Divisive Unity -- By: Iain H. Murray

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 12:2 (Fall 2001)
Article: Divisive Unity
Author: Iain H. Murray


Divisive Unity1

Iain H. Murray

Murray introduces the origin of Evangelicalism Divided by recalling a meeting in 1966 at which Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke on “Evangelical Unity,” and had his position challenged by John R.W. Stott, who closed that meeting. The anniversary of that meeting and another series of circumstances led Murray to research and write Evangelicalism Divided. A review of nineteenth-century British church history revealed the cause of the division: liberalism that crept into the church allowed for a faith in Christ without revealed truth and an authoritative Bible, i.e., a new definition of a Christian. When this happened, some evangelicals left the mainline denominations, but others remained and maintained a close tie with other evangelicals who had left. When Billy Graham came to England, he was welcomed by evangelicals, but at first shunned by denominational leaders. Yet when the leaders saw Graham’s large crowds, they accepted him. Some understood the leaders’ change as a new openness to the gospel, yet those leaders were just using Graham as a tool to bring people into their churches. Under the pressure of ecumenism, Graham and others began to think in terms of winning denominations back to evangelicalism, and eventually fell into the error of compromising evangelical doctrine. Two basic problems contributed to the division of evangelicals: neglect of what makes one a Christian and neglect of the depth of human depravity. Lloyd-Jones diagnosed the problem as an evangelical dependence on human methods and a failure to rely on the Holy Spirit. He offered a positive alternative to evangelicals: dependence on God alone and the sufficiency of the Word of God.

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All books have a story of some kind behind them. They come into existence and take their shape by many different ways. It may help to introduce the subject before us if I begin by saying something on the origin of Evangelicalism Divided. In Britain the year 1996 marked the thirtieth anniversary of an event which became

a milestone in the evangelical history of our country. Thirty years before, on 18 October 1966, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke at a National Assembly of Evangelicals in London. His subject was “Evangelical Unity.” At the end of his address the chairman, the Rev. John R.W. Stott, instead of closing the meeting, did something unscheduled. He took several minutes to make clear to the assembly that he disagreed with what they had just heard, and he gave some reasons. So a conference intended to promote evangelical unity had the opposite result. It was said that evangelical unity was fractured; some said it was “wrecked....

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