What I’m Reading: The Wages of Spin, with Thoughts on Carl Trueman

Wages of SpinI was introduced to Carl Trueman “The Teacher” by my online friend Andy Naselli. Andy linked to a series of Trueman’s articles on John Owen last spring, and I listened to them while I ran or mowed my lawn. After enjoying a couple of the lectures, I emailed Andy and casually asked “Who is Carl Trueman?” His reply: “Who’s Trueman?!” I considered myself reprimanded.

I was introduced to Carl Trueman “The Man” by Led Zeppelin, oddly enough. I took exception with his admiring LZ in a post at Reformation 21 (here). After whacking him for it at MTC (here), I notified him of the post. That note and his response ended up getting posted at Reformation 21 (here, on their homepage here, and with a bit more information here). The mud-slinging has continued ever since.

Not really. Though Trueman is grievously wrong on that issue and on his broad-brushing of all fundamentalists as mean-spirited nitwits (here), we’ve developed an interesting sort of friendship via email. I asked him a while back which of his books I should read first, and he sent me an autographed copy of The Wages of Spin. As much as I would have loved sending him an autographed copy of my own book, I had to punt on that one. I sent him a copy of Barrett’s Complete in Him, if nothing else to show him that the caricature of fundamentalists that exists in his mind is, well, a caricature of fundamentalists that exists in his mind. (Aside: the company from which I ordered it initially sent a copy to a pastor in India. Oops. Or not.) He’s promised to send me another in time, at which time I’ll send McCune’s Promise Unfulfilled. That should be interesting.

I’ve enjoyed Wages very much, in part because Trueman has a great wit, but more so because he has keen insight into theology, church history, and modern evangelicalism. The book is a compilation of a number of essays and editorials he’s written, so it’s pointless to try to summarize it here. For that reason, I’ll be posting comments on this thread responding to the various articles one at a time. So check back here every so often. (Or better yet, use co.mments, a sharp tool that notifies you whenever someone chimes in on a post you’ve chosen to follow. It’s a time-saver.)

Here are a few of the more compelling quotes I’ve come across so far:

“That is not, of course, to argue that Christians should be obsccurantist and not seek to interact with and even learn from those whose views are antithetical to the gospel. The best Christian theology has never taken refuge in a ghetto and engaged simply in a self-affirming monologue.” (p. 153) [Note: This, I believe, is Trueman’s take on fundamentalism, so the fact that he is sometimes derided as a fundamentalist is quite comical.]

“The idea that Christianity, at whose centre stands the Suffering Servant, the man who had nowhere to lay his head, and the one who was obedient to death—even death on the cross—should be used to justify the idolatrous greed of affluent Westerners simply beggars belief.” (p. 157)

“A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party—a theologically incorrect and pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals.” (p. 159)

“[T]here are mornings when I wake up and think that…the church in the West survives more by sheer force of personality, by hype and by marketing ploys than by any higher power.” (p. 168)

“No one…should be allowed within a million miles of a pulpit who does not have a proper respect for biblical theology in terms of the overall story of redemptive history, a firm grasp of the importance of systematic theology, creeds and confessions, and a critical handle on contemporary culture.” (p. 185)

Though Trueman is certainly quotable, his arguments are more valuable and complex than a few sound bytes can demonstrate. He argues for the importance of Psalm-singing, for balancing biblical and systematic theology, against making such a big deal about homosexuality, against the materialism of Western Christianity, etc. It’s a good series of reads.

As for the Led Zeppelin travesty, I was encouraged to read this gem from Trueman in the book’s introduction:

“Of course, my own thinking has changed over the years—only a fool never alters his mind on anything.”

Indeed. There’s hope for my friend after all.

(Note: Andy Naselli posted on The Wages of Spin here.)

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4 Responses

  1. I am so very encouraged by this post. What a blessing it is to read. Thank you for your sharing it with us.

  2. Today I enjoyed Trueman’s scholarly essay entitled “The Glory of Christ: B.B. Warfield on Jesus of Nazareth.” (Chapter 5) It was a profitable way to spend some time on the Lord’s Day, and it did much to prepare my heart for the Lord’s Table tonight.

    I understand Warfield better for the read, and I appreciate his contribution to the field of Christology. The article focuses primarily on Warfield’s understanding and defense of Chalcedonian Christology—the belief that Jesus Christ has two natures (fully divine and fully human) combined in one person. Warfield particularly argued in favor of this understanding against the error of kenoticism—the idea that Christ divested Himself of some aspects of His deity at the Incarnation. It’s a rich, albeit deep read. I especially enjoyed it having just preached on 1 John 4:1-6 this morning! (There is nothing new under the sun.)

    Trueman explains how Warfield built on the Chalcedonian doctrinal position by highlighting Christ’s full humanity (whereas the tendency of reformed theologians has been to emphasize Christ’s full deity). This was a great blessing to consider, especially meditating upon how Christ’s full humanity (and particularly his experience of the full gamut of sinless emotions) relates to His ministry of revealing the Father. We think far too little on the fact that Jesus Christ is the perfect and final revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-3; et al). Good stuff.

    Trueman has made me want to read Warfield, which I imagine was part of his mission in the first place. He ends the article with two pastoral applications of these heavy doctrinal matters. First, what we have studied should make us Christ-centered in all of life. Second, what we have studied should motivate us to imitate the selflessness of Christ demonstrated through the incarnation.

    My head and heart are full. Excellent.

  3. Chris, you can get Warfield’s works here for not a bad price. Well worth having if you don’t have it already.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  4. One of our elders did a stellar job summarizing Hebrews 2 tonight. Between 1 John 4 this morning, this afternoon’s reading, and Hebrews 2:14 and 17, I spent my whole day meditating on the necessity of Christ becoming flesh. It’s a great doctrine that we don’t consider enough, other than at Christmas time.

    Glorious.

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