For our regular readers, you probably noticed a break this week. In the life of pastoral ministry things get greatly crazy. I define crazy as great because busy serving family and church are a joy and privilege I greatly enjoy. To be physically worn out at night after spending time with the church and family is a great privilege . . . and I love going to bed exhausted, the sleep is superb!!
In the midst of this craziness, the church served me by sending me to a week long seminar on the Protestant Reformation at The Master’s Seminary taught by Dr. Carl Trueman. Anyone can follow online here. They are posting the lectures on their Facebook too so you can go back and catch up.
I don’t talk about my learning goals too often, but church history remains a top extra-cirricular activity. Studying church history lead me to preach through the Trinity two summers ago (in time to realize the Trinity debate was a mole-hill turned mountain). (Also, side note, even though I don’t agree with Ware’s position, he isn’t a heretic. His view is not the same as those the early council’s fought against). It was helpful for us, as a church, to transition from the Lord’s Supper once a month, to every other week (who knows, maybe we’ll go weekly). Church history inspires me to understand the history of theological positions.
I encourage you to go, watch, and listen to this lecture. I’ve enjoyed it. Here are some lessons I’ve learned or clarity brought to my understanding of Scripture.
First, it seems Luther’s emphasis on Romans changed the “key biblical book” in contemporary church theology. In the ancient church, those men who were directly discipled in real life by the Apostles, focused mainly on Matthew. My church history PhD friend tells me this is such common knowledge a footnote isn’t needed. Matthew, in the early church, is the key text. The Reformation changed that. Why? Because the trials of the time brought up the issues of true salvation. Romans answered Luther’s questions directly and he primarily used it to argue from. Of course Matthew teaches the way of salvation, but at the time, Luther mainly focused on and used Romans. Thus, the shift in prominence. Now should there be a prominent book?
Second, is this right? Should there be a key book? That’s a great question. But I have appreciated Trueman’s lack of ethical commentary while emphasizing the historians goal. The historian seeks to be sympathetic to people. He tries to think about issues in their culture. The goal of the historian isn’t to necessary comment on “right or wrong.” But “why did someone act that way?” We live in an age where our fore fathers are judged by contemporary ideas of justice. It’s unfair to accuse them of sins on some level. By the way, they’d accuse us of gross sin too on some of our preferences. Let’s be gracious. Trueman is fair, balanced, and slow to ostracize. He finds value even in people he disagrees with. We would do well to learn this lesson from him.
Third, I’m thankful for the last hour of lecture on Tuesday. We need to know and preach God’s love. We need to know how He loves us so that we can love others the same way. Trueman, emphasizing Luther’s view, articulated it well. God creates love. In the human condition, our love tends to be a response to situations, people, and actions. But God’s love is not a reaction. He, the Creator, creates love for people. Christ on the cross is not a response to the problem. God organizes His death and resurrection to save rebellious children who do not naturally love Him, but naturally reject Him. God does not love second, He loves first. By this we know Love, that He laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16). He generates love because that is His character. He is not like us! This is great news for us. He creates the love for us. Now, if He creates love for us, then asks us to love like Him, how can we only love as a response to others?