Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summer Reading at Covenant-First: Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender -- about Murray

This summer at Covenant-First Presbyterian, we're sponsoring a series of book clubs in which we'll read books recommended by Andrew Purves, our Homecoming Conference speaker. Throughout the summer, I'll be putting up posts interacting with the three books we'll be reading. The first book we tackle is Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender.

So for today, a few preliminary words about Andrew Murray.

The Wikipedia article is quite sparse, but it does give us his dates (1828-1917) and his main geographic location (South Africa -- serving the Dutch Reformed Church). He and his wife had eight children, and the article notes the encouraged the South Africa Revival of 1860. The nice feature of this article is the extensive list of links to Murray's works. (he did write over 250 books and pamphlets)

The next source of information for me came from Charles Stanley's In Touch Ministries site. Here we find that Murray's preaching attracted large crowds. However, Murray was prone to illness, one bout even taking him away from preaching for two years! Even so, these health trials strengthened his faith, as the article tells us:
Murray'sdaug hter wrote of her father, "It was after the 'time of silence' [in sickness] when God came so near to father and he saw more clearly the meaning of a life of full surrender and simple faith. He began to show in all relationships that constant tenderness and unruffled lovingkindness and unselfish thought for others which increasingly characterized his life from that point. At the same time he lost nothing of his strength and determination."
We also learn that when revival came, Murray was very cautious, wanting to "test the spirits" to make sure that this exuberance was truly of God. Among his other accomplishments were the founding of the Huguenot Seminary in 1873 and service as the first president of the YMCA (though a cursory search of the web finds no indication from YMCA sources that this is true).

Then at the Glory of His Cross webpage (a charismatic ministry based in India) we find more information on the 1860 South Africa Revival. Interestingly, in the middle of this section, I found word for word, the biography of Murray that was on the In Touch website (a cautionary reminder that net writers need to do a much better job at citing their sources and providing appropriate links)

Christianity Today's brief article expands on Murray's concern for education (he was also involved in several other educational institutions) and his theological orientation. According to this article, Murray was considered something of a forerunner to Pentecostalism, but he struggled diligently to maintain his Reformed theology emphasizing God's sovereignty over all. Christianity Today named Murray one of 113 Christians "everyone should to know". The article also gives us more information about Murray's most famous work:
One of his most popular books, With Christ in the School of Prayer, takes New Testament teachings about prayer and illumines them in 31 "lessons" designed to help the reader move past shallow, ineffectual prayer into a fuller understanding of the work God has called them to do. According to Murray, the church does not realize that "God rules the world by the prayers of his saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, that by prayer the church on earth has disposal of the powers of the heavenly world."
All these quotes and sites from just an hour or so perusing the web. However, a few observations are in order: 1) every group seems to want to claim Murray as part of their heritage -- reformed, pentecostals, anabaptists, universalists (yes, universalists), foursquare gospel folks. 2) there's lots of stories without much documentation -- with over 200 works, it makes sense that people forget where the stories come from, but it sure would help if they cited a book or sermon 3) Murray preached and taught about a level of spiritual intensity that eludes many of us today -- I suspect that Absolute Surrender will be challenging to all of us who read it this month. I hope Eagle and Child readers will join us here at Covenant-First in working through this book.

Soli Deo Gloria