Friday 17 June 2011

Paying Tribute to a Living Church Historian: Iain Murray

Iain Murray, one of the founders of the Banner of Truth, has produced a range of excellent of writings. He has written many books and he is an excellent church historian; I would like to draw your attention to three books particularly. These are Evangelicalism Divided, Revival and Revivalism and his biography on Jonathan Edwards.

His biography on Edwards gave me a 'sense of God' unlike most other books. I often write comments at the front of the book and this is what I wrote in November 2005 after I had read it. 'An excellent biography that stirs me to greater holiness, dedication to study, and preaching ... this stirs up my zeal for God, theology, revival and missions'.

Revival and Revivalism became for me one of those books that marks a turning point in your pilgrimage. Murray nails the issues of our our day by returning to church history, especially 'The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858'. The philosopher George Santayana stated that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and Murray applies this for the church's profit in his books.

Revival and Revivalism is a monument to biblical truth and I urge all Christian leaders, preachers and elders to read it with a pen or pencil in their hand, in order to underline every dynamic truth that applies to their current situation.

The last of the three books is not least, but it is probably least read. It is Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Change in the Years 1950 to 2000. I have so many markings highlighted in this book, one that I read twice, it is hard to know where to begin. This book highlights the many inroads of liberal thinking into the current so-called 'evangelical' world. It is gracious but firm and it being read by many more people could possibly rescue many from an evangelical collapse that continues unnoticed in the absence of good confessional churches.

Murray writes: 'If we sacrifice the truth today for short term influence we cannot guarantee what our conduct will be tomorrow. When the day to fight is postponed the very will to fight may go from us (p 249)'.

We need to pause and think about this comment and better still go and buy these books, read them and and let church history deliver us all from many errors!

Monday 6 June 2011

Is it OK to Evaluate Tim Keller's Approach to Scripture?

In the last 3-4 years I have been surprised how many people are influenced by Tim Keller. I say surprised because I had not read much by him and this left me understandably ignorant and a little non-plussed. Having first met the Lord in 1986, I have grown weary of the latest bestsellers, the latest hot names in the Christian world, and the latest methods in 'how can your church be successful?'. It may sound uninteresting but the ancient paths work best because they steadfastly seek to glorify God and do not need to change to pander to the next generations desires.

What has caught my attention though, has been that when I speak to people, especially Christian ministers who hold Tim Keller in high esteem, is that they often rave about Keller's preaching. One man described him to me as being 'outstanding' and probably the best he had ever heard. Recently, I took time to listen to Keller's sermon on the Trinity where he expounds the baptism of Jesus of from Mark's Gospel (1:9-13). The link is:

Was I surprised? Well I would have been had I not read all of his books in the last year. He begins with the Bible passage and then makes quantum leaps to interpret the baptism of Jesus as a 'divine dance' between the three persons of the Trinity. His method of handling the Bible left me quite simply 'scratching my head'. Where does this 'divine dance' suddenly spring from regarding this passage? It could appear as mystifying at best or at worst to be a form of biblical eisegesis (an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text). In short, the lesson remains. No matter how successful someone is, we must not put them on a pedestal where they are beyond critical evaluation. (We are not talking about having a critical spirit which is always unhelpful.)

The apostolic injunction remains concerning all of us:

But test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:21) Testing everything, includes testing our favourite preachers also, in the light of Scripture!