Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) and Twentieth Century Evangelicalism
Studies in Evangelical History and Thought
Paternoster: Milton Keynes, 2002
Pbk. xiv + 266pp
Lloyd-Jones (DMLJ) has been credited with the revival of interest in Calvinistic theology in the UK during the twentieth-century. He has also been described as one of the greatest British preachers of the twentieth century. A number of biographies and studies of Lloyd-Jones have been published, notably those by Lloyd-Jones’s one-time assistant Iain Murray. This book by Brencher, a former President of the FIEC, began life as a PhD dissertation. In it he seeks to examine the significance of LLoyd-Jones in post- Second World War British evangelicalism. Brencher shows that DMLJ was a major force in evangelicalism and maintains that preaching was “Lloyd-Jones’s greatest contribution to twentieth-century evangelicalism”.
Brencher begins with a biographical chapter but then takes a thematic approach. He looks at his preaching, his leadership of Westminster Chapel, ecclesiology - or rather lack of it - and his approach to ecumenicalism. Brencher writes with respect for Lloyd-Jones but is not afraid to highlight weaknesses of the doctor’s position.
Westminster Chapel was a great preaching centre, but it fells short of being a local church. Little emphasis was placed on baptism or the breaking of bread. It was very much a one man ministry: “it was an autocracy or at best a ‘begging dictatorship’” (78). Lloyd-Jones was sceptical about denominations. He was involved in the ecumenical scene but his approach was one of separation not inclusion. He had a particular distrust of Anglicanism and couldn’t understand why evangelicals such as John Stott and Jim Packer were committed to it. This was particularly apparent post-1966 after DMLJ’s call for evangelicals to come out of mixed denominations. His anti-Anglicanism Brencher suggests comes from DMLJ’s Welsh view of the English.
Brencher provides us with a view of DMLJ that reveals him be be a flawed human being, but one who nevertheless God, in his grace and mercy, was able to use. As such it provides a helpful antidote to the other many hagiographic writing. Brencher concludes: DMLJ “was, without question, one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century."