Helpful Resources for the Doctrines of Grace

I have decided to compile a list of some of the most helpful resources I have found in studying the doctrines of grace (commonly called the five points of Calvinism). This is a subject that deserves our full attention, because it is replete throughout all of Scripture and requires us to think deeply. I encourage you to take some time and lean in to God’s Word and think over what is there; the Lord will give you understanding (2 Tim. 2:7). 

People all have different learning styles, so included below is a myriad of different formats of resources that will hopefully cater to our differences. 

1. John Piper’s TULIP Lectures (Videos)

These are 10 videos of Dr. John Piper walking through the five points of Calvinism, with each video lasting around 45 minutes long and containing all of his notes at the bottom of the page. I have found this to be probably the most helpful resource when I was first hashing out where I stood on the issue.

Why it’s helpful:

  • The phrase that comes to mind when I think of John Piper is “ruthlessly Biblical”, and that is precisely what is displayed here. Piper goes through hundreds of passages of Scripture, showing us the sovereignty of God and all of its implications are radically Biblical.
  • He covers every challenge and question I have ever heard someone raise against the issue – if you have the time, this is well worth it.
  • You don’t have to watch them all in one go, but can span them out through several weeks.
  • Here is also a link to all of desiringGod’s articles they have on Calvinism.

2. And the Rest of It’s Calvinism Series (Blog)

These are a series of short blogs written by David Mikucki, a friend of mine back in WA state, serving as an introduction into the Reformed faith. David avoids a lot of the clunky theological jargon that often can make this matter cloudy, so it serves as a great on-ramp for those who might be walking into this for the first time.

Why it’s helpful:

  • These are helpful because they are well-written, meaning that they are very accessible to read.
  • I believe that the main strength, however, comes in the fact that David does not focus on the doctrines of grace with a microscope, but instead gives us a telescope to see the God who is sovereign over all creation and time. Microscopes are important and we need them when we study the Bible, but every now and then we need to look up to the stars and be stunned by the cosmic span of God’s redemptive plan throughout history.
  • You could probably read through all of his posts  in less than an hour (which would give you plenty of time to go read other stuff he has written!). 

3. Tim Keller Simple 7 Min. Explanation (Video)

This is Dr. Tim Keller’s quick response to a Q&A session, where someone asks him to briefly explain the doctrine of election.

Why it’s helpful:

  • It is brief, concise, and simple.
  • It highlights that at the heart of election is a robust understanding of grace, and the inevitable consequence of rejecting it.
  • You also get the benefit of hearing a remarkably brilliant, staunch Calvinist say that hammering explicitly on the five points of Calvinism isn’t a central thing.

4. Documents, Catechisms and Confessions from Church History

Since the Protestant Reformation, there has been a number of excellent confessions and catechisms written out for the simple purpose of helping instruct the Church on the basic core doctrines of our faith. (Many of the shorter catechisms were designed specifically for instructing children.)

I would recommend: The Westminster Shorter CatechismThe Westminster Confession of FaithThe Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dort.

Why it’s helpful:

  • These documents were written when some of the most brilliant minds in Church history were at their peak of peak of influence.
  • Because the Protestant Reformation faced two dangers that led it to a remarkable commitment to Scripture. 1) They were met with much resistance from Roman Catholics and 2) because of its relative newness, the Church was susceptible to false teachers slipping in and doing damage to the Church. These trials forced the Church to have solid, biblical backing for everything they believed. 
  • Reading old, dead theologians helps break your mind free from the bondage of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery”, the belief that just because we are modernized people, we are more enlightened than our predecessors. 
  • Seeing the prevalence of the doctrines of grace throughout history helps give you perspective on the historical precedence for embracing the doctrine of unconditional election.
  • For further defense of why reading Church confessions are important, check out this article from desiringGod.

5. Know Your Heretics

The Judaizers, the GnosticsPelagius and Open Theism is a good place to start.

Why it’s helpful:

  • Satan never comes up with something original, but just repackages the same errors as before. If I can become familiar with an older error, I will be ready for its next revision that will come down the pike.
  • See previous point’s note on “Chronological Snobbery”

6. Doug Wilson on Calvinism (Blog)

Doug Wilson is a pastor, theologian and writer out of Moscow, ID. I am relatively new to reading Wilson, and admittedly there are many points that I disagree with Wilson on (sacraments, eschatology, etc.), plus at times I can find him to be a tad unnecessarily critical towards his opponents – but, that being said, he is an incredibly engaging author with a brilliant mind, and his soteriology is rock solid.

Why it’s helpful:

  • I love reading Wilson. He has a remarkable talent in turning a phrase, the use of metaphor and humor, all while discussing very heady matters. His humor (often, not always) doesn’t flow out of painting up wrong views as stupid straw-men, and then whacking them down with his giant Calvinist stick. Rather, Wilson manages to expertly handle the strongest arguments of his opponents with such ease that he can lightly dance around them, showing how clunky and silly their logic is. 
  • Even if you find things you disagree with in Wilson, what you find that is good, is really good.

7. Grace to You’s “Why I Am A Calvinist” (Articles)

This is a written transcript from a talk given by Phil Johnson from the 2007 Shepherd’s conference entitled “Closet Calvinist”. There are eight articles total, each one taking about fifteen minutes to read.

Why it’s helpful:

  • This is helpful because it gives a defense from both Scripture and history, highlighting some of the most famous, influential pastors and theologians in Christendom. 
  • This is a simple, approachable defense for why he believes Calvinism is essentially the same as the Gospel.
  • And yet, he is extremely humble and fair to Arminians who disagree.

8. Spurgeon’s “Defense of Calvinism” (PDF)

C. H. Spurgeon “The Prince of Preachers” was one of the most famous preacher’s in the Church’s history. He preached to nearly 10,000 parishioners every Sunday, founded orphanages, started a college for pastors, and influenced some of the most effective missionaries the world has seen (Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone). In his autobiography he wrote a small section titled “A Defense of Calvinism”.

Why it’s helpful:

  • If you have read Spurgeon before, you’ll know that everything he writes is gold.
  • If you have never read Spurgeon before, you are missing out, big time.
  • Spurgeon’s conviction and humility throughout the writing is overwhelming; as you read it feels more like you are observing a man worship God with wide-eyed wonder for what He has done, rather than reading a dry theological treatise. 

9. Ask Pastor John (Audio)

This is a simple podcast that John Piper does all throughout the week. Monday through Friday, John answers questions that listeners email into him. If you follow the link above, you can search for topics like “Calvinism” or “Election” or “Predestination”. You can also download an “Ask Pastor John” app on your smart phone.

Why it’s helpful:

  • Each episode is only 5-10 minutes long.
  • They tackle questions that the average person comes up with, rather than the squabbles that can go on between theological braniacs. 
  • There are over 550 episodes.

10. Look at the Book (Videos)

These are videos of John Piper exegeting a text right in front of you, recorded on an iPad. This is a remarkably helpful resource for any Biblical studies, but as far as studying unconditional election and the doctrines of grace, his lab on 2 Tim. 2:24-26 (Part 1 and 2), 2 Cor. 4:4-6, and Rom. 8:28-39 are most helpful.

Why it’s helpful:

  • Each video is about 10 minutes long.
  • You watch Piper show you how to interpret the Bible, letting its truth blossom for itself out of the text and thus reach a theological conclusion – not the other way around.
  • Incredibly helpful to give you a set of practices in your own quiet time.


Books

Listed below are mostly introductory books that I have found to be helpful in my studies of the doctrines of grace. I will begin the list with what I think to be the easiest, and continue on towards the end with more in depth titles.

First and foremost, I recommend reading through the Gospel of John and the book of Romans. And then…

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