This was my second time reading Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, a clearly written summary of Christian doctrine. I love truth. I want to saturate my mind with it because biblical thinking leads, or at least should lead, to biblical living. “Stinkin’ thinkin,’” as some call it, leads to unbiblical attitudes and unbiblical living. This time around, I read Essential Truths differently than the first time. Last time, I read it right through in a few days. This time, I read one short chapter (2 to 4 pages) each morning as part of my quiet time.
Each topic ends with a summary and additional Bible verses to read. Honest confession – I didn’t look up all the verses. I should have. If I were to use this manual for discipling a new believer, I would spend more time actually reading these Scriptures with him.
If you were to pick 102 “essential” truths about the Christian faith, what would they be? They might not be exactly the ones theologian and prolific author R. C. Sproul chose, but undoubtedly many would be.
His 102 topics are grouped into ten categories:
- Revelation – 9 topics – Sproul wisely begins with the inspiration and authority of the Bible, as well as how to interpret it.
- The Nature and Attributes of God – 9 topics – This is a rich study helping us get to know God – His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His holiness, His goodness, His justice, etc.
- The Works and Decrees of God – 6 topics – Interesting explanations on creation, providence, miracles, the will of God, etc.
- Jesus Christ – 12 topics – You would expect His deity and humanity, but Sproul also covers lesser known aspects – Christ’s glory, His ascension, His threefold office, and His titles.
- The Holy Spirit – 7 topics – This area of Christian doctrine is very important and often neglected.
- Human Beings and the Fall – 12 topics -This includes subjects like sin, Satan, demons, but also lesser known topics, e.g. our conscience, the unforgiveable sin, and others.
- Salvation – 19 topics – This is perhaps the richest section. Personally I love reading about every aspect of my salvation from predestination to glorification! All glory to God!
- The Church and Sacraments – 11 topics – As expected, Sproul deals with the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but also topics such as excommunication and the Sabbath.
- Spirituality and Living in This Age – 11 topics – Includes chapters on the fruit of the Spirit, love, hope, prayer, marriage, divorce, antinomianism, legalism, etc. I would also have appreciated a chapter on evangelism and missions, though he alludes to it in “The Marks of the Church.”
- End Times – 6 topics – Not a lot of detail here, but good summaries on the Antichrist, the return of Christ, the Kingdom of God, heaven, the beatific vision (glorious!), and hell (frightening!).
I challenge you to read this 287-page book. Even if you’re not Reformed in your theology, you will agreed with the great majority of it. However, I’ll warn you that there may be a few paragraphs that will challenge your thinking, but being made to reflect on what and why you believe is always a good thing!
In my opinion, if you were only to read the eleven-page introduction of Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, it would still be worth the cost of the book. In it, Sproul shares ten factors that work against the Christian’s goal of spiritual maturity. I won’t give them away because I want you to read the book and find out for yourself what they are.
I sometimes wish theologians like R. C. Sproul would devote a little more space in their books to explaining how to live out the doctrinal truths they expound because, according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Nevertheless, Sproul doesn’t completely neglect the application of doctrine as seen in section nine above.
I’ll conclude my review with something by Sproul to chew on:
“We remind the reader that it is possible to have a sound theology without having a sound life. But we cannot have a sound life without having a sound theology. In this sense, theology must never be viewed as an abstract science. It is a matter of life and death, even eternal life and eternal death.”
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