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!