C.S. Lewis once advised against chronological snubbery by encouraging us to read older books along with the new:
"There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.... Now this seems topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old.... A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light.... It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.... The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books."
There is as Lewis noted a type of “uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited” in our day. It may be less than in Lewis’ time—thanks in part to his wise words here. Yet still there are many students and even elderly folks within our churches that think Martin Luther is the guy who gave the “I have a dream” speech. Or perhaps he is that guys lesser known daddy.
Many still in our day wonder, “what can we learn from guys that wore weird hair cuts and scratchy robes?”
In July of 2000, Carl Trueman gave a group of lectures on the contemporary relevance of some aspects of Reformation theology. He was attempting to answer the question of what we can learn from these guys with weird hair cuts and scratchy robes. That group of lectures was made into a short book which sadly fell out of print. Thankfully in 2011 Christian Focus decided to put Trueman’s thoughts back into print in the form of Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
In this short book (127 pages) after defending the relevance of the reformation, Carl Trueman looks at the necessity of a theology of the cross, an emphasis upon Scripture, and a healthy doctrine of assurance. Trueman believes that “the Reformation represents a move to place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the center of the church’s life and thought” (17). It is only natural then for Trueman to emphasize the cross and the Scriptures. It may seem odd, however, that with everything one could draw from the Reformation that the author would focus on assurance. Yet it is here, in our doctrine of assurance that we find the difference between the Reformation and Catholicism.
In each chapter Trueman explains the “yesterday” the Reformation, he applies it to the churches “today”, and also sets a course for the church of “tomorrow”. To see how Trueman weaves these thoughts together consider his explanation of how assurance and lamentation fit together.
I have always enjoyed the writings of Carl Trueman. At times you have to pause and really think about the point that he is making, but he never fails to be profound and to make helpful points. Even when I disagree with Trueman (which is rare) he communicates in such a way that the reader is left to clearly understand his position. He is an engaging writer and one that clearly loves to display the excellencies of Christ and the sufficiency of God and His Word. His helpful writing is on full display in this short book.
As in his other writings Trueman will make you think and to question certain deeply held beliefs. Going through this study caused me to ask whether or not I am truly living according to these Reformation principles. Of course, and Trueman would be the first to admit this, the goal is to live according to biblical principles. So it may be better to ask whether or not we are living according to the biblical principles that found a renewed emphasis in the Reformation. Not only am I living out these principles but are we living out these principles as we gather together?
Reading through this book I was challenged and encouraged throughout. It will cause church leaders to ask questions of their ministries and it will cause every believer to consider the man of sorrows. I was also encouraged (as well as challenged) by Trueman’s treatment of assurance. As he did throughout, the author did a tremendous job of showing the central issue and making it relevant for today.
Should You Buy It?
If you like to study the Reformation and church history then spending 8 bucks on this little book will be a purchase that you want to make. This book would also be very helpful for church leaders as well—the way Trueman applies these Reformation principles will cause us to at least ask whether we are being biblical in the way we live out the Christian life in these areas.
Chances are if you clicked on the link for the book review and you have made it this far then you are the type of person that would greatly enjoy and benefit from this book. So just do it, man. Go buy the book. It’s only 8 bucks.