Where The Focus Is Upon God…

 Here are a few insights from Carl Trueman in a book he wrote explaining why and how the Reformation is still important today:

“We must be aware that the usefulness of Reformation theology lies in its emphasis upon God.  The theologies, the catechisms, and the liturgies which flowed from the Reformers’ pens all indicate that theirs was a piety which was concerned above all with God.  The emphasis of the Reformers was always much more upon the identity and action of God than upon human experience of him.  The two are, of course, inextricably linked, but the accent always falls upon the divine half of the equation.  This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why Calvin’s works give so little insight into the man that he was: he talked little of himself because he was concerned with the proper subject of theology, and that was God.”

After going on to talk about Luther’s emphasis on God, Trueman said, “This is in marked contrast to much of what we witness today.  …One of the elements which most marks contemporary evangelical piety is the obsession not so much with God as with self.”  (I agree – and for the record, I tend to skip sections of Christian books where the authors tell stories about themselves to introduce each chapter or help make their points.  For some books, that means it takes half as long to read!) 

Trueman notes that we also need to contemplate what this God-centered emphasis means for our own churches.

“The question we need to ask is whether this God emphasis which we find in the Reformers is as evident in the life of our own churches as we so often assume that it is.”

In other words, when we rightly criticize others for being self- instead of God-centered, we also need to evaluate our own theology and practice.

Get the book and read this section I’ve mentioned (and of course read the whole thing!): Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.  The above quotes were taken from pages 22-23. 

shane lems

2 thoughts on “Where The Focus Is Upon God…”

  1. Back in the day, a bunch of us used to change the words to contemporary ‘worship’ to suit the current climate of the era. For example:

    I’m coming back to the heart of worship
    It’s all about me, Jesus
    It’s all about me, Jesus

    It may not have been quite mature, but I think it makes a valid point.

    On the same token as your post, why is it then that we know so much about Martin Luther? Perhaps the reason we don’t know so much about Calvin is that he was more shy and eccentric than Luther. I don’t think that we would want to say that Luther was less God-centered.

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    1. Thanks for the note, Keith. Did you see that mock P&W DVD that does what you did to all the contemporary songs? It is sadly hilarious (“I want to know me more!” “Show me my glory!”).

      And concerning Luther – Trueman did a nice job of explaining the nature and context of Luther’s descriptions about himself. He mentions how Luther’s self-references always had to do with the person and work of Christ (objective) and not the subjective ‘movements of the heart.’ If you get the book, you’ll see it explained in some more detail.

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