Book Review: Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow by Carl Trueman

5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Carl Trueman
Publisher: Christian Focus
Buy Reformation Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Reading Level: Easy

We Need a Reformation Today

Reformation Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is a must read for those interested in reformation theology and history. It’s a brief book that comes with the expected punch from Trueman. The book is an expansion on lectures he gave in 1999. There are four simple chapters:

  1. “The Pearl of Great Price” which discusses the underlying principles of the reformation for us to apply today.
  2. “Meeting the Man of Sorrow” which discusses a theology of the cross.
  3. “The Oracles of God” which discusses the importance of the Word from a variety of perspectives (i.e., preaching, daily living, the Spirit, etc).
  4. “Blessed Assurance” which discusses the the joyful assurance we find in Christ.

Trueman dances and then swings--each chapter a punch to the gut of modern Christianity. He tackles each topic with the depth of a scholar and the heart of a pastor. He also has a gift for looking at culture and applying biblical principles to today’s foibles.


Trueman had a couple haymakers which really prompted ah ha! moments for me. First, Trueman makes this point about indulgences:

[T]he sale of indulgences as cheapening God’s grace, trivialising sin and misleading the laity . . . . Corrupt belief and corrupt practice went hand-in-hand, and the one could not be reformed without the reformation of the other (pp. 20, 21)

He explains it bypasses the work of the Spirit and makes grace cheap. Trueman makes the point early on that the principles of the reformation can and should be applied to today’s church. My thoughts immediately went to the cheap grace movement of today. It’s a “corrupt practice” which focuses so much on producing a single decision and bypasses the actual work of the Spirit and produces “corrupt belief.”

Second, the emphasis on the “theology of the cross” was refreshing. And he makes such a helpful point:

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 [our entire life] (pp. 48-49)

In the reformed camp the swing of the pendulum from cheap grace is knowing the gospel, having the head knowledge, but not being affected in our daily living. These two reformational concerns would correct a lot of today’s errors.

Finally, he sums up the nature of true faith.

[W]hat is faith but belief in a promise; and what is belief in a promise other than something which embodies within it hope for the future and dissatisfaction with the present (p. 110).

As a father of two daughters one of which has recently made a profession of faith and still has a lot of questions and sometimes has doubt. This idea of promises is essential for understanding the nature of faith. As I discuss the nature of faith with my daughter, I am never going to make her faith the reference point for salvation. The reference point is the promises of God. So in a recent conversation we had I asked her, “Have you placed your trust in Christ? Do you love God?” She answered, “Yes.” Then I told her the promises of God in Christ are hers. We reviewed three or four promises that I constantly bring to her and pray over her. I want her to learn how to lay hold on those promises in faith.

I could produce twenty plus topics just like the ones above. Don’t mistake the issues of the reformation as our issues per se but the principles that were the foundation of the reformation speak directly to our issues today. Trueman has an acute gift for mining out core principles and applying them to our cultural settings today.

A free copy of this book was provided by Christian Focus. If you plan on purchasing Reformation Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.