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Reformed Literature
A Presbyterian Internet Journal

The Reformed Faith

Donald Beaton

Free Presbyterian Publications

Available for £2.50

The author, Donald Beaton, probably needs no introduction on a site that is heavily populated with Free Presbyterian material. However, he was one of the group of ministerial students that joined the FP church at its inception in 1893 and becoming one of its senior ministers. He ministered at Wick for about 30 years and then moved to Oban where he held the charge for another 18 years. He died in 1953. He was perhaps the most theological astute minister that the FP Church has ever had, writing a range of books and articles. He was the theological tutor for over 40 years and was editor of both FP magazines.

The Reformed Faith is more of a booklet than a book and, as its title suggests, it is an explanation of some of the basic doctrines of Reformed theology. At the centre of the topics covered in the booklet are the five points of Calvinism but, these are expanded upon to include other topics that were pressing on the mind of the Church in mid 1930s. The other topics include the sufficiency of the Bible, the Trinity, Justification (interesting given the current debates on that topic) and the doctrine of the last things.

It refers the reader to A.A. Hodge’s Outlines of Theology (published by the Banner of Truth) which in the mid 30s was about 50 years old and a standard text. Sadly, it could not interact at all with Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology which was published in 1939 - in my own view, despite Prof. Berkhof’s view on some of the topics around the the doctrine of the last things, the Berkhof book is vastly superior to the ordinary reader than that of Prof. Hodge. I find that on some topics that Hodge’s explanation requires you to read it several times before you get to the heart of the point he is trying to make - and while Beaton manages to avoid this trap on the five points of Calvinism, I did find myself having to read the page a lot slower on some of the articles around justification and even when he was discussing Amyraut and the Marrow Men. I think some of these explanations might have been improved in a post-Berkhof world.

In the mid 30s, the rise of the cults and their unorthodox views on the trinity brings about a clear statement of those doctrines. Sadly, there is no discussion on my prevailing topics today, such as those around the gifts of the Spirit.

The booklet is designed for the general reader not the theologian - and while it does assume a level of knowledge this is not beyond most readers. If you are wanting a short synopsis of many key topics, to help you explain to others what is meant by being ‘Reformed’ or ‘Calvinist’ then this is not a bad place to start.