Monday, October 02, 2006

'A Scottish Christian Heritage'. Review.

Iain H. Murray, 'A Scottish Christian Heritage' (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth) ISBN 0-85151-930-X

Over the years we have larned that a new book by Iain Murray is an event. Despite disagreements in places, Iain Murray's books are sure to stimulate thought. 'A Scottish Christian Heritage' is no exception.
'A Scottish Christian Heritage' is NOT a history of Scottish Christianity, rather it is a series of 'studies' in Scottish Christian history from the Reformation to the 1900s. These studies are given under three headings, 'Biography', 'Missionary' and 'Church Issues'. As we have come to expect from Mr. Murray history and theology are linked together. Biographical studies on John Knox, Robert Bruce, Thomas Chalmers, John Macdonald and Horatius Bonar are given with serious application to the prsent day. The 'Missionary' section contains two studies, both of which make excellent reading.
But by far the most challenging section of the book is the final part, 'Church Issues'. The first essay is on the subject of 'The Churches and Christian unity in Scottish Church history'. It deals in particular with the view held by the post-Reformation Scots theologians that there should be one church and one church only in Scotland. Murray rejects this view and explains that Christian unity is less a matter of outward union and more a matter of union of heart. The Bible, he notes, never uses 'Church' in the singular in reference to the believers in a country, but always in the plural, 'The ChurchES in Galatia'.
We agree. While denominations who agree substantially with one another ought to feel no guilt in uniting in the truth, it is to be feared that too many church union schemes have in fact sacrificed truth on the altar of unity. They are not Christian unions so much as confederacies to do evil.
As for the attitude that there ought to be one church in each nation, it is not a Biblical concept and has given rise to unseemly wars and confusion.

An essay on Scottish preaching follows. It ought to be read by all preachers. It is penetrating and thought-provoking.

The third essay in the section is on 'The Problem of the 'Elders''. In some Reformed churches today 'Elders' are viewed as a kind on panacea. The 'plurality of elders' is viewed as a principle established from Scripture. But is it? That is what Iain Murray discusses. What are elders? Ought every church to have a plurality? Everyone exercised with this question (we fear there are not enough who are) ought to buy this book and read the essay. It will be sure to get you thinking on the issue.

The final essay is on a subject readers of the blog will know is dear to our heart - 'The Tragedy of the Free Church of Scotland'. The book is worth the price just for this penetrating essay. Murray begins with the Robertson Smith case and explores the tragic effects of the Higher Criticism in Scotland, and how a people once known for piety and seriousness have fallen.
"But, 'the end is not yet'", he concludes. No, the end is not yet. The Church of God still exists in Scotland.

We read this book on a Lord's Day, during torrential rain and bright sunlight. It certainly grabs the attention. But we have one criticism. Endnotes. They are distracting and sometimes downright annoying. Why will not people put notes where they ought to be, at the foot of each page? It's a minor quibble, of course, but we feel it ought to be said. And Murray is by no means a serious offender in the matter.

'A Scottish Christian Heritage' is a marvellous book, and a fitting addition to the Free St. George's Library. We would advise our readers to get it. If you enjoy our Scottish Church History articles, you will certainly enjoy Murray.



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