Picture Tracing the Story-line of the Bible.  Another little book that will take you through an introduction to the Bible as the unfolding plan of God is Graeme Goldsworthy’s little gem According to Plan The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible.  Outstanding as always, the late James Boice, works through the Five Solas in 'Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace: Recovering the Doctrines That Shook the World' - a must read (temporarily out of print).

Sola Scriptura: (Scripture Alone)

For in-depth studies it is perhaps best to begin with understanding the Scriptures themselves, for in them Christ has revealed Himself.  We can only know God as He has made himself known to us.  Scripture is our highest presupposition and rule all of our thought and enables us to destroy any false speculation raised up against the knowledge of God. Our ultimate and final authority for knowledge is the Word of God, hence the Protestant adage Sola Scriptura. ESV Study Bible is a must have addition to your every day studies. The notes are extremely informative and give emphasis to the unity of Scripture and the texts which affirm the central truths of the Christian Faith. We also highly recommend his little book entitled 'Knowing Scripture' which clearly shows us an exegetical approach to interpreting Scripture. Perhaps one of the best defenses of Sola Scriptura ever written is Disputations on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker. Also it has perplexed many throughout the centuries why if there is one truth, it is so difficult to determine it? How do we determine who is right? And why does God allow errors in His Church (though never in His Word)? These are exactly the questions that Dr. Samuel Bolton addresses in this rare book, The Arraignment of Error. James White’s 'Scripture Alone: Exploring The Bible's Accuracy, Authority, And Authenticity' is a shorter but also a very well crafted defense of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. 

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Central to understanding the Bible and possibly the most neglected doctrine in evangelicalism is the doctrine of grace alone.  This and Solus Christus (Christ Alone) give us the heartbeat of the Reformed faith. Luther, Calvin and the other Reformers understood this to be the pivotal doctrine of the Reformation. The term allows only grace to be the active power in justification and leaves nothing to the human will or to human works. Synergism (synergismus), or cooperation between man and God, is therefore effectively ruled out of the initial work of salvation. Even faith (fides) itself springs from the grace of Christ and cannot be considered as the result of human effort. These Reformers taught that sinners are not free to choose but are completely captive to their sin…nothing precedes the grace and work of the Holy Spirit. Reformation Scholar Michael Haykin says, "it is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of Justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith." With this very thing in mind, Martin Luther believed that his Bondage of the Will was his greatest work and best expressed the theology of the Reformation. You will chuckle at Luther's descriptions of his theological opponents but the arguments require some deep thinking.  Jonathan Edward’s ‘Freedom of the Will is considered his greatest work but I would only recommend it to advanced students of the Word. R.C. Sproul’s 'Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will' is a better introduction for lay readers. John Owen's book 'The Holy Spirit' is up there with some of the best books we have ever read on the sovereign work of the Spirit in salvation. We cannot stress how important the topics of free will, grace and the Holy Spirit is to recovering the gospel and facing up to the current crisis in evangelicalism.

Integral to this is its belief that "man's primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." As affirmed in the beginning of the 'The Westminster Confession of Faith. Glorify God also means that we need to know him. I am always struck by the ease at which so many evangelicals say we don’t need to know theology, we just need Jesus. Well would you say the same thing about your wife or husband.  I don’t really want to know about him/her, I just need him in a generic sense.  Can we love those who we don’t want to know anything about?  J.I. Packer really helps us here with his classic 'Knowing God' which, to my amazement, even some who reject the Reformed faith love.  I would also heartily recommend the Puritan Thomas Watson’s 16th Century classic, ‘A Body of Divinity’.


Doctrines of Grace
To know the doctrine of Sola Gratia we we obviously cannot avoid drinking up the beautiful doctrines of grace which are mediated to us from Christ through the Holy Spirit..  The acrostic TULIP best express Reformed soteriology:  These are, total depravity, unconditional election, definite (limited) atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.  All Christians should get to know these because after you understand them you will realize that these truths really speak to the fact God saves sinners by the grace of Jesus Christ alone. We do not want anyone to simply embrace a system, but so that we glorify God in Jesus Christ by ascribing all to Him in our salvation. A good place to begin learning more about the doctrines of grace is ‘Putting Amazing Back into Grace’ by Michael Horton.  We also can't emphasize enough how much practical help the book 'When Grace Comes Home: How the Doctrines of Grace Change Your Lifeby Terry Johnson is. Get this book if you want to know and understand the nitty gritty of how the doctrines of grace relate practically to everyday living. For those who want a great overview and prefer reading less, I highly recommend this great DVD of high production quality: ‘Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of CALVINISM.  For the most thoroughgoing exposition of the atonement make sure you get John Owen's classic, 'The Death of Death in the Death of Christ'. Particular redemption is brilliantly argued here. 


The Sovereignty of God in Election and All Things

According to the Scriptures, God chose in Christ those whom He would redeem, before the foundation of the earth. (Jn. 17:9; 2 Tim. 1-9-10, Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; ) Elaborating on this there is some fine literature out there;  A.W. Pink's 'The Sovereignty of God’ seems to stand the test of time and may be considered a classic. For a contemporary look at the doctrine of election we highly recommend Chosen For Life: The Case for Divine Election by Sam Storms which is really a helpful book on the topic. 'Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace' brings together many of today’s best Reformed scholars and continues to affirm that salvation of the Lord alone. Many essays on various topics related to grace.  Another excellent treatment is Gordon Clark’s ‘Predestination’ and the 'The Reign of Grace' by Abraham Booth (a Classic). Loraine Boettner’s 'Reformed Doctrine of Predestination' has been extremely helpful to many.  Furthermore, I want to recommend one of today's clearest thinkers with regard to God's sovereignty and compatibilism: John Frame's 'The Doctrine of God'. The book is irenic toward its opponents but it utterly lays bare and demolishes arguments for libertarian free will theism.


 The Covenant

The covenant is the theological framework of the unfolding redemptive work of God which best accounts for the biblical teachings on God's role and man's in salvation, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the relationship between law and grace, and the unity of Scripture.  One of the classic Christian books in history is called 'Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man' by Herman Witsius first published from Utrecht in 1677.  The best introductory book on the topic is Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and Tradition by Peter Golding. For a deeper understanding of this critical topic we also highly encourage you to buy God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton - a extremely helpful book.


This has once again become a controversial topic. It is central to our faith so we need to be intimately familiar with it and our union with Christ. Perhaps the best writing on the subject is Everlasting Righteousness by Horatius Bonar. We are also very excited about a little relatively unknown book called Justification and Regeneration by Charles Leiter. For a very thorough investigation of the topic we believe Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine by J.V. Fesco covers the most ground.


Godly Life and Sanctification
Too many traditions go wrong in the area of growing in grace. To counter this we would like to recommend a tremendously helpful Gospel-centered, Christ exalting book ... perhaps one of the best books on sanctification ever published, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ by Walter Marshall. In this same vein take the time to read CJ Mahaney's The Cross-Centered Life. And of course, the all time classic, The Mortification of Sin by John Owen.

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