Monday, October 21, 2013

Unexplored influences on Lloyd-Jones: The Vision of God

It is relatively straightforward to identify not only the theological influences that shaped the life and ministry of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, but also how and when he came into contact with them.

His church heritage was that of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist fathers of the 18th Century, an atmosphere that shaped his whole spirituality (the two volume work Tadau Methodistiaid, was, writes Iain Murray, constantly in his hands in his early years at Sandfields, Aberavon).

Then there is the specific life-long impact made when he found the two volume 1834 edition of Jonathan Edwards' works in a bookshop in Cardiff in 1929, through to his discovery in Toronto, in 1932, of the ten volumes of B. B. Warfield (although some seventeen years later he acknowledged that reading Warfield had left him unbalanced).

To this we can add his reading of an advertisement for a new edition of The Autobiography of Richard Baxter (in the 8th October 1925 edition of The British Weekly), which lead him to read F. J. Powicke's biography of Richard Baxter, and to a lifelong love of the Puritans.  As a wedding present in early January 1927 he was given second hand sets of the works of John Owen and Richard Baxter.

All of these influences are well known and well explored.  But the following anecdote from Iain Murray is, as far as I am unaware, unexplored.  In his own words Lloyd-Jones acknowledges the impact of Kenneth Kirk's The Vision of God.
Another major work which he read about this period [early 1930s] was The Vision of God by Kenneth E. Kirk, being the Bampton Lectures for 1928, delivered at Oxford where Kirk, nine years later, became Bishop. 
'These lectures,' he commented later, 'had a great effect on me.  Kirk dealt with the pursuit of God and the different methods by which men have sought God, but he did it historically and went right through -- the medieval mystics, the later mystics and so on. 
I found that book absolutely seminal.  It gave me a lot of background.  It made me think.  It helped me to understand the Scriptures and also see the dangers in such movements as monasticism and the anchorites. 
I regard The Vision of God as one of the greatest books which I ever read.'
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939, p. 254

It is not clear from the text exactly when Lloyd-Jones made the comments above.  Perhaps it was during the period from 1961 when Iain Murray was intermittently accumulating information, or as late as 1980.

I am not aware of any significant secondary impact made by this book, comparable to that of Lloyd-Jones' commendation of the works of Edwards, Owen, Warfield, or the Tadau Methodistiaid.  

Moreover, I am not aware of any conference address or article that has traced any of the impact of this work either in the sermons and addresses, or the published volumes by the Doctor.  But clearly it did made a significant impact upon his thinking, and it would be interesting to excavate the details of it.

And, as it happens, I came across The Vision of God at Cardiff University Library just two weeks ago.

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