Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Evangelical Movement of Wales Leaders Conference

On Saturday myself and the deacons of the churches I serve will be heading off to Wales for EMW's Leaders Conference. Check it out here

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thomas Goodwin on election in Christ: what it's not

Following the introductory post, we now delve right into Goodwin's exposition of Ephesians 1:4. As he opens up the text, the Puritan scholar first of all explains what is not meant by "chosen in him". This is a good place to start as election in Christ is often misunderstood. Only after having dealt with a number of misconceptions does our painstaking expositor give attention to the positive meaning of Paul's words. I won't go into all the ins and outs of Goodwin's engagement with what he takes be inadequate explanations of the text in question. Suffice to say that he is especially concerned to rule out the following  three lines of interpretation:

1. God did not choose people because he foreknew they would believe in Christ

The Arminian understanding of the verse says that God chooses people on the basis of foreknown faith in Christ. As we might expect, good Calvinist as he was, Goodwin objects to this construction. But he does so not on simply on the basis of cast iron Calvinistic logic, imposing his pre-packaged Reformed theology on the text. Rather he rejects to the Arminian view for sophisticated exegetical reasons. 

First  because it would mean that if God chooses on the basis of faith foreseen, then election is not of persons, but of graces. God did not choose propositions, 'He that believes shall be saved', but persons, 'chose us in him'. This admittedly isn't Goodwin's strongest argument. An Arminian might object that they teach that God chooses people who believe, not the faith of those who believe, but this is only the first point in a cumulatively persuasive case. 

Second, Goodwin brings contextual considerations into view. In Ephesians 1:3-4 Paul says that, 'God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ...according as he has chosen us in him'. If faith is one of the blessings that is bestowed upon us 'in Christ', then it cannot properly be said that God chose to save those whom he foreknew would believe in Christ. It is only because a person is already in Christ in some sense that he is blessed with the gift of faith. 

Third, Goodwin reflects on the fact that according to Paul in Ephesians 1:4, God chose us in Christ, 'that we should be holy and without blame before him'. He reasons that God did not choose his people because he foresaw their holiness. Rather, he chose them in order that they might be made holy. Faith, like holiness is a fruit of election, not its cause. Goodwin cites Acts 13:48. And so he thoughtfully refutes the traditional Arminian interpretation of Paul's words. 

2. God did not choose people because of what Christ would do for them

Next, Goodwin considers the proposal that the elect are chosen for the sake of Christ's merit. While it is true that we have 'redemption by his blood' (Ephesians 1:7), this is not the cause of our election. Scripture never suggests that this is the case. And as Goodwin points out, making Christ's passion the meritorious cause of election undermines the sovereign freedom of God's grace. The expositor refers to Ephesians 1:5, 'according to the good pleasure of his will'. Christ's merits are the cause of our salvation, but not the reason why God chose us to be saved. If grace was merited by Christ, then God was in some way obligated to save us. Goodwin rightly regards any such a construction 'a derogation from God's free grace'.  

Goodwin identifies this second view as belonging to 'Popish divines and interpreters'. But Charles Hodge comes dangerously close to this position in his commentary on Ephesians, saying, 'It was in Christ as their head and representative that they were chosen to holiness and eternal life, and, therefore in virtue of what he was to do on their behalf.' (emphasis added, p. 31, Baker, 1980 repr.) Similarly, Hendriksen argues that God was able to chose unworthy sinners because Christ would 'in their stead...satisfy all the requirements of the law'. (author's emphasis, p. 76, Banner 1990 repr.). But this is to put the cart of redemption before the horse of God's free and unconditional love for sinners. Hendriksen almost makes election a matter of divine justice rather than grace, which is plain contrary to 2 Timothy 1:9 etc.  

The Father did not need the Son to satisfy his justice to win his electing love for his people. Goodwin does not make this point, but his case is bolstered when we take the words "in love" at the end of Ephesians 1:4 together with "having predestined us" in Ephesians 1:5, "in love having predestined us" (cf. Romans 8:29). Scripture does not teach that God loved the world because his only begotten Son gave himself up to the cross for sinners. Rather, it is the other way round. God so loved the world that he have his only begotten Son (John 3:16). As John Murray writes, "It was in pursuance of electing love that God sent his Son into the world... in election there is the assurance that God loved sinners from eternity, that he loved sinners with such invincible love that he did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for them." (p. 127, Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume one, Banner of Truth, 1989 repr). 

Goodwin rightly saw that any suggestion that Christ's redemptive suffering was the meritorious cause of our election runs counter to the Bible's insistence on God's free and gracious love for sinners.  

3.  God did not chose people in order that they might be united to Christ 

Finally, Goodwin refutes the idea that what Paul means by 'chosen in him' is that God chose us in eternity in order that we might be united to Christ in the fullness of time. Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof rightly says that, 'Christ as Mediator is not the impelling, moving, or meritorious cause of election'. But he has not caught Paul's drift when he states that Christ is merely the 'mediate cause of the realisation of election.' (p. 114, Systematic Theology, Banner of Truth Trust, 1984). As Goodwin insists, Paul did not write that God has chosen us to be in Christ, making union with Christ the goal, much less 'the mediate cause of the realisation of election'. The text simply says that we were chosen 'in him' before the foundation of the world. John Murray is one with Goodwin on this, "those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love apart from Christ. As far back as we can go in tracing salvation to its fountain we find "union with Christ"; it is not something tacked on; it is there from the outset." (p. 162Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Banner of Truth, 1979). 

Goodwin's exposition of election in Christ in Ephesians 1:4-5 not only excludes erroneous Arminian readings of the text. His careful exegesis of Paul's words and nuanced theological thinking also provide a necessary corrective to some defective explanations of election in Christ within the Reformed tradition. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thomas Goodwin on election in Christ: introduction


Those words, 'he hath chosen us in him' have bred more controversy than any so few words almost in the whole Bible and do therefore require some time to open them. (Thomas Goodwin, Exposition of Ephesians, p. 65).   
The other week I started a series of sermons on "Union with Christ". Beginning at the beginning, or even before the Beginning, the first message was on Ephesians 1:3-6, "Chosen in Christ". In the course of sermon prep I looked up several modern commentaries, (F.F. Bruce, NICNT, F. Foukles, Tyndale,  & J. R. W. Stott, BST), but none of them had anything much to say on election in Christ. So, I pulled Lloyd-Jones' God's Ultimate Purpose off the shelf and glanced through his sermon on Ephesians 1:4 entitled, Chosen in Him. The good Doctor has some helpful things to say about election and predestination in general, but, despite the title, did not expound what Paul meant by "chosen in him". In desperation I turned to Hendrickson, who at least discusses what "chosen in him means", but virtually makes Christ the meritorious cause of our election, which isn't quite right. Charles Hodge is better in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, explaining the phrase in terms of Christ's federal headship, but, again he veers towards saying that God chose us in virtue of what Christ would do for us. This undermines Scripture's witness to election as God's purely gratuitous and loving choice of his people. 

In this instance, works of systematic theology provided a better guide as to the meaning of Paul's words than the Bible commentators. John Murray's treatment of Ephesians 1:4 in Redemption Accomplished and Applied stuck in my mind from reading him some years back (see this post). It wasn't too long ago that I'd studied Herman Bavinck on The Divine Counsel in The Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2 (see here). Also, Oliver Crisp gives valuable attention to this matter in his God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology (reviewed here). It only goes to show that simply relying on commentators in sermon prep can prove inadequate. Wider theological reading can really enrich our understanding of Scripture. But one commentator did not let me down. It was the Puritan Thomas Goodwin, who, in his day was regarded as the "Greatest Pulpit Exegete of St. Paul". Reading him was like entering another world where deep theological reflection go hand in hand with a sustained and detailed exegesis of the text. You'll find his work on Ephesians 1:4 in his Exposition of Ephesians: Chapter 1 to 2:10. In a series of posts I hope to try and sketch out something of Goodwin's insightful teaching on election in Christ. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones Edited by Andrew Atherstone & David Ceri Jones. Review Part 4

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

And so it's time to wrap up this series of posts on Engaging with Lloyd-Jones. The book is a timely reminder that the 'Doctor' was one of the key figures in 20th century Evangelicalism. In fact it is difficult to understand the recent history of Evangelicalism in the UK and beyond without factoring in the life and ministry of the Geneva gown-clad preacher.

This symposium reflects the fact Lloyd-Jones' life and teaching is racked by apparent contradictions. He helped to spearhead the recovery of Reformed doctrine and gave encouragement to the burgeoning Charismatic movement. He despised anti-intellectualism and emphasised the importance of theological study. But he was suspicious of the scholarly guilds and disliked scholasticism. He was a passionate advocate of Evangelical unity. Yet his 1966 address split UK Evangelicalism in two, with intergrationists the one side and separatists on the other.

It would be easy to focus attention on only one aspect of Lloyd-Jones' seemingly dialectical thought and paint him as a wilfully divisive crypto-Pentecostal with narrow minded fundamentalist leanings (see Robert Pope on Lloyd-Jones and fundamentalism). But that is to forget that Lloyd-Jones was a preacher-leader. Like any good preacher, he tailored his message to his audience. When preaching to Evangelicals who tended to have little time for biblical doctrine, he emphasised the value of theology and the need to think deeply about the things of God. When speaking to scholars he warned of the temptation of compromising the gospel for the sake of academic respectability. When ministering to Christians who were obsessed by spiritual experiences, he reminded them of the importance of the objective truths of Scripture and the need for discernment. When speaking to believers who were concerned about doctrinal correctness, but had little desire for experiential communion with God, he told them that true faith is more than mere intellectual assent. The truth must know and felt.

Remembering that Lloyd-Jones had an abiding concern to apply the Word as he judged most appropriate to his audience will help guard against a one sided reading of his teaching. He was not an academic theologian who's task in life was to produce a perfectly balanced and symmetrical system of doctrine. He was a preacher who shaped his messages to minister to the needs of the hour. As Calvin said, 'For it would be  a cold way of teaching, if the teachers do not carefully consider the needs of the times and what is appropriate for the people, for in this matter nothing is more unbalanced than absolute balance.' (Cited in Engaging with Calvin, Edited by Mark D. Thompson,  IVPA/Apollos, 2009, p, 17).

Lloyd-Jones was a different kind of Evangelical leader. His legacy is not a movement that bears his name and follows his dictates or a 'Lloyd-Jones Study Bible'. He has been criticised for not micro-managing the reorganisation of Evangelical churches which had separated from the mixed denominations in the wake of his 1966 call for Evangelicals to come together. But by temperament he was not an organiser and had little time for administration. He had no wish to be leader of a new movement that was overly dependent upon him as a person. His was a vision church-based Evangelical unity, rather than one where Evangelicals were encouraged to unite around personalities. This is perhaps one of the dangers of the "new Calvinism" associated with Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition in the States.

Nevertheless, it is true to say that some of Lloyd-Jones' followers became too reliant on the great man in a way that was unhealthy. Donald Macleod's concern over this factor is mentioned in the book, p. 23-25.  The citing of Lloyd-Jones' words as an end of all discussion at Ministers' fraternals and conferences is an indication of the tendency to treat him as the next best thing to an infallible oracle. A conference I attended in Wales some years ago even featured an address on, What Lloyd-Jones would have thought of Evangelicalism today! We must learn what we can from the 'Doctor', but we have been called to serve the Lord in the 21st century where we face fresh challenges that cannot be met by trying to second guess what he might have thought about things.

Engaging with Lloyd-Jones will help us with the task of  critically assessing the preacher's lasting legacy. The trouble with big figures like the 'Doctor' is that he seems like a man whose life and ministry is quite remote from the situations in which we find ourselves today. Not many of us preach to thousands Sunday by Sunday in an influential London Church. Few pastors could keep a congregation gripped and enthralled by a decade spanning series of sermons on Romans. It wouldn't do to try and ape the great man, but we do still have a lot to learn from him. One point is that Lloyd-Jones was a pastor-theologian. He regarded reading simply for the sake of sermon prep as sheer professionalism. He studied the great works of theology (Calvin, Owen, Edwards etc). He endeavoured to get to grips with the latest theological trends (see Robert Strivens on Lloyd-Jones and Karl Barth). How many of us are aspiring to become pastor-theologians whose faith and ministry is enriched by wide and deep theological reading?

However, for Lloyd-Jones preaching was not a theological lecture or even a Bible study but a God-encountering, life-changing event. He sought to preach the Word in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Many think of the 'Doctor' as the great expositor, famed for his commitment to systematically preaching through books of the Bible. He certainly did that. But it is important to remember that his published expositions of Romans and Ephesians do not represent the whole of his sermon output. His wife once commented that Lloyd-Jones was "first of all a man of prayer, and then an evangelist". Every Sunday evening at Westminster Chapel, the 'Doctor' would herald the gospel with a view to seeing sinners saved. How many Reformed pastors today preach evangelistically as a regular part of their ministry?

Perhaps the 'Doctor's' greatest legacy is that his teaching and ministry bear witness to the fact that true preaching is nothing less than "theology on fire". Can we be content with anything less? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones Edited by Andrew Atherstone & David Ceri Jones. Review Part 3

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

A second controversial feature of the Lloyd-Jones legacy is his call for Evangelical unity in 1966. Andrew Atherstone gives a fair account of the event and its aftermath in his chapter, Lloyd-Jones and the Anglican succession crisis. The 'Doctor' argued that Evangelicals should come together in a loose church-based affiliation rather than  remain in the theologically mixed denominations. Some understood Lloyd-Jones to be calling for Evangelicals to succeed from their denominations without delay and unite to form a new purely Evangelical super-denomination. John Stott was so alarmed at the prospect of Evangelical Anglicans leaving the Church of England en masse that he used/abused his role as chairman to declare that Scripture and church history were against Lloyd-Jones. For him Evangelicals were called to be a faithful remnant within the professing church, rather than separate themselves from the denominations.

At the heart of Lloyd-Jones' case was the argument that Evangelicals should put fellowship with Evangelicals first rather than allow themselves to be kept apart due to their various denominational attachments. He reasoned that placing involvement in the mixed denominations before church-based fellowship with Evangelicals was tantamount to schism. His address was given added urgency by his understanding that the Ecumenical Movement aimed at uniting the historic denominations under the banner of Rome. In that situation Evangelicals would find themselves as one wing of territorial church that was in submission to the pope. Far better, he urged that Evangelicals should stand together outside of the Ecumenical Movement, giving a united witness to the gospel.

A number of Evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists did leave their demoninations in response to Lloyd-Jones' call, but many did not. John Stott, Jim Packer and others wanted to see Evangelicals further integrated in the Church of England rather than septate from her. The drift of the Keele Conference in 1967 and Packer's involvement in writing  Growing into Union with Anglo Catholics only served to confirm this. Ironically, Lloyd-Jones call for Evangelical unity only helped to cement divisions between separatist Evangelicals and those who remained in the mixed denominations.

The reason why Lloyd-Jones spoke as he did in 1966 has been variously explained. Gaius Davies interprets his call for Evangelical unity in psychological terms. He charges Lloyd-Jones with control freakery.  He had a desire always to be right that verged on an infallibility complex. Davies explains that this psychological malady was the product of traumatic experiences in Lloyd-Jones' youth. If I were to don the mantle of amateur psychologist, I might wonder whether Gauis Davies' hatchet job might be the result of him being far too in thrall to the 'Doctor' in his earlier years. Now, somewhat like a difficult teenager, he feels compelled to give his spiritual father figure a hard time in an attempt to establish  his own identity. But far be it from me to suggest such a thing. Others posit that as a Welshman Lloyd-Jones had an inbuilt antipathy towards Anglicanism, making his call the product of nationalistic prejudices. Now, it's true that no one is free from psychological 'issues', not even the great 'Doctor'. National identity no doubt colours our thinking in a whole range of often imperceptible ways. But to try and explain away the burden of Lloyd-Jones' 1966 message in such terms is reductionistic in the extreme.

Carl Trueman, whose criticism of Lloyd-Jones is cited in the book (p. 19-20) charges the 'Doctor' with presenting a "completely incoherent vision" of the doctrine of the church in his 1966 address, "for one cannot call a group to an ecclesiastical action (separation) which leads to a non-ecclesiastical result (some broad, parachurch alliance)" - here. But this is not quite right. For many years Evangelicals in the UK were largely content to remain in the mixed denominations. They co-operated with fellow Evangelicals in parachurch organisations such as missionary societies and the Evangelical Alliance, but were united on a church level with Liberals, Anglo-Catholics, and other dodgy characters,  Lloyd-Jones challenged the status quo by arguing that mere parachurch fellowship between Evangelicals was not enough. Those who were united in the gospel should come together as churchesThat is why John Coffee is incorrect draw a parallel between the 'Doctor's' prescription for Evangelical unity and movements in the USA like Together for the Gospel or the Gospel Coalition (p. 323). Those groups are based on an alliance of Evangelical leaders (or even personalities) rather than churches. The British Evangelical Council (forerunner of Affinity) was founded to facilitate fellowship between individual local churches and church groupings, not merely to enable Evangelicals to engage in fellowship and mission on a personal level. Separation from the denominations is indeed an ecclesiastical act, but in Lloyd-Jones' vision, separation had an ecclesiastical goal,  "stand together as churches, constantly together, working together, doing everything together, bearing our witness together." (Knowing the Times, D. M. Lloyd-Jones, 1989, Banner of Truth Trust p. 256). This was also emphasised in his 1967 address, Martin Luther and his message for today
Come out of it! [Denominations signed up to the ecumenical movement and heading for Rome] But come together also, come into fellowship with all like-minded Christian people. Come into an association such as this British Evangelical Council, that stands for truth and against compromise, hesitation, neutrality and everything that but ministers to the success of the plans of Rome and the ecumenical movement. Come out; come in! (Unity in Truth, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1991, Evangelical Press, p. 43). 
The problem is that Evangelicals are not agreed on the issues of church government and paedo/credo baptism. That is why the formation of a new Evangelical super-denomination would have been impossible. Given the reality of the situation, a loose alliance of Evangelical churches and church groupings was the best that could have been hoped for. However, one difficulty with Lloyd-Jones' proposals is that he envisaged a pan-Evangelical grouping of churches that included both Calvinistic and Arminian fellowships. He was by his own admission and 18th century man. The trouble is that if the Evangelical Revival of the 18th century becomes the starting point for defining authentic Evangelical identity, then Wesley's Arminianism must be added to the mix alongside Whitefield's Calvinism. While Lloyd-Jones deprecated Wesley's Arminianism and was Calvinistic in his own convictions, he argued that the issues of Arminianism and Calvinism should not divide fellow Evangelicals. When played out at the level of a church-based alliance, his vision involved a  measure of doctrinal indefferentism on issues that are not indifferent to the clear presentation of the gospel. It would have been far better had Lloyd-Jones proposed an association of distinctly Reformed independent local churches and church groupings that was based on the historic Reformed confessions of faith, or their contemporary equivalent. That way differences over church government and baptism could have been accommodated, while enabling Evangelical and Reformed churches to retain a united witness to the truth in all its glory.

But where does Lloyd-Jones' address leave us today? There is currently a substantial sector of Evangelical and Reformed churches in the UK that do not belong to the mixed denominations. Many, but by no means all of these churches belong to Affinity. How should separated churches relate to Evangelicals who remain in the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Baptist Union, Presbyterian Church of Wales, etc? I sense that a new generation of Evangelical leaders in the Church of England, especially those associated with the Proclamation Trust do not ascribe to the intergrationist policy of Stott and Packer. They have little time for ecclesiastical politics and simply want to get on with the work of preaching the gospel at the level of the local parish church. Links are bring fostered with such Anglican Evangelicals and their Free Church colleagues through regional Gospel Partnerships. But Gospel Partnerships are alliances of Evangelical leaders, rather than church-based groupings. The Gospel Partnerships may do some good and separated Evangelicals should encourage and support friends who stand for the gospel in the mixed denominations. But the issue of separation is being fudged and Lloyd-Jones' strategic vision of Evangelical church-based unity has yet to be realised. 

Friday, January 06, 2012

Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones Edited by Andrew Atherstone & David Ceri Jones. Review Part 2

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

Time would fail me were I to try and interact in detail with every chapter in the book. So, rather than try and do that, I'm going to reflect on a few key issues connected with Lloyd-Jones' life and teaching. First of all, on the 'Doctor's' emphasis on preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this connection, Ben Bailie devotes attention to Lloyd-Jones and the demise of preaching and Ian M. Randall considers Lloyd-Jones and revival. Lloyd-Jones helped to bring systematic expository preaching back into Welsh and English pulpits. It would be unwise for preachers to try and ape the 'Doctor's' lengthy series of sermons on Romans and Ephesians. Few are possessed of his exceptional preaching gifts. But his style of preaching that was exegetically rigorous, doctrinally sound and powerfully applied was a necessary corrective to 'topical' sermons that pay scant attention to the biblical text. And by doctrinally sound, I mean Calvinistic. For while Lloyd-Jones did not preach on the so-called Five Points of Calvinism, his theology was decidedly Reformed in its bent.

But for the preacher, the delivery of doctrinally correct sermons was never enough. He was a Calvinistic Methodist. For him preaching was 'theology on fire'. He saw the danger that the return to Reformed doctrine that he helped to encourage in the UK could easily become a form of intellectualism that was devoid of life and power. That was why he gave renewed emphasis to revival and the work of the Spirit during the latter period of his ministry at Westminster Chapel. His sermons published under the titles Joy Unspeakable and Prove All Things should be seen in this light, as also his expositions of Romans 8:15-16 and Ephesians 1:13-14. These are the messages that caused some Charismatics to try and claim Lloyd-Jones as one of their own, much to the alarm of some in the Reformed camp - see the chapter on Lloyd-Jones and the charismatic controversy.

However, a close reading of Lloyd-Jones' teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit reveals that he was at pains to distance himself from the  'Second Blessing' type teaching on the baptism with the Holy Spirit associated with  old style Pentecostalism. His view that the baptism and sealing of the Spirit are a post-conversion experiences can be found in older Reformed writers. Lloyd-Jones' exegesis of Ephesians 1:13-14 follows the Puritan Thomas Goodwin's understanding of those verses almost word for word. This is not to  say that he was right to argue that one may be a believer and not be baptised/sealed with the Spirit, but that his teaching should be set in its proper theological context and not simply viewed through the prism of the Charismatic controversy. It might have been less problematic had Lloyd-Jones focussed attention on the filling of the Spirit. There is a strong biblical case that it is possible for believers to be repeatedly filled with the Spirit, granting them assurance of salvation and boldness in preaching, (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31).

It is worth noting that whatever encouragement Lloyd-Jones may have given to some of the early leaders of the Charismatic movement, that he did not throw in his lot with them. His approach to the continuation rather than cessation of the gifts of the Spirit was rather more cautious and discerning than would be found in Charismatic circles, where any old gibberish seems to pass for "speaking in tongues". I well remember witnessing a Pentecostal Youth Leader encouraging young people to "have a go" at speaking in tongues. Off they went, jabbering away, "speracka jaracka malacka falacka". That was it!  They "had the gift". Well, the  gift of  speaking unintelligible nonsense, maybe. But that kind of thing is a far cry from what I found in Lloyd-Jones' teaching on the sovereignty of the Spirit in bestowing extraordinary gifts as I read Prove All Things (see here). The 'Doctor' knew that was was needed to breath new life into the Evangelical Churches in the UK was not a fusing of Reformed doctrine and "Charismatic gifts", but the proclamation of the gospel in the empowering presence of the Spirit.

Speaking of which, given Lloyd-Jones' emphasis on the need for liberty and power in preaching, it is difficult to know what on earth to make of R. T. Kendall's sycophantic claim, documented on p. 138 of this book that, "virtually every word he spoke" at Westminster Chapel between 1977 and 1981 had been "vetted" by the 'Doctor'. Really? Then how come Lloyd-Jones had become so concerned about aspects of Kendall's ministry that he insisted that his successor should play no part in his memorial service?

Moving on, in the thinking of Lloyd-Jones',  the theme of preaching in the power of the Spirit  is closely related to that of revival. He insisted that a revival is a sovereign work of God, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit as seen in the pages of the Acts of the Apostles. A genuine work of the Spirit cannot be worked up by men. That is why he was at pains to make a clear distinction between the Evangelical Revival of the early to mid 18th century and the 19th century revivalism of Charles Finney and others. John Coffey takes exception to Lloyd-Jones' historical analysis in his chapter, Lloyd-Jones and the Protestant past. Following Harry Stout's account of George Whitefield as the 'divine dramatist', he argues that the Great Awakening can be explained in part by Whitefield's knack for self-advertisement and pulpit histrionics. However, while no revival is devoid of merely human factors, the likes of Whitefield, Jonathan Edward and Daniel Rowland firmly believed that true revivals are sent from heaven. Finney and those who followed in his wake taught that revivals can be organised by men when certain conditions are fulfilled. By the nineteenth century "revival" had come to mean "evangelistic campaign" rather than a great outpouring of the Spirit. The idea that in times of deep spiritual need, the people of God should cry to the Lord for a visitation from on high had been eclipsed by the era of big, flashy evangelistic crusades of the 20th century and the seeker sensitive Mega-Churches of the 21st. Evangelicalism would do well to return to older, God-dependent vision of revival championed by Lloyd-Jones.

The ministry and teaching of the 'Doctor' serve as a lasting reminder to the church of the importance of Word and Spirit in preaching, 1 Thessalonians 1:5. There is more to preaching than giving an exegetically accurate,  doctrinally sound, well structured and nicely illustrated talk. What we need above all of that is the "demonstration of the Spirit and power." The Spirit's empowering presence enables preachers to proclaim the Lord Jesus with boldness, liberty and life-transforming effectiveness. His presence makes preaching an event where the God of the gospel is encountered in all the fullness of his grace and power. Preachers and congregations can be content with nothing less. Lloyd-Jones drew Preaching and Preachers to a conclusion with this exhortation,
This 'unction', this 'anointing', is the supreme thing. Seek it until you have it; be content with nothing less. Go on until you can say, 'And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power.' He is still able to do 'exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.'" (Preaching and Preachers p. 325)

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.