Evangelicalism Divided

Iain Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided teaches on every page. Murray was born on that precious stone set in the silver sea. In the best English way, he confronts error firmly and yet gently. His knowledge of Scripture and fear of the Lord hops out of the page, as does his charitable spirit toward the believers in all evangelical denominations (as he quotes Ryle: “Keep the walls of separation as low as possible, and shake hands over them as often as you can.”).

If you want to understand the faulty underpinnings of modern evangelicalism as it filtered through Billy Graham and Fuller Seminary (timely still given Rick Warren and others), or the corruption of evangelicalism in the Church of England (timely again given the possible marriage of those evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics who may leave the unrepentant Episcopal Church and realign into a new U.S. church), then this is your book.

Evangelicals, liberals, and Roman Catholics all differ on what the Gospel is, and thus differ on the answer to the key question: What is a Christian? One of Murray’s key themes is that the evangelical church cannot succeed as a political party succeeds, via compromises or an ill-defined (false) gospel acceptable to Catholics and/or liberals. Why? Because, Murray says:

The church is wholly dependent on supernatural aid and without that all success is short-lived and illusory [1 Sam 2:30, Zech 4:6]. … Liberalism gained its hold on Protestant churches because good men feared that unless concessions were made to the latest ‘scholarship’ the churches would lose their place in the modern world. Co-operation with non-evangelicals and participation in the ecumenical movement were promoted in the genuine hope of wider gains for the gospel and for an evangelical renaissance. Anglican evangelical alignment with Anglo-Catholics was justified as the best counterpoise to liberalism in the Church of England. Neutrality over whether the miraculous gifts of the apostolic era have been renewed in the charismatic movement was judged best for the preservation of evangelical unity. An acceptance of the basic Christianity of Roman Catholicism has been advanced as a sound way to strengthen protest against secular materialism…

I do not mean that the move away from principle was deliberate. The tempation was more subtle. The spiritual gains appeared substantial yet an ethos developed in which one concession led to another. No one thought that the sending of the names of those who made ‘decisions’ back to Roman Catholic churches would lead to Billy Graham being prepared to share a platform with the Pope, but it did. No one supposed that if members of Inter-Varsity gained recognition in the world of university theology they might begin to criticize the faith with which they began, but in a number of cases it has happened… In the words of Horatius Bonar, ‘Fellowship between faith and unbelief must, sooner or later, be fatal to the former.’ The reason is not that error is more powerful than truth; it is rather that, without the Holy Spirit, spiritual weakness is a certainty.

He quotes his former mentor, Martyn Lloyd Jones:

We have evidence before our very eyes that our staying amongst such people does not seem to be converting them to our view but rather to a lowering of the spiritual temperature of those who are staying amongst them and an increasing tendency to doctrinal accomodation and compromise.

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