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Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Paperback – July 20, 2011
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"With knowledge, wit, and clarity, Carl Trueman brings key insights from the Reformation on Christ, Scripture, and our appropriation of both to bear on the life of the modern evangelical church." (Michael Lawrence ~ Senior Pastor, Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon)
"Dr Trueman calls us to build on the work of Reformers by a continuing reformation of the church under the Word; especially with regard to the cross of the Christ, the written and preached Word, and thirdly, the assurance of salvation..." (Eryl Davis ~ Head of Research, Wales Evangelical School of Theology, Bridgend, Wales)
"This fine book should be required reading for all Christians-and especially for those who doubt whether the Protestant Reformation has anything left to say to us in our day... Along the way, he scatters nugget after nugget of insight into what is core to the Reformation legacy, motivating his readers to embrace this core again." (Mark R. Talbot ~ Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois)
"A great introduction to the present-day meaning of this world-changing event." (Michael A. G. Haykin ~ Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky)
"Carl Trueman's Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is a needed corrective and powerful antidote for the spiritual anemia that has infected our chapter of church history." (Rick Holland ~ Senior Pastor, Mission Road Bible Church, Kansas City, Kansas)
"With knowledge, wit, and clarity, Carl Trueman brings key insights from the Reformation on Christ, Scripture, and our appropriation of both to bear on the life of the modern evangelical church." ~ Michael Lawrence (Senior Pastor, Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon)
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The book is divided into four chapters. The first chapter argues for the relevance of the Reformation today. The second focuses on Christ since the Reformation puts Christ at the center of theology. The third chapter is on the Scriptures while the fourth is on the importance of Christian assurance of salvation which Trueman argues is an important motif and theme for Protestants from the time of the Reformation onwards.
I personally found the first two chapters to have been the most delightful:
• Chapter one was incredibly nuanced. For instance Trueman makes it clear that he thinks the Reformation is important but that doesn’t mean he’s trying to make contemporary Christians and the church today go back to the sixteenth century. Nor is Trueman cultish in his esteem of the Reformation in which he argues like some would do in an unbiblical fashion that just because the Reformers did something therefore it means it must be right, true, etc. Here Trueman talks about “unhelpful friends” who have good intention in defending the Reformation but which the Reformation must also be rescued from as well.
• Before I began reading the book I was also curious as to how Trueman would define the Reformation especially since the title suggests it isn’t used to described only the movement in the sixteenth century. I know today there can be some debate as to what constitute Reformed theology. I like Trueman’s working definition given in the first chapter of the book: “the Reformation represents a move to place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the church’s life and thought” (17). I thought this was a very good definition because it transcends the sixteenth century and it definitely is something that is relevant for today and tomorrow.
• Chapter one profoundly reminded me that the Reformation primarily was a theological movement and not merely a campaign for moral reforms of the Catholic church which no doubt some of the counter-Reformation Catholics would agree needs some kind of moral fixes. Trueman articulates in chapter one how the issue for the Reformers was one of theology. If one gets the theology right, then the moral problem will be fixed as a result of the implication of right theology. The opposite is also true: bad theology produces bad fruits.
• I enjoyed Trueman’s discussion in chapter two about Martin Luther’s “theology of the Cross” as opposed to theology of glory. Here Trueman gives the historical understanding of what Trueman has meant. While I have read and heard in the past about Luther’s theology of the Cross it wasn’t until I read this book did I truly understood what Martin Luther was trying to say and saw how earth shaking it is as theological paradigm. The implication of Luther’s theology of the Cross is very relevant for today though it is counter-cultural in that it tells us of how to be comforted with hardship and trials.
The following is my constructive criticism:
• Trueman is doctrinally sound when it comes to the Gospel. However it wished Trueman would have quoted and interacted more from the Bible. For instance I believe we do not see any Bible verses quoted or cited until on page 100. This is quite amazing considering that the book is only 127 pages and that it is a book that also acknowledges Sola Scriptura. If the book is adapted from Trueman’s message for a conference I wonder how the people fared in the conference to sit through that long without Scriptural reference.
• I wished Trueman could have talked more about the theme of Christian assurance. Specifically I thought that the book could have benefited from more practical questions to diagnose one’s spiritual identity and whether one is truly saved, etc. He is right though that Reformed or Protestants can have assurance of their salvation because of what God has done and has promised. This is contrary to Catholic theology.
I do recommend this book and believe this would be edifying for the readers.
In the first chapter, Trueman first gives an analyses of the current status of evangelicals. First, he described how the evangelicals have lost the spirit of the reformers, specially he explained why the reformers saw the desperate need for the church in their time to be reformed to the centrality of the Gospel and the Word, their motivation and their goal. Then, Trueman commented on how the contention within the evangelical with regards to worship often only differ merely with the outward form, which in his view, is only embracing the reformers outwardly, but missing the precise point of why the reformers saw — a need for the congregation to have a vernacular worship.
In the next chapter, Trueman looks at the theology of glory — looking at God from man’s point of view vs theology of the cross — looking at God from Christ’s point of view. This branches out of how Luther himself saw the dichotomy of these two teaching and found the teachings to the Church then to be akin to those of the theology of glory, which thinks that God values what man values. In contrast to that, Luther responded by proclaiming that the church needs to embrace the theology of the Cross.
Trueman that raises two examples that he finds the current evangelical circle need to consider, first regarding suffer, How do we understand and view suffering? Are we unknowingly embracing the theology of glory by our preoccupation to shun away from suffering or to deem suffering as bad or ‘not according to God’s plan’? In the next example, Trueman talks about the definition of a truly successful church. Is the successful church one that entertains and attracts and gauges it’s success by numbers? Or by how faithful the word is being preached? He calls the church to recover what they have lost, to re-embrace the true marks of the ‘successful’ church.
In the next chapter, Trueman then focuses on the centrality word of God and preaching what it does, what it is for, and what the training preachers be. And in the last chapter, He elaborates on the doctrine of assurance, and how we can you find it? Do we base it on our feelings? Emotions? Experience? Or rather on what God has done for us, definitively and absolutely, through Christ Jesus death and resurrection?
Essentially, this is a call for the reform-ed (i.e. Protestant) to re-examine the importance of the Reformation and recover the spirit of Reformers. Although this may be a thin book, it does pack a punch and Trueman gives many points for the evangelical to consider how far we are away from the reformers, and to recover from it before it’s too late for us. Recommended for all church leaders and preachers who wishes to be faithful to what God’s Word say.
Rating: 4 / 5