martin murphy

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Microview: “The Dominant Culture: Living in the Promised Land” by Martin Murphy

100_2744Martin Murphy’s The Dominant Culture is an introductory exposition of the book of Judges in the Bible. Judges is my favorite book of the Bible for a number of reasons, but mostly for the people. Samson was my most loved story when I was a child–it was like a real-life superhero. Deborah has grown to be a story of great importance for me as it demonstrates a woman in the role of leader and prophet over the people of Israel. Gideon is another exciting story with all sorts of action. The cycle of Judges also draws interest by being mirrored in our own lives as we experience sin, consequence, cry for help/repentance, and deliverance.

Murphy’s book brings much of the book to life as he retells the stories with an eye for application in the present day. How do Israel’s stories point to truths in our own lives? The book proceeds effectively through the major stories of Judges, with a few comments on minor stories as well. The beauty of the way Murphy does this is that he doesn’t try to make a kind of direct correspondence between the nation of Israel as theocracy and our own world in a kind of one-to-one correspondence; rather, he draws from the stories of Judges to show how we live in a world in which each goes his/her own way, sin reigns, and we need repentance. These and other applications are drawn throughout the book with rather remarkable insight.

There are some downsides in the book, particularly with the marked reading of gender hierarchy into the narrative of Deborah. Here, it seems, Murphy goes off track of what is otherwise marvelous exegetical skill, as he must continually appeal to silence (by saying things like the Bible never says God approved of Deborah as a prophetess) rather than allowing the text itself to demonstrate that Deborah simply was a leader and prophet. The very fact that the author of Judges does not condemn a woman as a prophet and judge when they are quick to condemn other wicked practices (such as using the refrain of “everyone did as they pleased”) in fact seems to point in the opposite direction as that which Murphy goes regarding Deborah. This is, thankfully, just one unfortunate aberration of exegesis among what is otherwise a quite solid job navigating between the need to stay true to the text and draw out applications for today.

The Good

+Often shares insights that bring new light to familiar or unfamiliar texts
+Applicable interpretation rather than merely analytic
+Explains key terms in meaningful way

The Bad

-Unfortunate comments about Deborah and women in leadership

Conclusion

The Dominant Culture is a solid introduction that ties the book of Judges in to our own era. It does so remarkably well without falling into the possible errors of only going for current relevance or making direct 1-to-1 connections between Israel and a country like the United States. If one can get past a few specifics of doctrinal stances that take away from the general appeal of the work (in particular the discussion of Deborah and women in leadership), it provides a good introduction to and application of Judges.

I was provided with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated by the publisher to write any type of review whatsoever.

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Source

Martin Murphy, The Dominant Culture.

Book Review: “My Christian Apology” by Martin Murphy

My Christian Apology by Martin Murphy provides some unique insight into apologetics. Rather than focusing upon arguments for the existence of God or methodology at the expense of historical understanding, Murphy grounds both arguments and method in history.

The book starts off with some introductory notes. What is apologetics? How do we communicate apologetics? These sections provide the groundwork of many apologetics texts. But Murphy quickly differentiates his work from most standard introductions to apologetics. His book focuses largely on epistemology and its relation to apologetics.

Murphy does a great job of making these concepts accessible to general readers. He defines epistemology (19) and then gradually eases the reader into its various applications to apologetics (19ff). A central theme throughout is that unbelievers and Christians have common grounds from which they can start discussions. One of these common grounds is Natural Law, which Murphy goes into at length (65ff). Natural Law has been repudiated by many modern thinkers, but it is grounded in Scripture and has a great theological base. I’ve reviewed a Lutheran book on the topic which I think helps show how useful Natural Law is.  Murphy points out that Natural Law can provide a basis for knowledge of God. “If we know we are transgressors then we know we have violated the law of God” (73). This knowledge is not saving knowledge, but it provides a basis for judgment (84) and, I think, a possible common ground for apologetics.

Another strength of Murphy’s work is the focus upon historical apologetics. He cites Jonathan Edwards at length and in numerous places while exploring Edwards’ applications to apologetics (see 20-21, 29, 36, etc.). He also emphasizes the works of Southern Presbyterians in the area of apologetics. The historical background is a great quality of the work and one that I think Christian Apologists often fail to emphasize or utilize.

There is some emphasis on theology in My Christian Apology as well. Murphy’s discussion of natural law leads to a drawing out of the “noetic effects of sin.” Again, the points Murphy raises are clear and concise. Some readers will disagree, but all will be challenged. I find this account eminently plausible and I think that even those who disagree need to at least account for the Biblical case for original sin.

Martin Murphy’s My Christian Apology is a brief work that has a ton of great information packed into it. Questions that other basic apologetics books tend to avoid are treated with precision and lucidity. The emphasis on historical apologetics leads to many insights readers won’t find in other introductory works. I recommend that readers use this book along with other basic apologetics books in order to develop a more well-rounded apologetic method.

Source:

Martin Murphy, My Christian Apology (2010).

SDG.

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