A Review Article -- By: David F. Wright

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: A Review Article
Author: David F. Wright

A Review Article

David F. Wright

Evangelicalism Divided: A Record Of Crucial Change In The Years 1950 To 2000, Iain H. Murray. Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth (2000). 342 pages, cloth, $21.50

Reading this book for review has been a dispiriting experience. Working through some 300 pages by a well-known and skillful evangelical writer devoted to a relentless exposé of the inadequacies of many of the leading evangelicals of the past half-century is calculated to cast one into Bunyan’s slough of despond. One must admire Iain Murray’s tenacity in such an unpalatable cause. It must have been deeply distasteful, for an author whose natural habitat seems the three centuries of Reformation, Puritanism and Evangelical Revival, to digest and analyse so many books, articles and reports of recent decades which convey to him the depressing message of widespread evangelical betrayal of biblical Christianity at its core. For me it is sorely disconcerting that those most prominently in the firing-line are people from whom, as writers, speakers, and in many cases friends, I have profited enormously.

On any measure this is a weighty treatise. The range of Murray’s reading is extensive and includes some manuscript sources. He marshals quotations deftly, to maximum effect. The central burden of the book—that major changes

have come over salient areas of transatlantic evangelicalism in the second half of the twentieth century—is, I judge, not open to challenge. Whether these changes have been very largely for the worse and where the blame should be laid are questions likely to provoke intense debate—at least until lapse of time has opened up greater distance from the events themselves and with it the opportunity for clearer objectivity in evaluating them.

Iain Murray’s selected targets are first, a North American nexus encompassing the “new evangelicalism” of Fuller Theological Seminary, Billy Graham and all his works (well, most of them), especially the increasingly broad platform of ecclesiastical and theological support behind his crusades, and Christianity Today (on none of which will I venture to comment); second, the mounting denominationalism of evangelical Anglicans, which diverted them away from nurturing their primary unity with non-Anglican evangelicals toward finding their identity chiefly within the Church of England—and in the process progressively compromising their evangelicalism; third, the pursuit of academic professionalism by evangelical biblical and theological scholars, which has inexorably entailed a rationalist intellectualism, blighting not only evangelicals in universities but even church seminaries; and fourth...

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