Why the Reformation Still Matters

aaaMichael Reeves and Tim Chester, Why the Reformation Still Matters. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016, 223 pp. $10.72

October 31, 2017, will mark the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This quincentennial celebration is remarkable in many ways as Protestants around the world will remember the accomplishments of the Reformers, most notably the bold move by Martin Luther in nailing the 95 theses to the castle door at Wittenberg.

Despite the widespread celebration of many who take delight in the rediscovery of the gospel and the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, there is an ongoing debate concerning the relevance of the Reformation for our time. Michael Reeves and Tim Chester address this specific matter in their new book, Why the Reformation Still Matters.

After a brief introduction to the history and theology of the Reformation, Reeves and Chester waste no time in an initial answer to the question: “We need a stronger, not a weaker focus on Reformation theology,” according to the authors. They describe the Reformation as “a continual movement back to God’s Word.” Thus, the stage is set for the remainder of the book which will argue in no uncertain terms that the Reformation still matters.

Reeves and Chester undergird their stance by pointing readers to key doctrines that were rediscovered during the days of the Protestant Reformation. They showcase the gospel systematically as they unfold the biblical reality of sovereign grace. Indeed, we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, on the Word alone, to the glory of God alone.

Each doctrine is unveiled and contrasted with the historic Roman Catholic position which gives readers an opportunity to interact with two competing systems of thought. The authors are charitable and gracious but never compromise the truth. Reeves and Chester boldly present the core elements of Reformed theology; doctrines the magnify the Savior and humble sinners.

Why the Reformation Still Matters is an outstanding summary of this important topic. People from all stripes, from beginning to advanced will benefit from this book. There is enough information to keep seasoned theologians and students of church history on their toes. Yet the material is not too advanced for anyone just getting started in the field of church history. The balance here is rare and should be well received by readers.

Why the Reformation Still Matters succeeds and makes a positive case for the gospel-saturated truths that flowed from the Reformation and continue to impact lives in our generation. Yet, theology is more than an end in itself. “Through these truths,” write Reeves and Chester, “lives can still blossom under the joy-giving light of God’s glory.” In other words, the Reformation makes a practical difference in the lives of people. In did almost five hundred years ago and will continue to impact lives as we await the return of our sovereign king.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

CORNERED IN A CASTLE: THE RESOLVE OF MARTIN LUTHER

IMGP0693The Protestant Reformers were men of unbending principle. They were men of unyielding conviction. These men fought relentlessly for the truth. Some of the battle took place privately as godly men wrote books and treatises, which magnified the mighty work of the gospel.

The story is well-known about how Frederick the Wise arranged to have Martin Luther “kidnapped” and secretly transported from the city of Worms to the Wartburg castle where the Protestant Reformer would spend the next ten months in seclusion. These days were spent largely in isolation under the pseudonym, Junker Jörg.

Luther made good use of his time at Wartburg, translating the Greek New Testament into German, the language of the people. Leather spent hour after hour, laboring over the text and translating God’s Word for the common man. Soon, thousands of people would read the Word of God in their mother tongue for the first time. They would hear the Word of God thunder from the pulpit in their heart language.IMGP0676

After his brief stop in Wartburg, Luther made his way back to Wittenberg where his reformation efforts continued. Indeed, the Reformation tides continued to swell as the Word of God grew and people were transformed by God’s Spirit.

For more on this topic, see David Steele’s new book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther.

Dr. David Steele is the Senior Pastor at Christ Fellowship in Everson, Washington.

BOLD REFORMER: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther – David S. Steele

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On April 1, 2016 my new book, Bold Reformer will be available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Booksamillon.com.  Here’s a brief summary:

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the castle door in Wittenberg. One act of courage sparked a theological firestorm in Germany that set the world ablaze in a matter of days. Spreading like wildfire, thousands were introduced to the gospel which is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther takes readers on a journey through a remarkable period of church history. It will challenge contemporary readers to learn the lessons of courage, and perseverance. It will inspire a new generation of people to follow Jesus, obey Jesus, and worship the Savior with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. It invites a new generation of Christ-followers to recover the gospel in their generation and make their stand as a bold reformer.

Bold Reformer is born out of personal pastoral turmoil and inspired by the courage of Martin Luther.  My hope is that many pastors, Christian leaders and Christ-followers will be encouraged as a result of reading this book; that God will propel them into the future by his grace and for his glory.

Soli Deo gloria!

FEARLESS FAITH: JOHN KNOX – Steven J. Lawson (2014)

knox2014 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Knox, the Protestant Reformer who risked life and limb for the sake of the gospel in Scotland and much of western Europe.  Steven Lawson retells the story in his newest work, John Knox Fearless Faith.

The author guides readers though the fascinating account of Knox’s life – a life filled with pain and persecution, powerful preaching, and passionate appeals.  He portrays the Protestant Reformer as one who “remained stout of heart and strong in conviction” even as he neared the end of his life.  Lawson observes, “To the very end, Knox was preaching Christ and Him crucified, exalting his Savior and extolling his Lord.”

John Knox Fearless Faith is a boon for discouraged pastors who have experienced the sting of false accusation and the pain of persecution.  It serves a sort of theological balm for pastors who are lonely in ministry and on the verge of throwing in the ecclesiastical towel.  In a few short sentences, Dr. Lawson rightly summarizes the fiery Reformers passion for truth and his steely resolve:

Through these many dangers, Knox persevered in his ministry, boldly preaching the Word and trusting God for the outcome.  Beneath his frail body was an unshakeable confidence in the sovereignty of God.  He believed that his times were appointed for him by an all-powerful God.  He knew that he was invincible within the allotted time of the divine will.  His faith remained strong in the One who orders all things.

As Knox approached his final years, his commitment to God grew yet deeper.  The opposition he faced never subsided, even to the end, but neither did his confidence in God.

May pastors find strength in this godly man whose birth 500 years ago marked church history and changed a generation.  May John Knox fuel our resolve to boldly preach God’s Word and wield the mighty sword of Reformed truth for the world to see and savor.  May pastors lead the next generation of Christians who live with the integrity and the zeal of Knox.  May they rebuke and admonish carnal professors who seek to divide Christ’s church.  May they be inspired by his example as they champion the cause of truth and challenge every rival from Rome, Mecca, Salt Lake City and every heresy that poses a threat to the gospel!

Semper Reformanda!

5 stars

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!

THE JOY OF CALVINISM – Greg Forster (2012)

The title of Greg Forster’s book will prompt one of two responses: People will mutter inappropriate words under their breath or they will rejoice in the truthfulness on the cover.

The Joy of Calvinism is meant to be a buffer to the traditional arguments that have ransacked Calvinistic theology for decades.  And Forster accomplishes his task with a great deal of skill.

The thesis: “Real Calvinism is about joy.”  But the author essentially argues that Calvinism has been poorly explained and even misrepresented – especially in the twentieth century.  An example is the acrostic, TULIP which he rightly notes is not a formulation of the famous Synod of Dort (1618-1619).  Rather, it is more of an expression that was popularized by Lorraine Boettner in his book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.  While Forster’s argument is a bit overstated, it carries a certain amount of weight.  He suggests a new formulation as outlined below:

State of man before salvation: wholly defiled

Work of the Father in salvation: unconditional choice

Work of the Son in salvation: personal salvation

Work of the Spirit in salvation: supernatural transformation

State of man after salvation: in faith, perseverance

The book responds well to the classic arguments that emerge from  Arminian and Roman Catholic perspectives.  Forster’s writing is humble, thought-provoking, challenging, and affirms historic Calvinistic theology with warm-hearted enthusiasm.  It is a welcome addition to a growing number of books that eagerly promote Calvinism – what Spurgeon called, “a nickname for biblical Christianity.”

4 stars

THE THEOLOGICAL BACKBONE OF WILLIAM TYNDALE (1494 – 1536)


Today  marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of William Tyndale.  This faithful man was born in 1494.  He attended Oxford, Magdalen Hall and Cambridge University.  A student and adherent of the Protestant Reformation, Tyndale engaged in numerous debates with Roman Catholics.    One leader in the Roman Catholic church mocked Tyndale: “We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope.”  Tyndale, never one to mince words replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws.  If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy who drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you.”

Tyndale was a confident, bold, and fearless theologian and scholar who translated the Bible into an early form of Modern English, likely with Luther’s help in Wittenberg.  But Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned for 500 days in a kangaroo court, and ultimately convicted.  He was sent to be strangled and burn at the stake in the prison yard on October 6, 1536 – the same year that Calvin published the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion.  His last words were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”

May God raise up a new generation of leaders like William Tyndale – courageous and bold; men with a theological backbone and rock solid integrity.  May God raise up  a new generation of men who say what they mean and mean what they say; men who are unashamed of the gospel; men who are utterly unwilling to compromise the truth; men who are willing to be burned at the stake for the sake of truth.

Semper Reformanda!