Friday, January 15, 2010

Biography of G.R. Beasley-Murray - Part 2

Continuing on with Fearless for the Truth, GBM once said to the students at Spurgeon's College at an address in 1999:

"My plea therefore to you this morning is that you hold together the two strands of the tension that is inherent in our vocation. Some evangelists, alas, have little knowledge of the New Testament, and consequently their teaching is often superficial. You, as I, may have listened to evangelistic sermons that have consisted of a string of illustrations followed by a prolonged appeal to come to Christ. On the other hand, some scholars have so consistently adhered to one line of research in theology that hardly know how to communicate the gospel. Believe me, I have known more than one professor of missions who was incapable of leading anyone to the Lord".

On study of the biblical languages, GBM urged students to be able to have enough Greek in order to use the basic tools of biblical study like TDNT and other technical commentaries like those of Lightfoot, Swete, and Charles. He wrote:

"Let me make clear that I have no desire to see honest preachers of the gospel transformed into second-rate scholars of ancient languages, and so ruined for any useful calling ... For this reason the attitude of the student who intends to throw away his Greek New Testament as soon as he has gained his degree in New Testament studies is as foolish as the decision of an instrumentalist who, after painfully acquired the mastery of an instrument, determined never to play it again."

Although a committed Baptist (he in fact believed that baptismal candidates should be catechised by the pastor before baptism), GBM urged generosity towards those who were of a different mind on baptism. He wrote in Baptism in the New Testament:

"In respect for the conscience of our fellow-Christians and the like charity, which we trust will be exercised towards us, could we not refrain from requesting the baptism of those baptised in infancy who wish to join our churches and administer baptism to such only where there is a strong plea from the applicant?"

Whereas evangelicals have tended to prefer "spiritual unity" over "physical unity", GBM once said that: "The spiritual unity of the Church is intended to be expressed 'bodily'; so long as it is 'bodily' denied, the Church contradicts its nature and calls into question its right to preach the reconciliation of all things in Christ."

On the subject of fermenting divisions, GBM was robust:

"I'm not ashamed of the Gospel, No. But I confess to being ashamed of some of its defenders. In particular I find myself at a loss to comprehend the tactics of some preachers in their relations with other preachers of the Gospel. There appears to be a competition among Evangelicals to see who can vilify most effectively the people of Christ who believe it is the will of God to end the hostilities within the church".

GBM's time in Louisville is reckoned as a golden time and it enabled him to at least start many of the projects that he had hoped to write, but which the duties of being principal had not afforded him. Interesting are the comments of Paul Beasley-Murray about the Southern Baptist Convention: "At times it may appear that salvation is only to be found in the Southern Baptist Church - as distinct from only in Christ ... Yet, for all the faults of the Southern Baptist Convention, one has to admit that evangelism is more to the fore than in many a Christian denomination elsewhere."

On his return to England, GBM continued writing and preaching, and completed the second edition of his WBC John commentary shortly before his death. The final words of the book contain an outline of GBM's testimony which ends with the words: "When God completes his purpose in his universe, I shall be there. For Christ my risen, almighty Lord will bring me. Be sure you have Him too".


Tim Byrnes said...

Thank you for this. This was inspiring.

Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

What a wonderful account. Sounds like a great biography and a great life to write a biography about (as if I hadn't already thought well of GBM). Thanks for the posts Michael!

Mick Porter said...

Thanks for that - I found his baptism book really helpful, both for its conclusions and for its thrust towards unity with those who drew different conclusions.