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Volume 13, Issue 2: Ex Libris

An Historical Elixir

Reviewed by Joost Nixon

Sensitive readers of this magazine may have noted in past issues the disapprobation of its editors regarding the theological promiscuity of Christ’s bride. To many, this has been inexplicable. The Church isn’t acting the tramp—she’s just being neighborly. To which we reply that cordiality does not require the theological equivalent of .

But the Church wasn’t always this way, and we should thank God that she will not always be this way. Christ will ultimately perfect and purify his bride, even if presently she might be acting the part of a two-dollar whore.
God calls the Church to repent, and this begins with understanding how we sinned, and exactly what repentance looks like. To this end, we prescribe an elixir of historical theology from The Banner of Truth Trust that is sure to stand you on your feet and show you why you’re ugly.


 
Revival and Revivalism
by Iain Murray
If you want to understand what is wrong with Evangelicalism worldwide, and have time for only one book, this is it. Murray contrasts the genuine revivals occurring at the turn of the eighteenth century, with the "New School" innovations of the Pelagian revivalist, Charles Finney. No one depreciates the impact C.G. Finney has had on Christianity in the last two hundred years. The debate is whether his influence has been for good or ill. Murray demonstrates conclusively that the effect within the Church has been largely malevolent and that in fact, the repercussions of Finney’s theology are felt far beyond the Church. Murray argues, for example, that Finney is to blame for the recent plunge of the NASDAQ, the near-extinction of the cactus Pygmy-owl, and the scarcity of decent burritos in northern Idaho (okay, maybe not, but he should have).
But Murray has more than one string on his violin, and thus readers are introduced to all the major players during this crucial period in church history. And as the fog begins to lift, we see how bad theology inevitably results in defective methodology.


 
The History of Princeton Seminary, Vol. 1 & 2
by David C. Calhoun
Calhoun’s two volumes complement Murray’s treatment of Revivalism as nicely as. Though Calhoun remains largely within the walls of Princeton, many of the same figures and controversies are addressed that the reader was introduced to in Murray. But Calhoun’s history of Princeton is essential to one who would understand how an excellent seminary was founded, doctrinally compromised, and ultimately hijacked by the liberals. Evangelicals never watch their flanks, and that is why Harvard, Yale, and Princeton have each succumbed to infidelity. There will be future battles, and those of us who will be in the fray must understand how we lost the last one. For this, Calhoun is essential. To score extra brownie points, the reader should also pick up Ned Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen, and Longfield’s The Presbyterian Controversy.


 
Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950—2000
by Iain Murray
Calhoun leaves us in the year 1936, and Murray picks us up again around the middle of the twentieth century—taking us to its culmination. He sets the stage with the theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768—1834), the father of "it-doesn’t-matter-what-you-believe-as-long-as-you-feel-religiously-groovy." Having shown how Protestantism cut its doctrinal moorings two centuries ago, Murray marches the reader through the ecclesiastical battlefields of the last five decades, where almost without exception the good guys got their hineys whupped. In so doing, one is introduced to good men like Lloyd-Jones; bad men like Archbishop Ramsey; and what we must regrettably categorize as "the ugly"—brothers who are on the right team, but have been guilty of some colossal errors in judgment—men like J.I. Packer, Billy Graham, and John Stott. If the categories these names fall into cause the reader to think words like insensitive and pigheaded, then that is all the more reason to listen to the little voice and "pick up and read."
Whether one agrees with Murray or not, he poses a question that Christians must learn to answer with more precision, viz., "What is a Christian?" The answer to this question—and I fear Murray himself doesn’t quite nail it—has been the turf upon which most of the ecclesiastical blood has been spilt over the last fifty years.
Alone, each of these books will do much to help us understand some of the historical issues that have shaped modern evangelicalism. But together they provide a diagnosis of Modern Evangelicalism that could make a Credenda reader positively sympathetic.


 

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