Carl Trueman, Hero Worship, and God’s Gifts

Carl TruemanCarl Trueman wrote several provocative posts critiquing conservative evangelicalism in America and its purportedly unhealthy promotion of its prominent preachers and teachers—particularly as it relates to conferences like The Gospel Coalition.

Here they are:

  1. Home Thoughts from Abroad
  2. What hath Jerusalem to do with Hollywood?
  3. Thoughts on Marketing and Conferences
  4. Not guilty!
  5. The Lady Doth Protest Too Much
  6. Truly Honoured
  7. Fascinating Week
  8. An interesting email

Trueman makes some good points worth pondering, but I think his take is a little imbalanced—as did Thabiti Anyabwile:

  1. Really Trueman? Only in America?
  2. Uncle… Uncle!
  3. A Solution I Had Not Considered

For example, he said in his third post,

First, market conferences on the basis of content not speakers. Send a clear signal—from the design of the webpage to the wording of the fliers—that it is what is to be said, not who is saying it, that is important. Indeed, maybe one could be really radical: do not even let people know who is speaking; just tell them the titles of the talks. “Ah, but then no-one will come!”, you say. Well, if that is true, then the case for saying that conferences are all about idolising celebrities would seem to be irrefutable.

I’d guess Carl would have a difficult time being consistent with this kind of an approach. Imagine if our colleges and seminaries stopped listing their professors and what classes they were teaching. Imagine if books were published anonymously and endorsers and reviewers were nameless. Imagine if we wiped out names like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen (a favorite of Trueman’s), Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, Geerhardus Vos, et al. from our history books and focused only on average people. Would that somehow make us more spiritual?

Is it wrong to take a class based on its teacher? To read a book based on its author? To study the life of a prominent historical figure based on the impact his life and teaching had?

While it can be, depending on one’s motives for doing so, it certainly doesn’t have to be.

We’re wise to encourage people to learn from the best teachers, theologians, and preachers that God has given to His church—whether it’s through their preaching at conferences, teaching in classrooms, or writing in books and on blogs. Not to do so belittles the Spirit’s wisdom in giving gifts “to each one individually has he wills” (1 Cor 12:11) and is poor stewardship of the limited time we have to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There’s nothing spiritual about pretending that all people are equally gifted. And there’s nothing unspiritual about preferring to learn from the best.

1 Corinthians and James 2 need to be taken seriously, but I don’t think Carl’s proposal is the answer—at least not without some modifications.

Friends tell me that Carl is quite the popular professor at WTS. If I were there, I’d love to take a class from him. And I don’t think that speaks poorly of me—or of him. In fact, one of the reasons I subscribe to and read the Reformation 21 blog is because men like Carl contribute to it. And for that I’m thankful.

What do you think? Is Carl on target here, or is he taking some valid criticisms too far?

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4 Responses to Carl Trueman, Hero Worship, and God’s Gifts

  1. Don Johnson April 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    I’m not sure about Trueman’s position, but I think he does address an all too human foible that constantly hinders the work ‘the names’ in the religious world would like to see accomplished. In other words, I don’t think any of the prominent names are seeking a following, but as they succeed in articulating their point of view, they get a following. It’s a ‘wicious circle’.

    As to this line:

    “Imagine if books were published anonymously and endorsers and reviewers were nameless. ”

    You mean, like the dispensationalist Brethren who published under initials only, like J. N. D.? That would never work, eh?

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. Caleb Kolstad April 23, 2011 at 6:00 am #

    Great post

    This comment was really helpful too, “There’s nothing spiritual about pretending that all people are equally gifted. And there’s nothing unspiritual about preferring to learn from the best.”

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