Results tagged “Martyn Lloyd-Jones” from Reformation21 Blog

Understanding Opponents

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Of the numerous regrets I have in life, not having been more understanding of others ranks high on the list. I have, many times, drawn hasty conclusions about others without having considered all that may factor into their lives. Many times, I have been critical of others when I should have erred on the side of seeking to understand more about their personality, background and life circumstances. By so doing, I would have been much slower to draw conclusions about them and much quicker to extend grace to them. I was reminded of this principle while reading J.I. Packer's article, "D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: A Kind of Puritan."

It is a well known fact that Lloyd-Jones had splintered relationships with both John Stott and J.I. Packer. The rift between Lloyd-Jones and Stott occurred on October 18, 1966 at the Evangelical Alliance's National Assembly, where Lloyd-Jones called ministers to leave liberal-drifting denominations and enter into independent ecclesiastical fellowships instead. After Lloyd-Jones made his appeal, Stott publicly derided his proposal--saying,  I believe history is against Dr Lloyd-Jones, in that others have tried to do this very thing. I believe that Scripture is against him, in that the remnant was within the Church and not outside it." The parting with Packer occurred in 1970 on account of the publication of a book titled, Growing into Union--the product of the ecumenical affiliation of Packer, a fellow Anglican minister and two Anglo-Catholics. Lloyd-Jones adamantly opposed affiliation with denominations in which theological liberalism was tolerated. Packer would later express his own dismay over the doctrinal declension in the Anglican fellowships. However, he downplayed, the divide between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Growing into Union.

Although I wholeheartedly share Lloyd-Jones convictions about defending Scripture and doctrinal purity in the church--as well as his insistence that faithful ministers ought to align themselves with other faithful ministers--I do not support his proposal concerning ministers separating from denominations altogether and becoming independent churches belonging to highly intentional evangelical fellowships. However, had I been alive when the controversy erupted, I would have certainly stood with Lloyd-Jones as over against Packer. While sharing Packer's convictions about the biblical mandate for maintaining spiritual union with all believers, I strongly oppose his willingness to compromise the truth of Protestant doctrine for the sake of ecumenical unity.

That being said, I find it a thing of great interest that Packer has--despite the great personal fall out--called Lloyd-Jones, "the greatest man that I ever knew." Packer sought to understand Lloyd-Jones--concluding that the Doctor considered himself to be a sort of modern day non-conformist Puritan. In seeking to see how much he was "in line with the Puritanism that he celebrated so vigorously," Packer explained:

1. He was Welsh. Packer explained, "As such, Lloyd-Jones distrusted the English...he saw them as having a genius for compromise and for maintaining inert institutions...Though not a typical Welshman, since he was unsentimental, nor a typical Welsh preacher, since he spoke and thought like a barrister and put no imaginative flights into his sermons, his Welshness--geniality, courtesy, sensitivity, warmth, magnetic vitality--remained pure and potent, and it was as a Welshman contemplating Englishmen that he viewed the Puritans and the battles they fought."1

2. He was a physician. Packer drew out a parallel between Lloyd-Jones' medical background and pastoral approach: "Starting from a clear view of what constituted theological and spiritual wholeness, he analyzed everything and everyone systematically, and as a matter of habit, to detect first of all what was disordered and then also what was lacking; for he recognized what was not seen or not said can be as significant a sign of spiritual or theological ill-health as any actual sin or error."2

Packer then made the connection between Lloyd-Jones the apothecary and his affinity for Puritanism when he wrote,

"One thing that delighted him about the Puritan writers was that they, too, in their character as physicians of the soul (their own phrase to describe themselves), were thorough in diagnostic analysis within the frame of their profound understanding of what, according to Scripture, constitutes theological and spiritual well-being, and of the damage that one-sidedness, imbalance and tunnel vision can do to one's Christian life."3

3. He was a biblical, rational, practical, pastoral theologian. Packer recalled, "He once spoke of a person we knew as having a 'naturally theological mind.' Well...it takes one to know one and if I am any judge that is exactly what must be said of him. Though he never attended a theological college and was to all intents and purposes self-taught, he read constantly, thought deeply, and during the years that I knew him could keep his conservative Reformed end up in any company--indeed, he could dominate any theological discussion in which he was involved.'4 

Speaking of the unique gifts that God had given the Doctor, Packer wrote,

"There was a prophetic quality about his ministry, which during the years when I knew him isolated him from the religious establishment and the mainstream cultures of both England and Wales."5

Packer continued,

"He was, to be sure, strong enough to cope with the isolation, and it was in fact given him in the post-war years to see the quality of evangelical teaching in England and Wales change for the better through his own weaving back into it the binding thread of Reformed theology--a thread which had snapped after Spurgeon was defeated in the Downgrade Controversy, and Keswick teaching swamped Anglican Calvinism, and liberalism an the social gospel captured the pulpits of Wales."6

He then concluded, "Yet, deep-level isolation from most of his ecclesiastical peers was a permanent part of the Doctor's experience, and this, I think, gave him a special sense of affinity with the Puritans, who were the odd men out in relation to the Anglican establishment in the century after the Reformation."7

4. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Reformed Churchman. Packer noted,

"[He was] one who saw that in Scripture the church is central to both the fulfilling of God's purposes and the furthering of his praise, and one for whom therefore the state of the church was always a matter of prime concern...But he would never make polity an issue; he urged rather, that evangelical churches should accept without question each other's varieties of organization and usage provided these did not directly contradict Scripture, and concentrate together on the common quest for doctrinal purity, spiritual profundity, and missionary validity, under the guidance and authority of God's written word. It was thus, to his mind, that true Christian unity would be shown and the church's real health promoted."8

After giving further consideration to Lloyd-Jones' ministry in light of Puritan traits, Packer concluded his analysis of the Doctor in the following way:

"It has to be said of the great Puritans, Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, Sibbes, Perkins and Howe, and of their greatest followers over three centuries, Edwards, Spurgeon, Ryle, and now Dr Lloyd-Jones, that we shall not see their likes again; each great man is unique. In another sense, however, we may hope and should pray that tomorrow's church will be blessed with many like then in stature, principles, wisdom, gifts and godliness, and so in every generation until the Lord comes. Men who faithfully maintain the essence of the Christianity the Doctor stood for are the memorial that he himself would have desired. May such a memorial be forthcoming; for there is nothing today that the church needs more."9

Whatever one may make of all of the facets of Packer's assessment of Lloyd-Jones, of this much we can be sure: It is always right for us to seek to discern with great understanding, care and charity the personality, background and circumstances that animate a man or woman--especially a man or woman with whom we may have had a sharp and even irremediable rift.


1. J.I. Packer Collected Shorter Writings of J.I. Packer (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1999). p. 65

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. p. 66

5. Ibid.

6. p. 67

7. Ibid.

8. pp. 67-68

9. p. 76

Lloyd-Jones on Racism and the Gospel

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There was a recent advertisement on Twitter for a Christian event in Mobile, AL titled, "Shrinking the Divide: A Gathering for Racial Reconciliation" featuring John Perkins and Russell D. Moore. There were some immediate negative responses from numerous professing Christians on Twitter. In summary, the comments basically asserted that Jesus has already conquered the divide on the cross and that this kind of conference wrongly implies there is something lacking in what Christ has done. According to the critics, talking about division is what really divides. These kinds of responses have become all too common along with pejorative name-calling against anyone who speaks out against racial injustice as SJW's (Social Justice Warriors) and cultural Marxists.

Such comments are often followed with the idea that talking about race or racial injustice at all is a waste of time and distracts us from the gospel. After all, it is frequently said, the gospel is the only answer to racism. Racism, they suggest, automatically disappears when the gospel takes prominence. It is a bizarre sentiment coming from conservative evangelicals. If racism disappears when someone is genuinely converted to Christ then do they believe that slaveholders Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and R.L. Dabney were unconverted men who didn't really believe the biblical gospel? If not, such rhetoric is empty.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who I have never heard anyone describe as a Marxist, gospel-compromising, SJW, preached a sermon on John 4:13-14 titled, "Spiritual Dullness and Evasive Tactics," in which he brought up the issue of racism. Early in the sermon on Jesus's encounter with the woman at the well Lloyd-Jones explains,

"We have dealt with some general prejudices that hindered this woman. She turned to our Lord in amazement when he asked her for a drink of water. She said, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" We face national prejudices, class prejudices, race prejudices, gender prejudices, and so on. There is almost no end to them. What harm they have done in the life of the individual Christian, and what harm they have done in the life of the church throughout the centuries--the things we cling to so tenaciously simply because we have been born like that!"

Lloyd-Jones then proceded to address the prejudices that the church battles both societally and personally. He explained that falling into this type of sin is a mark of spiritual dullness and gospel evasiveness. Regarding the woman Jesus meets at the well, Lloyd-Jones says, "She shows us that you can be intelligent, you can be quick and alert, you can be subtle at disputation, and yet the whole time be spiritually dull." He goes on to clarify, "You see, this is not a question of learning; spiritual understanding has nothing to do with natural ability, nothing at all." Of the "hindrances and obstacles" this woman used to evade the fullness of Jesus gospel message Lloyd-Jones declares, "As they were true in the case of this woman, so they are, in principle, still true of all of us."

Anticipating the objection that the prejudice and gospel avoidance of the women at the well was merely because she was an unbeliever and such sins could not be found in a genuine Christian who believes the gospel Lloyd-Jones explains what he refers to as a fallacy:

"It is assumed, therefore, that while this spiritual dullness is true of an unconverted person, like the woman of Samaria, it cannot be true of a Christian. But it can! The fact that we have become Christians, that we are born again, that the Spirit of God is in us, does not mean that we have solved all our problems; that is only a beginning. We now have to go through a great process of readjustment, and it is because so many people fail to realize that and, still more, fail to act upon it that they are constantly in trouble."

Lloyd-Jones attacked this fallacy when he says, "Spiritual understanding is not something that happens automatically. Not at all! You must work out your own salvation in this way." He goes on to note the multitude of imperatives directed at Christians in the New Testament by declaring, "All this is addressed to Christians, and it is because we fail to realize this that we are so frequently in trouble and raise these hindrances that prevent us from receiving this well of water that springs up into everlasting life." He provides five reasons Christians struggle with spiritual dullness and gospel evasiveness in our lives:

(1) Old pre-conversion habits we still struggle with.

(2) The feeling that we have everything; we received it all at conversion, and there is nothing more to be gained.

(3) Laziness.

(4) The magical view of faith, people seem to think that faith is a magic word that completely changes everything.

(5) In preaching and teaching we tend put too much emphasis upon the will and upon momentary experience of decision and surrender.

According to Lloyd-Jones, we are all experts in the kind of gospel evasiveness that we find exhibited in the woman at the well, shifting the ground and changing topics. We will even use the fact of our Christian conversion to avoid living out the gospel,

"How we evade the issue, how we parry the question! It is because we do not like being searched, we do not like being examined, we do not like being disturbed. This is 'the natural man,' the old nature that is still with us. You do not get rid of your old nature when you become a Christian, when you are born again. The old man has gone, but the old nature has not gone; and the old nature, the natural self, does not like being searched. That element remains in us. We resent it; we do not want to be made to feel that we are wrong. We even dislike the very process that disturbs us out of our sloth: 'Why, we are Christians! I was converted.'"

Lloyd-Jones went on to insist that the gospel is meant to disturb and confront us. He then pressed in on our responsibility to apply our lives to the truth of John 4:13-14 by exhorting, "He searches us for our own good, but it is painful; so we evade it by taking up other issues. We have seen how the woman of Samaria did it, but what about us?" Thus, he brings up the horrific sin of racism again and explains that it is even possible to denounce someone else in order to evade dealing with your own sins. Lloyd-Jones explains, "You see, in denouncing somebody else, you are shielding yourself." That is precisely what the racists does and it it also what some who denounce racists are doing to shield themselves.

Every way that Christians evade walking in line with the gospel must be confronted with specificity and clarity. We have this responsibility in regard to racism and every other anti-gospel attitude we embrace and action we take. Yes, Jesus has already conquered the racial divide on the cross and the gospel is the answer to the sin of racism. Absolutely true! Nevertheless, as Paul notes, it is sadly often the case that we still "walk as the Gentiles do" (Eph 4:17) in far too many ways. May we keep reminding one another without apology, "But that is not the way you learned Christ!--assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Eph 4:20).