Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Motivation for Church Reformation
Because our church is in the process of reforming, I approached this book with great interest. "Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" is a compilation of four lectures first delivered at the Evangelical Theological College of Wales in 2000. Together they represent a call to today's church to recover the spirit of the 16th-century Reformation movement. Much of what goes on in the contemporary church would have been repudiated by men like Luther, and Calvin. Trueman's plea is for the church that dares call itself "evangelical" to repent of its departure from and return to its moorings in the great Reformation tradition. This includes adopting what he labels a "theology of the cross" that insists upon the centrality of Christ's sufferings and its relevance as essential. In addition, the author calls for the appropriation of the Bible as the centerpiece of all doctrinal formulation. His charge to the preacher regarding the preparation and presentation of the sacred text for preaching should be slowly read by every minister of the Word. I came away from this portion of the book with a renewed sense of my own responsibility to my people and my accountability before God. Trueman repeatedly holds up the experience of Luther, whose unwavering adherence to truth upon its discovery serves as a example for all who desire to see reformation in our day. The book closes with a plea for followers of Christ to live with assurance in the righteousness granted through the sacrifice of Christ and not, in any sense, by their own merit...including the strength of their own faith. In short, any attempt at church reform that fails to put the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God at the hub is "reformational" and "evangelical" in name only. I found this brief volume challenging and motivating for pastors and other church leaders.
January 30, 2013
The relevance of the Reformation for today
There is no question that Carl Trueman is an exceptionally gifted writer and this little book ably displays three aspects of that gift in particular. First, he is able to concisely and cogently cover a great deal of ground and yet do so in a way that gives the reader a real knowledge of his subject and insight into it. Secondly, and even more importantly, in my view, is his ability to make penetrating observations about present day situations and weaknesses within the Christian scene and then speak into them by applying biblical and historical lessons and principles. Third is his non-partisan spirit, as he graciously levels criticisms at Ã¢ÂÂfriendÃ¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂfoeÃ¢ÂÂ alike.
In the first of his four chapters, Trueman takes us back to the 16th and 17th centuries, setting the events surrounding the Reformation in their historical and spiritual context. This is not dry and arid history but a vital reminder of the real nature of and reasons for those events that still have a profound influence on the church and on the world today. The author shows how the Reformation was, above all else, not primarily an attempt to change ecclesiastical structures but Ã¢ÂÂto place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the churchÃ¢ÂÂs life and thoughtÃ¢ÂÂ and therein, according to Trueman, lies the usefulness and relevance of Reformation theology to us today.
In each of the next three chapters, Trueman focuses on a different aspect of Reformation theology and how we need to Ã¢ÂÂrevisitÃ¢ÂÂ it and apply it to todayÃ¢ÂÂs situation. He begins with the churchÃ¢ÂÂs emphasis on the person and work of Christ and shows how, in particular, LutherÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂtheology of the crossÃ¢ÂÂ is at variance with the present popular, triumphalist, Ã¢ÂÂtheology of gloryÃ¢ÂÂ which sidelines and downplays suffering. Says Trueman, Ã¢ÂÂThe Christian expectations centre on the cross and involve an acceptance, if not the willing embrace, of the suffering, weakness and marginalisation which inevitably come to those who follow in the footsteps of the Master.Ã¢ÂÂ He elaborates how this emphasis needs to be redressed, especially in the life of the church and not least in preaching.
TruemanÃ¢ÂÂs second focus is on the Scripture. The Reformation was, he writes, Ã¢ÂÂabove all a movement of the Word Ã¢ÂÂ incarnate in Christ and written down in the Scriptures.Ã¢ÂÂ He calls for a high view of the Bible and of the preaching and teaching of the Bible and has helpful and apposite things to say about the responsibilities, task and the training and preparation of ministers.
Thirdly, Trueman turns his sights on the subject of assurance. This was the chapter I had to take more time to work through to make sure I followed his arguments, but it is a vitally important issue for these days. Trueman clearly shows how the subject of assurance is inextricably linked to one of the core issues of the Reformation, that of justification by faith alone. He warns against the Ã¢ÂÂlegalistsÃ¢ÂÂ and the Ã¢ÂÂemotional highfliersÃ¢ÂÂ who both err by Ã¢ÂÂplacing their emphasis ultimately on their own experienceÃ¢ÂÂ whereas the Reformers followed the biblical teaching that assurance Ã¢ÂÂarose from the perception that God was both trustworthy and that his promise to save was, in an important sense, unconditional.Ã¢ÂÂ The need today is to return to a preaching that is centred on God, places biblical history high on the agenda and which culminates in Christ.
There are at least two editorial errors in the book, one of which makes a large paragraph almost unintelligible, and it is to be hoped that the Publishers will remedy these in any subsequent edition. The church today, Ã¢ÂÂreformedÃ¢ÂÂ, Ã¢ÂÂevangelicalÃ¢ÂÂ or whatever other labels it claims, needs to hear and act on what Trueman lays out in this excellent and highly commended book.
For the purpose of review, the publisher supplied a copy of the book at no charge. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.
July 26, 2011
What can we learn from the sixteenth century Reformation? A better question would be, is there anything we can apply to our modern day to see a new Reformation. That is what Carl R. Trueman is talking about in his small book Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Forever. This book is a reprint from his first edition in 1999. Trueman wrote in the forward if he still agreed with what he wrote over a decade ago. After reviewing the book, he realized that he still agrees with the things he wrote in his previous edition.
July 25, 2011
Still Practical After 500 Years...
What bearing and import does a movement, nearly half a century old, have on the church today? Lest we be counted guilty of what C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield called Ã¢ÂÂchronological snobberyÃ¢ÂÂ, viewing the thinking of our own day as far superior to those who have gone before, we would do well to be reacquainted with the life, thought, and convictions of the Reformation. Carl R. Trueman, in his recently republished book, Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 2011), hopes to encourage the church by examining the movement known as Ã¢ÂÂthe Reformation,Ã¢ÂÂ and demonstrating how Ã¢ÂÂa critical appropriation of the Reformation is vital to a healthy church today.Ã¢ÂÂ
Originally written in 1999 in order to be delivered at the Evangelical Theological College in Wales, Reformation is no less filled with the lively wit and searing insight that characterizes much of TruemanÃ¢ÂÂs writing today. The book is a clear demonstration that Trueman, nearly a decade younger, was still a diligent exegete of history and its significance upon contemporary Christianity.
Reformation is divided into 4 brief chapters:
Chapter 1: Ã¢ÂÂThe Pearl of Great Price: The Relevance of the Reformation TodayÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ Here, Trueman argues that Ã¢ÂÂthe key insights of the Reformers are as relevant todayÃ¢ÂÂand as applicable to situations todayÃ¢ÂÂas they were in the sixteenth century.Ã¢ÂÂ Defining the Reformation in light of its broad theological contribution to the church, Truman proposes the following definition: Ã¢ÂÂthe Reformation represents a move to place God as he revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the churchÃ¢ÂÂs life and thought.Ã¢ÂÂ
Chapter 2: Ã¢ÂÂMeeting the Man of SorrowsÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ Trueman focuses largely upon LutherÃ¢ÂÂs Christology in this chapter, and particularly his Ã¢ÂÂtheology of the cross.Ã¢ÂÂ In my estimation, Trueman surpasses the work of Gerhard Forde in his explanation and application of LutherÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂtheology of the cross.Ã¢ÂÂ TruemanÃ¢ÂÂs ability to effectively articulate LutherÃ¢ÂÂs position, with a thorough knowledge of the historical context within which it arose, allows him to draw out applications in plain language which are accessible to even the one never exposed to this facet of LutherÃ¢ÂÂs theology before. This chapter exceeds its size in its importance for effective gospel preaching and understanding within the context of human suffering!
Chapter 3: Ã¢ÂÂThe Oracles of GodÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ A chapter devoted to the ReformersÃ¢ÂÂ view of Scripture and its impact on the church today. Trueman examines the nature, authority, purpose, and significance of the Scriptures noting how it played a central role in the piety of the Reformers. Ringing of Ã¢ÂÂMachen-esqueÃ¢ÂÂ insight and lucidity, this chapter is especially helpful as it notes the necessity of a high view of Scripture and its central place within the church today; especially as it relates to the preacher in the pulpit.
Chapter 4: Ã¢ÂÂBlessed AssuranceÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ Noting that one of the key elements of Protestant theology is the experience of assurance in the life of the believer as it pertains to salvation in Christ, Trueman begins by briefly summarizing LutherÃ¢ÂÂs struggle with personal righteousness and how he came to understand that righteousness is something God graciously credits to the believer through faith because of Christ (cf., Rom 1:17). The significance of LutherÃ¢ÂÂs discovery of justification by faith, Trueman notes, is Ã¢ÂÂthat GodÃ¢ÂÂs love is unconditional and total, that it brings us salvation as a gift, and that, most amazing of all, we can know this salvation for certain ourselves.Ã¢ÂÂ
Though the volume as a whole is brief, it is an excellent primer on the practical significance of the Reformation upon the church today. Trueman ardently examines the landscape of the Reformation and provides valuable insight as to its practical and theological importance for the church today. A note of caution to the reader: if youÃ¢ÂÂre looking for a book primarily devoted to the history of the Reformation youÃ¢ÂÂd do well to read ReevesÃ¢ÂÂ The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation or NicholsÃ¢ÂÂ The Reformation: How a Monk and Mallet Changed the World. However, if youÃ¢ÂÂre looking for a book by a first rate historical theologian that effectively draws out the significance of the Reformation for the church today, you couldnÃ¢ÂÂt choose a better volume than TruemanÃ¢ÂÂs Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Additionally, this book is by all means accessible and beneficial to those of varying levels of knowledge of Reformation history. This volume is a valuable addition to the church that understands or is growing to understand, Ã¢ÂÂecclesia reformata semper reformanda est.Ã¢ÂÂ (trans: Ã¢ÂÂThe reformed church is always in need of reforming.Ã¢ÂÂ)
I wholeheartedly recommend it!
July 25, 2011