Saturday, February 18, 2017

Principles of Conduct - by John Murray: A Study

You've heard it.  You've probably said it.

"That's SO wrong!"

"What is the matter with people these days?"

"My life is so messed up!"

"Our world has gone crazy."

Sometimes the world we live in feels like a broken machine.



But what if the problem ISN'T SIMPLY the world we live in.  What if...just maybe...we are doing this thing called "life" wrong. What if the very things we are doing, the choices we are making, the priorities we have embraced and the values we accept are, in fact, the main problem with our lives? What if we are living wrong?

That is a question worth asking, and it is a question that Professor John Murray is essentially asking in his classic treatment of the subject of ethics in Principles of Conduct.

I have decided to take up this book again and work through it.  I say "work" through it because it is not an easy read.  I agree with the assessment of one of the reviewers of this book who called it "Not a light book, not an easy book, it is an important book."

That being said, the Southern Presbyterian Journal called it "...one of the most outstanding contributions in the field of Christian ethics that we have come across in a long time."

Professor John Murray (1898 - 1975) was a native of Scotland, studied theology under men such as J. Gresham Machen and Geerhardus Vos at Princeton, and taught at Westminster Theological Seminary for over 30 years.

Principles of Conduct began as a series of 5 lectures given at Fuller Theological Seminary in California in 1955.  It was first published in 1957.  I believe it is still in print and can be bought on Amazon.

What I appreciate most about Murray's style in this book is that he is not afraid to tackle the tough questions about the ethics of the Bible. He does not gloss over textual difficulties. He is rigorous in his commitment to a consistent Biblical Ethic.

He goes where many modern preachers are not willing to go because such a deliberate statement of Biblical truth would step on the toes of too many churchgoers today.

Topics he addresses include:

  • Marriage
  • Labor
  • The Sanctity of Life
  • Truth
  • And several more


My plan is to take each section and chapter and think through them again. As Murray brings us back to a Biblical ethic, it will demand that I look at my life afresh. Rather than blaming others or circumstances for my problems, maybe (just maybe) it is the way I have been living. These thoughts, therefore, are mostly for the good of my own soul. I'm happy, however, for others to come along for the ride.

The book is 265 pages long and divided into a preface, 10 chapters and 5 appendices. Some chapters are longer, and will probably require multiple blog posts to cover them.

When I look at what is going on around us in our culture. When I hear what people are saying about their lives and about "life" in general. When I observe the methods being used to communicate political and moral ideas. All these things tell me we NEED to hear what this book has to say.

Christians need to hear what this book says. I'm convinced that churches, in general, are not teaching the fundamentals of living found in this work.  Or if they are teaching them...they are not being heeded. If nothing else, I believe I need to hear them again myself.




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