Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Book Review

naturaltheologyThe Bible, Natural Theology, and Natural Law: Conflict or Compromise?

Dr. Robert Morey

Robert Morey's book, The Bible, Natural Theology, and Natural Law: Conflict or Compromise, ought to be an important work on the subject of apologetic methodology. In fact, I had some high expectations about this book when I began reading it. Regrettably, editorial and stylistic errors, as well as Dr. Morey's personality, prevent it from obtaining that goal.

The major problem with this book is that it seriously needed an editor. It looks like a rough draft manuscript that was hastily shipped to the printers without proof-reading. In fact, this may be the case, as I understand Robert Morey had some financial issues with the publishing company that usually prints his books a year or so before he left his church in Orange County, CA.

Whatever the case, the editorial errors are so embarrassing that Dr. Morey would have been served better by waiting with taking this book to print.

Let me highlight some examples to explain what I mean.

- In the author's introduction, on page xxii, Morey writes that he will cover three broad areas. Part 1 = Exposition, Part 2 = Application, Part 3 = Refutation. However, on the very next page where the table of contents appear, you have Part 1 = Exposition, Part 2 = Exposition, Part 3 = Refutation. What happened to "Application?"

- Footnote 324 tells the reader to see "appendix 1 for further documentation," however, no "appendix 1" exists in my edition of the book.

- Dr. Morey also interacts occasionally with Catholic apologist J. Budziszewski. I understand how the guy has one of those difficult Eastern European last names, but I found it miss-spelled as "Budzisedwshi," and "Budzszewski."

- On page 21, Morey cites from Steve Lawson's Holman OT commentary on Job, but attributes the citation to the editor of the series, Max Anders.

Stylistically, the book is odd. First it is printed as a clumsy, 8 1/2 by 11 book. As if a college grad took his thesis manuscript to Kinkos to have it copied and bound. Also, nearly every paragraph is off-set by a title summarizing the paragraph. Why? That was not only strange, but made reading choppy. The entire book needs to be reformatted in my opinion so it can read more smoothly.

Additionally, the end-notes are one, long continuous string from 1 all the way to 544. They should be foot-notes rather than end-notes, but if Morey insists upon end-notes, tie them to their individual chapters for better reference. An index does not exist in this work.

Compounding those problems are the ones Dr. Morey has with various disgruntled individuals. Of course any well-known apologist will gather groups of haters blasting everything he does, so there is nothing really out of the ordinary here. However, accusations of fraud by former members of Dr. Morey's church, Faith Community, created enough attention and had enough "truth" in them that local media picked up on the brewing scandal. Dr. Morey's quick and quiet departure from California only fueled the accusations and thus a black cloud now hangs over anything he prints, including this book.

But having said all of that, there are some profitable discussions in this book regarding the compromise of natural theology and natural law.

The first part is a study of Job, and Dr. Morey makes a compelling argument that the book is a debunking of all the major philosophical worldviews men have created, empiricism, rationalism, mysticism, and fideism, all contrasted against God and His revelation. Elihu, who is often treated with sympathy by commentators (including myself when I did a study of Job) as telling Job and his three other friends "how things really are," is shown to be just as wrong and misguided as the first three friends. I appreciated Dr. Morey's insights in this area.

Secondly, pages 145-209 is a study of God's knowledge and really is a word-for-word reprint of Dr. Morey's little book, The Nature and Extent of God's Knowledge. He does a fabulous job outlining what the Bible teaches on God's knowledge and exposing the errors of open theism and other similar heretical notions of God.

Dr. Morey also interacts with classical apologetic methodology, the apologetics most Christians are familiar with, and traces their origins back to Greek philosophy and Thomas Aquinas's use of Islamic translations of Aristotle and Plato when formulating his theology.

This was probably one of the better studies Dr. Morey provides in the book that I wish he would have done more. His treatment is not nearly as full as I would like it, though he does provide bibliographical sources for further study. I also found it telling that a number of the popular Christian apologists these days trained in Catholic seminaries for their post-graduate work. Dr. Morey relegates his discussion of this fact to an extended end-note, but I would like to have seen it fleshed out a bit as a section in the main body.

There are some other profitable studies within the pages of this book; however, The Bible, Natural Theology, and Natural Law is tarnished by those fundamental editorial errors I noted as well as the personal controversies swirling around Dr. Morey himself. (A person can do a Google search to discover what I mean).

I have mixed feelings recommending this book because of those items. At this point, the book is not worth the 26 dollars it is priced at on Dr. Morey's website. I guess I could say that if you really, really want to read it, try to find a copy in a library, or perhaps a used copy on Amazon or in a Goodwill store somewhere. There may even be an electronic version for your Kindle. But at this point, you may want to hold off until a second or third edition comes around.

BTW, a lot of Dr. Morey’s material on the subject of natural theology can be read in three editions of his now out-of-print apologetics journal as PDF files. You can locate them HERE if you are interested and download volumes 1, 9, and 10.



Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks for this review, and the link to the journals. It is my understanding, his book on the Trinity had the same kind of typographical errors. Anyone know what More is up to now. Last I heard, he moved to NY.

10:39 AM, June 07, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I'll have to go back and check out his book on the Trinity for any typographical errors. I don't recall any as glaring as the ones I found in this book.

I liked Morey's book on the Trinity overall and thought it too was worth reading. It was formatted better, being a regular, book-sized book and not a 8 1/2 x 11 manuscript. Now that I think about it, it has that same choppy paragraph style I mentioned in this review, so maybe it's the way the guy writes his books. Someone should tell him it stinks.

10:47 AM, June 07, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

BTW, if you check his faithdefenders website, they're announcing that his wife died unexpectedly on Sunday.

10:55 AM, June 07, 2012  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

As Fred is aware, I am a big fan of Dr. Morey, met him personally, and attended his church for some time. The man is truly brilliant. When I had dinner with him one night, he asked me what I was reading. I told him John Bunyan's Prayer. He proceeded to quote the book. Truly amazing.

Tragically, IMHO, his books and other writings have always suffered from a lack of editorial review. I still own many of his books as I find them a good study resource but there is no whitewashing the editorial failings.

The other trajedy is the swirl of controversy, particularly by people who call themselves Christians. No man is perfect, and like many great men, Dr. Morey has some particularly glaring faults. But the manner in which these supposed Christians have pursued Dr. Morey is breathtaking in it's animus.

9:22 AM, June 08, 2012  

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