Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The life and legacy of ‘the Doctor’
Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones (Eds), Apollos, £16.99
This is a symposium of essays giving a fascinating new perspective on the life, thought and influence of the man whom Dr Jim Packer, in the foreword, calls ‘the greatest I have ever known’. It is well researched, well written, judicious, occasionally judicial, and the picture that emerges is of a visionary man of God who thought clearly, read widely, preached powerfully and felt deeply, in fact a Boanerges and a Barnabas rolled into one. It is dedicated to ‘future generations yet to discover “the Doctor”’, with a chronological bibliography of his writings to help the quest.
There is an opening introduction by the editors, Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones, evaluating published biographical studies which, they suggest, range from the fulsome to the critical.
David Bebbington describes Dr Lloyd-Jones’ post war espousal of a Calvinistic theology which had surfaced between the wars.
David Ceri Jones assesses his influence in Wales, largely appreciatively, with a survey of the present Welsh evangelical scene.
Ian Randall argues that Dr Lloyd-Jones’ concern for revival lay at the very heart of his ministry, whilst the editors along with William Kay trace his contacts with Pentecostal and early Charismatic leaders and the later attempts by reformed and non-reformed Charismatics to enlist his support for their cause, often without his approval.
There is a chapter by Ben Baillie on the damaging effect of Victorianism on preaching, and Philip Eveson contributes a helpful chapter on the Doctor’s views on ministerial education.
Robert Pope points out that he preferred to call himself a conservative evangelical rather than a fundamentalist and Robert Strivens describes the way he engaged with but criticised the theology of Karl Barth.
In a chapter that documents his anti-Catholicism John Maiden distinguishes the Doctor’s respect and love for Roman Catholic people from his distaste for the Roman Catholic system.
The chapter by Andrew Atherstone, ‘Lloyd-Jones and the Anglican Secession Crisis’ seeks to put the record straight by pointing out that after 1966 a minority of evangelical Anglicans not only agreed with Dr Lloyd-Jones’ call for evangelicals to unite against doctrinal error and ecumenical confusion but also left the Church of England.
The final chapter by John Coffey pays warm tribute to Dr Lloyd-Jones’ emphasis on the importance of history and to his promotion of Puritan writings, but suggests that his historical perspective was too selective.
It is a testimony to the depth and breadth of the Doctor’s influence that thirty-one years after his death a younger generation of scholars and ministers of Anglican and non-Anglican persuasion has produced such a study. Dr Jim Packer identifies three particular areas of continuing influence: faithful preaching, revival, and faithful churches.
His preaching ministry continues to have a world-wide impact in many languages, although it is impossible in print or audio reproduction to experience the power and unction that frequently attended that preaching.
His conviction that only the power of God in revival can turn back the forces of pluralism and secularism and change the ethos of contemporary society has never been more needed. This conviction was not evidence of an ‘obsessive temperament’ but a passion for the glory of God and the salvation of men and women.
His call for evangelicals to come together in an alliance of gospel churches was not because he was a psychological separatist retreating into a bunker but because he believed that gospel unity is more important than denominationalism and that schism among true believers is a sin. History might well prove him to have been right in this.
The most moving part of the book for me was the foreword by Dr Packer. Despite the grievous parting of the ways in the 1960s he is able to say;
‘we are all together in regarding Dr Lloyd-Jones as, warts and all, one of the greatest Christian men of the twentieth century, a man whom God used powerfully to recall British evangelicals, both individually and corporately, to their true roots in the Bible, in the gospel and in theology – in other words, in Christ.’
That is the spirit of true godliness, and for Dr Lloyd-Jones, if there was one thing more important than revival, it was godliness.
Andrew Davies, a retired minister, teaches on the EMW’s Theological Training Course.