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Redemption Accomplished and Applied Paperback – December 12, 1955
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— from the foreword
"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."
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is divided into two basic sections. The first section analyzes the accomplishment of the atonement. This is the section where Murray argues in favor of the most disputed point of the 5 points of Calvinism, 'limited atonement'. It is also the section where Murray puts forward the somewhat controversial doctrine of divine alienation, which says that the reconciling act of the atonement did much more to address God's holy alienation from us than it did to address our alienation from God. This doctrine tends to go against modern views which say that reconciliation is purely an event where we become reconciled to God as soon as we exercise faith, and that's it. Murray takes exception to this by saying that alienation is not purely humanity's alienation from God, but also God's holy alienation from us as a result of our sin and that this holy alienation must also be addressed in order for genuine reconciliation to be possible. Murray does a very good job of analyzing this area and might well be the most profitable part of the book from a purely theological perspective since this aspect of the atonement is rarely thought about or discussed.
The second section of the book is where Murray puts forth the classic reformed understanding of the ordo salutis. This is the section where Murray argues that monergistic regeneration precedes faith and makes a faith response on our part possible. This is one of the main aspects of reformed soteriology that is an affront to the anthropocentric soteriology held sacred by much of Christendom. However, I happen to strongly agree with Murray here. His analysis of regeneration, justification, sanctification, and perseverance are all very good.
The one area where I thought the book lacked a bit was in Murray's exposition of limited atonement. I personally thought that this section could have been beefed up considerably, and it surprised me that Murray didn't make a bigger investment here in defending this doctrine, knowing full well that this doctrine is a source of intense controversy. For what Murray says, he does quite well. But there was much here that didn't get said, and a number of difficult Scripture passages that weren't really dealt with, and as a result, I think someone who wants to read an exhaustive defense of limited atonement will not be able to rely completely on this book.
However, I want to make clear that even though the limited atonement section is arguably a little thin, I do think that Murray makes a good case for limited atonement, while making very compelling cases for many of the other doctrines that he discusses in the book. Definitely an important read for Christians of all stripes and at all levels of Christian maturity. Very profitable for both the beginner and the seasoned believer.
He wrote in the Preface to this 1955 book, “It is with some misgiving that I have ventured to offer for publication the following attempt to deal with an aspect of the divine revelation that has been explored to such an extent. This present study cannot pretend to be in the same class as many of the superb contributions of both the more remote and the more recent past. I can only claim that I am presenting what has passed through the crucible of my own reflection. I am conscious of the profound debt I owe to numberless theologians and expositors… However, there are certain facets of this great truth which I have sought to bring into cleared focus. Perhaps some neglected factors have received an emphasis which our present-day theological situation demands.”
In Chapter 1, he outlines, “The question really is: does the Scripture provide us with evidence or considerations on the basis of which we may conclude that this is one of the things impossible or necessary for God, impossible for him to save sinners without vicarious sacrifice and inherently necessary, therefore, that salvation freely and sovereignly determined, should be accomplished by the blood-shedding of the Lord of glory.” (Pg. 7)
He acknowledges, “While the New Testament writers do not find in Christ’s offering of himself a literal fulfillment of all the prescriptions of the Levitical law as applied to the animal offerings, yet it is very apparent that they have distinctly before their minds certain specific transactions of the Mosaic ritual. For example, in Hebrews 9:6-15 the transactions of the great day of atonement are specifically mentioned, and it is with these transactions clearly in mind and on the basis of the symbolical and typical import of this ritual that the writer sets forth the transaction efficacy, perfection, and finality of the final sacrifice of Christ.” (Pg. 21)
He points out, “Propitiation presupposes the wrath and displeasure of God, and … the doctrine of propitiation means that Christ propitiated the wrath of God and rendered God propitious to his people. Perhaps no tenet respecting the atonement has been more violently criticized than this one. It has been assailed as involving a mythological conception of God, as supposing internal conflict … between the persons of the Godhead… While the doctrine of propitiation is presented in this light it can be very effectively criticized and can be exposed as a revolting caricature of the Christian gospel. But the doctrine of propitiation … has been misconceived and misrepresented… First of all… It is loose thinking of a deplorable sort to claim that propitiation … is incompatible with the fullest recognition that the atonement is the provision of the divine love. Secondly, propitiation is not a turning of the wrath of God into love.” (Pg. 27)
He notes that “Ransom presupposed some kind of bondage or captivity, and redemption, therefore, implies that from which the ransom secures us… redemption as purchase or ransom receives a wide variety of reference and application. Redemption applies to every respect in which we are bound, and it releases us unto a liberty that is nothing less than the liberty of the glory of the children of God. We must not, of course, press the language of purchase or ransom unduly.” (Pg. 40)
After quoting Romans 5:18, he asks, “are we to suppose that justification came upon the whole human race, upon all men distributively and inclusively? This cannot be Paul’s meaning. He is dealing with actual justification… And we cannot believe that such justification passed upon every member of the human race unless we believe that all men will ultimately be saved, something contrary to Paul’s teaching elsewhere… Consequently, though Paul uses the expression ‘all men’ in the first part of the verse in the sense of all men universally, yet he must be using the same expression in the second part of the verse in a much more restricted sense… of all those who will be actually justified… So it will not do to quote a few texts from the Bible in which such words as ‘world’ and ‘all’ occur in connection with the death of Christ and forthwith conclude that the question is settled in favor of universal atonement.” (Pg. 58-59)
Of the doctrine of Limited Atonment, he observes, “This may or may not be a good or fair denomination. But it is not the term used that is important; it is that which it denotes… we must reckon with the fact that unless we believe in the final restoration of all men we cannot have an unlimited atonement. If we universalize the extent we limit the efficacy. If some of those for whom atonement was made and redemption wrought perish eternally, then the atonement is not itself efficacious…. The doctrine … which we maintain is the doctrine which limits the atonement to those who are heirs of eternal life, to the elect.” (Pg. 62-63)
He states, “the security of which Paul here [Rom 8:32-39] speaks is a security restricted to those who are the objects of the love which was exhibited on Calvary’s accursed tree, and therefore the love exhibited on Calvary is itself a distinguishing love and not a love that is indiscriminately universal. It is a love that ensures the eternal security of those who are its objects… [and] which secures for them the justifying righteousness through which eternal life reigns. And this is just saying that the atonement which Calvary accomplished is not itself universal.” (Pg. 68)
He notes, “Perhaps no text in Scripture presents more plausibly support to the doctrine of universal atonement than 1 John 2:2: ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.’ The extension of the propitiation to ‘the whole world’ would appear to allow for no other construction than that the propitiation for sins embraces the sins of the whole world. It must be said that the language John uses here would fit in perfectly with the doctrine of universal atonement if Scripture elsewhere demonstrated that to be the biblical doctrine. And it must also be said that this expression OF ITSELF would not offer any proof of or support to a doctrine of limited atonement. The question however is: does this text prove that the atonement is universal?... There is good reason why John should have said ‘for the whole world’ quite apart from the assumption of universal atonement. 1. It was necessary for John to set forth the scope of Jesus’ propitiation---it was not limited … to the immediate circle of disciples… 2. It was necessary for John to emphasize the EXCLUSIVENESS of Jesus as the propitiation…” (Pg. 71-72)
He says, “There is still more we can know of the bitterness of sin and death. The lost in perdition will everlastingly bear the unrelieved and unmitigated judgment due to their sins; they will eternally suffer in the exaction of the demands of justice. But there was only one, and there will not need to be another, who bore the full weight of the divine judgment upon sin and bore it so as to end it. The lost will eternally suffer in the satisfaction of justice. But they will never satisfy it.” (Pg. 76)
He considers John 3:5: “Except one be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” noting that “those who believe in baptismal regeneration like to appeal to this text in support of that doctrine,” and arguing, “it should be noted that Jesus does not say baptism; he says water. We must not take it for granted that he means baptism unless there is some compelling reason for thinking that … he must have been referring to the water of baptism… we should keep in mind … [that Jesus] was engaged in a dialogue with Nicodemus… the religious import of water in the Old Testament… pointed in one direction, and that direction is purification… that message would be focused in [Nicodemus’s] mind … the indispensable necessity of purification for entrance into the kingdom of God.” (Pg. 101-102)
He states, “Faith is assent. We must not only know the truth respecting Christ but we must also believe it to be true. It is possible, of course, for us to understand the import of certain propositions of truth and yet not believe these propositions. All disbelief is of this character… A person who rejects the virgin birth may understand well what the doctrine of the virgin birth is and for that very reason reject it.” (Pg. 116)
He clarifies, “the emphasis which the Scripture places upon faith as the condition of salvation is not to be construed as if faith were the only condition… Repentance is that which describes the response of turning from sin unto God… True faith is suffused with penitence… repentance results in constant contrition. The broken spirit and the contrite heart are abiding marks of the believing soul… The way of sanctification is the way of contrition for the sin of the past and of the present…. forgiveness is sealed by the light of [Jesus’] countenance, but we do not save ourselves.” (Pg. 121-122)
He explains, “This is what is meant when we insist that justification is forensic. It has to do with a judgment given, declared, pronounced: it is judicial or juridical or forensic… Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon…. removes an inward cancer, he does something in us. That is not what a judge does---he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly.” (Pg. 127-128)
He admits, “It is possible to give all the outward signs of faith in Christ and obedience to him, to witness for a time a good confession and show great zeal for Christ and his kingdom and then lose all interest and become indifferent, if not hostile, to the claims of Christ and his kingdom… Some appear to be converted, they boil over with enthusiasm for a little while, and then suddenly cool off. The disappear from the fellowship of the saints. Others do not show the same enthusiasm… We must appreciate the lengths to which a temporary faith may carry those who have it.” (Pg. 161-162)
He continues, “it is possible to have very uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel… [that produces] effects in us which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet not be partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life. A doctrine of perseverance that fails to take account of such a possibility and of its actuality in certain cases is a distorted one … [and] not the doctrine of perseverance at all… It is true that a believer sins; he may into grievous sin and backslide for lengthy periods. But it is also true that a believer cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the dominion of sin; he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness. And therefore it is utterly wrong to say that a believer is secure quite irrespective of this subsequent life of sin and unfaithfulness.” (Pg. 163)
He concludes, “Here indeed is mysticism on the highest plane. It is not the mysticism of vague unintelligible feeling or rapture. It is the mysticism of communion with the one true and living God, and it is communion … because it is communion with the three distinct persons of the Godhead in the strict particularity which belongs to each person in that grand economy of saving relationship to us…. It si not the blurred confusion of rapturous ecstasy. It is faith solidly founded on the revelation deposited for us in Scripture…” (Pg. 183)
This is perhaps Murray’s most influential book, and will be “must reading” for anyone studying Evangelical Reformed doctrine.