Logic on Fire
This weekend I spent an afternoon watching the new DVD from Media Gratiae which is being promoted by Banner of Truth, Logic on Fire. With this, and the Bannerman volume, in the space of two weeks, the Banner is at the top of its game.
Logic on Fire consists of three DVDs dealing with the life and ministry of Dr. Lloyd-Jones. The centerpiece is a documentary of ca. 100 minutes of the same title. The extras consist of further material relating to the Doctor’s ministry and to the new series on discipleship, Behold your God.
The documentary is reminiscent in style of the work of Ken Burns. Photographs and video footage are accompanied by thoughtful commentary from family members, colleagues and others influenced by the Doctor’s ministry. Iain Murray is predictably the most insightful into the history of his public ministry. Geoff Thomas is marvelous as usual, with the typical look of permanent slight pain on his face that we have come to know and love. Lloyd-Jones’ daughters, Elizabeth and Ann, along with various grandchildren, offer moving personal anecdotes of the man in private. Who would have thought he enjoyed playing billiards and snooker? Though I confess when I heard he was a ruthless croquet player, I found that completely plausible.
Various British churchmen also offer reflections on his influence on their lives. I was a little puzzled by the presence of a number of Americans with no personal connection to the Doctor and whose contribution seemed to amount to nothing more than elaborate ways of saying ‘He was a great preacher’ – but, hey, if that means the disks are more marketable over here (which I guess was the reason for their inclusion) then that is a good thing. Ben Bailie was a signal exception to this transatlantic rule: his comments on the impact of the Doctor’s medical training on his preaching were fascinating and left me wanting more. If he reads this review, there is book there somewhere which would sell at least one copy – to me.
While I was a little disappointed there was not a great deal of deep analysis in the movie, three things struck me as important for Christians, especially pastors, to reflect upon.
First, Lloyd-Jones' seriousness with regard to preaching was deeply rooted in the fact that God had dealt seriously with him. The Doctor knew the glory of salvation in Christ because he knew the depth of his own depravity. I was convicted by this. Too often I think I approach preaching as a technical exercise. While I do not find the Doctor’s theology of unction and revival compelling, there is a personal component to preaching which is important. Knowledge of one’s own sin is what helps to magnify Christ in the heart and this has to shape how one preaches. You cannot learn that from a textbook or a class. You learn that from sitting under the Word and being convicted yourself.
Second, upon retirement, Lloyd-Jones spent a lot of time traveling to small churches to preach and encourage the brethren. I know too many Toppers in the US who will only speak to crowds of a certain number, lest their gifts be wasted. One friend was told by one such that ‘Last time I spoke at your church, you only got me 800 people. I don’t speak for that small a crowd.’ The Doctor was a delightful contrast. But then his ministry was not about the Doctor or about the paycheque. It was about the gospel (see the first point above) and its impact upon the saints.
Third, the most moving part of the documentary deals with the period leading up to the Doctor’s death. At some point, he is asked whether he is upset that he will never preach again. His response is that it was never about his preaching in the first place, it was about Christ. He rejoiced not in the influence of his ministry but in the fact that his name was written in heaven. There is a lesson for every single one of us there.
Iain Murray and I have clashed in the past over the interpretation of the Doctor’s role in the events of 1966-70, and his dealings with Dr. Packer. But Iain’s biography of the Doctor, especially the first volume, remains a source of constant inspiration to me as a pastor and preacher. And in this documentary, he and all those involved have given the church of today a real gift for which we should all be grateful. I will be watching this documentary, alone, with my elders, and with others, many times in the years to come. It is humbling, challenging, and inspiring.