IAIN MURRAY'S MURKY MIRAGE
We have an article on our website in reply to
Iain Murray of The Banner of Truth in regard to the use of public
invitations in church and evangelistic services.
article, we focus upon the fact that Mr. Murray writes on the basis of the
Pedobaptist theological view that the unbelieving infant children of
believing parents are regenerated in infancy since they are presumed to
be "the heirs of the promised blessings."
This view is put forth
in the BT publication, Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof,
which is heralded by the BT catalog as "expounding Christianity according to the
Reformed position." Also, according to the Westminster Confession,
"the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and
conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants)
. . . " (WC, 28:6).
The Pedobaptists believe that baptism is
commanded (WIC 28:1) and that it is the scripturally warranted duty
of believing parents to have their children baptized in infancy (WIC 28:4),
and that it is "a great sin . . . to neglect this ordinance" ( WIC
This places the Pedobaptist parents under psychological
pressure to respond to the Pedobaptist "invitation system" to do
their "duty" and "come forward" to have their children baptized. So the
Pedobaptists DO HAVE an "invitation system," and C. H. Spurgeon did preach
against that system, but he never opposed the "public invitation system"
practiced by Baptists and other non-Pedobaptists.
system of "evangelism" with the Reformed Pedobaptists is primarily
the baptism of children in infancy, and it is supposed that these infants
are in a state of "regeneration." It is denied that the baptism itself
regenerates, but it is at least a "sign" of regeneration, of engrafting
into Christ, and puts the unbelieving infant "into the visible church"
(WC 28:1). This is the primary system whereby Reformed Pedobaptists, Roman
Catholics, Episcoplians and other Pedobaptists add members to their
Now, with that type of doctrine on the regeneration of
infants, it is understandable why a Pedobaptist such as Mr. Murray would not
have any use for the type of public invitation which is practiced in a Baptist
church or evangelistic meeting where the Gospel is faithfully preached. Some
Pedobaptist who was taught that he was "regenerated in infancy" might be
"misled" to think that he had never been born again, and he might be "deluded"
to respond to an invitation to repent and confess Christ as Saviour.
And the fact is, many of those who were saved at such meetings were
at one time Pedobaptists. I myself was once a Pedobaptist, baptized by the
Methodists, and was later saved in a Baptist evangelistic meeting. C. H.
Spurgeon was the son of Pedobaptists, but was saved when he heard the Gospel
and was directed to "Look to Jesus" for
I have been looking at some of Mr. Iain Murray's adroit but deficient
arguments in his anti-public invitation booklet, The Invitation
System, and it remarkable how so many of his points could very well apply in
regard to infant baptism. It is amazing that Mr. Murray can use such arguments
without the realization that they are more appropriate against infant baptism
than 'the invitation.'
1. Mr. Murray surveys a few texts which
are offered by some which have to do with inviting sinners to Christ, and he
concludes that there is "no parallel" to the public
This is certainly the case with any and all texts offered
for infant baptism, as well as for the idea of regeneration in
infancy. While Pedobaptists may satisfy themselves with their own form of
torturing Scripture to justify their practices, Baptists find no basis
whatsoever for baptizing infants or for believing that infant children of
believing parents have regeneration as an inheritance vouchsafed in the supposed
2. On confession of Christ, Mr. Murray conjures up the
following: "To confess Christ is the spiritual duty of a Christian. It is
no part of the gospel to say that compliance with certain outward duties will
help us to become Christians."
If confession is indeed the spiritual duty
of a "Christian," how can the unbelieving "regenerated" infant confess
something of which he is not even capable of knowing?
for Mr. Murray's latter statement, while confession is not something which "will
help us to become Christians," it is something which is closely
conjoined with believing in Christ (Romans 10:9, 10; Phil. 2:11). The
converts of whom we read in Scripture, who believed on Him, confessed
Him. But when many of the chief rulers believed on Him but did not
confess Him for fear of being put out of the synagogues, it is said that
"they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" -- not a very good
sign that they had saving faith (John 12:42). Is one who will not confess Christ
a regenerated person (1 John 4:15)?
3. Murray states that "before anyone
concludes that 'the invitation' merely changes the mode in which the
confession is made, it has to be asserted that baptism never had the place in
evangelism which the invitation system has now."
But Mr. Murray here
makes a great assumption, namely, that baptism was the mode of
"confession" in biblical evangelism. That this was not the case is
easily seen when one simply examines the various conversions recorded in the New
Testament. Oral confession was made before baptism, and was an
obvious prerequisite to baptism.
In infant baptism, however, the infant
has no faith to confess, and cannot make a confession due to its lack of
intellectual development. Therefore, parental "sponsors" have been
installed as the "mode" in the Pedobaptist system to confess for the
"regenerated" unbelieving, unconfessing infants. The parents confess what the
infant neither confesses nor is it certain will ever confess. If the parents
truly confessed the actual state of the infant, they would have to confess to
the child's nonbelief and unregeneracy.
The public invitation
practiced by Baptists preserves the element of personal confession on the
part of the responding individual. Since there is no "mode" specifically
ordained in Scripture, there can be no objection to any "mode" which preserves
the essentials inherent in oral confession.
4. Murray alleges that
"the sudden public profession of Christ by persons whose experience has been
tested neither by time nor by the examination of pastors, is
calculated to be disastrous."
But what about the very early
baptism of infants at an age when absolutely nothing of a spiritual
nature has been "tested" neither by time nor the examination of pastors as
to their alleged "regeneration"? Is it more likely that a baptized infant has
been regenerated than one who comes forward during an invitation to confess
faith in Christ?
We have many instances in Scripture of "sudden
public professions of Christ," tested neither by time nor Pedobaptist
ministers. The woman at the well in John 4, the woman in Simon's house in Luke
7, Zaccheus the chief publican in Luke 19, the publican who prayed in Luke
18:13, the first converts in John chapter one, the Philippian jailer in Acts 16,
the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9, the converts in Ephesus (Acts
19:18-20), the converts in Athens in Acts 17:34, and others made "sudden"
confessions of faith. Thousands on Pentecost made "sudden" confession of faith
in Christ. How many of these "sudden professions" turned out to be "disastrous"?
Is it more likely that "sudden professions" such as these would be
"disastrous" rather than unbelieving infants who are baptized before they ever
believe in Christ?
5. Murray also alleges, "But if the evangelist's
choice in employing 'the invitation' is an optional one it cannot have
scriptural evidence to warrant it, for in that case the evangelical preacher
would be under an obligation and have no option."
This is rather amusing
to a Baptist, for the Westminster Confession teaches that baptism is warranted,
but no particular "mode" is mandated. In chapter 28, the WC approves of
dipping, sprinkling, or pouring, whereas in actual practice "dipping"
(which is the form of baptism used by the primitive church, according to Calvin
in his Institutes, Book IV:xv:19) has been used less by the Pedobaptists than
any other mode.
Berkhof argues against the Baptists on baptism, and
alleges that any "mode" is all right since we are not "explicitly told just
how baptism was administered." On the other hand, Murray acknowledges
that confession is to be made, but he argues against using an invitation as a
"mode" of accommodating the confession since he says it does not have a
scriptural "warrant" for its use. It seems you need no specific warrant for a
specific "mode" of baptism, but you must have a specific warrant for a specific
"mode" of confession!
6. Murray turns to atheist David Hume, to
secular psychologists, and to modern psychiatrists for aid in
spinning a pile of palabber against 'the invitation' on psychological
Murray refers to "some" who are interested in psychology
who "do not claim to be evangelicals" who have scrutinized 'the
invitation' and found it to be psychologically wanting. We wonder if it may be
that the men referred to are also among those who were allegedly "regenerated"
in infancy, and whether this might account for their antagonism to 'the
Murray quotes atheist Hume and concludes from the skeptic's
jeer that "some people can be conditioned by a large crowd." Would this
perhaps also be applicable to the very "large crowd" of Pedobaptists in Great
Britain as to "conditioning" the population in regard to the populace's
practicing infant baptism and using modes other than dipping as
7. The heart of the issue with Mr. Murray is discussed under the
heading of "Doctrinal Implications." Here he relies upon the
"pre-faith regeneration" theory as expounded in Berkhof's Systematic
Theology. He says, "Certainly, we are prepared to grant that the whole case
for the public appeal can be reduced to the question" on the "order" of
While Mr. Murray focuses his refutation on the view of
"post-faith regeneration," he himself falls into the same category of
semi-Pelagianism. In refuting Harold Ockenga's "assumption that a
biblical command implies ability on the part of those addressed,"
Murray himself equally has man in a state of ability prior to faith.
Ockenga's view has man possessed of such ability as a natural
attribute. Mr. Murray has a the sinner "implanted" with a "new nature" which has
an "ability" so that "true faith can be exercised." He says, "it is never
permissible to represent an unregenerate man as being able to do what Scripture
declares he will not do."
So both Ockenga and Murray agree
that prior to faith a man has an "ability" to comply with the biblical command
to believe. They simply arrive at the same place by different
Murray seems to be oblivious to the Creedal view that
the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to create faith in those who have no
ability, no more ability than the dry bones to which Ezekiel preached, and no
more ability than dead Lazarus had when Christ spoke him back to life.
"Ability" has nothing to do with it; it is the Spirit's blessing the Word of
His power that brings faith into exercise.
9. Murray says, "Our
charge is that the invitation system leads inevitably to the danger of
hastening unregenerate men to confess their 'faith.'"
does not seem to realize that this is much more applicable to unregenerate
infants being baptized into the church than to 'the invitation.'
Unbelieving, unregenerate Infants are forcibly baptized, having no choice
whatsoever in the matter, on the presumption of the Pedobaptist theologians that
they are "regenerate." How many of these are now in Hell, despite their infant
10. Murray quotes Lewis S. Chafer who says, "It is this
natural tendency to do something of merit that prompts many to respond to the
The fact is, this objection is also much more
applicable to baptizing infants, as the believing parents of infants are
prompted by the appeal of Pedobaptist ministers to do something which is
regarded as being in obedience to God, when in reality God has never required
10. Murray further says, "We are not for a moment asserting that no
one is converted where the invitation system is employed, only that the system
has, in reality, no connection with rebirth. Some are converted in spite
of it, and not because of it."
This, too, is most applicable to infant
baptism. Infants are not regenerated in infancy, and infant baptism has no
connection with rebirth. Many indeed are later born again, many on the occasion
of public invitations, in spite of having been baptized in infancy.
Murray alleges that 'the invitation system' "institutes a condition of
salvation which Christ never commanded."
The theory of infant
regeneration certainly institutes a condition of salvation which Christ
never commanded. "You must be born again" is a condition of salvation, and to
teach that one is born again as an infant and is to be baptized into the church
is an institution Christ never commanded.
12. Murray reasons that
those who do not respond to the invitation "are falsely supposed to be
This is certainly true in the case of
parents who do not obey the commandments and doctrines of Pedobaptists
when the parents do not bring their infants forward for baptism. Pedobaptists
falsely suppose that such parents are disobeying God.
As for those who
hear the Gospel faithfully preached and refuse to respond in repentance from
sin and confession of Christ, they do indeed disobey God every time they
hear this truth and fail to comply in repentance and faith. Their refusal to
come forth openly during an invitation is just one form of expressing
their refusal to repent and confess Christ as Saviour.
13. Murray charges
that "There is reason to believe that the number who do go through the
form of 'receiving Christ' after an appeal, and who then fall entirely away,
is not inconsiderable."
I don't know where Mr. Murray is getting
either his fabulous insight into the spiritual condition of these professors,
nor where he is discerning the "number" he mentions; however, I would not be a
bit surprised if the number of those baptized in infancy who "fall entirely
away" far exceeds the number of those who profess faith during
invitations and yet fall away.
14. Murray finally has criticism of the
"inquiry room" and he appropriates quotations from C. H. Spurgeon
in the latter pages of the booklet.
But the fact is, as we have
demonstrated, Spurgeon himself used the "inquiry room" and while he
wanted to guard against the abuse of it, he never opposed its use, nor did he
oppose "the invitation system," as has been falsely alleged. Spurgeon
approved of any reasonable method which tended to bring men to repentance and
confession of Christ as Saviour.
Spurgeon said of D. L.
Moody, for example --
"I believe that it is a great help in
bringing people to DECISION when Mr. Moody asks those to STAND UP who wish to
be prayed for. Anything that tends to separate you from the
ungodly around you, is good for you. Now, if you have given yourselves to
Christ, tell it out; for, after that, you cannot go back to the world,
you will feel that the vows of the Lord are upon you. When Caesar landed on a
certain shore, he burned his boats behind him, so that his men might know that
they must conquer or perish. I advise you to do likewise; burn your boats by
a clear and explicit declaration. " (MTP, 1897, page 516).
Bob L. Ross
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