RPM, Volume 15, Number 16, April 14 to April 20, 2013

Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?

Part 2 of 10

By Mark Dever

At the J. I. Packer conference held at Beeson Divinity School last autumn, Jim Packer was asked who the heroes on his mantle were. He mentioned six. One of them was Spurgeon. Another of them was D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Now this may seem strange considering the public division that came between Anglican evangelicals (like Jim Packer) and "the Doctor" (Lloyd-Jones) in the mid-1960's. In short, an address Lloyd-Jones gave was taken as a public call for evangelical Anglicans to come out of the Church of England. This ended many joint projects in the 1960's between brethren who had, in previous decades, labored together. What's more, Packer and Lloyd-Jones had been especially close. Jim Packer had been an undergraduate with the Lloyd-Jones' eldest daughter, Elizabeth (now Catherwood). She had introduced Jim Packer to her father, and the Doctor had been a huge encouragement to Packer theologically and spiritually. Furthermore, several years later, when Packer was living in London, he would go to hear Lloyd-Jones preach in the evenings as his own schedule allowed it. Their ties were deep, thus the division was painful.

Still, 40 years later, when Jim Packer is asked the question "who is the greatest man you've known" I have, on several occasions, heard him reply without hesitation "Martyn Lloyd-Jones."

Lloyd-Jones is less well-known in American evangelicalism than in Britain. Though he made several trips to the US & Canada, Lloyd-Jones had an active preaching ministry in Britain for over 50 years, and most of it in the center of the nation--London. His preaching shaped countless thousands of Christians in the mid-20th century. His books--from Spiritual Depression to Studies in the Sermon on the Mount to Preaching and Preachers--are classics for Christian devotion and especially loved by ministers. His books, by numerous publishers, remain in print today, more than a quarter of a century after his death.

Lloyd-Jones was never partisan and narrow in his preaching. He rarely mentioned what we call "theological labels", and yet his preaching was in no way shallow, dodging difficult theological issues. Lloyd-Jones was perhaps the leading advocate of and practitioner of expositional preaching in the mid-20th century English-speaking world. And God gifted him to powerfully bring the listener into the very presence of God as he preached.

Much of his preaching--like Spurgeon's--lives on in print. Go to Amazon and you'll find hundreds of titles by or about him. From his masterful series of sermons through Ephesians and Romans to little occasional pieces like "Will the Hospital Replace the Church?", Lloyd-Jones was used of God to greatly enrich the minister's library, and his heart. Like Spurgeon before him, the riches of previous ages are brought down to the reader today. J. C. Ryle and George Whitfield, John Owen and Richard Sibbes, Calvin and Luther--all are quoted, stories from their lives recounted in Lloyd-Jones' sermons and writings.

He was also a man of tremendous stature. He was the one man in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s British evangelicalism that you had to deal with. His fingerprints were all over the broader evangelical movement--from Tyndale House in Cambridge to the Inter-Varsity Fellowship to its international expression, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, to the Christian Medical Society, to the Evangelical Library. On and on we could go.

Even if many of those who were born in the 1970s and 1980s haven't heard of Lloyd-Jones, chances are their ministers have, and have been influenced by him. Both John Piper and Tim Keller have borne eloquent testimony to "the Doctor's" influence on their own preaching. No other figure in the middle of the 20th century stood against the impoverished gospel evangelicals were preaching, and did it so insightfully, so biblically, so freshly, so regularly, so charitably--all without invoking a kind of narrow partisanship that wrongly divided the churches.

I never had the privilege of hearing Lloyd-Jones preach "live." But if you did, or if you ever heard him recorded (which I have many times), read this section of one of his expositions from Romans 1, and see if you can't "hear" him: "Let us look at the first part of that statement: 'they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. . . .' What does that mean? The Revised Standard Version reads: 'They did not see fit to acknowledge God,' but even that is much too weak. What it really means is, 'They did not approve of God,' because the word that the Apostle uses is the word that is used for testing. It is the word that was employed for testing metals—gold and so on. A lump of metal would be shown to the expert with the query, Is this gold or is it not? They tried it by various tests on it. That is the word that is used. You apply tests—and what the Apostle is saying here is that mankind, having considered God, having examined Him, having 'tested' Him, decided to reject Him! Like the scientist who, given this lump, says, 'No, this is not pure gold, this is an alloy; throw it away!' Now that is the attitude of mankind towards God. They consider God. They are the judges, you see, and God is a subject for examination! 'Ah, yes,' they say, 'very interesting; now let us see about this God! You say you believe in Him . . .' and so on. They are going to get Him, and having done so, and in spite of this full knowledge which He has given in the ways that we have seen, they decide that they are not interested; it is not worth while to bother any longer about God! The Apostle Paul wrote this, remember, nineteen hundred years ago, but you see what a perfect description it is of mankind today. How interesting to have a discussion about religion and to talk about God! Should God do this or should He not do that, and what I think about God! They examine God and reject Him. 'They did not like to retain God in their knowledge.' What an appalling statement! What a terrible condition! That is the state of mankind; they did not think it worthwhile to retain God in their knowledge; they deliberately put Him on one side. And man in sin is doing this still." (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans 1, p. 383).

Where'd all these Calvinists come from? Quietly, all over the world young Christians, young ministers have had their spiritual tummies rumbling after they've been reading many of the spiritual bestsellers, books that are full of jokes and life tips, whose height of profundity have been something like "Lighten up and Live!" And someone has turned them on to Lloyd-Jones. And, by God's grace, they have learned about the grace of God, and the God of that grace.

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