Why YRR Needs to Go Deeper with the Reformation

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Reformed theologian Michael Horton, writing in the foreword for Lutheran Harold Senkbeil’s The Cure of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Lexham, 2019):

Among younger evangelicals there has been a great renaissance of interest in the Reformation and its theology.

This is very exciting.

Yet it is remarkably thin.

Justification, election and other truths of God’s free grace in Christ are often lifted out of their wider gospel context. When it comes to actual pastoral ministry, however, many “Young, Restless and Reformed” pastors don’t know where to turn and simply fall back on seminary courses or resources that are grounded in a quite different orientation.

They may have learned a new doctrine. However, Reformation piety is not just a doctrine; it is a new way of conceiving God, humanity, salvation, vocations in the world, and the hope of resurrection. It is a new way of being a pastor, of leading God’s people. Just as one cannot patch up an old wineskin, one cannot simply tack on a few Christ-centered doctrines to an essentially human-centered approach to pastoral ministry.

The Reformation was not just about doctrinal correctness; it was about salvation, which can only be found in Christ—even for lifelong believers. Consequently, both Lutheran and Reformed traditions produced a large literature on the cure of souls. This legacy is largely unknown today. It is easy to tack on the “Five Points of Calvinism” or “Justification” to approaches to ministry that are fundamentally at odds with the basic insights of the Reformers. Many seem to assume that while the Reformation recovered a few important doctrines, one must turn elsewhere for rich expositions of biblical piety and pastoral ministry. This is to ignore the vast resources that can provide deeply-needed evangelical wisdom in our own day. . . .

The Reformation did not cast off sixteen centuries of pastoral theology; instead, it returned the focus of the ministry to the public and private application of the word to the lives of God’s people.

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