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)


Ben said...

A very helpful summary: thank you.

Vetted virtually every word of RT, did he? Implausible. I do, though, have a distinct memory from 1976 when I heard Kendal enunciate his thesis that Puritanism was not Calvinistic but Bezan. As a young man I was ready to be impressed by Kendal's apparently profound knowledge of historical theology (and I assumed everything I was hearing was entirely original, being quite unaware of the degree of recycling that was going on). At the end of the lecture Dr Lloyd Jones rose to tell us that shocking as we might find the revelations that had been made before us, he the Doctor wanted us to know that he endorsed the whole thing.

I have long felt that such authoritative approval as this paved the way for significant changes which were to take place at Westminster Chapel.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for some helpful articles on Lloyd Jones and his theology.
I find his teaching on revival which you have summarised very well here utterly compelling. I fear that this doctrine is being lost once more at the present time and that it urgently needs re-presenting to the church of our day. As you rightly imply, nothing can replace this.