Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

It has been inspiring to read again a biography of this great Welshman, great in mind and great in heart. What wonderful things the Lord did through him, a man wholly consecrated to his service.

I have been reading Iain Murray's new one volume biography. Some parts I have skimmed quite lightly but mostly I have read it thoroughly. Having experienced more years of ministry myself since I read the original two volumes (The First Forty Years and The Fight of Faith) I wonder all the more at the quality of the man's mind and character. I have also realised as I read it how much of his story is familiar and deep-rooted in my mind - basic principles of ministry I absorbed from reading his works many years ago, which have sunk deep - though hardly as fruitful as they should have been.

One section of the book I read ahead of time was the chapters dealing with the controversies of the fifties and sixties, particularly the issues over evangelical unity leading up to, and following, 1966. These need to be read in conjunction with ML-J's addresses of that time, some of which are printed in Knowing the Times. The subject has arisen again recently because of the booklet by Ruth Palgrave accusing Affinity of departing from the principles of the BEC and indeed from biblical principles of separation. Also helpful is Stephen Clark's reply on behalf of Affinity.

I have not time to deal with this in depth, but - what was ML-J saying? One point that Iain Murray and other apologists for Lloyd-Jones make is that he was determined to protect the gospel and that gospel purity not church unity was the big issue. However - when one reads Lloyd-Jones' actual addresses of that period, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he was really saying a lot about evangelical church unity. He talks repeatedly of the 'melting pot' of the present times, the tremendous opportunity facing the church and evangelicals in particular, as momentous as the Reformation. In 'Consider your ways', an address given in 1963, he made the point strongly about the importance of the church, about not beginning from the church as it was at the time but going back to the New Testament, and how we should recapture this notion of the true church and give ourselves to it 'at all costs'. All this was of course carefully balanced by his real concern for churches and pastors who might really face great difficulties if they came out of the denominations.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that he was hoping for some form of organisational evangelical unity but had not formulated any kind of structure for it. It certainly seems that purity of the gospel was not the only thing in his mind, even if it was the ultimate.

Now - implications of all that for issues like secondary separation, the inconsistencies with which the principle of separation was practised (as detailed by Stephen Clark in his paper) and whether this was really inconsistency or indeed the principle being faithfully practised, would take a while to discuss. What is clear is that Affinity is much more open to Anglicans joining, and whatever the BEC approach, one thing that is missing now is the insistence, derived from Lloyd-Jones, that even if people and churches were to stay in the mixed denominations, they should reject and repudiate in principle the errors of their denominations even if for practical reasons it was not possible to leave them. This insistence on repudiation of error in groups one is otherwise tied to seems to have been set aside.

Was it ever very workable? What really did it mean? How do you really differentiate in practice between the man who says ' I repudiate the errors but can't leave the denomination for now even though I want to' and the one who says 'I repudiate the errors but in fact I see no real harm in being part of the denomination and intend to stay in'? The lines can get very blurred.

More questions than answers. But I have greatly enjoyed the biography! Plenty to think about.

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