ANALYSIS OF DR. MURRAY’S SERMON ON DIVERSITY by J. Parnell McCarter
Dr. David Murray, a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as well as a Free Reformed Church minister in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently preached a sermon entitled “Marks of a Healthy Church (10) – Diversity”. See http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1219131750486 . In this sermon he asserts:
· Genesis 12:3 implies a moral imperative for each Christian congregation vigilantly to seek an ethnic and racial composition matching the ethnic and racial composition of the larger community in which it resides,
· that not having such highly suggests and implies sinful racism,
· church expert megachurch minister Rev. Bill Hybels’ (of Willow Creek Community Church – see http://www.willowcreek.org/ ) advice on this topic should be heeded
· church expert JD Greear’s (of Summit Worship – see http://thesummitworship.com/about.php ) advice on this topic should be heeded,
· that the election of President Obama did certain good for black Americans, from which we should learn that it is important for each congregation to seek to have some black leaders,
· that the prescription of embracing multiculturalism will involve good revolutionary changes for the congregation in order to effect racial/ethnic diversity of the congregation,
· that attacking this church racism in the way he is recommending will result in “massive advances in sanctification”,
· that some would probably leave the congregation because of the changes he is recommending, but that those who do would be unjustified in such departure
I will consider each of the above points that Dr. Murray has asserted in his sermon and respond to them.
First, Genesis 12:3 does not imply the moral imperative that Dr. Murray asserts. Rev. Matthew Henry comments on this verse: “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. This was the promise that crowned all the rest; for it points at the Messiah, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. Note, (1.) Jesus Christ is the great blessing of the world, the greatest that ever the world was blessed with. He is a family blessing, by him salvation is brought to the house (Lu. 19:9); when we reckon up our family blessings, let us put Christ in the imprimis-the first place, as the blessing of blessings. But how are all the families of the earth blessed in Christ, when so many are strangers to him? Answer, [1.] All that are blessed are blessed in him, Acts 4:12 [2.] All that believe, of what family soever they shall be, shall be blessed in him. [3.] Some of all the families of the earth are blessed in him. [4.] There are some blessings which all the families of the earth are blessed with in Christ; for the gospel salvation is a common salvation, Jude 3. (2.) It is a great honour to be related to Christ; this made Abram's name great, that the Messiah was to descend from his loins, much more than that he should be the father of many nations. It was Abram's honour to be his father by nature; it will be ours to be his brethren by grace, Mt. 12:50.”
Let’s also consider Matthew Henry’s commentary on Galatians 3:8 (“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.”), where Genesis 12:3 is quoted: “Abraham was justified by faith, and so are they. To confirm this, the apostle acquaints us that the promise made to Abraham (Gen. 12:3), In thee shall all nations be blessed, had a reference hereunto, v. 8. The scripture is said to foresee, because he that indited the scripture did foresee, that God would justify the heathen world in the way of faith; and therefore in Abraham, that is, in the seed of Abraham, which is Christ, not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also, should be blessed; not only blessed in the seed of Abraham, but blessed as Abraham was, being justified as he was.”
So Matthew Henry, like all responsible reformed commentaries, notes that this verse implies:
1. Some of each ethnic people will be blessed in Christ.
2. All of the “families of the earth” will be blessed in Christ.
Regarding the second point above, early in human history God organized the nations by ethnic “family”: “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations” (Genesis 10:5). And God promised to bless these ethnic nations (or “families”) in Abraham saying, “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). It is through the Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, that the ethnic nations are blessed (Galatians 3). The Greek word ethnos, translated “nation” in the Bible, generally carries with it the idea of an ethnic people. Of the ethnic nations we read, “the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of” the new Jerusalem…”and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it” (Revelation 21:24). So this is stating that it is eschatological destiny that the ethnic nations (or “families of the earth”) will ultimately be covenanted to Jesus Christ. This is quite different from the idea that all “families of the earth” will be merged into one nation, which was the design of Babel.
Genesis 12:3 then in no wise implies what Dr. Murray asserts, for it implies no moral imperative for each congregation diligently to seek to attain the ethnic composition of the metropolitan community it is based in. Dr. Murray’s assertion suffers from two faults. First, it violates the doctrine of the regulative principle, which condemns man-made worship and ethical principles. Man is not given by God the right to invent such principles, for our moral Lawgiver is God alone. This is will worship, which Jesus condemned in the Pharisees (see Mt 16). Second, it tends to Arminian conceptions. Results of evangelism must always remain in the sovereign God’s hands. The church’s duties with respect to evangelism should never be expressed in terms therefore of the results, but rather simply in terms of what the church is to do. There is a duty of each congregation to welcome into its membership anyone religiously and morally qualified for such, as well as to welcome all to attend its services, regardless of race or ethnicity, but this is quite different from Dr. Murray’s point.
Second, to charge those who disagree with Dr. Murray’s vision as guilty of sinful racism is Biblically unwarranted. Indeed, the fault lies more with Dr. Murray, whose social vision is more in tune with Babel than with Zion.
Third, it is shameful that Dr. Murray would refer to the advice of ministers who are so blatantly opposed to Biblical reformed Christianity. A review of the websites of the ministers he cites as experts reveals just how off base Dr. Murray is to commend such to a reformed Christian audience.
Fourth, it is shameful that Dr. Murray cites the election of President Obama as a boon for black Americans, when in fact he has been a wicked ruler who has ushered in ever greater wickedness for all peoples, including more legalized abortion and sodomy.
Fifth, by prescribing multiculturalism for a given congregation, again Dr. Murray is violating the regulative principle, for scripture does not command it upon a people. Rather, the Biblical rule is that each people should examine their culture in light of scripture, and to discard those aspects which are contrary to Biblical principles.
It is not hard to see where Dr. Murray is heading with his position. At http://headhearthand.org/blog/2013/04/11/my-biggest-blogging-mistake-holy-hip-hop/ Dr. Murray apologized for being critical of “Holy Hip Hop” or “Christian Rap”. He ends the post with these words: “One huge positive that’s come out of this for me is that the Lord has given me a heart passion for His beautiful plan of racially integrated churches. I hope and pray that God will yet graciously use me to realize this world-transforming vision.” So where his multiculturalist position logically leads for him would be incorporating hip hop and rap into the worship of God at reformed churches and other venues (like conferences he attends and recommends at http://headhearthand.org/blog/2012/04/18/the-elephant-in-the-room-at-t4g/ ). But rap and hip hop music are morally questionable if Biblical principles are applied in judging them (see http://www.puritans.net/articles/discerningmusic.htm ). Hence, Dr. Murray’s multiculturalist position brings worldliness into the church, rather than having scripture examine and judge culture. It may draw crowds, but in the long term it is the broad road to destruction.
It is no accident that the nations in the world where the diversity and multiculturalist mantra that Dr. Murray proposes are being most strongly promoted are those nations where Protestants historically have been most concentrated. This includes the United Kingdom, America, Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia. Open borders are promoted for these nations by the Roman Catholic Church, while it remains mostly silent on the subject in nations like Mexico.
In a broader context, Dr. Murray, along with Dr. Beeke, appears to be following the path of “New Calvinism”. The website http://www.newcalvinist.com/ does a good job of examining this movement in the light of scripture.
Sixth, Dr. Murray provides no scriptural evidence for his claim that his prescription will bring “massive advances in sanctification”. There is in fact no such evidence, because scripture does not even command what he proposes.
Finally, if there are any departures from his congregation because a program like Dr. Murray proposes is implemented, for the aforesaid reasons they would be quite justified in departing.
It is my prayer that Dr. Murray would re-consider what he is advocating, and it is my prayer that the professing reformed community would not fall for its errors.