The Exegetical Systematician: John Murray

I don’t believe the Bible is a book of heroes. The Bible does have heroes in it, but that is not what it is about. It is a book about the Hero. Nonetheless, I do believe in having heroes, and I believe it is Biblical to have them.

Heroes are not perfect, and thus they point us to Christ in three ways. Their faults (weaknesses and sins) point us to the Savior that they, and we, all need. With this foundation we learn two further truths concerning their strengths. First, they are a result of God’s gifting and working in them such that He gets all the glory. Second, their strengths also point us to Jesus by whom they are graded – Jesus is the ultimate curve breaker. All heroes are judged in relation to Him.

Every year I single out one hero to study in particular. This year I will study the life and works of John Murray.

John Murray was a Scottish theologian. Before ministry he fought in World War I serving with the Black Watch Regiment and lost an eye to shrapnel. After studying at the University of Glasgow he attended Princeton and then began teaching there, but soon left following J. Gresham Machen to teach systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1930. He remained there until 1966. He then married Valerie Knowlton and retired to Scotland; ultimately retiring from this world on May 8, 1975.

He is best known for his work Redemption Accomplished and Applied and his commentary on the book of Romans. Of that commentary John Piper has said, “Murray was a systematic theologian at Westminster but like Charles Hodge, he wrote an absolutely amazing commentary on Romans. In one sense, I don’t think any commentary has surpassed Murray in theological depth and precision on the book of Romans. The sentences are complex and carefully crafted and they are penetrating in the depth and scope of their theological richness.” At a lecture at Westminster, Piper added, “So in my early days, Romans was the key, watershed document to turn my world upside down. And you know who it was who guided me through Romans? John Murray. That is the most beautifully written commentary on the planet. People who write commentaries are not generally good writers. They patch things together… I read a sentence, and I just want to go back and memorize it because his eloquence is phenomenal. The work that must have gone in to the way he says what he says about the glories of Romans 5 or Romans 8 are amazing, so I thank God for John Murray.”

Hero 2015: The Penning Pastor

Newton_jI don’t believe the Bible is a book of heroes. The Bible does have heroes in it, but that is not what it is about. It is a book about the Hero. Nonetheless, I do believe in having heroes, and I believe it is Biblical to have them.

Heroes are not perfect, and thus they point us to Christ in three ways. Their faults (weaknesses and sins) point us to the Savior that they, and we, all need. With this foundation we learn two further truths concerning their strengths. First, they are a result of God’s gifting and working in them such that He gets all the glory. Second, their strengths also point us to Jesus by whom they are graded – Jesus is the ultimate curve breaker. All heroes are judged in relation to Him.

Every year I single out one hero to study in particular. This year I will study the life and works of John Newton.

Newton is no doubt best known for being the writer of the most beloved English hymn “Amazing Grace.” He was born July 25, 1725 and died December 21, 1807. He pastored two churches. One in Olney for 15 years and one in London for 27 years.

Newton’s life is remarkable, but what I am most looking forward to studying are his pastoral letters. I have the older and beautiful six volume edition of his works published by Banner of Truth (I believe they are working on a new reformatted four volume version). Volumes 1, 2, 5, 6 are significantly comprised of these letters. I pray and hope his pastoral wisdom, counsel, and care of souls will both minister to me and help me to better minister to others.

The Dogmatician: The Mystery of Evil

The fallen world in which we live rests on the foundations of a creation that was very good inasmuch as it came forth from the hands of God. But that world did not long continue to exist in its original goodness. It had scarcely been created before sin crept into it. The mystery of existence is made even more incomprehensible by the mystery of evil. Almost at the same moment creatures came, pure and splendid, from the hand of their Maker, they were deprived of all their luster, and stood, corrupted and impure, before his holy face. Sin ruined the entire creation, converting its righteousness into guilt, its holiness into impurity, its glory into shame, its blessedness into misery, its harmony into disorder, and its light into darkness. But where does that evil come from? What is the origin of sin? Scripture vindicates God and presents a continuous theodicy when it proclaims and maintains that God is in no way the cause of sin. He, Scripture says, is righteous, holy, far from wickedness (Deut. 32:4; Job 34:10; Ps. 92:15; Isa. 6:3; Hab. 1:13), a light in whom there is no darkness (1 John 1:5); he tempts no one ( James 1:13), is an overflowing fountain of all that is good, immaculate, and pure (Ps. 36:9; James 1:17). He prohibits sin in his law (Exod. 20) and in the conscience of every human (Rom. 2:14-15), does not delight in wickedness (Ps. 5:4), but hates it and demonstrates his wrath against it (Ps. 45:7; Rom. 1:18). He judges it and atones for it in Christ (Rom. 3:24-26), cleanses his people from it by forgiveness and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30) and, in the event of continued disobedience, wills to punish it with both temporal and eternal penalties (Rom. 1:18; 2:8).  —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Essential, Foundational Trinity

The confession of the Trinity is the heartbeat of the Christian Religion. …

The doctrine of the Trinity makes God known to us as the truly living God, over against the cold abstractions of Deism and the confusions of pantheism. A doctrine of creation—God related to but not identified with the cosmos—can only be maintained on a trinitarian basis. In fact, the entire Christian belief system stands or falls with the confession of God’s Trinity. It is the core of the Christian faith, the root of all its dogmas, the basic content of the new covenant. The development of trinitarian dogma was never primarily a metaphysical question but a religious one. It is in the doctrine of the Trinity that we feel the heartbeat of God’s entire revelation for the redemption of humanity. We are baptized in the name of the triune God, and in that name we find rest for our soul and peace for our conscience. Our God is above us, before us, and within us. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Blessed God

Now, when ascribed to God blessedness has three components. In the first place it expresses that God is absolute perfection, for blessedness is the mark of every being that is, and to that extent it is complete; in other words, blessedness is the mark of every being that lives and in living is not hampered or disturbed by anything from within or without. Now, because God is absolute perfection, the sum total of all virtues, the supreme being, the supreme good, the supreme truth (etc.); in other words, because God is absolute life, the fountainhead of all life, he is also the absolutely blessed God. In Scripture ‘life’ and ‘blessedness’ are very closely related: life without blessedness is not worthy of the name, and in the case of God’s children eternal life coincides with blessedness. Second, implied in the words “the blessed God” is that God knows and delights in his absolute perfection. …God absolutely delights in himself, absolutely rests in himself, and is absolutely self-sufficient. …God’s delight in his creatures is part and parcel os his delight in himself. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: “Further Up and Further In” or “Beyond Aseity to Independence” or “There’s Always a Bigger Fish: When One Attribute Swallows Another”

While aseity expresses God’s self-sufficiency in his existence, independence has a broader sense and implies that God is independent in everything: in his existence, in his perfections, in his decrees, and in his works. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

Hero 2013: The Pilgrim

I don’t believe the Bible is a book of heroes. The Bible does have heroes in it, but that is not what it is about. It is a book about the Hero. Nonetheless, I do believe in having heroes, and I believe it is Biblical to have them.

Heroes are not perfect, and thus they point us to Christ in three ways. Their faults (weaknesses and sins) point us to the Savior that they, and we, all need. With this foundation we learn two further truths concerning their strengths. First, they are a result of God’s gifting and working in them such that He gets all the glory. Second, their strengths also point us to Jesus by whom they are graded – Jesus is the ultimate curve breaker. All heroes are judged in relation to Him.

Every year I single out one hero to study in particular. This year I will study the life and works of John Bunyan.

Every week I will post some gleanings from Bunyan. All such posts will be marked, “The Pilgrim,” a name easily understood by many as a reference to his famous Pilgrims Progress. The life of John Bunyan simply makes no sense unless He was living for another land in loyalty to a higher King.

Bunyan was born in 1628 at Elstow near Bedford. His father was a brazier. Though convicted at times, he was a foul-mouthed blasphemous youth. As a young man he joined Cromwell’s army. A year or two after being discharged from the army he married an unknown God-fearing woman. By her books and devotion he was convicted and attempted to stop swearing and attend church. Under the influence of his pastor, John Gifford, Christ called John Bunyan out of darkness, and into a kingdom of light.

In 1655 he began preaching. He was arrested in 1660 on the charges of preaching without official rights from the king. He was offered freedom if he promised not to preach. He refused and spent 12 years in prison. His second wife, Elizabeth, pled boldly and much before authorities for his release. These years were especially hard as one of his four children was blind. When released he enjoyed only a few years of freedom before he was arrested again. John Owen, known as the Prince of the Puritans, successfully pled for his release.

Bunyan was like Paul in prison. The prison confinement did not contain his influence, but multiplied as he wrote prolifically. But unlike Paul he had no formal education, no degrees, and knew nothing of Hebrew or Greek, and yet the Banner of Truth edition of his collected works is comprised of three large volumes in double-columned format with small print spanning 2,319 pages. His works are rich with the Word of God; as Spurgeon said, his blood was “Bibline.” These bible-saturated works show us his sustaining meditations during his imprisonments and trials. He, like father Abraham and the rest of the saints of Hebrews 11, lived upon the promises of another world.