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."