What bearing and import does a movement, nearly half a millennium old, have on the church today? Lest we be counted guilty of what C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield called “chronological snobbery”, 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 “the Reformation,” and demonstrating how “a critical appropriation of the Reformation is vital to a healthy church today.” [Scroll down for a link to a Christian Focus giveaway of 3 Trueman titles, including Reformation!]
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 Trueman’s 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: “The Pearl of Great Price: The Relevance of the Reformation Today” – Here, Trueman argues that “the key insights of the Reformers are as relevant today—and as applicable to situations today—as they were in the sixteenth century.” Defining the Reformation in light of its broad theological contribution to the church, Truman proposes the following definition: “the Reformation represents a move to place God as he revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the church’s life and thought.”
Chapter 2: “Meeting the Man of Sorrows” – Trueman focuses largely upon Luther’s Christology in this chapter, and particularly his “theology of the cross.” In my estimation, Trueman surpasses the work of Gerhard Forde in his explanation and application of Luther’s “theology of the cross.” Trueman’s ability to effectively articulate Luther’s 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 Luther’s theology before. This chapter exceeds its size in its importance for effective gospel preaching and understanding within the context of human suffering!
Chapter 3: “The Oracles of God” – A chapter devoted to the Reformers’ 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 “Machen-esque” 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: “Blessed Assurance” – 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 Luther’s 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 Luther’s discovery of justification by faith, Trueman notes, is “that God’s 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.”
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 you’re looking for a book primarily devoted to the history of the Reformation you’d do well to read Reeves’ The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation or Nichols’ The Reformation: How a Monk and Mallet Changed the World. However, if you’re looking for a book by a first rate historical theologian that effectively draws out the significance of the Reformation for the church today, you couldn’t choose a better volume than Trueman’s 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, “ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est.” (trans: “The reformed church is always in need of reforming.”)
I wholeheartedly recommend it!
Read inside (PDFs): Sample Pages
*As a part of the Christian Focus Blog Tour, the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.
CHRISTIAN FOCUS GIVEAWAY: Click here to be redirected to the Trueman book giveaway!