Vol 1: The First Forty Years 1899-1939, Vol 2: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981
My purpose is to encourage pastors and persons concerned with the well-being of the church to read the 1200 or so pages involved in Iain Murray’s work on Lloyd-Jones. There are three reasons:
1 Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ practice of Christianity was in many ways exemplary. I do not think that the 20th century offers us too many examples of this, and in this work Murray has offered a very detailed view. I appreciate Murray’s effort, especially in these volumes. It is difficult for anybody to write so much, especially in an orderly, understandable and pleasing way. It should not go unmentioned. I am critical of Murray’s writing in general because his skills as a historian leave something to be desired. It would be a better work if Murray were more of a humanist, more interested in persons, in culture, in more of the areas that fill out the scope of human affairs. It would have helped in this work as well, but in a way Murray’s more limited concerns while not reflecting the complete range of Lloyd-Jones’ personality, at least reflect the concerns that were uppermost with Lloyd-Jones. In all fairness to Murray, he is complying with the wishes of Lloyd-Jones, but in my opinion a biographer must be held to the standards for good biography more than to the wishes of his subject.
The strength of Murray is to focus on pastoral concerns, and Lloyd-Jones was an example of a pastor. (Murray also offers some criticism of Lloyd-Jones’ pastorate at the end, which makes the work even more valuable.) I have not found, in my limited experience, our modern landscape littered with examples of great pastors. I have found, unfortunately, many speaking what amount to gross exaggerations about the pastors they for one reason or another are in contact with regularly. I think we need better examples and more sober speech when it comes to evaluating the spiritual leadership of our churches. In this respect, Lloyd-Jones’ example was good and Murray’s biography is too.
2 Martyn Lloyd-Jones had a high view of preaching, and in our day, an unusual one. Lloyd-Jones had what amounted to a sacramental view of preaching. His idea was so high that even though he felt he did not attain it, and he probably did not, it is a better ideal, judged by its results, than that which is practiced by most preachers I have heard. Lloyd-Jones’ idea was that preaching aimed to convey to the people the sense that God was in their midst. Not by means of rhetorical eloquence, however, for Lloyd-Jones knew he was eloquent and Murray is convinced he feared it.
It is a weakness of this review that I have never read anything that Lloyd-Jones wrote, especially his book on preaching. However, these are the three points that I gleaned from the biography which were important in the preaching of Lloyd-Jones:
1) Accuracy – God loves the truth: the preacher must preach the text of Scripture.
2) Seriousness, or earnestness – the matter must be handled as the oracles of God, with the dignity and reverence such things demand, with a sense of awe.
3) A Prophetic element – there has to be an unction of the Holy Ghost. In other words, if there is no supernatural transaction taking place, if the Spirit of God does not sound his voice in the hearts of the listeners, the time has been wasted. What is the preacher’s responsibility in this? This comes by much prayer, by piety of life. In this regard, Lloyd-Jones held a controversial belief in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Rejecting the second-blessing theologies of Pentecostals and especially Charismatics, he believed nevertheless in revival and in special outpourings of the Holy Ghost. In the case of the latter—of which the former was a subset—he believed individual believers could and ought to enjoy these, but that not all did. He looked at the situation in which he lived and diagnosed its malady as the lack of a supernatural element, especially when it came to preaching but also with regard to individual believers. Whether or not you agree with the details (and before you pass judgment, you would be wise to consider what Iain Murray says regarding Lloyd-Jones’ beliefs in this area, because Murray presents a sympathetic treatment of this controversy), it seems to me that Lloyd-Jones had something very right in his diagnosis: there is a supernatural element missing in today’s preaching, today’s church, today’s believers.
3 Martyn Lloyd-Jones was involved in the principled rejection and disapproval of some of the things fundamentalists have rejected and disapproved, but he provides for us a better example. We need these examples of doctrinal and practical fidelity to Scripture: examples based on principle and not on a crony culture. At least for some of us, what Murray provides in his view of Lloyd-Jones is more to be trusted than other examples which have been held up to our view. And when it comes to making an appeal to a broader spectrum of Christianity, the example of Lloyd-Jones can carry better credibility.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones is not shown to us without flaws, though the biography is sympathetic. That is the virtue of Murray’s work: a completely sympathetic view, thorough, researched and detailed. The weaknesses are that Murray is not a master of historiography and that perhaps a broader humanism would have given us a better picture of the person. It will also count against this biography, if and when more are forthcoming, that Murray is so much in sympathy with his subject. A better detachment will be required before a thorough evaluation of Lloyd-Jones is possible; but I doubt a thorough evaluation, the size of the tomes notwithstanding, was in Murray’s view.
Especially to those of my background let me say that whether you have departed fundamentalism, are departing or are considering what will happen once it disintegrates all away, I recommend that you read this biography for encouragement, at least; it is hard to avoid becoming cynical, and this helps. I think it will help you evaluate how to proceed and may help you to form your judgment.
I urge you to get it and read it if you are a pastor because Murray writes to stir up pastors to a greater work, and he witnessed first-hand an exemplar pastor. You will learn from the wisdom that Lloyd-Jones displayed; you will be encouraged by some of his early faults and stirred up by his earnestness; and even if you do not accept the idea that supernaturalism is badly believed in the modern church, you will see what a thorough commitment to the thoroughgoing supernaturalism of early Christianity might look like. In Lloyd-Jones you don’t have the range of sympathy that A. W. Tozer had for mysticism and ancient spiritual writings, but this may help make the case for supernaturalism in Christianity for many Calvinists and others who are timid of a commitment to supernaturalism in all of its rigors (by which I do not mean continuationism, though once I thought so) and tend toward Modern notions of objectivity for security.