Engaging with the Doctor

Just last week I bought a copy of Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a new collection of essays edited by Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones, published last year by Apollos (an imprint of the Inter-Varsity Press.) I bought it because it seems to have found its way into almost none of the university libraries in the UK: the redoubtable COPAC  suggests that only two libraries have it, not including the British Library. This is a shame, because Atherstone and Ceri Jones have assembled a fine team of scholars and the book deserves to be read by anyone interested in modern British evangelicalism.

What follows is no review; my knowledge of Lloyd-Jones is quite insufficient for that. However, there are interesting points of contact with my own interest in Anglican evangelicalism since 1945. One such is John Maiden’s essay on Lloyd-Jones’ anti-Catholicism. (In the interests of full disclosure: John and I have recently collaborated on an article on political Protestantism in the same period.) I was grateful to learn that, whilst the Doctor’s anti-Catholicism was constant in principle, it only came to the fore of his public presentation as a result of the ecumenical movement. Many Anglican evangelicals were worried in the late 50s and early 60s that the Church of England was on a slippery slope towards Rome. John shows that at least as significant was the movement of Rome towards the Protestant churches as a result of Vatican II, and of some evangelicals towards the middle ground to meet it. Lloyd-Jones saw what evangelicalism-without-anti-Catholicism looked like, and didn’t like it at all.
Closely related to John’s piece is that by Andrew Atherstone on Lloyd-Jones and what Andrew rightly calls the ‘Anglican secession crisis’. The article is now the best account we have of the now legendary disagreement between John Stott and Lloyd-Jones in 1966, and provides crucial context for the equally over-emphasised Keele Congress of 1967. It wisely avoids the temptation to apportion blame, simply laying out the arguments and allowing the reader to decide (as indeed one has). More broadly, we need more of this type of cross-denominational analysis, which shakes us out of analytical categories fundamentally determined by institutions.
I was also struck by the historiographical introduction by Atherstone and David Ceri Jones on Lloyd-Jones and his several biographers, and by how hotly contested the Doctor’s legacy is. I should have appreciated hearing more of why it is that the Doctor should have attracted so many defenders, determined to establish that his feet were anything but clay. Why it is that evangelical biography is so often hedged in on all sides by the need to produce an edifying account of an exemplary life ? Hagiography is too strong a word even for Iain Murray’s Life; but neither is it detached scholarly biography, and unapologetically so.

[David provides some useful links to reviews of the book on his blog, with some comment on hagiography and its perils.]

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