An Annotated Reformed Reading List (Updated)

From time to time students ask what books must they have in their libraries before they leave seminary. This list contains my suggestions. This could be much longer, but it would be less useful. Since I teach historical theology, this list is weighted with those sorts of texts.

  • Anonymous, To Diognetus in Michael. W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Grand Rapidsl Baker Academic, 2007).
  • Anselm. The Major Works. Edited by Brian Davies and G. R Evans. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Athanasius, On The Incarnation. E.g., On the Incarnation of the Word of God, trans. anon. (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1944).
  • Augstine. The City of God. This is a large, sometimes rambling work but its importance to Western Christianity can hardly be estimated.
  • Beardslee, John W.  ed., Reformed Dogmatics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. This text contains translations of Turretin, Wollebius and Voetius. Turretin is available elsewhere, but this is the only place to find Voetius in English and the best place to find Wollebius in English. If you don’t know who Wollebius and Voetius are, then you need to read this book.
  • Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996. There is no question whether you should own and read Berkhof cover to cover. The only question is: which edition? The 1996 edn contains his long-neglected Introduction to Systematic Theology. This introduction makes this edn superior to all editions published without it.
  • Beza, Theodore. The Christian Faith, trans. James Clark (Lewes: Focus Christian Ministries Trust, 1992).This is Beza as he actually was. Needless to say, this is not the Beza of most of the secondary texts.
  • Calvin, John.  Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vol. trans. F. L. Battles, ed. J. T. McNeil. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960. In certain respects the Allen and Beveridge editions are to be preferred, but, for now, the Battles edition is the accepted scholarly English translation. This is only a starting place for Calvin studies. On any particular issue it is best to read Calvin’s commentaries, theInstitutes (or perhaps the appropriate treatise) and the sermons in that order. In the commentary one finds Calvin’s exegetical method, in the Institutes, his dogmatic conclusions and in the sermons, his homiletical application to his congregation.
  • Clark, R. Scott. Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice (2008).
  • Clark, R. Scott. ed. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. Phillipsburg: P&R 2007. This collection of essays  defends the biblical and confessional Reformed doctrine of justification and covenant theology.
  • Cocceius, Johannes. The Doctrine of the Covenant and Testament of God. trans. Casey Carmichael. Classic Reformed Theology Series vol. 3. ed. R. Scott Clark. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016. This is a challenging work but one of the most important works in the history of Reformed covenant theology.
  • Colquhoun, John. A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2022. Originally published in 1819, this work is an important witness to the continuing Reformed commitment to the historic Protestant distinction between law and gospel.
  • Dathenus, Petrus. The Pearl of Christian Comfort, trans. A. Blok. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1997. An excellent example of the confessional Reformed piety of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
  • Fisher, Edward. The Marrow of Modern Divinity. That Thomas Boston thought this book was important enough to edit and reprint in his day, is a strong endorsement. The fact that this book is still controversial says volumes about the book and the state of Reformed theology today. If you are not sure what the difference is between Law and Gospel, this book will help. This is an outstanding modern edition. Highly recommended.
  • Hart, D. G.  The Lost Soul of American Protestantism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002).This book makes the case as never before that there are two types of American Christianity, the confessional and non-confessional. Among the non-confessional there are varieties, including evangelical and liberal, but non-confessional Christianity belongs to a different genus than does confessional Christianity.
  • Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology 3 vol. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, repr. 1982. The synopsis of the old Princeton theology. Don’t let the occasional Latin passages put you off this work.
  • Horton, Michael S. Covenant and Eschatology. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2002.
  • Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2005.
  • Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2007. This series, to be completed with one more volume, is one of the most important written by a contemporary Reformed author in a very long time. Horton carefully and thoughtfully engages the academy and sets forth a thoughtful plan for the future of orthodox Reformed dogmatics.
  • —People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology. Louisville: WJKP, 2008. An award winning volume laying out the connections between covenant theology and the biblical and Reformed doctrine of the visible church as location of the administration of the covenant of grace.
  • God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006).A simple, clear and comprehensive introduction to a Reformed approach to the historia salutis (history of salvation). Used in several Christian colleges, this is a great textbook for Christian education courses.
  • —The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (2011).
  • Junius, Franciscus. On True Theology, trans. David C. Noe. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014.
  • Kline, Meredith G.  Treaty of the Great King (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963) One of the most important Reformed theologians of the covenant in the modern period, Kline is a genuine heir of the traditions of Cocceius and Vos . This book is the gateway to the rest of his writings. It is brilliant, stimulating and edifying.
  • Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1947. Lewis was not Reformed theologically but he was an amazingly well read, thoughtful, and articulate Christian who saw what Modernity was and where it was headed.
  • Luther, Martin. Bondage of the Will in Luther’s Works. vol. 33. Some today might be surprised to see Luther’s name on this list, but earlier Reformed theologians who read Luther would have been surprised to see him omitted. We have our differences with Luther, but on the doctrines of predestination and justification, he has always been one of our theologians.
  • Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism. New York: MacMillan, 1923. When I read this book almost forty years ago it was as if Machen had written it yesterday. Nothing has changed fundamentally and Machen’s analysis is still dead-on. When Van Til urged “fortiter in re, suaviter in modo,” he was thinking of Machen. One hopes this work will whet your appetite for more.
  • Marshall, Walter. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. This was Mr. Murry’s favorite book on sanctification.
  • Muether, John R.  Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman. American Reformed Biographies. Philipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008. This is one of my favorite biographies. It is by far the most human introduction to Van Til.
  • Muller, Richard. Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 2nd editon 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003. This is the landmark introduction to classic Reformed theology. Anyone who wants to study Reformed theology seriously must read this work. It is the definitive introduction to Reformed orthodoxy in the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985. Not only is the only reference of its kind, reading it is a theological education itself.
  • Murray, John. The Imputation of Adam’s Sin. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959. A brilliant exegetical defense of the doctrine of imputation and Reformed federalism.
  • Redemption Accomplished and Applied.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955. An excellent introduction to the Reformed ordo salutis (order of the application of redemption by the Holy Spirit). At his best, Murray was a great transmitter of historic Reformed theology.
  • Olevianus, Caspar. A Firm Foundation, trans. Lyle D. Bierma. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995. An edifying introduction to classic Reformed covenant/federal theology written by one of the chief authors of the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in catechetical format, the translator and editor has correlated it to the Heidelberg Catechism. This is an excellent resource for those catechetical sermons or membership classes.
  • An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, trans. Lyle Bierma (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010). The second volume in the Classic Reformed Theology series, this is a good introduction to the Reformed doctrines of covenant and kingdom and to the catholic faith summarized in the creed.
  • Owen, John. Faith and Its Evidences. ed. William H. Goold. The Works of John Owen Vol. 5. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1892. Banner edition published 1965. This is one of the most significant and clearest articulations of the Protestant doctrine of justification ever published.
  • —The Death of Death in the Death of Christ : A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy About Universal Redemption Is Fully Discussed. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1959.
  • Perkins, William. Golden Chain in The Works of William Perkins, vol. 6. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015. Perkins is the source of the English Reformed theology, piety, and practice in the seventeenth century. In this volume we see a classic articulation of the Reformed order of the application of redemption by the Spirit to the elect.
  • —Commentary on Galatians in The Works of William Perkins, vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015. In this work we see him carrying on the Reformation reading of Scripture and applying Scripture to his time and place.
  • Riddlebarger, Kim. A Case for Amillenialism. Expanded edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013. This is a terrific one-stop introduction to Amillennialism.
  • Sayers, Dorothy. Creed or Chaos? (New York: HBJ, 1949). So far as I know, Sayers was not Reformed, but she was a master of the English language. She was also a very thoughtful lay-theologian. The dogma is the drama.
  • Turretin, Francis. Institutes of Elenctic Theology 3 vols. trans. G. M. Giger, ed. J. T. Dennison. Philipsburg: P&R, 1992–97. One of the greatest of the 17th-century Reformed dogmatic works, it has retained its influence through its use at old Princeton. These volumes put in your hands an excellent representative of high Reformed orthodoxy and polemical theology.
  • Ursinus, Zacharias. Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. trans. G. Willard. Philipsburg: P&R, repr. 1985.There are many commentaries on the Heidelberg Catechism, but this one was written by the man responsible writing most of the Catechism. Ursinus was appointed to defend the catechism which he did through these and other lectures.
  • Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. Philipsburg: P&R, 1955. The best and clearest comprehensive summary of Van Til’s approach to apologetics and theology.
  • — The New Modernism. Philipsburg: P&R, 1946.There is hardly a more politically incorrect book available today, but it is a must read for any serious student of Barth. One might quibble with Van Til’s rhetorical strategy, but his analysis of what Barth was actually saying still holds.
  • Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948. The foremost practitioner of Reformed Biblical Theology of the late 19th and early 20th century. Vos took to hand a discipline dominated by pietism and liberals and made it habitable for confessional Reformed theology, without ever using it as a tool against Systematic Theology or the Reformed confessions.
  • Grace and Glory (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994).
  • The Kingdom of God and the Church (New York, 1903).
  • The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Philipsburg: P&R, 1956).
  • Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1930).
  • Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation (Philipsburg: P&R, 1980).
  • The Self-Disclosure of Jesus (Grand Rapids, 1954).
  • Warfield, B. B. Studies in Theology. New York: Oxford University Press. The inclusion of this title is arbitrary. Anything written by Warfield is worth having and reading, carefully.
  • Witsius, Herman. The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, 2 vol. Philipsburg: P&R, repr., 1990.Probably the single finest statement of Reformed federal/covenant theology.

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  1. I have 3 of the 4, maybe I’ll try to pick up Beardslee’s Reformed Dogmatics from your bookstore later on this month.

  2. I have 3 of the 4 also, though I am neither a seminary student nor graduating as one. If such is the case that I, a humble layman, have these resources (and many more), what excuse is there that any graduating sem students do not? In other words, like the transition I made from 25+ years of working with Microsoft-based computer products to Apple (Mac) based machines, “if I can do it, anyone can do it!”

  3. I was just looking at an older version of this reading list earlier today. I was noticing that a few of these entries could be updated. For example, Kim Riddlebarger’s text is in a updated edition and Michael Horton’s prolegomena series is now complete. There are a few other small updates. I am, however, very thankful for your list and your insights into why you recommended most of the books.

  4. Hmm isnt this a you should have before you get started list? I have the Institutes and Horton’s book so far.

  5. Wouldn’t you include a single one of the grand evangelistic books of the Puritan period? I am not well read, but to me they would include Alarm, Christian’s Great Interest, Almost Christian Discovered, and Life of God in the Soul of Man, not to mention Bunyan’s contributions. To me, Alarm proclaims not only evangelistic preaching at its most thorough, but the value of an exceptionally zealous prayer life.

  6. Besides reading reformed books, it seems that we also need to read other books as well. What other books would you put on a reading list?

  7. I am presently working through Turretin. I am currently in the 2nd vol. in the Sanctification section. Turretin is busting up the hard soil of my mind. My (former) pastor gave/ bought the set for me several years ago. I have already gone through “Scholastic Discourse by Johannis Maccovius. I love scholastic theology!

    On a more humorous note, Dr. Clark, have you heard about the scholastic theologian who took a side job as a barber? He got fired for splitting hairs rather than cutting them!

  8. In the interest of perfecting your list, the link for the Marrow of Modern Divinity is to the more recent and superior Christian Focus edition (2009), but the parenthetical citation does not reflect that same edition.

  9. Dear Dr. Clark,
    I would echo Wayne’s request that the bibliographical information for “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” should be updated to the edition published in 2009 by Christian Focus.

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