Biography · Calvinism · Church History · Gospel

LUTHER AND THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – Carl R. Trueman (2015)

lutherMartin Luther was one of the bright shining stars of the 16th centuries who God used to restore reason to the church and recover the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Carl R. Trueman unpacks the Protestant Reformer in his latest work, Luther on the Christian Life.

The book is a balanced blend of biography, Reformation history, and theology.  Beginners and seasoned students of Luther will all benefit from Trueman’s work.

While each chapter is a worthy read, the fifth chapter, Living By the Word will be the focus of this review.  The author does a magnificent job of drawing Luther’s love for the Bible in these pages.  But he demonstrates how important the Holy Spirit was in Luther’s life and theological framework: “For Luther, the Spirit is only given with the external word.”  Indeed, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to transform the people of God.  Eliminate the Spirit and the result is a dry rationalism.  Remove the Word and the result is a subjective train wreck.  Luther stressed the importance of both the Word and the Spirit.

Luther’s devotional life and approach to the Christian life is explored, leaving readers with much to contemplate and weight out.  The author contrasts Luther’s emphasis on being a theologian of the cross (as opposed to a theologian of glory):

The very essence of being a theologian of the cross is that one sees God’s strength as manifested in weakness.  The primary significance of that is the incarnation and the cross.  God’s means for overcoming sin and crushing death are the humiliation of his Son, hidden in human flesh.  Nevertheless, the cross also has a certain paradigmatic aspect to it, for it indicates that God does his proper work through his alien work.

Additionally, Luther’s approach to spiritual warfare is reviewed.  Anyone who battles melancholy stands in good company, for Luther battled the same throughout his adult life.  Truman adds, “Luther certainly regards the cultivation of despair as one of the primary tasks of the Devil … Everything hangs on this, from confidence before God to ethical conduct before neighbors, to the ability to look death in the face and not despair.”

Luther’s struggles are always held captive to the Word of God.  Ultimately, Luther’s relief comes when he rests in the promises of the gospel.  Luther says,

And so when I feel the terrors of death, I say: ‘Death, you have nothing on me.  For I have another death, one that kills you, my death.  And the death that kills is stronger than the death that is killed.’

Carl Trueman offers a carefully thought out treatment of Luther, which includes both triumphs and tragedies.  The reader can determine which issues merit further studies.  Luther and the Christian Life is a fine contribution to the growing work on the German Reformer.

Highly recommended!

BOOK REVIEWS · Church History · Discipleship · Historical Theology · Theology

THE CREEDAL IMPERATIVE – Carl R. Trueman (2012)

1433521903_lSeveral months I ago, I posted a piece on Veritas et Lux entitled, “No Creed But Christ.”  I have received a great deal of traffic as a response to this post and much of the feedback has been negative.  Carl Trueman also recognizes (and repudiates) this anti-confessional agenda and affirms the importance of creeds and confessions and seeks to develop a case for the creeds and confessions in his book, The Creedal Imperative.

Trueman’s primary objective is to convince readers that “creeds and confessions are thoroughly consistent with the belief that Scripture alone is the unique source of revelation and authority.”  He also adds, “I want to argue that creeds and confessions are, in fact, necessary for the well-being of the church, and that churches that claim not to have them place themselves at a permanent disadvantage when it comes to holding fast to that form of sound words …”

The Creedal Imperative is a welcome addition to the growing list of resources that is devoted to reviving the historic creeds of the Christian faith.

BOOK REVIEWS · Church History · Theology

REFORMATION: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW – Carl R. Trueman

A number of months ago, I read Republocrat by Carl R. Trueman.  Frankly, the book angered me.  I didn’t like anything about it.  So I rolled the dice (which is never a good idea for a Calvinist) with this reprinted book by Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tommorrow.  I was pleasantly surprised and commend it to readers interested in the Protestant Reformation.

Trueman proposes the following definition of the Reformation: “[It is] a move to place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the center of the church’s life and thought.”  The author continues to develop this line of thought by pressing the God-centeredness of the Reformation.  “The gospel,” argues Trueman, “is the story of what God has done for sinners in Christ; it is not first and foremost the experience of God by any particular individual.”

This emphasis alone makes the book worth reading.  Too much of evangelical thought is wrapped up in narcissistic approach to the Christian life.  Trueman’s admonition is a corrective in light of recent trends that favor contemplative spirituality that are in the final analysis, rooted in selfishness, subjectivism, and emergent “spirituality.”

Trueman enters the historical arena and contrasts Luther’s theology of the cross with the prevailing view of the day, the “theology of glory.”  Luther defines the two approaches in article 21, drawn from his famous 95 thesis: “A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil.  A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.”

The author maintains the theology of the cross forms a pattern for the church.  One might consider the theology of the cross as an unshakeable foundation for ministry.  But Trueman goes further: “The theology of the cross is not a cerebral thing; it profoundly affects our Christian experience and existence, making demands upon our whole lives and turning theology into something which controls not just our thoughts, but the very way in which we experience the world around and taste the blessing and fellowship of God himself.”  Indeed, the theology of the cross is an absolutely vital for ministry and living the Christian life.

Trueman applies his principles directly to the church and Christian life.  First, we must first demonstrate the reality of the cross.  “The brokenness of the created order engendered by sin is laid bare in the life and work of Christ.”  Second, we must live out the full meaning of the cross.

Finally, the author stresses the importance of biblical authority and the serious nature of expository preaching:  “The first place, then, in which church reformation starts is the pulpit.”  The sermon must take first place in worship and men must be trained to carry out this God-ordained task.  Trueman rightly argues the need for pastors to have a working grasp of biblical languages, redemptive history, and systematic theology – a needed corrective in a culture that decries theological education.

Trueman’s work is a delight to read.  My hope is that this reprinted edition receives the credit it deserves.  Grounded in the great truths of the Protestant Reformation, this work inspires, educates, and corrects mistakes the some evangelicals are currently making.  Oh, that we may return to our Reformation roots.  To do any less, would be tantamount to compromise.  And may Christ’s church be semper reformanda, always reforming, all to the glory of God!