fools rush in

I just read Fools Rush In, a rollicking book by Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary. I recommend this book both for its content and for any writer who wants to develop his own voice (and who doesn’t?). This book is teeming with voice and entirely in the first person, which is a bit ironic if you’ve been following Trueman’s strong distaste for the egocentrism of evangelical celebrity culture. The book reads like a collection of blogposts, which is also ironic given Trueman’s frequent comments against the “virtual Onanism” which afflicts our overly wired culture. That’s a biblical reference which you’d have to be blind to miss, or perhaps you missed it because you are blind because of it. I told you he was rollicking.

I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be provoked and challenged from reading this book. There is plenty here to offend and teach just about everyone. Here are a couple of sections I highlighted.

Trueman made an interesting pastoral connection between the New Perspective on Paul and the Puritan Richard Baxter, who also placed “a higher accent on the significance of good works” than Protestants normally did. Trueman noted that in the 17th and 18th centuries, “where Baxter’s theology was preached, people struggled with knowing whether they stood acquitted before God.” He wonders if something similar will happen when the NPP is preached. I’d tell you what he concludes, but it might cause a stir. So I encourage you to read it for yourself, and see if he’s got a point (p. 62).

Trueman thinks that most pastors and professors aren’t called to have international ministries but to be faithful to the church and geographical location to which they have been called. He warns us not to get caught up in tweets and blogs and the potential for worldwide outreach that we desert the family, friends, and church that actually live with us.

He writes:  “Certainly, mere possession of high-speed Internet is not a divinely given sign of such a worldwide calling. When I see Christians blogging so much, I wonder how many sermons are being prepared on the fly because of lack of time, how many parishioners go unvisited, how many prayers remain unprayed, how many words of love and affection to spouses and children are never said, how many books—let alone the Bible—are left unread, and how many fellowships atrophy through lack of any real, meaningful social and spiritual intercourse….how many online ‘communities’ (sic) prosper to the detriment of the real, physical communities into which the Lord has placed each and every one of us?” (p. 91-92).

Trueman also takes aim at how evangelicals subtly esteem themselves higher than their local church. He notes that the “belief that we are special is, by and large, complete tosh. Most of us are mediocre, make unique contributions only in the peculiar ways we screw things up, and could easily be replaced as husband, father, or employee by somebody better suited to the task.” And yet “far too many Christians have senses of destiny that verge on the messianic. The confidence that the Lord has a special plan and purpose just for them shapes the way they act and move….Put bluntly, when I read the Bible it seems to me that the church is the meaning of human history; but it is the church as a corporate body, not the distinct individuals who make up her membership….My special destiny as a believer is to be part of the church; and it is the church that is the big player in God’s wider plan, not me” (p. 116-17).

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6 thoughts on “fools rush in

  1. Mike, you are right about this book. It is delightful yet properly chastising. One of the sections I particularly liked was on page 55:

    “Now I worked at secular universities long enough to know that liberal colleagues are bright enough to spot a conservative at five hundred feet. Just because you avoid contributing to certain volumes or using certain words, or because you choose to laugh when certain people to the right of you are mocked, does not win you respect from the secular academy. It is a sad fact but, as far as biblical studies and theology go, only giving up all that is distinctive about the Christian faith will ultimately do that for you. The individual to whom I referred above no doubt liked to think he was taken seriously by mainstream colleagues, but I sat as a junior faculty in enough coffee room discussions to know the real thoughts of liberal colleagues about conservatives who try to fly under the radar. They despise them for their theology; and they despise them for the fact they try to hide or minimize it. A double whammy. Given the choice–and there is always a choice–I’d rather just be despised for being a brazen conservative with loony theology, than a duplicitous conservative with loony theology. That way one can still be of use to the church and still look in the mirror with some degree of self-respect.”

  2. Also, last week I edited & posted three messages by Carl Trueman from the RCAintegrity conference. There was good material in all three, but I especially appreciated his third message on Luther and church health. In addition, there was also a penetrating message by Kevin DeYoung and a good lecture on John Calvin’s pastoral theology by Scott Manetsch. It is good stuff that some of you might be interested in!

    http://stayontargetstayontarget.blogspot.com/2012/06/carl-trueman-kevin-deyoung-scott.html

  3. Hey Mike, I’ve enjoyed getting caught up on your blog posts. Thanks for taking the time to edify us by your writing. A question only semi-related to this post came to mind when you mentioned “teaching” and “offending” in the same sentence: a couple times while I was in seminary I heard you attribute a statement to John Calvin that went something like this: “We teach, teach, teach and then offend all we want.” I’ve been looking for Calvin’s words on that. Could you tell me where that came from?

  4. Hi John: How is Southern California? I don’t remember that quote, so I have no idea. I must be getting older. If I had to guess, though, it sounds like Luther (he of the “sin boldly” quote)

  5. Southern California is great. Can’t imagine a better place to live or serve. I heard you just spoke at Calvary/ Valpo, my old stomping grounds. The word is that God really used you there. Anyway, I guess the erstwhile Calvin quote came from someone else (or my imagination). Hope you’re doing well in GR.

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