Why do people do what they do? In a staunch religious family, the reasons often have to do with their beliefs. Not only does faith in a particular set of doctrines inform the believer, but it shapes their worldview. This is especially powerful if that belief is considered unique truth.
In the case of our Presbyterian ancestors, they were shaped by a specific interpretation of the Bible. They saw themselves as a chosen Covenant People with a special mission.
The Calvinist Family Tree
The Calvinist branch of Protestantism consist of many regional and cultural expressions. These include Presbyterian (Scottish and Scots-Irish), Reformed (Dutch, German, Hungarian), and Congregational (English Puritans). In some parts, Calvinism became mixed into various Baptist, Methodist and evangelical groups. By understanding their belief system, we can grasp who Calvinists were and how their beliefs played a part in forming their family histories. This is especially important if you are writing a family history. You will want to get all the facts correct!
Calvinist Systematic Theology Works
Below you will find my favorite hard-core Calvinist theological reference books. Keep in mind theology informs culture just as much as culture informs theology. So emphasis do change over the centuries in the interpretation of practice and belief. My list will detail systematic theology books, which give all the details! Any of the works below are worth your investment.
There is cross over between Calvinist and Baptist-Calvinist theological works. I am limiting my bibliography to one-volume Calvinist systematic theology works. Whether a theological work is Presbyterian, Reformed or Puritan (Congregational) in background, all have solid information. The books below will provide you with answers to questions and by default will give insight into your ancestors in areas such as baptism, Covenant Theology, church administration, the family, marriage, communion, and the core Calvinist worldview.
Bibliography of Calvinist Systematic Theologies
Bavinck, Herman and John Bolt, ed. Reformed Dogmatics: Abridged in One Volume (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academics, 2011). This is an abridgement of Herman Bavinck’s (1854-1921) massive four volume work written in The Netherlands and considered by many to be the one of the most important Reformed theological works of the twentieth century. The editor, Dr. Bolt, is professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Beeke, Joel R., Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Orlando, Florida: Reformation Trust, 2008). This work outlines the very heart of Calvinism for the modern reader. Dr. Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and pastor in the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation.
Beeke, Joel R. and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012). A groundbreaking treatment of English Puritan teachings. This work represents the most comprehensive exposition on English Puritan theology. Dr. Beeke is president at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Mark Jones is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.
Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology: New Combined Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996). Dr. Berkhof, was a Dutch-American theologian, and pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. He was a professor at Calvin Seminary and is one of the often quoted Calvinist theologians. This edition combines his classics Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology (1932) and Systematic Theology (1938).
Boice, James Montgomery, Foundations of the Christina Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1986). Dr. Boice was pastor of the 10th Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. This work combines four of his theological books.
Frame, John M., Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2013). Dr. Frame holds the J.D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. An abridgement of his four volume systematic theology, this work is highly readable and understandable.
Horton, Michael, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010). Dr. Horton, is a pastor in the United Reformed Churches in North America, and Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. In this award winning book, he wrote what some consider to be one of the most important contemporary Reformed systematic theology books.
Reymond, Robert L. 2d rev. ed. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998). Dr. Reymond, was former Dean of Faculty and Professor of Systematic Theology at Knox Theological Seminary. He was a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. .
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