Ernest Kevan: Leader in twentieth century British Evangelicalism,
Paul E. Brown, Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, 294pp
Ernest Kevan is best known as the founding principal of London Bible College, or London School of Theology as it is now called. He was also the author of a significant work on the Puritan theology of the law, entitled, The Grace of Law. Beyond those two facts, I don’t suppose many readers will know much about the subject of this first-rate biography. I certainly didn’t. Paul Brown has done the Christian world a service in rescuing Ernest Kevan from a measure of undeserved obscurity. The author studied at the London Bible College under Kevan.
Brown delves into his family history and charts the spiritual influences that by God’s grace helped to make him the man he was. Before becoming principal of London Bible College, Kevan was a Strict Baptist pastor. The Lord’s blessing was evident in the churches where he preached. Kevan was keen to engage the communities that surrounded the churches he served, offering practical help to those in need as well as proclaiming the gospel. Although he and his wife, Jennie were not blessed with children, Ernest head a great heart for little ones and his children’s talks were legendary for their clarity and winsomeness.
Kevan was an important figure in the resurgence of Evangelical and Reformed Christianity in the post-war period. What Martyn Lloyd-Jones was doing in his Westminster Chapel pulpit, Kevan was doing from his London Bible College lectern. Both men exposed a new generation to the riches of Puritan and Reformed theology. That’s not to say that Kevan and Lloyd-Jones always agreed. The former was more comfortable working with the theologically mixed denominations that the latter. Lloyd-Jones was critical of London Bible College offering the London University approved BD degree. The Westminster Chapel preacher would have nothing to do with the Billy Graham Crusades of the 1950’s. Despite Kevan’s misgivings concerning the Evangelist’s appeals for people to come forward and make a profession of faith, he penned some useful booklets that helped to ground new converts in the faith. While the ‘Doctor’ declined invitations to speak at the Keswick Conference due to its adherence to a faulty doctrine of sanctification, Kevan spoke there on a number of occasions. His addresses on Romans encouraged the conference to move away from its traditional ‘Higher Life’ teachings. It is interesting to ponder whether Kevan's "in it to win it" or Lloyd-Jones' "They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them." approach proved more effective.
At Kevan’s memorial service John Stott remarked on his ‘strength and gentleness’, two qualities that are not always found in the same person. Kevan was a scholar with a pastor’s heart, the best kind of man to lead a Bible College. At a time when Evangelical scholarship was virtually regarded as a contradiction in terms he showed that it is possible to be theologically conservative and intellectually rigorous. He was indeed a key leader in twentieth century British Evangelicalism. He bold, yet gracious witness to the truth should not be forgotten.
Reviewed for Protestant Truth.
Reviewed for Protestant Truth.