Iain Murray is one of the finest conservative church historians and theologians writing today. He warns early of the danger of romanticizing some period in church history (p. 3). But without question he sees a time, from the Puritans to Spurgeon, in which truth and holiness play a far more dominate role in the church. For Murray “old evangelicalism” is early Reformed Christianity, with the Puritans at the zenith. As such, this book is filled with many excellent quotes and insights from this particular era and theological emphasis.
Murray is clear about his Reformed views, championing limited atonement (pp. 106-107, 132), regeneration before faith (pp. 18, 45, 56-57, 62), election (pp. 126) and the necessity of the Law for sanctification (pp. 52-54, 91). Yet he brings balance to these views by curbing the extreme ideas often found in some forms of Calvinism. For example, Murray makes clear that God does love the unbeliever (pp. 110-123, 156), and an entire chapter is devoted to what can be learned from John Wesley (pp. 135-165) who preached the same gospel as does the Calvinist (p. 156). Murray also clarifies the Reformed understanding of assurance of salvation, faith/repentance and fruit of the Spirit (pp. 181-194). Murray challenges those who add a third evidence of salvation—an emotional, feeling element. He provides a very helpful illustration of how looking to feelings as the ground for salvation caused great pain and insecurity for John Wesley (pp. 187-189).
The Old Evangelicalism is a solid book and a profitable read even if one disagrees with some of the author’s positions.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel