Book Review: What is the Church?

As a young theologian I found that ecclesiology was something that I felt was missing in my experience of Protestantism. As I began to study more, I found this to be more and more the case. Although Protestants could say that they understood that the Church wasn’t simply a building they met in, or a localized group of Christians, I found that often they lived as though it were. Today I’ll be reviewing What is the Church? by R.C. Sproul, an entry in the Crucial Questions series.

This book is a short read, and like others in the CQ series, is intended to give a basic answer to a question Christians face. Like the others, this book represents a Reformed position on catholic Christianity, and as such the views may not go over with more independent positions (Anabaptists, Baptists, and Non-Denominational types). However, I think this entry is a valuable tool to begin to develop a basic framework.

Taking its structure from the Nicene formulation, following in the Augustinian tradition, it identifies that the characteristics of the Church are OneHolyApostolic and catholic. Sproul then proceeds throughout the remainder of the book to explain each of those attributes.

Overall, I like the CQ series, and have reviewed several of them on this blog. I did find, however, that this one left me a bit unsatisfied. It seemed at times to give surface level questions, which were not on the same level of depth as the others in the series. Additionally, the treatment of the properties of OneApostolic, and catholic were rather weak. Perhaps it is my particular context and background, but considering the fact that this is a common vector of attack from Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, as well as a one of the major reasons why Protestants are converting to those traditions, it seemed to me that the answers provided don’t really serve to bolster the Protestant position against those critiques. Granted, I agree with everything said, the answers given simply do not give the Protestant a sufficient response to these critiques, the potential convert a reason to remain Protestant, or the Traditional Church a reason to reconsider their position.

That being said, for a new Christian or a Protestant who is simply looking for a place to start, this book makes a great springboard to further studies. It clearly and concisely presents the Reformed position in Sproul’s characteristic charm, wit, and tenderness.

Please note: Reformation Trust / Ligonier Ministries has provided me with an electronic version of this book for review purposes, and will be providing me with a hard copy edition in exchange for this review. They do not require positive reviews, nor have they edited or modified this review in any way.