At this year’s Reformation Heritage Conference, Carl Trueman recently gave a series of lectures and sermons detailing the German Reformation and addressing the role of tradition and history within the life of the believer. He first discussed the heart of the German Reformation along with its key figure, Martin Luther. His characterization of Luther is quite informative and entertaining. Recalling one bit of history, Trueman tells the story of Luther’s cold response to the news that Ulrich Zwingli, leader of the Swiss Reformation, had been killed on the battlefield. Reformation history is Trueman’s bread and butter. His lectures are engaging and quite helpful in grasping a world that is not far removed from our own.
In the final three messages, Trueman dispells the false dichotomy between the bible and tradition. He talks about the faulty reasoning present in the argument that there is no place for tradition when it comes to the bible and christian living. Many people claim that all they need is the bible and that’s it. Forget about tradition or history. Yet they are fooling themselves by believing that tradition and history had nothing to do with the interpretation of Scripture that went into the translated bible they hold so dear. Trueman makes this point crystal clear.
The six messages are not only beneficial to the church historian or historical theologian but to every Christian who desires to live faithfully by the Word of God for the glory of God. It is a call to examine our past so that we might better engage the present. Listen to all six and be blessed.
Each week I get together with my friend Josh LaFave to talk about life, pray for each other, and discuss the most recent chapter in the book we are reading together. It is definitely one of the highlights of every week. I am constantly challenged by Josh’s fervent prayers and desire to make Christ known in every aspect of his life. I thank God regularly for his friendship.
Recently we have been working our way through Confessions by Augustine. If you have ever read this book you will understand that it cannot be sifted quickly. Augustine was an eloquent writer who was gifted in the use of words. Confessions is not only a beautiful use of words but it is also a book that reveals the nature of every human being. I can relate to many of Augustine’s statements about his own sin.
Periodically over the course of the next few months I will be reflecting on large and small portions of this great work. I think that we can all be mutually encouraged and challenged by the faith and repentance of Augustine. There is a particular sentence that stuck out to me as I was reading last week. “The blindness of humanity is so great that people are actually proud of their blindness.” Incredible. How deep is our pride? Does pride have limits? I know that my own pride runs deeper than I am often willing to admit. Many times my pride is so great that I do not even realize it. For instance, I was reading C.J. Mahaney’s chapter in Preaching the Cross the other night (which is an outstanding book). He talked about seeking out accountability and honesty as pastors from our spouses. He suggested that you ask your spouse to name three areas of character that he/she would like to see growth in you by the grace of God. So I asked my wife this question. She chuckled (never a good sign) and then said she would have to think about it (she was being gracious and also at the same time non-confrontational). However, it didn’t take me long to think of multiple areas that need growth. So I mentioned to her my stubborness. She got more specific and said that sometimes I don’t like to be wrong. Ouch! She’s right though. I have a tendency to do this with her when we are having a good discussion. She’ll say something I don’t necessarily agree with but I know is right. So I keep pressing the issue to find a way to swing it back in my favor. For what purpose? Just so I don’t feel like a fool. It’s pride. And in the midst of the moment I hardly recognize it (though I am getting better at it).
Pride is cunning and deceiving. And here Augustine says that people are so deceived that they boast about being blind. Augustine’s boastful blindness came in the fact that his studies “were deemed respectable” though they led to a profession that required high levels of deceit. There is nothing respectable about deceit. It is hurtful and void of truth. This respectable deceit reveals the mind of society in his time. It’s not about moral integrity or the consistency between means and ends. It is merely about a desired result. We see the same thing in our society. It is good to excel in everything you do. We are told many times over that winning is everything. It doesn’t matter how you get there. The point is that you get there. There is inconsistency between the means and the end. It is easy to get caught in this mentality because pride is deceiving. Indeed it is good to excel but not at the cost of integrity and truth. Sometimes people do not realize the inconsistency. Many times the inconsistency is recognized and yet it is glorified. The inconsistency is justified by the end result. Pride is deceiving. Sin is deceiving.