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"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Martyn Lloyd-Jones by John Brencher - a review

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)  and Twentieth Century Evangelicalism
Studies in Evangelical History and Thought
John Brencher
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."

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