Thursday, January 05, 2012

Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones Edited by Andrew Atherstone & David Ceri Jones. Review Part 1

Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The life and legacy of 'the Doctor',
Edited by Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones, IVP/Apollos, 2011, 370pp

The Congregational Chapel I used to attend as a new believer hosted a sale of Christian books one Wednesday evening. Little did I know it, but one title on offer would have a lasting impact on my Christian life and ministry. It was, Prove All Things: The Sovereign Work of the Holy Spirit, by D. M. Lloyd-Jones. I was moving in Charismatic/Pentecostal circles at the time and the subtitle's mention of the work of the Holy Spirit was of special interest to me. So, although I had never heard of the author, I bought the book. It completely revolutionised my thinking. Soon after reading it I stopped attending Charismatic style youth meetings and began to read some of the Reformed writers cited by Lloyd-Jones, especially Jonathan Edwards. This must have been around 1985, four years after 'the Doctor' had gone to glory.

Prove All Things was to be the first of many of Lloyd-Jones' books that I read in the formative years of my Christian life. Before attending the London Theological Seminary in 1988 I had read and re-read Preaching and Preachers and worked my way through all of his sermons on Romans that had been published until that date and quite a few volumes of the series on Ephesians. I hungrily devoured volume one of Iain Murray's biography of the 'Doctor'. LTS was of course founded by Lloyd-Jones and the seminary was shaped and moulded by his great emphasis on biblical preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit (see Philip Eveson on Lloyd-Jones and ministerial education). Later, shortly after leaving LTS, I fell ill and was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital in London. My time languishing on the wards was made more pleasurable by reading the recently published second volume of Iain Murray's biography of the Lloyd-Jones. In many ways the 'Doctor' was the dominant influence on my thinking, which was quite something as I had never met the man, or even heard him preach 'in the flesh'.

But, then, it seemed that the good 'Doctor' still very much a dominating influence in the Welsh Evangelical and Reformed circles in which I had begun to move. As I young Minister I observed that discussions in fraternals and conferences could be brought to a shuddering halt when a old timer got to his feet and in reverent tones remarked, "I remember the 'Doctor' saying...". And that was more or less it. Lloyd-Jones had posthumously spoken. No more need for debate. Things aren't quite like that any more, but given his huge impact on certain sectors of Evangelicalism in the UK,  achieving a critical appreciation of the Lloyd-Jones legacy isn't an easy task. This is especially so as the 'Doctor' has become such a divisive figure. His call for Evangelical Unity in 1966 exposed the disunity between intergrationist Anglican Evangelicals like Jim Packer and John Stott and those with a more separatist mindset who followed Lloyd-Jones' line. Charismatics try and claim him as one of their own, much to the horror of some of his Reformed comrades. Other Reformed voices firmly distanced themselves from the 'Doctor's' teaching on the baptism and sealing of the Spirit, which, to them smacked of Pentecostalism.

With this in mind, this multi-authored assessment of the life and legacy of Lloyd-Jones is to be welcomed. Although it has to be said that as is often the case with this kind of project, some of the contributions are better than others. Most of the authors are sympathetic to the 'Doctor' and his teachings, but none of them are so in thrall to the preacher that they attempt to justify his every whim. In my opinion, one or two of the chapters offer a rather skewed account of Lloyd-Jones' thought and actions.

In Part 2 of this review series I will devote attention to the 'Doctor' on preaching in the power of the Spirit, in Part 3 I will discuss his call for Evangelical unity in 1966 and in Part 4 I will conclude with some general reflections on the life and legacy of Lloyd-Jones.  

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