Friday, September 11, 2015

11 September 2015 A.D. Dr. Carl Trueman on Prof. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied

11 September 2015 A.D. Dr. Carl Trueman on Prof. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Carl Trueman’s foreword to a reprint of John Murray’s concise classic, Redemption Accomplished and Applied.

As a new convert to Christianity in the mid-1980s, I was always trying to find books that would help me engage more deeply with the faith. Because I had not grown up in a Christian home and had almost never attended church, my knowledge of the Bible and of its teaching was minimal. I knew something about God, something about sin, and something about Christ. Beyond that, I was a Cambridge undergraduate with less theological understanding than a ten-year-old who had been taught the catechism.

Because of this, I was always hunting for good, basic books on Christian doctrine. A kind local pastor gave me a copy of J. I. Packer’s God’s Words and that helped introduce me to the basic elements of evangelical theology.

Then someone recommended I obtain a copy of John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. I had never heard of Murray and neither had the manager of the local Christian bookshop, but he dutifully ordered me a copy. When it arrived, I confess to a little disappointment. Frankly, I had expected a weightier tome, not a relatively brief paperback. Yet my disappointment did not survive even my reading of the very first chapter.

What Murray did, and what I had never really seen before, was demonstrate how my salvation connected to the work of God in both eternity, as he planned salvation, and time, as he executed it in the person and work of his Son and applied it to individuals through the work of his Holy Spirit. Thus, Murray’s little book did three things of major importance: it showed how eternity and time relate to each other in salvation, how that salvation is a Trinitarian matter, rooted in the very identity of God as Trinity, and how this makes sense of the whole Bible.

Of course, Murray was not really doing anything exceptional. What he did was build upon a rich tradition of thinking in the Reformed churches, which placed each of these three points in the foundation of their testimony. As a minister in my own denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and as a key faculty member in the early days of Westminster Theological Seminary, Murray loved the Westminster Standards and the theology which they teach. What he sought to do was to explicate that theology, particularly as it relates to salvation.

More specifically, Murray was seeking to articulate the order of salvation (Latin: ordo salutis) in a manner that also connected it to the history of salvation (Latin: historia salutis). We might distinguish the two by saying that the order of salvation pertains to the way in which the individual appropriates salvation. Election, calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification are the basic elements of this. The history of salvation is focused on the acts of God in history, specifically as they culminate in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, which provide the basis for the order of salvation.

Thus the work begins with a careful analysis of the nature of the atonement. This is history of salvation territory. Christ’s incarnation and death must be understood against the backdrop of God’s love in eternity for those he has chosen to rescue from their sin and its eternal consequences. Then the cross itself must be understood in terms of God’s wrath against sin, of his imputation of our sin to Christ, and of the Old Testament sacrificial system of which it is the fulfillment. Murray’s view is profoundly particularist, whereby Christ’s death is not for everyone but for those whom God has chosen.

Then, in the second half of the work, Murray looks at the implications of Christ’s death for the salvation of the individual believer, addressing the various elements of the order of salvation. What emerges is a seamless move from eternity to time, and from the work of God in Christ to the work of God in the believer.

Murray’s book has its critics. His view of particular redemption is repudiated by those opposed to what they call “limited atonement,” who see it as restricting God’s love and standing at odds with passages in the New Testament which apparently speak of the universality of God’s desire for all to be saved. Others within the Reformed camp itself have taken issue with Murray, or at least with certain traditions of reading Murray, for what they see as a failure to distinguish clearly between justification and sanctification. I make no comment on those debates here.

The book you have in your hand is a miniature masterpiece of theology, dealing reverently on every page with matters of great theological significance. Whether you end the book by agreeing or disagreeing with its author, you will have found your own thinking on these issues sharpened and clarified.

Carl R. Trueman
Paul Woolley Professor of Church History
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA Pastor
Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC), Ambler, PA

Carl R. Trueman, “Foreword to the 2015 Edition,” in John Murray, Redemption Accomplish and Applied (1955; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), vii-ix. Posted with permission.

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