Predictable reviews of predictable reviews

It seems that quite a reaction has occurred over the book, Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones. And not only the book, but reviews of the book are also provoking reactions.

David Ceri Jones, who edited the book, recently took notice of several less than enthusiastic reviews on his blog. He singles out Iain Murray for his “predictably critical” review and his “customary scepticism.” Graham Harrison is also rebuked for his “fairly predictable criticism” of the book.

Mr. Jones then points us to Carl Trueman’s review that is described as having “rapier like accuracy.” Trueman, of course, comes shining through with his comments about Iain Murray’s review: “This is predictable and standard Banner fare.” I’m not that familiar with David Ceri Jones, but I can say that Carl Trueman’s review of Iain Murray’s review was rather – predictable.

But the real kicker comes at the end of the blog post where there is a link to a “more balanced review” on Amazon. I suppose the “balance” is best illustrated by the reviewer’s comment that Dr. Lloyd-Jones’s “impact is unnoticeable when placed against the impact of say Rowan Williams, Hans Kung, Karl Barth etc.” Rowan Williams? Are you serious? Maybe the reviewer really meant Rowan Atkinson?

What are we to make of this? Apparently, “predictable” is bad and “balanced” is good. And in this case, bad and good seems to be indicated by what the reviewer personally thought of Dr. Lloyd-Jones. I have no problem with Iain Murray or Graham Harrison sticking up for their friend and colleague if they think he was unfairly treated by people who weren’t there or didn’t know him. This is certainly “predictable” and forgivable.

But what is unforgivable is how Iain Murray and the Banner of Truth are dismissed as party hacks. There was no mention of a favorable review by Andrew Roycroft on the Banner of Truth website. Likewise, Iain Murray had this to say, “This book is not to be recommended to those who want an introduction to Dr. Lloyd-Jones. For those who already have some familiarity with his writings it will give some help in some areas.” This is quite different from the accusation that “Murray unfortunately feels unable to recommend the book to Banner readers…”

Carl Trueman’s comments might also have been different if he had just read what Iain Murray actually said, rather than going off half-cocked about how history is written. What Murray really said was,

“Consideration of his personality, its strengths and weaknesses, are interesting and debatable, but without what he believed there can be no real engagement… Why not? Probably the explanation lies in the statement that the contributors and a ‘team of historians’, and historians who, for the most part, are working in the university context where ‘beliefs’ are not to be judged as true or false, any more that Scripture is to be judged true or false. Today’s ‘scholarly’ standpoint has to be neutral objectivity. Certainly not all eleven contributors write from this standpoint…”

Murray then goes on to give three examples from the book in which this takes place.

Trueman, however, instead of interacting with the examples given, talks about the Holocaust and just belittles Mr. Murray’s approach as “very simplistic” and “somewhat useless”. If you’ve read Iain Murray’s introduction to his biography of Jonathan Edwards, you know exactly what he’s talking about. Modern writers tend to dismiss or diminish Edwards’s religious beliefs altogether, while still claiming to objectively write on their subject. This is what Mr. Murray is talking about.

But all of this is nothing new for Mr. Trueman – see here and here. So even Carl Trueman turns out to be (horror of horrors!) predictable, too.


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