- Paperback: 104 pages
- Publisher: Banner of Truth (January 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1848710127
- ISBN-13: 978-1848710122
- Product Dimensions: 4.7 x 0.3 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,622,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Undercover Revolution Paperback – January 1, 2009
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About the Author
Iain Hamish Murray was born (of Scottish parents) in Lancashire, England, April 19, 1931, and educated at King William s College, Isle of Man, and the University of Durham. Prior to university he held a commission in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) who were then engaged in the suppression of an insurgency in the jungles of Malaya. Converted to Christ at the age of seventeen, after upbringing in a larger liberal denomination (the English Presbyterian Church), he became assistant minister at St John s, Summertown, Oxford in 1955, where the Banner of Truth magazine began. The influence of this magazine (edited by him until 1987) was to be greatly enlarged when, with Jack Cullum, he founded the Banner of Truth Trust in 1957. Initially intended to supply out-of-print Reformed and Puritan authors for Britain, the Trust s publications were soon selling in forty countries, with an office established at Carlisle in the United States in the late 1960s.
Murray remained director of the Banner publications until 1996, combining this with serving Grove Chapel, London (1961-69), and St Giles, Sydney (1981-83). Since the latter charge he has remained a minister of the Australian Presbyterian Church although living chiefly at Edinburgh (the head office of the Banner of Truth) since 1991. A turning point in his life was a call from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1956 to assist him at Westminster Chapel, London. This he did for three years and without which the Banner publications could not have begun. His closeness to Lloyd-Jones led, after the latter s death, to the writing of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1990). When asked how much he owes to Lloyd-Jones, Murray replies that the indebtedness is too great to calculate.
During the 1970s, and after his return to the UK from Australia in 1991, Murray has been often in the United States on speaking engagements and two of his best-known books, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography(1987) and Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858 (1994), reflect his close interest in American church history. While authoring several biographies (John Murray, A.W.Pink and John Wesley), Iain Murray s main intention has been to use history to recover commitment to the doctrines of Scripture, particularly the doctrines of grace. He did this first in The Forgotten Spurgeon (1966), and again in Pentecost Today?The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival (1998). More general is his Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 (2000), which, despite its controversial nature, became one of his best-selling hardbacks. Almost all his titles have been published by the Banner of Truth and remain in print.
Marriage, Murray believes, is the next most important event to conversion, and Jean Ann Walters, whom he married in 1955, has been and remains the first influence in his life. They have five children and ten grandchildren.
Since retirement from the everyday work of the Banner of Truth Trust, Murray has both continued to write and been able to visit and help Christians in various parts of the world. The friendship of Christians in several nations are counted by him and his wife as one of their greatest privileges and encouragements.
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Not a 'warm fuzzy' evan-jelly-goo book, but strong meat for honest Christians to know that we must always guard our minds against being 'formed in the world's [perverse] image. [Rom. 12:2]
I bought and read this book because Robert Louis Stevenson was reported to be treated prominently, and as I find Stevenson’s fiction to be delightful and profound, I wondered what dangers Murray found in it. Though he has an entire chapter devoted to Stevenson and a few reflections in a later chapter on him, in all of it Murray gives not a single example of Stevenson’s fiction producing the effects he claims.
Instead, he focuses on Stevenson’s personal life, and his rejection of the strict Scottish Calvinism of his parents, and indeed of Christianity itself. Having recently finished a full length biography of Stevenson, I can attest that that is all true, but really beside the point, if the point is that his fiction is what did the damage.
Further, I’m afraid Murray’s treatment of Stevenson is a bit unfair in places. In one place he quotes W.E. Henley’s criticism of RLS as “incessantly and passionately interested in Stevenson,” i.e. self-absorbed (66). However, the context of their relationship reveals a disgruntled Henley, extremely bitter over a perceived slight on the part of Stevenson’s wife, and perhaps an expression long-standing jealousy. Is that really a fair way to portray Stevenson? Hardly a reliable perspective.
As a way to prove a point, he points out that “the last three years of Stevenson’s life were deeply unhappy” (69). However, context again elicits compassion rather than victorious comparisons. His wife suffered from mental illness and her behavior was a source of deep trouble for RLS. Nevertheless, he stayed with her to the end, and did his best to accommodate her. Stevenson’s physical ailments also were a source of pain, and his poor diet and alcohol and tobacco consumption didn’t help either. I read the same biography that Murray quoted from here, and my reaction was the opposite.
His personal life aside, I actually think the opposite is true of Stevenson’s fiction. He explores the complexities of human nature, of relationships, and of our experiences of good and evil in ways unlike any other writer. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the most famous treatment, but The Master of Ballantrae, Kidnapped, The Black Arrow, even the boyish Treasure Island and the much maligned (but a personal favorite) Prince Otto all push the reader to wrestle with reality which is often more messy than our preferred idealized constructions. Stevenson makes you feel like few other writers to, and I think his fiction should be welcome to a thoughtful Christian, contrary to Murray’s (unsubstantiated) claims.
Though Iain Murray’s effort is not the feat that a fulfillment of his fabulous title would be, it is worth the little time that it takes to read it. The first half is about R. L. Stevenson and Thomas Hardy; the latter half is about subsequent secular novelists, with concluding remarks on the nature (non-fiction) of Christianity.
Murray does not think the writing of fiction is wrong (p. vii.) What is wrong, and has been wrong for over a century, is the drift in fiction away from moral duty (p. 57.) This fault is easy to spot. What may be easily overlooked, however, is a story’s presentation of the world as the only reality—a godless worldview (p. 69.) This is the most valuable thought in The Undercover Revolution.
Though I never took R. L. Stevenson for a Christian, I was surprised at how secular and contemptible he was. The stories that I have read of his do not reflect his character. His Misadventures of John Nicholson so parallels the parable of the prodigal son that I have no doubt that it was for this reason that Charles Neider excluded it from his edition of Stevenson’s Complete Short Stories. Just as Impressionism had much to commend it, being one of the first steps down the ladder toward modern art, a similar observation might be made about the stories of Stevenson, I suppose. In his and Hardy’s day, highly principled reviewers were in the vanguard, and they were sure to catch a novel’s faults, which helped to restrain authors from drifting as far as they would like (pp. 37, 60.) The pressure to conform fiction to high standards of morality was intense. Stevenson conformed more than Hardy did (p. 37.) A Presbyterian minister could mistake Stevenson for a man of faith, even after Stevenson had written all that he would write (p. 59.) The absence of moral pollution is often taken for Christian faith.
There are some threads that Iain Murray leaves hanging, and they are bothersome. Though the father sorrowed over R. L. Stevenson’s unbelief, he enabled him in his ungodly course by generously supporting him for most of his adult life (pp. 17, 18, 24.) Murray could have, and should have, followed up on this, and given at least one paragraph of commentary on it. The father was not a victim of a rebellious son; he was a guilty enabler. The other thread left hanging is the opinion of Wilbur Smith that Hawthorne was a ‘believing Christian’ (p. 61.) Murray should have taken a closer look at the life of Hawthorne; if he had, he would have overruled Smith’s opinion. By his writings Hawthorne aimed, not only to entertain, but also to reform the morals of his readers. But morality is not of the essence of Christianity. A Christian is moral; but a moral person is not necessarily a Christian. Hawthorne’s behavior was not wanton, but neither was it saintly. Arlin Turner’s biography abounds with evidence by which to insist that Hawthorne had no saving faith.
Writers who are hostile to Christianity usually, probably always, reveal that they are neither agnostics nor atheists. I notice this on a regular basis. They harbor a hatred of the God they know exists. For example, Thomas Hardy, if we are to believe his wife, took pains to avow that God and Christ did not exist (p. 40); on the other hand, he traced a missed opportunity of marrying a certain lady to ‘a stupid blunder of God Almighty’ (p. 42.) Another thing that I regularly notice is that when put into practice, atheism ends in failure. We see this everywhere socialism is implemented. We see it in our public school systems. Bertrand Russell tried for five years to make a school succeed that was sexually open in a brazen manner (pp. 71, 72.) It did not work. Moral license is just one reason why universities have lost their intellectual luster. And immoral professors demand more money than their services are worth. If not for subsidies, many universities would cease to operate.
Fiction is more than decadent now; it is fully decayed. A novel by H. G. Wells from 1909 was described as ‘a tract masquerading as a piece of romantic fiction’ by his biographer (p. 51) because it pushed the moral boundaries in such a blatant manner. The novel was ‘banal, humourless, and sentimental.’ This is precisely the complexion of novels that are accepted by our social-engineering publishers one hundred years later. These novels advance lifestyles that are extremely abnormal; as such, their wicked objective is transparent. Because pushing an agenda supersedes everything else, the novels are neither piquant nor plausible; they are boring, bitter, and immature.
Dr. John MacArthur endorses this volume and all pastors should read this revealing brief treatise (112 pages).
There Are Moral Absolutes: How to Be Absolutely Sure That Christianity Alone Supplies