Archives For Carl Trueman

Maintaining Biblical Sexual Ethics

Greg Strand – January 11, 2016 2 Comments

A few of years ago Carl Trueman made a statement about the temptation and tendency to consider oneself faithful and trendy: Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name

Trueman writes,

You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.

Who would have thought that his prescient writing would come to be a few short years later. Biblical sexual ethics is one of the key watershed issues for the Christian and the church today!

A few questions to ponder:

  • How do you uphold the biblical ethic in this day that considers it intolerant, at best, or bigoted and hateful, at worst?
  • How do you teach and equip God’s people in the realm of biblical sexual ethics today, including parents to instruct their children?
  • How do you teach through instruction and modelling how to uphold these truths and live them out in today’s culture that despises them, i.e., how do you respond in lips and life?

American Evangelicalism

Greg Strand – April 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Carl Trueman is insightful and often right in his assessment of theology, culture and theological trends, especially among Evangelicals. I appreciate his words and works immensely. However, he can at times sound edgy and critical.

In this brief article, “Mark Driscoll’s Problems, and Ours” he addresses American Evangelicalism, the young, restless and reformed group, and the recent revelation that Mars Hill bought Driscoll’s book on marriage onto the bestsellers list. With this recent revelation, Trueman uses it as an example of a larger problem in Evangelicalism. The subtitle speaks to the heart of his concern: “The crisis of leadership in American Evangelicalism.”

Yet he [Driscoll] is also a function of structural problems within the new Reformed movement itself. Despite its distinct and in many ways sophisticated theology, the “young, restless, and reformed” movement has always been in some respects simply the latest manifestation of the weakest aspects of American Evangelicalism. It was, and is, a movement built on the power of a self-selected band of dynamic personalities, wonderful communicators, and talented preachers who have been marketed in a very attractive manner. Those things can all be great goods but when there is no real accountability involved, when financial arrangements are opaque in the extreme, and when personalities start to supplant the message, serious problems are never far away. The overall picture is one of disaster.

This is in contrast to yesterday’s post that focused on an instance in which Evangelical identity worked. There were boundaries that were discerned and addressed which made a difference in one Evangelical para-church ministry’s decision. Here Trueman focuses on what is not working well in American Evangelicalism. Rather than address these significant issues, Trueman notes that no one really said anything about these matters. There was silence. As he noted, it was not that this group was afraid of speaking to other issues, as they had often in the past. But, claims Trueman, those other issues and people like Osteen and those from the Emergent group were soft targets. It is much more difficult to say anything when the issues are closer to home and heart. This, he concludes, is a mark of a fracture in this movement, for all the good it has done.

The one thing that might have kept the movement together would have been strong, transparent public leadership that openly policed itself and thus advertised its integrity for all to see. Yet the most remarkable thing about the whole sorry saga, from the Jakes business until now, has been the silence of many of the men who present themselves as the leaders of the movement and who were happy at one time to benefit from Mark Driscoll’s reputation and influence. . . . All of us who are thought of as Evangelical or Reformed now live with the bitter fruit of that failure of leadership.

Though I acknowledge and agree with many of the concerns raised, I wonder if some of the criticism is due to expecting of and from Evangelicalism what it is not intended to provide. The expectations stated above regarding structure, leadership and accountability are more matters for denominations not broader coalitions or movements that make up Evangelicalism.

It raised a number of questions, which I share with you.

  • How do you assess the strengths and weaknesses of American Evangelicalism?
  • Is Evangelicalism intended to have structure and leadership that policies itself and others within the movement?
  • Is Evangelicalism supposed to be similar to or equated with a denomination?
  • Are we expecting from Evangelicalism what we ought to expect from denominations?
  • How do we relate to Evangelicalism?
  • Where is my accountability?
  • Am I plugged into a denomination?

To provide one follow up to yesterday’s post on what we can/should learn from the Tim Tebow withdrawal from his church speaking engagement, Carl Trueman concludes that as Christians we ought to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

I have commented often that we live in a day when the mores and culture are changing rapidly. In many ways, we are experiencing a moral tsunami. Most of us have known this intellectually; today more than ever we are feeling the reality of this experientially.

Trueman states the following conclusion, with a bit of biting wit:

The incident is confirmation that the world is changing rapidly and, as I have noted before, taking any stand on homosexuality short of complete and unconditional affirmation will soon place one in the same moral category as a Klansman or a homicidal foot fetishist. Of course, I am not a cultural transformationalist; but if there are any such reading this blog, I might suggest that now would be a good time for you chaps to start proving me wrong.  Yes, I do appreciate the cool movie reviews, the nice paintings, the appearances on the occasional serious news program and the efforts on behalf of decent craft brews; but I have a suspicion that it would really be much more helpful if we were seeing some transformation for the good in society’s moral and legal standards.  The culture is transforming as I write, but not, it seems to me, in ways conducive to religious freedom in general or Christianity in particular.

In noting some of the positive things we can learn from this, Trueman, in his third point, writes that:

we need to remember that hatred from the world is what we are to expect.  The West has enjoyed a happy confluence of the broad ethical values of wider society and of the Bible on things such as sexual morality for many centuries.  That is changing rapidly.  It will lead to persecution, whether in the mild form of name calling or more severe forms such as the use of legal penalties against those who hold fast to the faith.  What does the Bible have to say to this?  ‘Do not be surprised….’ 1 Pet. 4:12.   This is the expected norm; what we have thus far enjoyed for many centuries now is actually the exception – a delightful blessing for which we should be grateful, but the exception nonetheless.

And here is Trueman’s important conclusion we must remember in this changing day:

Finally, remember Matt. 16:18.  No media campaign, no election result, no ruling of the Supreme Court, no attack from the most violent enemy can negate that promise.  Yes, the church’s enemies come; but they always eventually go.  The church remains and will always do so, guaranteed by the grace of a faithful, covenant keeping God.  That should be a cause for rejoicing, whatever the outward cultural circumstances in which we find ourselves.

It is important to remember two of Jesus’ promises:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18b).

One of the important resources provided at the EFCA One Conference is training tracks. Over the past decade plus, I have provided opportunities for those on the front-lines of ministry to be taught, trained and equipped by those who are on the front-lines of research and writing for the purpose of serving the church. For example, in the past we have addressed the Psalms, Revelation, The Johannine Epistles, The New Testament Use of the Old led by those who have written commentaries on these topics. We have also addressed systematic theology, church history and other important issues related to the church. These times of training allow us to be the beneficiaries in three 90 minutes sessions of what scholars have spent years researching and writing.  We are blessed indeed.

This year we will focus on the topic of church history.

“Reformation of the Pastoral Office: Practices of the Reformers, Lessons for Today”
Dr. Scott Manetsch
Professor of Church History, TEDS
EFCA One schedule

In this teaching/training track, I will consider ways in which the Protestant reformers departed from medieval Catholic understandings of priesthood, and fashioned a vision of ministry focused on preaching, pastoral care/discipline, and visitation/education.

We are excited to have Scott Manetsch with us. Scott serves as Professor of Church History at TEDS, and has been teaching at our EFCA seminary since 2000. Scott will be focusing on the fruit of his most recent work, Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609, Oxford Studies in Historical Theology (New York: Oxford, 2013).

In a brief review, Carl Trueman, “In the company of pastors: why you should buy Scott Manetsch’s new book”, gives Scott’s book an exemplary review. Trueman states that this is a book that is both scholarly and pastoral: “a scholarly book which really ought to be read by pastors.” This really breaks the mold of most works: either they are scholarly, or they are popular. There are not many books written today that cross that divide. Scott has done it!

Why will it be useful to pastors?

The Reformation fundamentally changed the nature, tasks and power of the pastoral office, primarily by placing the Word at the centre, theologically and thereby  practically, of church life. Further, this dramatic change itself brought challenges which themselves required furthered changes and refinements in the understanding and practice of pastoral ministry.

In the chapter on the ministry of the Word, the emphasis Calvin placed on clarity of the preached Word is always important to remember:

The pulpit is not the place to shoe off learning; it is the place to use that learning as the hidden foundation for preaching sermons which make the Bible’s message clearer, not more opaque and inaccessible. Oratorical skills are useful but only in so far as necessary for giving the message clarity and power, not for drawing attention to the preacher.

Finally, concludes Trueman,

This is a quite superb book.  It is not only outstanding as a well-written piece of original historical research.  It is also most informative concerning the reasons why Reformed and Presbyterian churches came to think about the ministry in the ways they do.  Buy it — though, if you are a pastor, probably best not to tell your wife how much it cost.

Good news! You will be able to heed Trueman’s advice and buy this book. In conjunction with our Conference and this specific training track with Scott, Oxford is offering a deeply discounted price for this book. Purchase this excellent book, but wait to do so until we can offer it at this discounted price. (Thanks to Scott for asking; thanks to Oxford for granting.)

It would be great if you were able to join us for the excellent training track with Scott Manetsch!

9.5 Theses and the Modern Church

Greg Strand – November 1, 2012 Leave a comment

As a follow up to the anniversary of Luther posting the 95 theses, I include an article from Carl Trueman. He applies some lessons from Luther’s day to the contemporary church. As always, he has important points for us to ponder.

Thesis One:  Martin Luther saw church leadership as primarily marked by servanthood.

Thesis Two: Martin Luther understood worship as rooted in repentance.

Thesis Three: Martin Luther did not care for the myth of cultural influence nor for the prerequisite cultural swagger necessary to catch the attention of the great and good.  

Thesis Four: Luther saw suffering as a mark of the true church.

Thesis Five: Martin Luther was pastorally sensitive to the cherished practices of older Christians.

Thesis Six: Luther did not agree to differ on matters of importance and thus to make them into practical trivia.

Thesis Seven: Luther saw the existence of the ordained ministry as a mark of the church.  

Thesis Eight: Luther saw the problem of a leadership accountable only to itself.

Thesis Nine: Luther thought very little of his own literary contribution to Christianity.

I would encourage you to read the article where he fills out each of these theses.

Trueman is a bit of an iconoclast, helpfully so, he provides some much-needed perspective to the contemporary church that highly values youth and innovation (not just technological), and he reminds readers of the gospel of Jesus Christ as has been faithfully proclaimed and fearlessly lived throughout the history of the church.

Truth be told, notes Trueman, if Luther lived and ministered today he would have a difficult time serving as a minister of the gospel in the evangelical church. That, however, may well be more of an indictment of the contemporary evangelical church than it is of Luther!

Carl Trueman, “9.5 Theses on Martin Luther Against the Self-Indulgences of the Modern Church,” Reformation 21 (October 2012)