John Murray: Claims for Truth

History is precious. Contrary to the famous quote by Henry Ford, history is not bunk, nor is history merely that which we make today. History is a living story. History is a river which ebbs and flows in the paths we ourselves will one day wander. We see in its paths the failures and success of those who once stood in moments analogous to our own. Therefore, in order for us to wander forward rightly, we have to be aware of the former paths. We are not bound by them. But as long as we chose to ignore them, we are bound to repeat their mistakes.

Historical pursuits are not only useful in the realm of our ordinary lives, but also in terms of our understanding of sacred Scripture. When we come to the Bible, we come with the voices of generations behind us. Depending on your particular denomination that may be for better or worse. Not all denominations are made equal.  To claim such a thing reveals what assumptions and traditions are taken for granted. But even such a view must be confronted by critical examination and consideration; something that is especially difficult for us especially in these days of uncertainty.

My own history is one riddled with transitions from one theological camp to another. My wife and I were not always Presbyterian and Reformed. In fact, we came out of the Pentecostal and Baptist traditions. However, as we pursued study in seminary, I was reminded of the importance of the necessity of honest theological pursuit by a man I presently consider one of my favorite theologians: John Murray.

John Murray lived from 1898-1975. After serving in World War 1, the Scottish believer pursued studies for pastoral ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. As the Seminary devolved towards theological liberalism, Murray proceeded to join the newly established Westminster Theological Seminary as its professor of Systematic Theology, a post which he served from 1930-1966.

In his collected writings we find these words on its initial pages: “The claims of truth are paramount . . . There are so many temptations to allow the claims of truth to become secondary. Mental laziness is one of these temptations.” Our historical moment is one bridled with passionate claims of truth. But in our age of pluralism and generic indifference, has truth lost its priority?

We can recognize as Christians the various narratives that are always presented before us. We are able to hear and observe the claims of ultimacy that are reaching and clawing their way forward. But how should we respond? Apathy is an option, but apathy is chiefly the expression of selfishness. Indifference is the cocktail of the self-absorbed. What is a Christian to do?

Again, I point you back towards the wisdom of John Murray. Murray writes, “We need to know anew what is the right thing to think and what is the right thing to do. If we are to meet these situations, we must be armed with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and we must be equipped with such knowledge of the Word that we shall derive from it needed direction and strength.” (Collected Writings, 1:6) Friends, you need a knowledge of the Bible.

The days of half-hearted Christianity are behind us. If you are going to be unfamiliar with your Bible or indifferent towards God, consider your voice muffled in this present moment. What the world needs are not indifferent half-hearted Christians. The world is hungry for meaning and truth, and they’ve got no grounds for it.

Christ alone can satisfy the heart. Christ alone can guide us. Christ alone leads us in the dark moments of our souls. But in order to share Christ you must know Him yourself. You must see your sins for the atrocities that they are and flee from them. You must see your need for a Savior and embrace Him. But you must also sit at His feet and let Him feed you. You must bask in His Spirit. You must grow in the school of Christ, which is the Church. You must learn to make prayer and love your weapons of warfare. You must make His body and blood your sustenance to face the week. In short, you need the whole Christ. Only in the Scriptures can we find hope then, “We have no encounter with God, with Christ, and with the Holy Spirit in terms of saving and redeeming grace apart from Scripture. It is the only revelation to us of God’s redemptive will.” (John Murray, Collected Writings, 1:12).

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