Basic Advice on How to Interpret Luther
Before addressing a particular element of Rob Bell's new book, I want to make sure that anyone reading this understands exactly what I am and am not doing.
First, to avoid the usual indignant reactions from the guardians of conscience in the evangelical world, I want to stress that I am writing at this point solely as an individual historian. I am not here speaking as a representative of my church, my seminary, nor of some nebulous movement known as 'evangelicalism'
Second, life is, as Hobbes said, nasty, brutish and short. Too short, indeed, to waste on controversies that do not immediately affect one's own little world. Rob Bell has, as far as I know, no impact on my tiny world, whether conceived of as that of Westminster Theological Seminary, or as that of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Thus, my interest in engaging him here is not theological; rather, it is historical and concerns a specific claim he makes relative to the thought of Martin Luther. This claim, while only a brief passing comment in the book, might yet prove rather mischievous in terms of its wider impact.
March 10, 2011 By
The Westminster Archivist, Grace Mullen, recently uncovered an interesting artifact. In 1934, a book review was published in The Globe of Toronto regarding a book by Dr. Adolf Keller entitled Karl Barth and Christian Unity. The review sparked a short series of letters to the editor between Walter Bryden, former professor at Knox College in Toronto, Canada, and John Murray, co-founder and professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary about the theology of Karl Barth. The interaction has been reprinted in its entirety here with a present-day response by Rev. Dr. Carl Trueman.
August 21, 2010 By
"Some years ago I wrote a little article, `What Can Miserable Christians Sing?' I dashed it off in about 30 minutes one afternoon, and yet I have received more positive letters and emails about that one little piece than anything else I have ever written. It seemed to strike a chord...And today (25 May 2010) I find the article has once again returned to my inbox; this time cited by my friend, the well-known British journalist, John Macleod. Who would have thought that a 30 minute editorial would have such an apparently long life?"
May 25, 2010 By
Crisis in preaching is as much a crisis in the doctrine of God and of Scripture as it is in confidence in the means of communication; indeed, the crisis in the latter is surely a function of a decline in the former two points.
A sound doctrine of God and a solid doctrine of Scripture are critical. Also, a careful study of the movement of preaching from Moses to the close of the apostolic era is surely a very useful exercise.
November 5, 2009 By
Most Reformed people probably do not think of themselves as catholic. Now, there is a sense in which that is correct: if you are a member of the Reformed, then, by definition, you are not a member of the Roman Catholic Church. At least, if you are, and the minister or the priest finds out about it, you are going to be in some considerable trouble. Yet there is also a sense in which Reformed people are catholics. To be catholic, after all, really only means to be part of the one great communion of saints, of all those who call upon Christ for salvation and who are entrusted with the faith once for all delivered to the saints...
June 30, 2009 By
"...at the start of the twenty-first century, docetism is back, but with a new twist. It is not Christ who has only the appearance of humanity; rather it is human beings themselves. Newsweek
ran a fascinating article on the web sensation, Second Life
where people create avatars, or virtual characters, and live out their lives in virtual reality. The phenomenon is fascinating for a variety of reasons..."
April 17, 2009 By
Some months ago, I wrote a short piece for the e-zine, Reformation 21, about the tendency of Reformed Christians over the last twenty or so years to be rather embarrassed about their heritage and to be continually fretting about whether they are relevant or not...Well, if Time magazine is to be believed, the worrier children can stop wringing their hands...
March 16, 2009 By
Approximately half of my sixteen years of teaching theology has been spent at Westminster. Prior to that, I was on faculty at two secular universities in the UK. The obvious question, therefore, is why did I make the move, at least in the eyes of the wider world, from being a mainstream academic to being a seminary professor, with all of the sectarian connotations that can have? And why did I bring my wife and children across the Atlantic, thousands of miles from family, friends, and all that is familiar, to do so?
January 26, 2009 By
Given the choice, I would always rather have my opinions presented and explained by a competent opponent than an incompetent friend; but my strong preference is for a competent friend to undertake the task...
April 4, 2008 By