The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘D Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Review: “Setting Our Affections Upon Glory”

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Setting Our Affections Upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Crossway, 2013, 176 pp., paperback and ebook, $15.99

ISBN 978-1-4335-3265-8

These sermons were preached in 1969 and it is a measure of their biblical sense and substance that they still sound fresh. Indeed, at points – such as when Lloyd-Jones suggests that we are in danger of having only two or three preachers in the world and everyone else “listening to them on tapes or on television or something else” as if that is the way to evangelize the world – he sounds as if the sermons could have been preached a few months ago. Woven among some of MLJ’s familiar and often-debated emphases are other strands, more central and abidingly relevant. The hope of saints in death, the foolish reliance of many professing believers on worldly wisdom, the requirement for us to know our God and his truth experimentally, the need for all the saints of God to carry with them the savour of Christ and make him known, the narrowness of the way of life: these and other matters are handled with refreshing plainness and adroitness. Much here proves an antidote to some of the crass and even carnal patterns paraded in much of the modern church. While it is, perhaps, easy to think of certain thinkers and speakers who would benefit from taking certain chapters or pages to heart, the great concern is for every reader to learn these things for himself and apply them to his own faith and life. In that respect, I found these sermons bracing to the mind and spirit, providing a helpful measure of recalibration for the soul, and I hope others would as well.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 11 April 2013 at 16:53

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What is the church for?

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the main task of the church, via the Old Guys:

There are other agencies in the world which can deal with many of the problems of man kind. I mean by that, things like medicine, the State, even other religions, and cults, and psychology and various other teachings and political agencies. These are all designed to help, and to relieve somewhat, the human condition, to ease the pain and the problem of life and to enable men to live more harmoniously and to enjoy life in a greater measure. They set out to do that, and it is no part of our case to say that they are of no value. We must observe the facts and grant that they can do good, and do much good. They are capable in a measure of dealing with these things. But none of them can deal with this fundamental, this primary trouble at which we have been looking.

Not only that, when they have done their all, or when even the Church coming down to that level and operating on that level alone, has done her all, the primary trouble still remains. So I would lay it down as a basic proposition that the primary task of the Church is not to educate man, is not to heal him physically or psychologically, it is not to make him happy. I will go further; it is not even to make him good. These are things that accompany salvation; and when the Church performs her true task she does incidentally educate men and give them knowledge and information, she does bring them happiness, she does make them good and better than they were. But my point is that those are not her primary objectives. Her primary purpose is not any of these; it is rather to put man into the right relationship with God, to reconcile man to God. This really does need to be emphasize at the present time, because this, it seems to me, is the essence of the modern fallacy. It has come into the Church and it is influencing the thinking of many in the Church– this notion that the business of the Church is to make people happy, or to integrate their lives, or to relieve their circumstances and improve their conditions. My whole case is that to do that is just to palliate the symptoms, to give temporary ease, and that it does not get beyond that.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 21 July 2012 at 09:50

Posted in Ecclesiology

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones and prophecy

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“Although charismatics and Pentecostals have both claimed him as an advocate of their views, a careful reading of ML-J establishes that they have misunderstood him.” So states Dr. Eryl Davies in his Themelios article entitled, Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: An Introduction.

So writes Nathan Busenitz at The Cripplegate. Read the original and the summary. Both are interesting. See also here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 5 May 2012 at 07:39

The free offer (from the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recording Trust)

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A quick note for those who have yet to hear: the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust have made their audio archive (some 1600 sermons) available for free download here (follow the links for Audio, where you need to register (no fee) to get access to the entire library).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 13 April 2012 at 21:58

“Faith on Trial” – special offer

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Why do the godly suffer while the ungodly seem to prosper? This is a problem that has often perplexed and discouraged God’s people—from unfavorable doctor’s reports, employment troubles, to some of life’s most painful circumstances. Thankfully, the Bible does not leave us without an answer. This is the very question the Psalmist wrestles with in Psalm 73. This book, by one of the twentieth century’s most beloved pastors on one of the most beloved Psalms was a labor of love and true joy. Delivered on eleven successive Sunday mornings Lloyd-Jones opens this text, like a door of hope, and invites those whose feet are ‘almost gone’ and whose steps have ‘well nigh slipped’ to fall back again on the precious promises of God. Powerfully, biblically, pastorally, and experientially Lloyd-Jones shows how faith can triumph over the sorest trials. Reformation Heritage Books would like to offer this book at an all-time low cost of $5/copy. Click here to order the book.

What’s the scoop here? Reformation Heritage Books has arranged a special deal with Christian Focus on Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ study of Psalm 73, Faith on Trial.

HT Kevin DeYoung.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 9 March 2012 at 17:36

Carl and the Doctor

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 7 February 2012 at 20:10

In appreciation of the Evangelical Library

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I am, apparently, something of a book nerd. I did not realise this, but it does occasionally get pointed out or exposed (for example, when someone makes a passing reference to some musty volume, and my instinctive response is, “Which edition?” or something of that order). It feels very normal to me. But there we go.

It is, perhaps, as a result of said nerdery that I have had a little involvement with the Evangelical Library (including delivering the lecture on Hugh Latimer’s preaching that is found here on this blog, as well as among others here at the Library).

You may not have heard much or anything about the library, but I wanted to take a moment to encourage you to consider using and supporting this institution, for several reasons.

First, because of its history. The nucleus of what has become the Evangelical Library had its origin in the labours of a man called Geoffrey Williams. Geoffrey Williams was, if I might put it this way, a book nerd extraordinaire. Williams not only loved certain books, he loved – most importantly – the substance of those books, being concerned for the preservation of the best in the Reformed and Puritan strain of evangelicalism. If I remember rightly, it was Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones who – among others who shared Williams’ appetite for the truth found in these tomes – urged the establishment of the library on a more formal basis in a more central location, and eventually the Beddington Free Grace Library found its way to Chiltern Street in central London and became the Evangelical Library. It remained in Chiltern Street until forced out by the gradual deterioration of the premises yoked with the spiralling costs not just of maintaining but improving a central London property. Horrible tales of desperate measures to keep intruding rainwater from damaging valuable volumes are told on stormy nights by old preachers seeking to terrify their young protégés! The history and the legacy of the library call for some interest and concern among Reformed evangelicals today: many of those from whom we learned our theology cut their teeth on Evangelical Library materials, or were themselves taught by those who shared its vision and devoured its wares.

Which brings me, neatly, and secondly, to that vision. This is given on the Library’s website as follows: “the restoration of the Word of God at the heart of the Christian community, the continuing necessity of reforming the church which teaches that Word – and, ultimately, the revival of the people brought about by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” I would hope that this trifold aim would continue to engage us today.

A third reason is its stock: the library holds about 90000 volumes and periodicals galore (a rich but often overlooked resource for researchers), including an array of older works not readily available elsewhere or vast quantities of more modern texts that might lie beyond the pocket of many readers. Its collections of church history, doctrine and devotional reading are particularly impressive. Most excitingly for the bibliophile, budding or otherwise, is that delightful assortment of older works, many of them exceedingly hard to find in their physical form and unavailable online. Most of these (except the rarer and more valuable books) are available through a mail order service, removing the need for visits to the library proper while still providing the benefits of membership.

Of course, the world has moved on since the library was first established, and – in addition to the online catalogue – there is an ongoing effort to digitise some of the library’s collection.

A fourth reason it its situation. Now, I am sure that some visitors to its present premises will shy like a startled mustang when they read that its situation might be a reason to use and support the library. After all, Chiltern Street was a genuinely central location, fairly easily accessible, not far from Baker Street. The Gateway Mews at Bounds Green – though a straightforward ten minute stroll north from the Underground station of the same name, and just off that marvel of modern travel delight, the A406, or North Circular – does not enjoy those same benefits and surroundings, but some find that its home just off the North Circular – outside the congestion zone, and with free parking available – make it more accessible than otherwise. Nevertheless, while it may not be the easiest place to drop into (hence the value of the mailing service), that relative inaccessibility make it a fine place to research or study. In particular, the reference room, known as the Robert Sheehan Puritan and Research Centre, is an especially pleasant, quiet spot, and there are a number of nooks and crannies (as opposed to crooks and nannies) where one can settle down to a spot of deliberate and focused reading (not to mention the array of computers if one is not in the mood to bring one’s own). Seriously, if you are looking for an environment with a little peace to get some serious study and thought out of the way, then the Evangelical Library is a good place to consider. Whisper it softly, but there are also bursaries available for serious scholars: contact the library to discover more.

A fifth and final reason to support the library is its events. There are at least three “Lunchtime Lectures” each year, when some fascinating topic is covered by a competent scholar, and – on at least one occasion – by me. These are usually historical-theological-literary nuggets and well worth attending, giving opportunity both for instruction and for discussion. In addition, there is an annual lecture – this year’s takes place on Monday 2nd July when Ian Hamilton will address the gathered hordes on the history and contribution of Princeton Seminary – which often has a broader theme. Furthermore, from time to time there are special study days. For example, coming up on Tuesday 27th March we will be considering the topic of the Great Ejection, under the title 1662 and All That. Dr Garry Williams of the John Owen Centre will speak on “1662 and its aftermath;” Gary Brady, chairman of the Library trustees, will speak on “1662 and the men who were ejected;” and, Dr Robert Oliver will address “1689 and the toleration of dissent.” The day begins at 10am and ends at 4pm, and costs £25 in advance (£30 on the day). More details are here.

I am sure that there are other reasons, but here are five to put before you. Might I therefore encourage you, finally, to consider supporting the Library? Membership costs a mere twenty-five of your earth pounds for a year, entitling you to a whelming – it wouldn’t be quite right to describe it as overwhelming, unless you are prepared to use it to its full potential – package of benefits. Gifts and legacies are always gratefully received. And, as charity and church secretaries up and down the land are wont to say, “Your attention is drawn to the advantages of Gift Aid.” You can get information on how to chuck your wonga at this particular good cause here.

So, please, consider supporting this noble institution. It is by no means obsolescent, and – for those who love the truth and are inheritors of a good tradition with its feet both in past centuries and in more recent decades – I think it is genuinely worthwhile.

To keep up with news and events, subscribe to the Evangelical Library’s RSS feed.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 27 January 2012 at 10:30

Prayer the expression of faith

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Prayer, in many ways, is the supreme expression of our faith in God and our faith and confidence in the promises of God. There is nothing that a man ever does which so proclaims his faith as when he gets down on his knees and looks to God and talks to God. It is a tremendous confession of faith. I mean by this that he is not just running with his requests and petitions, but if he really waits upon God, if he really looks to God, he is there saying, ‘Yes, I believe it all, I believe that you are a rewarder of them that diligently seek you, I believe you are the Creator of all things and all things are in your hands. I know there is nothing outside of your control. I come to you because you are in all this and I find peace and rest and quiet in your holy presence and I am praying to you because you are what you are.’ That is the whole approach to prayer that you find in the teaching of Scripture.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Assurance of Our Salvation (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2000), 35.

Oh, for more faith, and more prayer!

HT The Old Guys.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 24 January 2012 at 10:49

Posted in prayer

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Engaging with “Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones”

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Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Life and Legacy of ‘the Doctor’

Eds. Andrew Atherstone & David Ceri Jones

Apollos, 2011, 376pp., paperback, £16.99

ISBN 9781844745531

Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com

I have never been “of Lloyd-Jones.” I am, in respect of him, as one born out of due time. I did not know him; I did not meet him; I never heard him preach in person (if I did, I was too young to remember). I have only encountered and engaged with him on the written page, through recordings, or at second or third remove, through men who knew and (usually) esteemed him, even if they did not always agree with him. Nevertheless, the landscape through which I travel is often shaped by his influence. Although it is less the case now than even I can remember, there are many for whom the phrase, “The Doctor said . . .” remains a powerful tool in any debate, if not invariably the final nail in the opposition’s coffin. Such an assertion, introducing some pithy though often unsubstantiated declaration, is sometimes considered to put any discussion to bed. I do not deny that many of the books that I read, the men with whom I associate, the organisations from which I benefit, or the conferences that I attend, have some direct or indirect association with ‘the Doctor.’ There is a legacy here, and how to handle it is no theoretical question.

It was therefore with great interest that I received and read the recent Apollos volume, Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Life and Legacy of ‘the Doctor’ (hereafter EMLJ), edited by Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones. At least two friends urged me to obtain it, for several and varying reasons.

EMLJ contains an interesting spread of essays from an interesting range of characters. J. I. Packer provides the graciously honest foreword, and this is followed by eleven chapters from a variety of pens (including the present and immediately past principals of London Theological Seminary, giving at least a sprinkling of Lloyd-Jonesian legitimacy or inner circle fairy dust to the proceedings). An opening essay by the editors charting the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the key biographies is followed by situating Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) in the context of the interwar Calvinist resurgence. With these foundational studies accomplished, the remaining essays focus on various issues (Wales, revival, the charismatic controversy, the demise of preaching, ministerial education, fundamentalism, Karl Barth, Roman Catholicism, the Anglican secession crisis, and the Protestant past, topped off with a thorough bibliography).

In itself, the book provides – sometimes in that academic-gossipy kind of way – a variety of fascinating insights into the period during which Lloyd-Jones was one of the acknowledged leaders of British – and wider – evangelicalism, and in which today’s senior figures were yesterday’s young bucks. The standard of research is generally high and the tone is generally measured. Thoroughly engaged, I read through the book with little break, fascinated, enlightened, stimulated, stirred, annoyed and corrected.

As a whole, EMLJ provides great help in forming an intelligent understanding of the spiritual and ecclesiastical environment in which (conservative) evangelicals operate (albeit from a certain perspective), especially if we are coming into our inheritance rather than passing it on. It provides a context of sorts for many of the books, articles and sermons that someone like myself might read or hear, and which we might otherwise receive in something of a vacuum. It therefore allows us to appreciate the subtext of certain volumes, or emphases in them (bearing in mind, of course, that a volume like this, in its parts and perhaps even as a whole, is not free from bias or its own agenda). This process of illumination does not necessarily result in an Oz-like pulling back of the curtain to reveal the shabby and manipulative old man behind, but it does enable us to make a more measured assessment and balanced judgement of the things passed on. I hope that, as a result of reading, I have a more complete awareness not just of where certain battle lines have been drawn, but why they are drawn in those particular places, and how deeply they are drawn. The issues are clearer. I can see more readily where I stand, and am better able to understand why I stand there and why others stand elsewhere.

Although some of the chapters are a little light, several of them are outstanding. Certain aspects of the alleged Lloyd-Jones cult come in for a hammering, but the book is by no means uniformly negative. There is a degree of appreciation and even an evident fondness at points, although some are more clearly critical of the man and others are more descriptive and engaging. Indeed, several chapters demonstrate a degree of insight and balance from men who, standing at a distance, appear to be making a genuine effort to understand and assimilate the issues of character and emphasis that Lloyd-Jones leaves to us.

In responding more particularly, I want to single out three elements which run through the book, breaking the surface in several chapters and often dominating one. To me, they were areas of particular enlightenment and engagement, central issues in the legacy debate.

The first is the charge of separatism and sectarianism (allied with fundamentalism). In this regard, Andrew Atherstone’s chapter on “Lloyd-Jones and the Anglican secession crisis” is probably one of the most complete and reasonable treatments of the issue that I have read, even if my conclusions, based on his evidence, might be slightly different (a matter of perspective, of which more is to follow). In other chapters, the tone is more tendentious. David Ceri Jones speaks in what sounds like a consistently accusatory tone of a sectarian and independent (Independent?) spirit. John Maiden refers to MLJ’s “posturing for relations between evangelicals” (233) and a misjudgement concerning the threat of Rome that “may have clouded [his] judgment with regard to his separatist policy” (259). Robert Pope speaks patronisingly of the Doctor’s apparently quite risible convictions about the infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture and its impact on his teaching about cosmology and anthropology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. Others strike a similar tone: MLJ’s appetite for Independency gets a fairly thorough kicking.

Of course, much of this debate centres on MLJ’s “appeal for a radical rethink of evangelical ecclesiology and his call for secession from doctrinally mixed denominations” (261) at the National Assembly of Evangelicals at Westminster Central Hall in October 1966. At this meeting, having been asked to preach, Lloyd-Jones declared (rather than debated) the need for orthodox evangelicals to band together, leaving behind the doctrinally compromised denominations. To his supporters it was (as Atherstone is at pains to point out) intended as a positive invitation more than an assault on others.

It seems to me that John Stott put his finger on a key point of contention in his immediate riposte: “I believe the Scripture is against him in that the remnant was within the Church and not outside it” (271). Here the issue of ecclesiology is clearly defined: what is the church, and what ought she to be? Perhaps deliberately or otherwise, I think the volume as a whole reveals a tendency toward Anglican vindication or at least rehabilitation, an historical step of sorts toward the kind of rapprochement that underpins such initiatives as Gospel Partnerships, in which free church and Anglican evangelicals buddy up for the sake of gospel advance. In such an environment, and with such goals in mind, it is understandable that “separatism” becomes the grand charge.

In responding to this, I respond unashamedly as a Dissenter – an Independent and confessional churchman of Baptist persuasion. Whatever the historical precedents by which I arrived at this point, and whatever the influences which governed that arrival, I do not hold to these principles by virtue of an historical accident or a mindless tradition, but out of what I hope is an intelligent conviction and deliberate intention. I recognise that I inherit something of the more separatist Puritan tradition at this point (rather than the Puritan tradition as a whole).

As Atherstone seems to acknowledge, the point at issue is the very nature of the church: “‘gathered church’ vs. ‘national [or territorial] church’” (274, quoting David Winter). This is no small difference, and it is a weakness of the MLJ legacy in the circles that owe most to him that ecclesiology seems to be, at times, almost a moot point, the one issue we have all tacitly agreed not to discuss. I do not wish to be misunderstood. While I have no intention of falling into the ‘Some of my best friends are Anglicans’ defence, I wish to make it plain that I am not antagonistic to Anglicans individually or personally, and appreciate many of them as true men of God and brothers in Christ. However, I have no appetite whatsoever for Anglicanism as a system. Indeed, I think it is demonstrable (even in terms of the balance of EMLJ) that the immediate trend of the Anglican communion following 1966 – and particularly some of its leading evangelical lights like J. I. Packer (for all his brilliance as a scholar), whose 1970 contribution to Growing into Union and subsequent involvement in Evangelicals and Catholics Together – surely bears out Lloyd-Jones’ concern that the ecumenism of the evangelical Anglicans (and, perhaps, others) was too broad and undiscerning, too much Romeward (to some in EMLJ, such a trend may not be entirely desirable, but one gets the impression that saying so is considered a little narrow, even churlish). If anything, Anglicanism nationally and globally seems, in its public pronouncements, character, convictions and affiliations, in a worse state now than in the days of which the book speaks. In that sense, it seems to me that Lloyd-Jones’ challenge has been substantially vindicated.

I acknowledge that I speak as one who would not and could not be Anglican because of the perceived nature of the church quite apart from the matter of its doctrinal character. I can, indeed, relate to a man who is himself an Anglican out of a set of convictions that he is prepared to argue from the Scriptures. However, what I cannot understand is the notion – too characteristic of free churchmen as well as national churchmen – that ecclesiology does not matter. By definition, the man who works toward a gathered church and the man who works toward a national church are working toward two significantly different things, and that must have an impact on what they can plan and execute together.

However, it also seems that the weakness of Lloyd-Jones’ call for unity in the truth and necessary secession from the unfaithful lies not so much in what he was calling men from as what he was calling them to. It is consistently described in EMLJ as a call for visible unity among evangelicals to match the spiritual unity of the evangelicals. But in what should this visible unity consist? And what might it look like? The issue of the extent or otherwise of MLJ’s ecclesiology has been addressed robustly, from both sides, by Iain Murray and Carl Trueman. In EMLJ we are reminded of R. T. Kendall’s recollection that, when he asked MLJ if Westminster Chapel was a church, MLJ answered, “Just barely,” (214-215), giving some credence to the contention that the Chapel was “a preaching station more than an ecclesial community” (214). At the same time, we must take into account Dick Lucas’ riposte to such charges in his essay, “Who Else? An Appeal for True Preaching!”:

It grieves me when I hear Westminster Chapel, in the Doctor’s day, described as simply a “preaching shop.” That is ignorant, and takes no account of its peculiar position and opportunity. Have such critics ever read The First Forty Years, Iain Murray’s brilliant Volume One of the Lloyd-Jones biography? Do they know nothing of his labours in Sandfields, in Wales? There, if you like, was a true living church and community of a rare kind.

If the emphasis on the preacher and preaching did perhaps undermine some other elements of a healthy gospel church, then it also points toward the important question of what visible unity looks like. Perhaps MLJ did have some more concrete notions than he expressed, beyond the sorts of affiliations and associations he seemed to champion, but a substantial ecclesiology (beyond Independency) and a confessional standard were not, it seems, offered. The solution seems to have been an undefined, unbounded, doctrinally indistinct grouping, a solution that – to the mind of a man described by a friend as “one of those mad Independents who actually believes what he says” – is not entirely attractive, regardless of the nature of the problem. MLJ’s well-known concern for things he believed to be of first importance and readiness to leave aside things he considered to be secondary may be the root cause of this seeming gap in his proposals and the uneasiness some feel about them. I am sure that most of those who feel that visible unity needs a more well-developed doctrinal foundation would advocate something that fits with our own preferences and assumptions, but one does not have to be pursuing the full-orbed and ripe Presbyterianism which seems to be behind Carl Trueman’s expressed concerns in order to wish for a little more definition.

In this regard, then, I have little sympathy for the charge of separatism. It seems to me that Lloyd-Jones was substantially right in his assessment of the problem. Nevertheless, despite the allegedly positive nature of his call to separate, he did not appear to present more than an outline of a coherent and positive solution.

A second issue to stimulate much mental juice is the matter of the charismatic controversy. As anyone can see, there are at least two distinct elements to the inheritance here, perhaps best represented by the two publishing streams of the Banner of Truth and Kingsway/Crossway. Both the so-called cessationists and the so-called continuationists are often (though not always) very ready to claim MLJ for their own. Reading one or the other stream as the dominant element in MLJ’s thinking (and interpreting the other in its light) allows one to perform these mental gymnastics. Such confusion is more than adequately depicted in the relevant chapter of EMLJ, with other details supplied throughout. MLJ’s intense focus upon revival, his near-reverence for the great men of the eighteenth century (especially in Wales) and his apparent embrace of the phenomena associated with revival, his doctrine of the sealing of the Spirit as an experience separate from and subsequent to conversion, his willingness to entertain certain spiritual gifts as abiding demonstrations of spiritual power in the church, a failure to censure certain controversial figures – all these things have justifiably led to his being championed by the charismatic camp. At the same time, many of those who knew him well either are marked by their silence or have tried to maintain that MLJ’s convictions and practices were more nuanced than they might appear, including some who put him down as “theoretically Pentecostal” (129). Others have abandoned him as a safe guide in this matter.

In the key chapter, if all we read is to be believed, we find some being told, “I am against Pentecostalism and still am” (129), while MLJ also gives what sounds like substantial support to key individuals in the burgeoning ‘Reformed Charismatic’ camp, maintaining a degree of public distance while offering significant private encouragement.

Again, for those of us who do not have the benefit of hearing doctrine or practice personally explained, or watching them immediately worked out, we go only on what we read and what we hear. If that leaves us with a degree of confusion, then it appears to be justified. If we find ourselves needing to separate one thing from another, contending with others who want the cachet of a big name (but who rather wish that certain seeming contradictory things had been left unsaid), then both sides of the spectrum seem to be in the same boat. In this respect, it would seem that those who are mystified by MLJ’s legacy with regard to the charismata and associated issues have every right to be. EMLJ helps to explain and describe rather than to resolve this conundrum.

A final area of contention is our approach to learning and history. Again, Lloyd-Jones’ attachment to and interest in the past is a constant in the book, coming to particular focus in key chapters, especially the last. Here, John Coffey – in what seemed to me to be a vaguely sneering chapter – assesses MLJ’s approach to church history. This chapter might be read alongside Philip Eveson’s chapter on ministerial education, in which the tension between a scholarly appetite and a scholastic tendency, between intellectual rigour and mere intellectualism are well spelled out. Taking these emphases into account, we find Coffey identifying the two significant strands of historical engagement as retrieval and interpretation (294).

He is helpful in analysing the relative selectivity of the retrieval (for example, among the Puritans), reminding us that the Puritanism that many inherit through readily available volumes is a Puritanism that has already been sieved and sifted in accordance with certain theological convictions (300). Building on this notion of a selective retrieval, perhaps the more significant issue has to do with the interpretation of data drawn from this carefully defined pool.

Coffey makes plain that Lloyd-Jones did not come to the study of history without intent: he came to it as a pastor (302). He ties this in with MLJ’s ominous warnings “against a purely academic interest in the subject” (302-303), his “acute ambivalence towards academic scholarship” and his “suspicion of scholarship, intellectualism and scholasticism” (303). At this point, our academic may well have slipped automatically into a defence of the academy. As Coffey describes it, MLJ’s approach was “unabashedly utilitarian,” setting out “to draw lessons from history” (304) leading to an account of history that was “avowedly partisan” (305). He takes issue with MLJ’s interpretation of key figures and events in church history, as we apparently find Lloyd-Jones focusing, perhaps overmuch, on certain periods and persons, and finding principles to demonstrate and examples to support his presuppositions. This takes us back, for example, to the issue of ecclesiology and churchmanship. We have portrayed for us a frustrated but historically competent J. I. Packer chewing his nails as – rather than his own vision of Puritanism as a moderate movement of theological and spiritual renewal within the national Church – MLJ stands unrestricted and unanswered on the platform depicting Puritanism as an anti-Anglican drive for a pure church combined with warm experimental Calvinist piety (324).

There are at least three questions we can ask: What was Lloyd-Jones’ approach? Was it legitimate? And, at what points did he err?

I agree with Coffey that MLJ – while a brilliant enthusiast and committed student – approached church history first as a pastor and preacher. He did not come as a professional historian or academician.

But is this a legitimate approach or is it inherently flawed? The answer may, in part, depend on one’s sphere. That is not to suggest that a pastor or preacher can suspend proper principles of interpretation in dealing with history. There are classic errors to be avoided, and objectivity is to be pursued even where neutrality is impossible. However, the pastor does not often approach church history with the same degree of relaxation as some professional scholars (and this may be where a mutual suspicion perhaps creeps in between the pastor and the professional, the pulpit and the academy). Without intending to sound pretentious, under the particular demands of the ministry, a man does not come merely to survey, to observe and to report, but to learn, to be directed and to be armed. Busy pastors and preachers, faced by challenges and conundrums within and without the local church, tend to seek patterns, principles, models, lessons, warnings and applications. We desire not only counsels for correction but also allies for encouragement. Pastors map the past over the present, and vice versa, not setting out to commit the heinous crime of anachronism, but rather to discern by comparisons whether the battle lines are shifting, and which regiments are friends and which foes. Their interpretive framework – as with any Christian historian – should be formed by convictions derived from Scripture. Trying to apply those Scriptures to their own lives and the lives of those under their care, they look for historical illumination of an issue.

To be sure, this can lend itself to one-eyed perspectives and slanted interpretations. To be sure, the work of the professional historian can be profoundly helpful in preventing unreasonable or unfair assumptions. However, to ask a true preacher – and I don’t think anyone denies Lloyd-Jones that – to suspend that calling and its faculties while he pores over his dusty tomes is to ask a chap to stop breathing while he does his exercises. Such an approach to church history, seeking validation or contradiction, testing and discerning, seeking to make history a working tool, is not in itself wrong. There may be times when a proper partisanship is both right and necessary, and when pastoral demands drive the pastor-preacher’s study and shape his conclusions, both with regard to his retrieval and his interpretation.

So, did Lloyd-Jones err, and to what extent? Was he guilty of simply harnessing the chariot of history to the steeds of his own agenda? I appreciate the question, because there have been occasions when I have read some of MLJ’s treatments of people and events and bristled slightly at what seems a degree of selectivity in substance and application (of course, this is usually where my personal or pastoral attachments or convictions – would that it were a more instructed and nuanced historical awareness! – point me in a different direction).

There seems little doubt that MLJ’s engagement with church history was driven by the needs of the hour and by his position (assumed by himself and others) as something of a spokesman for conservative evangelicalism as well as his role as a pastor and preacher. Allied to his resistance to mere scholasticism and intellectualism, such an engagement is prone to certain biases and potential mishandlings. There were times when he seemed to manhandle history – a selectivity of retrieval and a slant of interpretation – to make his point. But let us remember that there are very few historians who never fail in this regard. That others facing alternative perspectives and reaching alternative conclusions are subject and succumb to the same pressures is not in question. The question is not whether or not we bring our biases to the study of history, but which biases we bring.

Without wishing to suggest that Mr Coffey is guilty of ‘bad history’, it seems that he approaches his topic with what is meant to be the broadminded and balanced perspective of the professional academic historian (very different from the Lloyd-Jones trajectory). As such, Coffey’s chapter can read like a product of the Academy and perhaps the Church (with its national capital), defending both institutions against the charges of a man who was rightly suspicious of both. Coffey’s chapter in style and substance is no doubt very much the product of his own views of how history should be retrieved and interpreted. It ends with the somewhat bland assertion that “while Lloyd-Jones’s historical project was a powerful influence within evangelicalism, it was in competition with rival understandings of the Protestant past.” While true, this is more of a open-ended summary than anything approaching a definite and definitive conclusion. Such an end point may do for the academy, but it does not always wash in the study or the pulpit.

So what are we left with? An open-ended summary or anything approaching a definitive conclusion? As so often, to embrace unthinkingly is to embrace foolishly. That Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a man of great gifts, true graces, multiplied talents and abounding usefulness does not seem to be in question. That he can stand on his own two feet, even at this remove of time, is well evidenced by this collection of essays. That he inspired great affection and enduring commitment in many who knew him well, even in those who sometimes disagreed with him strongly, should not then surprise us. But he was a man, and therefore we should not be surprised that he erred and sinned. To defend him as if he could do no wrong would be to dishonour him. The tensions of his teaching and practice were not resolved during his lifetime, and are not resolved now. He was a complex man who leaves a complex legacy.

Our challenge is not to decide whether or not we are “of Lloyd-Jones.” That does not dignify him. Surely there are few men of any spiritual stature who could say with integrity that they stand absolutely where MLJ did on every issue? Neither is our challenge to make an industry of discussing his faults and weaknesses, lifting the famous Geneva gown with a flourish to reveal the feet of clay (and perhaps using that to undermine or cast doubt upon issues in which he was both right and bold). That is not gracious or honest.

Our challenge is to make a humble, careful, prayerful assessment of the man and the legacy, and – determined to serve God in our generation to the best of our ability in accordance with the light that we have – to learn all that we can, and to leave anything that we must. In some respects, one of the chapter conclusions of EMLJ could almost serve, with a little judicious blanking-out and filling-in, as a postscript to the whole: “Lloyd-Jones’ unimpeachable status as the doyen of the evangelical movement led many to claim his legacy in order to legitimate their own viewpoint concerning [fill in the blank]. He had become a totemic, and yet contested, icon in the struggle for theological dominance in the contemporary church” (155).

I think that Lloyd-Jones deserves a better legacy than that. If nothing else, such a man deserves inheritors who are not ashamed to think for themselves in the light of Scripture, who have the courage to state when they agree with him and why, and to hold the lines that we are persuaded must be held, but the integrity to accept the feet of clay. If we are persuaded that he was right to call for separation from doctrinal and practical indifferentism, laxity or error, though he might have failed to set out an alternative vision with sufficient clarity and coherence, then we can and should say so. If, with regard to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, we cannot and will not follow him to all the places he eventually leads, then we can and should say so. If, with regard to his approach to learning and history, we stand substantially with him while recognising that these convictions occasionally betrayed him into selectivity of substance and emphasis, then we can and should say so. We must learn both from his strengths and his weaknesses, from those things we are persuaded were right or wrong judgements and convictions, from those things we perceive as magnificent determinations and those we perceive as misguided entrenchments.

The battle, especially for those of us who are following on and learning from this period, is surely not first and foremost to discern who can claim ‘the Doctor’ and to what extent, not to see who can hide behind that Geneva gown on the most issues. Rather, our task, with a dignified, honest, appreciative, intelligent, genuinely and properly critical stance, is to know our own times and to discern and embrace those elements of the legacy that best equip us to stand for God and truth.

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 6 January 2012 at 09:31

Ploughing on with pastoral theology

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G through L here. Previous instalments can be found here or from the sidebar under “Pastoral theology.” Comments and further recommendations are appreciated , and if you could put them on the full page, I will be able to keep track of them more readily. Again, I hope that someone might find something here that will help them or someone else to serve God faithfully and fruitfully.

Garretson, James M. Princeton and Preaching: Archibald Alexander and the Christian Ministry. An excellent survey-summary of the lectures of Alexander, drawing together the material into discrete and orderly sections, and weaving it seamlessly into a joint-address in which Garretson provides something of a framework to communicate the cream of Alexander’s substance. Really helpful. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Grossi, Gabriel. Preaching with Biblical Passion: A Scriptural and Historical Study. This self-published work is a demonstration of itself in itself. Grossi pleads passionately for preaching that is informed by the Scriptural mandates for style and substance. (Find it here)

Gordon, T. David. Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers. Why is it that the average preacher cannot preach? The author suggests that a lack of facility in handling words – reading, writing, speaking – have robbed him of the faculties required to do so. This is a brief, impassioned polemical piece, exposing the problem and suggesting a solution in a way that will do many preachers good to consider. Review. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Hughes, Jack. Expository Preaching with Word Pictures: With Illustrations from the Sermons of Thomas Watson. Drawing on one of the Puritan masters of the craft, this is a plea for the use of the sanctified imagination to enliven our preaching and pasturing. Reminds us how effective analogy and illustration can be to communicate truth that otherwise remains clouded and abstract, and teaches us how to start getting it right. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Kistler, Don (ed.). Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching. At once focused on preaching and yet strangely disparate at points because of the range of material, this has lots of wise counsel about different species of preaching. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Preaching and Preachers. A fascinating treatment of the subject, not least because it is written by a man recognised as a great preacher and many remember and/or can revisit some of his sermons to hear the principles in action. Some of the Doctor’s distinctive views come across, and his personality is stamped on every page. Much to learn here from a master of the craft, even though one might not follow him slavishly. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Logan, Samuel T., ed. The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century. Interesting to look back some twenty five years, see the men asked to contribute, and wonder whether those who remain would still be on the list! The topics covered actually derive from a survey of noted preachers who were asked to identify the primary deficiencies of the contemporary Reformed pulpit, which topics were then farmed out to men considered ideally suited to address them. The result is a book that is in some respects diffuse, but has much profitable counsel scattered throughout. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

The burden and blessing of preaching

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Kevin DeYoung gives us two quotes from Lloyd-Jones:

But, ultimately, my reason for being very ready to give these lectures is that to me the work of preaching is the highest and greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also. (9)

And:

We are here to preach this Word, this it the first thing, ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.’ Now there are the priorities laid down once and for ever. This is the primary task of the Church, the primary task of the leaders of the Church, the people who are sit in this position of authority; and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this, however good the cause, however great the need. This is surely the direct answer to much of the false thinking and reasoning concerning these matters at the present time. (23)

This is the burden and the blessing of the pulpit.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 4 June 2011 at 12:15

The Doctor has a chat

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I had not seen this before, and – while I recognise that we are little behind the times following my recent bout of illness – I thought it might be enjoyable for others who have yet to see it, too. Quite apart from the substance, is it not a fascinating delight to watch the faces of mature saints, not least godly preachers, and to watch the play of thought and emotion?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 3 March 2011 at 10:13

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The heavy preacher

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Kevin DeYoung channels Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

I put next something which is meant partly to correct, or perhaps not so much to correct, as to safeguard, what I have been saying, from misunderstanding. I refer to the element of ‘liveliness.’ This underlines the fact that seriousness does not mean solemnity, does not mean sadness, does not mean morbidity. These are all very important distinctions. The preacher must be lively; and you can be lively and serious at the same time.

Let me put this in other words. The preacher must never be dull, he must never be boring; he should never be what is called ‘heavy.’ I am emphasising these points because of something I am often told and which worries me a great deal. I belong to the Reformed tradition, and may have had perhaps a little to do in Britain with the restoration of this emphasis during the last forty years or so. I am disturbed therefore when I am often told by members of churches that many of the younger Reformed men are very good men, who have no doubt read a great deal, and are very learned men, but they are very dull and boring preachers; and I am told this by people who themselves hold the Reformed position.

This is to me a very serious matter; there is something radically wrong with dull and boring preachers. How can a man be dull when he is handling such themes? I would say that a ‘dull preacher’ is a contradiction in terms; if he is dull he is not a preacher. He may stand in a pulpit and talk, but he is certainly not a preacher. With the grand theme and message of the Bible dullness is impossible. This is the most interesting, the most thrilling, the most absorbing subject in the universe; and the idea that this can be presented in a dull manner makes me seriously doubt whether the men who are guilty of this dullness have ever really understood the doctrine they claim to believe, and which they advocate. We often betray ourselves by our manner.

Preaching and Preachers, 86-87 (emphasis added)

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 3 February 2011 at 22:55

Truth opposed to error

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The Exiled Preacher gives us a snippet from the good Doctor concerning the need to preach the whole truth in its proper context and proportion, equipping the saints of God to prevail against false teaching:

[Rome] is indeed a form of the antichrist, and it is to be rejected, it is to be denounced; but above all it is to be countered. And there is only one thing that can counter it, as I said at the beginning, and that is a biblical, doctrinal Christianity. A Christianity that just preaches “Come to Christ” or “Come to Jesus” cannot stand before Rome for a second. Probably what that will do ultimately will be to add to the numbers belonging to Rome.

We must warn them. There is only one teaching, one power, that can stand against this horrible counterfeit; it is what is called here “the whole armor of God”.

It is a biblical, doctrinal, theological presentation of the New Testament truth. That was how it was done in the sixteenth century. Luther was not just a superficial evangelist, he was a mighty theologian; so was Calvin; so were all of them. It was that great system of truth, worked out in its details and presented to the people, that undermined and even shook the Church of Rome. Nothing less than that is adequate to meet the present situation. Christian people, your responsibility is terrible. You must know the truth, you must understand it, you must be able to counter false teaching.

Christian people, your responsibility is terrible. You must know the truth, you must understand it, you must be able to counter false teaching.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 30 November 2010 at 09:21

Helm reviews the Packer Festschrift

Paul Helm (who has previously surveyed the Trueman-Murray debate over Packer and Lloyd-Jones on his own blog) has a fascinatingly British take on the recent J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future.  One is left wondering if the absence of any really British voice or assessment of Packer’s early years is not just a reflection of his own departure from these shores, but also of the fact that the baton of fairly vigorous evangelicalism seems to have passed across the ocean as well.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 20 April 2010 at 21:34

Quitting and finding church

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A friend pointed me to an article by David Wells in this month’s Tabletalk from Ligonier.  Wells gives us a worked-up commentary on his reading of two separate volumes.  He tells us about the emptiness that many are finding in the church of today, the very place where there ought to be substance of the most profound and pressing sought, and then speaks of the depth and richness to be found and enjoyed when God himself is truly present.  Excellent stuff – here it is in full:

I am in the middle of reading two books simultaneously, one at my office today and the other I will resume at home tonight. My day book is Julia Duin’s Quitting Church: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do About It. It is a quick, breezy read, though its subject matter is disconcerting. My night book is actually two volumes that somehow passed me by several years ago. Now I am trying to catch up. This is Iain Murray’s twelve-hundred page biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is a slow read. But if it is slow, perhaps cluttered with too many details, it is nevertheless also deeply satisfying. And this is so not simply because it has conjured up many warm memories of sitting under this extraordinary ministry. I would often walk back to my digs in central London feeling as if I had been renewed enough from that one sermon to last for a lifetime. That aside, this biography is satisfying because here one glimpses a spiritual reality which, flawed as it no doubt was, is something for which people today are yearning and often not finding.

Quitting Church. Duin’s book is a diary of her travels around the evangelical world in which she has recorded the struggles so many recounted to her of trying to live Christianly in the modern world: singles in a highly sexualized culture; people who are perpetual strangers in their own churches; the inability to find answers to life’s most distressing issues such as loneliness, a sense of being connected to nothing; deep dismay over “churchianity,” the superficial Christian subculture that has grown up in the last thirty years; and a faith that is easily consumed but has lost its depth and ability to speak into today’s pains and perplexities. The result is that by the droves, though not everyone and not everywhere, the born-again are dropping out of church because, she says, it has become “too banal, boring, or painful.”

No doubt, some of this is due to the (immature) expectations people bring with them as consumers into church — but haven’t we often pitched Christian faith to them in exactly these terms? As consumers, though, they have not had their every need met and so they leave or continue circulating from one church to another. But I also wonder if many of those who have left, or are circulating, don’t also have a point sometimes. There are too many churches that have created an environment, or a set of expectations, in which God rests inconsequentially on those who come. The result is, as I argued in God in the Wasteland, that now “his truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common” (p. 30).

Finding Church. In the 1940s and 50s, when Lloyd-Jones was emerging as the preeminent preacher in England, life was not easy either. At the beginning of this period the War was still in full swing. Bombs fell every night on London. Westminster Chapel itself was damaged. On one occasion, bombs fell on an adjoining property while he was praying — but he went on without skipping a beat! There was rationing, travel was difficult and hazardous, ordinary citizens were being killed, and evangelicals were a despised minority. Liberalism was at its peak but evangelicals had none of their own literature or much organization. However, these circumstances, quite as difficult as anything we encounter today in America, did not hinder this profound ministry from coming into glorious bloom.

For six years during the 1960s, I attended Westminster Chapel twice a week. I only went to hear the preaching because I was a part of another church. But it was in those six years that I was deeply transformed. The preaching was magnificent, the prayers lifted one into the heavens, the mind was fed, the imagination was fired, and the will was moved. Yet all of this taken together is not the full answer as to what happened to me during this time. When I went there, I came face to face with God in all of His greatness. I encountered — or, rather, was encountered by — not just an idea, not just a sermon, but by God Himself, in and through that worship with its focus in the sermon.

It is tempting now to think back on this and ask what Lloyd-Jones’ secret was. What was his technique? What programs can we borrow from his time and recreate for our own if we are looking for the same outcomes? Alas, we are barking up the wrong tree. God cannot be packaged. He is not a rabbit that can be pulled out of the magician’s hat on cue.

First Corinthians 1–4, Lloyd-Jones thought, is the most important section of Scripture on preaching. Preaching appears to be stupid, both in the message it delivers regarding Christ, but also in its act. Inconceivable as it may seem, preaching is the ordained means of the church’s blessing and nurture. God, Luther said, lives in the preacher’s mouth.

We who worship and we who preach really do need to humble ourselves before God and ask for a restoration in our country of the kind of preaching that He can really use. If God does not visit us afresh in this regard, I am afraid that our “churchianity” will continue unabated and there will be many who genuinely are asking for something better who will not be able to find it.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 21 August 2009 at 11:00

“Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace”

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Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace by Iain H. Murray

Banner of Truth, 2008 (274pp, hbk)

Iain Murray is too careful an historian to indulge in thoughtless hagiography, so how does he approach the topic of the legacy of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (often ‘ML-J’ to Murray, which I shall sometimes adopt for the sake of brevity D Martyn Lloyd-Jones 3rather than familiarity), whom he knew so well and esteemed so highly?  We find swift relief in Murray’s gentle assertion that “some have spoken inadvisably of Dr Lloyd-Jones as though he was an all-sufficient model for others to follow” (xi).  Throughout the book it becomes apparent both that ML-J recognised particular shortcomings in his character and that Murray is not afraid graciously to disagree with his subject and to identify those shortcomings, as well as simply recognising that ‘the Doctor’ was an individual who is not to be aped, and could not be if one tried.

The author takes a topical approach, and the volume is divided into two.  The second part consists of a collection of titbits: a letter (with some notes) from Lloyd-Jones to Jim Packer regarding the end of the Puritan Conference; a catalogue of pithy quotations; an inventory of ML-J’s sermons; an analysis of the sermons on Ephesians; and, a deservedly unsympathetic review of Noll and Nystrom’s Is the Reformation Over? Included in this hardback edition is a CD of Lloyd-Jones preaching on John 8.21-24: here the interested reader/listener will find an example of that swelling tide of gospel rhetoric that seems to have characterised the preaching of the man, and will sense at least something of the power of his public ministry.

It is, nevertheless, the first part that will attract most interest.  This is an eclectic collection of more substantive essays treating issues held together by the character at the centre.  Chapter 1 is a fascinating survey of six legacies which ML-J left behind him, most of which are related to the church’s declaration of the abiding truth of the gospel.  Chapter 2 concerns “Preaching and the Holy Spirit” practically and theoretically, drawing from ML-J’s convictions and declarations and pointing to his example and demonstration.  It is a clear treatment of the matter, well-organised and warm.  Murray helpfully addresses the matter of unction as it relates both to the pulpit and the pew.

The third chapter takes up the evangelistic use of the Old Testament.  One of the constant correctives in this volume is that ML-J’s public preaching ministry is not reflected in his published works.  He was an evangelist, and his evangelistic preaching was often drawn from the first two-thirds of our Bibles.  ML-J recognised evangelistic preaching as a special category of preaching, and we are given the why and the how of his use of the Old Testament.  Chapter 4 carries us further into the realm of homiletics.  The mischievous title “Skeletons in the Cupboard” will disappoint those with a nose for conflict and scandal: the chapter is about the importance of a clear framework for a sermon, with reasons for that significance and several examples of ML-J’s own efforts.

Chapter 5 consists of notes on a Westminster Fellowship meeting which took place on October 9, 1968.  ML-J had recently returned to public preaching following recovery from a significant illness that led to his retirement from the pastorate at Westminster Chapel.  During the interim, he had unusual opportunity to hear others preaching, and this address was the result.  There is significant substantive commonality with the opening chapter.  ML-J considered what was missing that needs to be present, and what is present that needs to be missing in the preaching that he was hearing.  These observations need to be considered, not least by those who consider themselves as standing in the Lloyd-Jones tradition.

There follows a comparison between Lloyd-Jones and Spurgeon.  The thrust is that these were two unusual individuals with some gifts in common, but essentially different men with different callings at different times and in different circumstances.  It is in these differences – bearing in mind that ML-J began to preach only thirty-five after the death of Spurgeon – that the most fascinating issues come to light.

Lloyd-Jones - Messenger of Grace (Murray)Chapter 7 addresses Lloyd-Jones’ doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the experience of the Christian, especially as it relates to the matter of assurance.  A few years after his death, sermons dealing with this matter (but preached in the mid-1960s) were published in two books, Joy Unspeakable and Prove All Things.  Taking up the first volume, Murray engages with ML-J’s teaching and followers.  This is one of the more controversial chapters in the book, and the author is likely to be sniped at from several sides.  Murray begins by putting the sermons in the context in which they were preached, specifically identifying that – at that time – there was no “charismatic movement” that existed to which Lloyd-Jones could have been sympathetic (this must be borne in mind by those on both sides of this divide).  In fact, ML-J’s attitude when that movement was coming to prominence was one of distinct concern (133-134).  There follows a review of the Biblical data, a survey of ML-J’s pronouncements on ‘the baptism of the Holy Spirit’ (the definite article is important), and a series of conclusions in which Murray recognises the shortcomings of ML-J’s approach, while appreciating that he was originally drawing attention to a vital topic.  Murray declares that

it was a mistake to make an issue of terminology that cannot be substantiated from Scripture.  A few have heavily criticised ML-J on this account, almost to the point of questioning the value of his work as a whole.  I think that is absurd.  If he went too far in his remedy for what he saw as the main need, the manner in which he drew attention to the need of the Holy Spirit did much good. . . . Many of the works of ML-J – especially those published in his own life time – have joined with those of the tradition to which he belonged as a permanent heritage for the Christian church.  To accept that there was a flaw in his presentation of assurance is not to question that he was drawing needed attention to a vital subject; and if he failed to prevent excess in some quarters, we may believe this episode in history will serve to make others more watchful in the future.  (162-163).

The last chapter asks whether ML-J was ‘the lost leader’ or ‘a prophetic voice’, referring to the most significant controversy that engulfed him during his lifetime: his call to separate from those who were unfaithful to Scripture.  (This topic is addressed at greater length in Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided.)  ML-J was heavily criticised at the time and subsequently, and Murray does not set out simply to exonerate him.  Rather, he puts the issue in its historical context and identifies its core: the nature and basis of Christian unity, on which ML-J differed significantly from other leaders such as John Stott and J. I. Packer (notably, both Anglicans).  In this respect, ML-J’s seminal address of 1966 (and Stott’s immediate rebuttal) was not the cause but the occasion of the division.  Murray sets out to make plain that the issue is bigger than the labels of evangelicalism or even Protestantism: it has to do with the gospel itself.  Related to this was the growing obsession among evangelicals with academic credibility that effectively resulted in a compromise of their principles.  Murray generally does not set out to apportion blame, but sincerely seeks to bring the matter to light.  In this respect, he defends ML-J from false and misinformed accusations while recognising certain shortcomings.  Murray points to what he believes many have missed: that ML-J was governed in this as in all else by “his profound faith in the truth and finality of the word of God” (198), and was concerned only to be faithful to the Saviour.  This was why he acted as he did, and it ought to be acknowledged whether or not one agrees with how he acted.  Indeed, it ought to lead to a more careful consideration of whether or not he was right.

This book might be properly considered a companion volume to Mr Murray’s two-volume biography of Lloyd-Jones.  It does not simply rehash the history, but highlights and assesses a series of important issues.  It ought to be read by all who consider themselves to have inherited anything from the Doctor, especially those who tend to pick and choose.  For those of us who did not know him immediately, and who might have picked up a second-hand opinion (either positively or negatively), it provides an opportunity to start making an independently intelligent assessment.  For those who were closer to the action, it will demand a careful consideration, especially if some have been inclined to react – or, indeed, over-react – to elements of ML-J’s legacy.

It is here that the book will be most useful.  Standing in this period’s slipstream, perhaps three groups can be identified among those with an interest in this man.  There are those who tend to have a slavish attachment to ‘the Doctor’ (which he would clearly have abhorred), and for whom the vital question in any debate remains, “What would the Doctor have said?”  In many respects, they are faithful to the bulk of his legacy, but perhaps struggle to move beyond it.  Then there are those who might consider ML-J not quite Reformed enough, perhaps suspicious of his Methodism and concerned about the excesses to which his doctrine of the Holy Spirit opened a door.  For some of them, everything about the man and his ministry is tainted by this.  Finally, there are those – especially among the so-called “Reformed Charismatics” – who hold him up as a key forerunner of the modern charismatic movement, quoting selectively from his works, or imbibing or promoting an anachronistic interpretation of his teaching on the Spirit.

Messenger of Grace panders to none of these groups, and demands something of each.  The first group must contend with ML-J’s feet of clay, and reckon seriously with the shortcomings of his thinking in significant areas, even while appreciating the wisdom and clarity of his legacy.  The second group must recognise that wisdom and clarity, and appreciate more fully some of the keynotes of his ministry, understanding him in his context and learning to value what he contributed, even while they might feel vindicated with regard to what they would leave behind from his legacies.  The third group need to appreciate that ML-J is not quite the poster-boy for their convictions that they hope him to be, and must consider tendencies to be gung-ho in their historical assessments and selective in their admiration.

Indeed, any who consider themselves heirs of ML-J in any degree need to understand what they are laying claim to, and – perhaps more importantly – what they can legitimately lay claim to.  The instinct to pick and choose to suit our own convictions is soundly rebuked by this book.  Stimulating in the best sense, controversial because of its clarity rather than its spirit, this is an outstanding treatment of its topic.  As personal testimony and historical treatments of the later 20th century are making clear, Lloyd-Jones is a man who must be reckoned with.  This book, fairly read, will be of great assistance in doing just that.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 14 May 2009 at 17:04

A learned ministry

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From Michael Haykin:

Historically, one of the key differences between Baptists and Presbyterians-fellow Kingdom-sojourners for much of their respective histories (one thinks of the friendship of Andrew Fuller and Thomas Chalmers, for example)-is an area that is rarely discussed, namely, the concept of a learned ministry.

Far more Baptists than Presbyterians have recognized that God can and does call to pastoral ministry men who have not had formal theological education. In Baptist history, one thinks of John Bunyan, for example, or John Gill, that indefatigable commentator, or Fuller, the theological father of the modern missionary movement, or William Carey or those remarkable preachers C.H. Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (yes, the “Doctor” was a Baptist-read his lecture on baptism in his three-volume study of Christian doctrine). To be sure, these men read and studied and were self-educated, but they lacked formal credentials.

Having spent twenty-seven years in formal theological education, I am more than ever conscious that while such an education is extremely desirable for an effective ministry, it is not indispensable. And I am ever so glad that my Baptist forebears made room for men like those listed above, some of whom are among my theological mentors as a Christian. To think that because a man lacks formal credentials, he cannot reason and write with powerful acumen and insight is simply a species of arrogance.

Andrew Fuller, by trade a farmer, by calling one of the profoundest theologians of the Baptist profession, surely had it right when he said:

“As to academical education, the far greater part of our ministers have it not. [William] Carey was a shoemaker years after he engaged in the ministry, and I was a farmer. I have sometimes however regretted my want of learning. On the other hand, brother [John] Sutcliff, and brother [Samuel] Pearce, have both been at Bristol [Baptist Academy]. We all live in love, without any distinction in these matters. We do not consider an academy as any qualification for membership or preaching, any further than as a person may there improve his talents. Those who go to our academics must be members of a church, and recommended to them as possessing gifts adapted to the ministry. They preach about the neighbourhood all the time, and their going is considered in no other light than as a young minister might apply to an aged one for improvement. Since brother [John] Ryland has been at Bristol, I think he has been a great blessing in forming the principles and spirit of the young men. I allow, however, that the contrary is often the case in academies, and that when it is so they prove very injurious to the churches of Christ.” [“Discipline of the English and Scottish Baptist Churches”, Works (Sprinkle Publications, 1988), III, 481].

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 4 May 2009 at 09:45

The Lord appears

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Justin Taylor points us to a new volume published by Crossway: Living Water: Studies in John 4 – 56 previously unpublished sermons by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

He also provides a magnificent excerpt which is reproduced below.  Though the baptism of the Spirit is an issue on which many would disagree, certainly there is no doubt that – though the initial sealing of the Spirit is a unique experience – there are repeated fillings and ongoing, present, immediate operations of God’s Spirit that we must expect and anticipate.  Let us do so.

Hear Dr Lloyd-Jones:

Possibly one of the most devastating things that can happen to us as Christians is that we cease to expect anything to happen. I am not sure but that this is not one of our greatest troubles today. We come to our services and they are orderly, they are nice ‒ we come, we go ‒ and sometimes they are timed almost to the minute, and there it is. But that is not Christianity, my friend. Where is the Lord of glory? Where is the one sitting by the well? Are we expecting him? Do we anticipate this? Are we open to it? Are we aware that we are ever facing this glorious possibility of having the greatest surprise of our life?

Or let me put it like this. You may feel and say ‒ as many do ‒ ‘I was converted and became a Christian. I’ve grown ‒ yes, I’ve grown in knowledge, I’ve been reading books, I’ve been listening to sermons, but I’ve arrived now at a sort of peak and all I do is maintain that. For the rest of my life I will just go on like this.’

Now, my friend, you must get rid of that attitude; you must get rid of it once and for ever. That is ‘religion’, it is not Christianity. This is Christianity: the Lord appears! Suddenly, in the midst of the drudgery and the routine and the sameness and the dullness and the drabness, unexpectedly, surprisingly, he meets with you and he says something to you that changes the whole of your life and your outlook and lifts you to a level that you had never conceived could be possible for you. Oh, if we get nothing else from this story, I hope we will get this. Do not let the devil persuade you that you have got all you are going to get, still less that you received all you were ever going to receive when you were converted. That has been a popular teaching, even among evangelicals. You get everything at your conversion, it is said, including baptism with the Spirit, and nothing further, ever. Oh, do not believe it; it is not true. It is not true to the teaching of the Scriptures, it is not true in the experience of the saints running down the centuries. There is always this glorious possibility of meeting with him in a new and a dynamic way.

Dear fellow-pilgrims: may you have a blessed Lord’s day tomorrow – may our Lord appear!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 24 January 2009 at 21:03

The first sign of wellness?

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The JollyBlogger records a good quote from Lloyd-Jones’ book Spiritual Depression on talking back to yourself.  Much unhappiness is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself – talking truth to yourself?  Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.

Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you . . .”

d-martyn-lloyd-jonesThe main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: “Why art thou cast down” — what business have you to be disquieted?

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: “Hope thou in God” — instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.”

We must get into the habit of preaching truth to ourselves.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 23 January 2009 at 08:47

Preachers and preaching

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‘Thomas Goodwin’ warmly recommends and helpfully summarises Dr Lloyd-Jones’ book Preachers and Preaching here.  Chapter by chapter, he gives us a brief analysis, bringing to the fore matters that he believes are of chief concern.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 9 August 2008 at 05:29

“Catch the Vision: Roots of the Reformed Recovery”

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Catch the Vision: Roots of the Reformed Recovery – The Men and Movements in the Mid-20th Century by John J. Murray

Evangelical Press, 2007 (191 pp, pbk)

Reading enough books and blogs written by or referencing evangelical or Reformed preachers and authors eventually produces a list of key names – names of men, churches, seminaries, organisations – that were, under God, the seedbed of the recovery of Reformed doctrine and practice that took place in the middle of the 20th century.  John J. Murray organises, orders, and analyses those various strands of recent history, putting people individually and corporately in their context and relationships.  The book is in many respects a personal record.  The focus is substantially on the British scene, but those books and blogs mentioned above certainly demonstrate that much of the activity during this period was generated in and from the UK, although it could be argued that in many respects the baton has subsequently passed to the US.

Beginning with the loss of ‘the vision’, Mr Murray paints a bleak picture of post-Downgrade Britain, before identifying some of the forerunners of the recovery, men like E. J. Poole-Connor, A. W. Pink, Ernie Reisinger, W. J. Grier, and others.  The author then progresses to some of the movers and shakers of the recovery, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones prominent among them.  Others given their own chapters include Geoffrey Williams (architect of the Evangelical Library), James I. Packer, Iain Murray (founder of the Banner of Truth), and Professor John Murray.  The author’s affection and esteem for Professor Murray become increasingly evident as the book progresses.  This is not merely a Scotocentric peculiarity – it is a reflection of Professor Murray’s doctrinal and devotional profundity, and the impact that he clearly had both on the author and on many others.  Each of these key men receives a treatment selective in detail but nonetheless fairly comprehensive in scope, and – in the course of each life review – other more or less significant players swim into and out of focus.

The book closes with an assessment entitled “Maintaining the Vision.”  Murray deals first of all with the expectation of a coming revival among those who shared in the Reformed recovery.  He quotes a perceptive paragraph from Iain Murray, in which the latter suggested that the recovery was the prelude either to a revival or preparation for a flood of apostasy in which a few would be called to stand fast, being well grounded.  John J. Murray – apologies for the multiplicity of relevant Murrays! – suggests that the UK is closer now to the latter than the former condition.  He then offers a sensitive but nonetheless searching critique of where the recovery has succeeded and where it failed to advance sufficiently.  He suggests that the vision was fulfilled in that this period demonstrates again what God can do through a leader in the most difficult times, even in the face of widespread apathy and antipathy; Dr Lloyd-Jones is singled out as being, in many respects, God’s catalyst.  Then there is the abiding armoury of Reformed truth, an inheritance for the likes of which some of our predecessors would have given their eye-teeth.  Thirdly, there is the worldwide spread of Reformed theology, and its abiding impact on the faith and life of many.

However, he also demonstrates that the vision was, to some extent, unfulfilled.  The recovery faltered in certain key respects.  The author locates some of the difficulties in the late 1960s, in a series of what he calls ‘partings’ between men.  Three things are identified as being areas of weakness, and therefore vital to the continued recovery of the Reformed vision, and its further advance.  The first is the necessity of maintaining a full-orbed witness to the Reformed faith.  Here the author spells out the value of genuinely confessional Christianity, guarding against doctrinal indifferentism.  Distinct and distinctive truth is to be pursued and expressed, not to the disruption of genuine fellowship (though recognising where we differ from others), but especially to the exclusion of error.  Reformed truth gives the only ultimate guarantee of success – at the end, suggests A. A. Hodge, the conflict will be between multiform Atheism and uniform Calvinism.

The second issue is the necessity of maintaining zeal for church reform.  Here Murray identifies certain weaknesses and shortcomings with regard to the life of the body of Christ, the church, in its local expression.  Evangelical unity became a bigger issue than church health, with lamentable results.  Says Murray: “It is clear that the way of trying to unite evangelicals by common adherence to a minimum of essential scriptural truths has not been a success” (164).  Not just confessional Christianity but confessional churchmanship must be high on our agenda.

Thirdly, says Murray, we must recover the creation and covenant view of the family (whatever our view of baptism).  His point actually seems broader than this: the emphasis must be on a more than Reformed ministry: it must be on the reality of truth having a sweet and saving and sanctifying impact on the lives of the men and women, boys and girls, to whom that truth is ministered.  The truth must not merely be preached from the pulpit but must become embedded in the pew.  Murray locates (rightly) a vital, even central, ingredient of this process in the family, but goes beyond it.

There are dangers in writing a history of times from which key protagonists are still alive, or in which the acolytes of key protagonists stand ready to defend their man or men to the hilt, or to give alternative versions of events.  Doubtless many will seek to do so.  But it is also necessary to have such a history before these men and events are forgotten, or become further coloured by passing time, or even twisted in their interpretation by those with an agenda of their own (as has, indeed, already happened).  In this regard, it is worth remembering that the author himself was a protagonist (he joined the editorial department of the Banner of Truth in June 1960).  His perspective is as valid as any other man’s, and there is a weight of experience and wisdom with which he writes.  No doubt many will disagree, or see matters differently, but that by no means undermines the value of this contribution.

I would suggest that Catch the Vision is essential reading for all who consider themselves inheritors of this tradition.  It gives a vivid and intense flavour of the spirit of the times, and the eagerness and expectancy with which these various men of God came to deeper views of his glorious truths and felt the impact of those truths on their souls.  There was a freshness and liveliness that, sadly, many inheritors have lost, replaced by a dullness and smugness that ill becomes those who claim to be followers of the Most Holy One.  This volume will instruct, chasten, enlighten, and – I hope – stir up a fresh appetite not only for the Word of God but for the Spirit of God, not only for the truth of God but for its free course in our hearts and in the hearts of many others.

It should also be noted that John J. Murray will be one of the speakers at the 2008 Westminster Conference.  This will be held, God willing, at Whitefield’s Tabernacle (“The American Church in London”) on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th December.  Mr Murray’s paper is entitled, “Recovery of the Reformed Vision,” and I would expect significant and profitable overlap.  If you are able, I would strongly recommend coming to hear Mr Murray, and enjoying what will no doubt be a fruity and compelling discussion to follow.

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