Friday, August 12, 2005

Evangelicalism Divided: A Story Without Heroes

Evangelicalism Divided by Iain H. Murray is the best depressing book I have ever read. Even though we all know the skeleton of the story, reading about the theological demise of mainstream evangelicalism in the past half-century feels like a fresh kick in the gut on every page. I know the latest chapter of the story better than the first few, but I still found myself hoping that some champion would rise from the ashes to win the day. I was not pleasantly surprised. Besides Lloyd Jones' futile attempts to curb the enthusiasm for diluting the gospel, and a smattering of present-day combatants like Wells, Sproul, and MacArthur, Murray's survey of the landscape finds little ground for optimism.

Since I've read and blogged about Wells recently, I should mention that I was struck by one comment from Murray that seems as though he may disagree with Wells' argument that the way we think is profoundly affected and even determined by our culture. Murray says,
The decay of Christianity in the west in the twentieth century is not the result of sociological and secular pressures. Spiritual decline is not a mystery which Scripture leaves unexplained. It is a result of the presence of falsehood where there should be truth.
So to Murray, the bogeyman is not technological modernization and secularism. The theological decline is the chicken that laid the egg of modernism. Murray's chapter on "The Silent Participant" is a much-needed reminder of the spiritual nature of this warfare and the demonic initiative behind compromise.

Murray also cites an unexpected comment from J.C. Ryle, whom I need to learn more about. Ryle, commenting in Charges and Addresses (pg. 297) on the improbability of the union of the Protestant denominations and the monstrosity of reunion with Rome, says, "Keep the walls of separation as low as possible, and shake hands over them as often as you can."


Unk said...

"It is a result of the presence of falsehood where there should be truth."

I like what Murray says against Wells, because the problem is a spiritual problem, not the result of deterministic forces. But the bit about falsehood and truth extends to everything, don't you think? Truth in doctrine, yes, but also truth in practice, truth in worship, truth in affection, truth in epistemology and hermenutics and in every human activity.

Broken Messenger said...

I have to agree with unk here. Modernism is a only a slice of the overall problem, the abondonment of truth could, for instance, just as easily be applied to disobedience as well.


Ben said...

It extends to "everything" as opposed to merely "theological decline"? Is that your meaning?

I don't disagree with either of you. In my mind, it is an improper view of God that is at the source of errors in practice, epistemology, and hermeneutics as well as doctrine.

Unk said...

Yes. Usually the remedy that Murray gives, or intimates, is a return to good doctrine and then the rest will fall into place.