Recently I had the opportunity to read and review Carl Trueman’s excellent little book, Reformation. Following the review, I had the chance to ask Dr. Trueman three questions about the book and his own appreciation for Reformation theology:
1. What do you most appreciate about the theology of the Reformers on a personal level? Is there any particular point at which you would diverge from their basic principles?
Justification by grace through faith. It is the only thing that makes it possible to really live as a Christian. The day I first understood that doctrine, it was as if a great millstone had been lifted off my back. I felt like Christian at the foot of the cross in Pilgrim’s Progress.
On divergence: given the Reformers themselves were quite diverse on numerous points, it is difficult to generalize. I disagree with Luther on the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper and on the helpfulness of images of Christ. I disagree with Zwingli in his more radical statements on the mere memorialism of the Lord’s Supper. With Calvin, I have little in the way of any disagreement. Of the three, Luther, though, is by far my favourite. His humanity is so clear in so much that he writes and does.
2. Looking back on Reformation and the lecture series that birthed it, do you believe there’s a greater or lesser need for recovering an appreciation for Reformation theology?
There is always a need for promoting the great emphases of the Reformation: scripture, grace, faith. What is Christianity without these? I am encouraged that the so-called Young, Restless and Reformed seem to be picking up on much of this, though a little concerned that the movement may be carried along by personalities and trendiness rather than truth. That is a concern, though, not a positive claim. Only time will tell what real depth the movement has.
3. Is there anything in the book you would state differently?
Probably! Since writing the book, I have spent a decade in the USA, so my perspective has no doubt shifted on many things. I think the most significant, though, would be those matters I highlight in the new preface: today, I would temper my comments on preaching to make a little more room for application, I would stress the importance of ecclesiology, and I would encourage a greater appreciation of the creeds and confessions of the church as a vital resource for healthy church life and order.
Many thanks to Carl Trueman for taking the time to answer these questions and to Christian Focus for making it possible. If you haven’t had an opportunity, I’d highly encourage getting a copy of Reformation. It will be a wonderful addition to your library and a terrific investment into your own faith and ministry.