Sunday, October 18, 2009

Evangelical Unity: An Appeal (extracts from the address given by Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the second National Assembly of Evangelicals, 18th Oct 1966)

This is a re-post from three years ago. Whether or not you agree with what Lloyd-Jones said, or with how John Stott responded, it is important at the very least to fairly represent the position that Lloyd-Jones was arguing for.

When we disagree with an argument it is all too easy to colour our representation of it with our own prejudices.

On the 18th October 1966 Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave an address on evangelical unity under the auspices of the Evangelical Alliance. The address was a plea for visible evangelical unity at the church level (instead of being exclusively through movements such as the IVF/UCCF). This call for putting gospel unity before denominational unity, and before the demands of a gathering ecumenism that fostered doctrinal indifference, was something of a watershed moment in British evangelicalism.


"How did they [19th Century evangelicals] meet these difficulties [catholicism and liberalism]? They met them by forming alliances, movements and societies."

"I am here to suggest that we find ourselves in a new situation, which has very largely been caused by the arising and arrival among us of what is known as the ecumenical movement."

"Can we deny the charge that we, as evangelical Christians, have been less interested in the question of church unity than anyone else?"

"Are we content, as evangelicals, to go on being nothing but an evangelical wing of a church?"

"Are you content with a kind of paper church, with a formula that people interpret in their own way, you being just an evangelical wing in this comprehensive, national, territorial church?"

"What is the Christian church? That is the question. You cannot discuss church unity unless you are clear in your mind as to what the church is. Now here is the great divide. The ecumenical people put fellowship before doctrine. We are evangelicals; we put doctrine before fellowship."

"What then is this true doctrine?...the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God; our assertion of the unique deity of the Lord Jesus Christ--yes, His virgin birth; the miraculous and supernatural; His atoning, sacrificial, substitutionary death; His literal, physical resurrection; the person of the Holy Spirit and His work. These are the doctrines which are essential to salvation; there is the truth that is to be preached, the message which is the first of the true marks of the church. And a church, surely, is a gathering of people who are in covenant together because they believe these things. Not only do they believe them, but they are men and women who have experienced their power. They are men and women who are born again and born of the Spirit, and who give evidence of this in their daily life. Surely that is the evangelical view of the church."

"So I say we must come back and realize that this is our basic view of the Christian church, and that what we need, above everything else at the present time, is a number of such churches, all in fellowship together, working together for the same ends and objects. They are one already in their views, in their faith, in their ideas, and they must not, as our general secretary so excellently put it, divide upon secondary, subsidiary, and non-essential matters."

"The church, surely, is not a paper definition. I am sorry, I cannot accept the view that the church consists of articles or of a confession of faith. A church does not consist of the Thirty-Nine Articles. A church does not consist of the Westminster Confession of Faith...A church consists of living people."

"You and I are evangelicals. We are agreed about these essentials of the faith, and yet we are divided from one another. We meet like this, I know, in an occasional conference, but we spend most of our time apart from one another, and joined to and united with people who deny and are opposed to these essential matters of salvation. We spend our time with them. We have visible unity with them. Now, I say, that is sinful."

"Let me therefore make an appeal to you evangelical people here present this evening. What reasons have we for not coming together? I think we ought to be able to give an answer to that question."

"Let me put it positively. Do we not feel the call to come together, not occasionally, but always? It is a grief to me that I spend so little of my time with some of my brethren. I want to spend the whole of my time with them. I am a believer in ecumenicity, evangelical ecumenicity. To me, the tragedy is that we are divided. Is it right that those of us who are agreed about these fundamental things should only meet occasionally and spend, as I say, most of our time when we are among others fighting negative battles, showing how wrong our own leaders are, and so on? Now you and I have been called to a positive task."

"There are great and grievous difficulties; I am well aware of them. I know that there are men, ministers and clergy, in this congregation at the moment, who, if they did what I am exhorting them to do, would have a tremendous problem before them, even a financial, an economic and a family problem. I do not want to minimize this. My heart goes out to such men. There are great problems confronting us if we act on these principles. But has the day come when we, as evangelicals, are afraid of problems?"

"And who knows but that the ecumenical movement may be something for which, in years to come, we shall thank God because it made us face our problems on the church level instead of on the level of movements, and really brought us together as a fellowship, or an association, of evangelical churches. May God speed the day."

23 comments:

Nicholas T. Batzig said...

Like so much of what Lloyd-Jones wrote and preached, this is well said. I like especially that he noted how the ecumenical movement puts fellowship before doctrine. Or as Luther said, "Doctrine is Life." Do we really believe that? Jesus said, "the words that I speak, they are spirit and they are life." Oh that we took doctrine more seriously. Thanks for holding up the torch of sound doctrine Martin.

Ben Stevenson said...

Thank you for posting this.

Ben Palmer, Melbourne said...

my thanks also for posting this; it is such an important address, and I don't think that it appears in full on the internet, which it really should. Many of us would argue that subsequent events have proven MLJ to be correct.

Augustinian Successor said...

"Or as Luther said, "Doctrine is Life." Do we really believe that? Jesus said, "the words that I speak, they are spirit and they are life." Oh that we took doctrine more seriously. Thanks for holding up the torch of sound doctrine Martin."

If only Lloyd-Jones would have heeded that in relation to the Pentecostals, Charismatics and Arminians/Erasmians ... By retrogression, if only Whitefield, etc. too ...

philbaiden said...

How did Stott respond? I know he made comments from the chair but I've never been entirely clear as to how it actually transpired.

Martin Downes said...

Thanks gentlemen,

John Stott's words at the close of the address, as reported by the press, were:

"I hope no one will make a precipitate decision after this moving address. We are here to debate this subject and I believe that history is against Dr. Jones in that others have tried to do this very thing. I believe that Scripture is against him in that the remnant was within the Church and not outside it."

He later called on DML-J and apologized, not for what he said, but for "misusing the chair...he told me that he scarcely restrained himself from answering me and developing the debate" (from an unpublished appreciation written for The Times after DML-Js death).

philbaiden said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

And a church, surely, is a gathering of people who are in covenant together because they believe these things. Not only do they believe them, but they are men and women who have experienced their power. They are men and women who are born again and born of the Spirit, and who give evidence of this in their daily life. Surely that is the evangelical view of the church."
This is the crux of the problem: Lloyd-Jones was articulating a baptistic view of the church, one influenced by the 18th century revivals. The Anglican and Reformed doctrine of the church rejects the claim that the visible church is composed of the regenerate, and also that it is restricted to believers. The Westminster Confession describes the visible church as consisting of all who profess the true religion and their children.
MLJ was putting his finger on a fault line, with results that are still with us.

Ben Stevenson said...

Anonymous,
Although I am a baptist in my view of the church, I think the Westminster Confession. In this context, the problem with the Anglican church is not that it includes children, but that it includes adults like Bishop Jack Spong who give no credible confession of faith. How can an Evangelical Anglican be in the same denomination as him, but not an evangelical baptist - which does he have more in common with?

Ben Stevenson said...

I didn't finish the first sentence in my above post - it should say:

Although I am a baptist in my view of the church, I think the Westminster Confession is completely consistent with what Martyn Lloyd Jones is saying.

"The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion..."

Augustinian Successor said...

"In this context, the problem with the Anglican church is not that it includes children, but that it includes adults like Bishop Jack Spong who give no credible confession of faith. How can an Evangelical Anglican be in the same denomination as him, but not an evangelical baptist - which does he have more in common with?"

I don't speak on behalf of evangelical Anglicans. I am an Anglican and I'm an evangelical as in =.

However, the reason why people like Spong can remain in the Episcopal Church is simply because institutional or established Anglicanism have simply jettisoned the 39 Articles.

Anonymous said...

Augustinian successor (a great title)
Bishop Spong wasn't in the Church of England: Lloyd Jones was addressing the situation in England and Wales.
MLJ was not consistent with the WCF: your citation was consistent but you left off "and their children". Moreover a regenerate church membership is quite different from"all that profess the true religion". Revivalist ecclesiology requires people to give an account of their spiritual experience: Reformed ecclesiology does not. Baptists and independents are not Reformed, since Reformed theology entails a view of covenant, the whole of life, that goes considerably further than the conversionist ideas of revivalists like MLJ.
I appreciate your point about Spong, although he was on the other side of the Atlantic. The CoFE has not been true to its Reformation roots which were Augustinian and Calvinist.

Ben Stevenson said...

Anonymous,

I gave Bishop Spong as a modern example. I could give an example from the 1960s, the time of the Lloyd-Jones speech, for example, John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich.

I really cannot see the significance of the phrase "and their children" (from the WCF, because surely no evangelical paedobaptist is going to argue that it is okay to have heretical bishops as leaders of the church, on the basis that they were children of believers. Whether children are included in the church or not is not relevant to whether it is acceptable for heretics to be leaders of the church, and for evangelical churches to have closer formal ties with those heretics than with evangelicals in other denominations.

The Westminster Confession of Faith article on the Lord's Supper recognises that "ignorant and ungodly persons" will receive the Lord's supper, but insists that it should not be allowed to take the sacrament, and that it is a "great sin against Christ" for them to "be admitted thereunto". How is this different to the baptist view of regenerate church membership. Baptists do not profess to have perfect regenerate church membership, although that is the aim. But this is aim of evangelical presbyterians following the WCF.
This issue is not about baptists versus Anglicans and presbyterians. It is about whether we have Christian unity with heretics and those who make no profession of faith or not.

Anonymous said...

The point is that the division was created by Lloyd-Jones' imposition of a doctrine of the church alien to Reformed Christianity. the issue is not whether there are heretics in the Chruch of England but whether the church is composed of believers and their children on the one hand, or the regenerate on the other. The spin-offs of these positions are radically different. Lloyd-Jones' view of the church, such as it was, was incompatible with classic Reformed Christianity. I refer you to Scott Clark's recent book, Recovering the Reformed Confessions; and ALlister McGrath's biography of Packer (this is not to defend Packer but to highlight the points McGrath makes about Lloyd-Jones and the church in that book). The aim of Presbyterians is not a regenerate church membership; it is recognized that this is an impossiblity in theory and a mistake in practice.
The clash in 1966, I submit, while taking the form on the surface of a disagreement on how to handle heretical doctrine in denominations, betrayed at root fundamentally different views on the nature of the church.

Ben Stevenson said...

Anonymous,

"the issue is not whether there are heretics in the Chruch of England but whether the church is composed of believers and their children on the one hand, or the regenerate on the other."

This plainly contradicts what Martin Lloyd-Jones said:

"We meet like this, I know, in an occasional conference, but we spend most of our time apart from one another, and joined to and united with people who deny and are opposed to these essential matters of salvation. We spend our time with them. We have visible unity with them. Now, I say, that is sinful."

How can you say the issue is not heretics in the church of England (and other theologically mixed denominations - including the Baptist Union of Great Britain), when Lloyd-Jones is calling it sinful to be "joined to and united with people who deny and are opposed to these essential matters of salvation"?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says nothing of including children who have not yet personally professed faith. Yet he clearly condemns fellowship with adults who do not profess faith.

Is Iain Murray a baptist? Is R.C. Sproul a baptist? This is not a baptist vs paedobaptist issue.

Martin Downes said...

Thanks Ben,

I wanted to write something like that but my eyes are starting to close...

Augustinian Successor said...

"Bishop Spong wasn't in the Church of England: Lloyd Jones was addressing the situation in England and Wales."

So it doesn't sink into your head that it might well apply to the Episcopal Church too???

Augustinian Successor said...

"MLJ was not consistent with the WCF: your citation was consistent but you left off "and their children"."

My citation? You must be referring to Ben, aren't you?

Augustinian Successor said...

Anon,

I don't subscribe to the Covenant. Listen, by the grace of God alone, I'm Reformed *but* I'm also Lutheran and am a member of the Church of England (Continuing). And one more point, historically the Church of England was NEVER Calvinist; it was Reformed, but not specifically Calvinist as in Dortian Calvinism. This is a fact, even though I'm a Five-Points Calvinist (I don't know about you, though).

Augustinian Successor said...

Anon,

The root of the matter is not ecclesiology. It is that, but there's something which goes far deeper than ecclesiology and that is:

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE.

Sure Lloyd-Jones subscribed to justification by faith alone, but that has no bearing on the rest of theology, including ecclesiology.

Justification ought to be the basis and boundary of theology simply because theology is about discernment - discerning Law and Gospel.

Justification by faith alone is sola fide and sola Scriptura.

So, it's rather awkward of Lloyd-Jones to criticise evangelicals in the Church of England when he was very open to the Pentecostals, Charismatics and Arminians, due no doubt and no less to his revivalist theology.

Christian said...

ML-J's appeal had nothing to do with ecclesiology. It had to do with ecumenism with non-evangelicals i.e. Rome and liberals.

Nate Jenkins said...

Does anyone know where this address is available in it's entirety?

Hugh McCann said...

As we rapidly approach the 50th anniversary of this event, I wonder if John Stott's address which MLJ was answering available online. Anyone know? Have all the addresses been saved somewhere?

I found this interesting, pro-Anglican piece from 10 years ago: http://archive.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/cman_120_3_grills.pdf

Thanks,
Hugh