In the current 9Marks Journal on the Reformation D. A. Carson has an excellent article about the value pastors receive in studying the Reformation. Included in the article are these quotable observations:
A pastor is by definition something akin to a GP (a “general practitioner”). He is not a specialist in, say, divorce and remarriage, missions history, cultural commentary, or particular periods of church history. Yet most pastors will have to develop competent introductory knowledge in all these areas as part of his application of the Word of God to the people around him. And that means he is obligated to devote some time each year to reading in broad areas.
D. A. Carson, “Should Pastors Today Care about the Reformation?” 9Marks Journal (Fall 2017): 17.
[T]he study of the Reformation is especially salutary as a response to those who think the so-called “Great Tradition,” as preserved in the earliest ecumenical creeds, is invariably an adequate basis for ecumenical unity, as if there were no heresies invented after the fourth century. On this front, study of the Reformation usefully fosters a little historical realism.
D. A. Carson, “Should Pastors Today Care about the Reformation?” 9Marks Journal (Fall 2017): 18.
But although I have read right through, say, Julian of Norwich, I find a great deal of subjective mysticism and virtually no grounding in Scripture or the gospel. And for the life of me I cannot imagine either Peter or Paul recommending monastic withdrawal in order to attain greater spirituality: it is always a danger when certain ascetic practices become normative paths to spirituality when there is no apostolic support for them.
Our contemporary generation, tired of merely cerebral approaches to Christianity, is drawn to late patristic and medieval patterns of spirituality. What a relief, then, to turn to the warmest of the writings of the Reformers, and discover afresh the pursuit of God and his righteousness well grounded in holy Scripture. That is why Luther’s letter to his barber remains such a classic: it is full of godly application of the gospel to ordinary Christians, building up a conception of spirituality that is not reserved for the elite of the elect but for all brothers and sisters in Christ. Similarly, the opening chapters of Book III of Calvin’s Institutes provides more profound reflection on true spirituality than many much longer contemporary volumes.
D. A. Carson, “Should Pastors Today Care about the Reformation?” 9Marks Journal (Fall 2017): 19.