To those of us who were blessed to be born in the latter half of the twentieth century, it seems unthinkable that there was a time when quality Reformed literature was not readily available on demand. John J. Murray's book Catch the Vision [Evangelical Press, 2007] traces the roots of those privileges, showing the disfavour that Reformed teaching had fallen into in the wake of liberal scholarship's onslaught, and those individuals raised up by God to see its restoration to the forefront of evangelical thinking.
While a host of Christian figures make cameo appearances in the book - ranging from Geoff Thomas, through W.J. Grier, to Arthur W. Pink - Murray's main content hangs on the lives and histories of certain prominent individuals and movements. He traces the Reformed recovery through the lives of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Geoffrey Williams and the Evangelical Library, James I. Packer and the recovery of Puritan literature, Iain Murray and the Banner of Truth Trust, and John Murray. The tone of the book is one of gratitude to God for his hand in each of these people and movements, coupled with a plea to the current generation of Christians to 'Catch the Vision' for themselves. Murray is not uncritical of the Reformed movement which arose in the mid-twentieth century, highlighting significant points at which it missed its opportunity to enjoy greater influence, and suggesting remedies for these deficiencies in our current climate.
Certain sections of the text are notable for the way in which they evidence the clear providence of God in allowing Reformed doctrine to enjoy influence. Arguably the most prominent example of this is found in the chapter on Geoffrey Williams, who was responsible for founding the Evangelical Library. With a deftness of touch, Murray describes Williams' seemingly random conversation with a Welsh pharmacist in London which led in turn to his meeting Lloyd-Jones, which in turn brought the Evangelical Library to London, and its influence to the wider world. It is in these moments of apparent coincidence that God's gracious providence is seen most clearly at work, and the true catalyst behind the Reformed recovery is revealed as the Holy Spirit himself.
I found this book a joy to read. I had already encountered a lot of what Murray covers through the two volume Banner biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, written by Iain H. Murray, but it was a particular blessing to have these issues covered in such small compass, and in such succinct language. The overwhelming emotions which the book prompted in me were those of joy in the providence of God, and sadness at the fact that the Reformed recovery has not been more widespread in its influence. Murray challenges us as readers to recognise our responsibilities in our own generation, and to make every effort to keep the vision of the glory of God alive in our theology, as well as in our family and church life.
John J. Murray has written a readable and loving tribute to a clear work of God in the twentieth century, and my prayer is that the recovery in Reformed doctrine which he so ably describes will carry deep implications in our own generation and in those to come. Amidst decline and declension, how we need to pray that more men and women will come to a God-impassioned, God-exalting theology which holds him at the centre, and the glory of his name as supreme.
Murray's book is an inspiration, but also an invitation to seek a similar work of God to be fanned into flame in the twenty-first century.
Andrew Roycroft and his wife Carolyn are training for missionary work in Peru with Irish Baptist Missions.