Session 16: Iain Murray
Note: Throughout the week, as we liveblog the general sessions, we will be using a time-stamp method. This will give readers an approximate sense of key statements that were made throughout the session, as well as allowing them to trace the flow of the argument. (Also, if readers want to listen to any key moments by downloading the audio, these time-stamps will make it easier to track down certain statements in the audio file.) However, what follows is not intended to be a full or exact transcript of what was said.
The Bible Under Attack
11:45: The session began with Bill Brandenstein leading the men in singing hymns, with Dr. Clayton Erb accompanying on the piano. The men sang Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us, followed by Great is Thy Faithfulness. John MacArthur led the final hymn, It Is Well with My Soul. The men sang verse three acapella —a highlight of the conference to be sure!
12:00: John Martin blessed the men with a vocal solo.
12:06: John MacArthur shared his appreciation for Iain Murray and his ministry, introducing him to speak.
12:10: Iain Murray led the men in prayer.
12:12: The subject I have been given for this session has to do with attacks on the Word of God. We can expect that if God speaks to us and we are strengthened, we can be sure that next attacks will come on us, because we have received the Word of God.
It happens on occasion that the Lord brings books to us right when we need them. It happened to me in 1954, when I was facing attacks on the Word. The book was A Critical History of Free Thought in Reference to the Christian Religion. This book stood firmly on the Scripture, and it was 750 pages of history on the attacks on Scripture. I realized attacks on Scripture are as old as fallen man.
Why was it that Israel was attacked? It was because they were unique in being given the revelation of God. The assault on Israel was because of their connection with that revelation. What was the cause of the Neronian persecution? It was because of the Word of God. Paul spoke of being delivered to death because of the Word of God. As you go through history, the story continues—the great Reformation, William Tyndale, John Rogers . . .
12:19: In the Puritan period, northern Ireland saw great revival. 20 years later, that same area saw great persecution. The Roman Catholic rising put thousands to death. They particularly put there frustration upon the Bible. “This book has bred all our troubles.”
In the 18th century, very different attacks came. They attacked the Bible and the God of the Bible. The goal of men like Voltaire was to attack the verbal plenary nature of Scripture. Thomas Payne was another who attacked Scripture through texts like The Age of Reason.
More devastating than what happened in the 18th century—and longer lasting—and more subtle—the attack I want to focus on today came under the guise of being for the Bible. It came under the guise of progress—better scholarship. How did Christians react? By in large, they reacted with rejection. 20 years later (1880’s) something else came in. The push was to ignore the smaller details, to focus on the big issues. The name of the given to this idea—The New Apologetic. That is what we’re looking at today.
12:26: This came through the powerhouse known as The Free Church of Scotland. It was a church born out of the English revival. It was a missionary church, renown for its leaders and books. This was the church that became the great distributor of the New Apologetic.
3 men to know:
William Robertson Smith: Author, many things in his book raised concern. He was tried before the church and was suspended from the church
Marcus Dods: Publish in 1877 a study on inspiration; pushed for holding on to central truths, openly denied the inspiration of Scripture. Tried and cleared by the church, became an influential figure.
George Adam Smith: Replaced William Robertson Smith. As a professor, he continued this style of teaching.
Why did these men have such influence?
These men claimed to be striving for a basis of faith more stable than what was previously known to be. They came forward in the name of the gospel.
- They were able young men, and the resistance was thought to be coming from the old generation.
- They claimed that they were going to bring the churches and the people closer to Christ. They claimed to have something better than the Bible—a living guide.
- They were preachers, able men, and very persuasive.
It amazes me the number of men who succumb to this teaching. William Fullerton, one of Spurgeon’s brightest students, would be persuaded to deny verbal, plenary inspiration. This reminds me that we must hold fast, by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. We need to be kept; we can’t keep ourselves!
12:36: What was the fatal mistake? The thinking was to keep the heart of the matter, and not worry about the smaller details. The problem is, which part is “the heart of the matter? What part of the Scripture is the Word of God?”
They would claim stories like the flood, the authorship of Daniel (or Esther for that matter), Jonah in the belly of the fish . . . these are more incidental matters. The trouble is Christ referred to these matters.
When questioned on these matters, they were forced to admit they did not affirm all that Christ spoke. So, when Christ said, “heaven and earth will pass away, but not my word,” they took Christ to mean “some of my word.” This led to the Quest for the Historical Jesus.
Dods said he was willing to give up Scripture as long as Christ was preserved, but which Christ did he mean?
12:41: Dods’ conclusion (1907): “some little rag of faith will be left when all is done.” This is the result of the New Apologetic.
I grew up in a church that was a splendid building, opened in the year 1900 to hold thousands of people. George Adam Smith preached at the open ceremony. That church now is an empty deserted building. Why? Because Bible teachers and Bible believers left long ago. That is a picture of many churches all over the British Isles at present. This is a result of the evil one coming in, attacking the Word of God.
12:45: The disaster that hit Britain then spread worldwide. It killed the roots of missionary endeavor. In the 1920’s an attempt was made to stop this trend in the missionary field. This attempt was refused in the U.S.A. Gresham Machen made a similar attempt, proposing that missionaries should not be sent out unless they were committed to the authority of Scripture. He documented his concerns. The foreign missions board did nothing, so Machen formed another missions board. He was then defrocked and silenced.
12:50: What was this controversy about? It wasn’t so much the doctrine of verbal inspiration that offended them. It was what this verbally inspired Scripture taught. This was the real objection. This was the root of it. The natural man has no heart for Scripture. He doesn’t want to believe it. The unregenerate man will not accept the Word of God. The heart of this attack was hatred of the gospel itself.
They sought to make the Bible acceptable to the world. Doing this leaves you with no real message at all.
These men who introduced these falsehoods, were they planning to do what history showed they did? I don’t believe they were. The were unconsciously being deluded by the God of this world. They were being led by someone they didn’t believe. The devil was being forgotten.
2 Marks of the Devils work:
- The Devil is always wanting us to idolize men.The best way to overthrow the truth is to promote men. Pride is the chief engine that the Devil uses. A good, faithful minister doesn’t want to be applauded.
- The Devil works by the evasive, devious.He doesn’t come in his own dress, but in deception.
12:57: We’ve got to come to the point that we realize any movement that blurs the line between those who hold to the authority of the Word of God and those who don’t is a dangerous movement. Hold the line!
We’ve got to realize this is a supernatural battle, and we have to respond with supernatural power. We cannot defend the gospel with words and books alone. We need power from heaven. If we are standing in a spiritual battle, we must have spiritual power. We have to be humble, prayerful men. We must give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
1:01: Let us pray . . .
1:03: Murray Recommended two books: Warnings to the Church, J.C. Ryle and Spurgeons, Chequebook of the Bank of Faith