On Reformation 21 There has been a series of posts on the 25th anniversary of the death of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Carl Trueman has posted a criticism of MLJ’s legacy. One of the points he made is this:
MLJ’s break with Stott and Packer in 1966 was a monumental disaster for British evangelicalism. Those who glorify it as some kind of Waterloo fail to see the long-term damage it did. More like the Charge of the Light Brigade. Now, don’t get me wrong — I am not now, and never could be, a member of a mixed denomination like the Anglican Church; though I am no secondary separatist and happily fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters from such. But in 1966 the kind of `separatism with no doctrine of the church’ that emerged on the one side, and the woefully spineless accommodation to the Anglican mainstream on the other, proved hopelessly inadequate for maintaining solid evangelical witness in the ensuing decades. British conservative evangelicalism is only just recovering from the subsequent problems caused by the church equivalents of tiny banana republics created by certain of MLJ’s children, and the confusion caused by the weird alliances made by Anglican evangelicals in the 70s and early 80s. Had Jim Packer `come out’ in 1966, the main beneficiaries would have been British non-conformists, because MLJ and his closest allies would have found their power checked and, hopefully, redirected to a more constructive path. Instead, a tiny, self-referential culture of separatist evangelicalism was created which has done little more than beat a dignified (and sometimes not so dignified) retreat in the face of advancing modernity.
Though I have benefitted from his published sermons, like many others, I also have had reservations about MLJ’s ministry. For example, it seems surprising that such a strong preaching ministry was unable to establish a church at Westminster Chapel that could survive after his departure. The church seemed to collapse very quickly. However, Trueman’s comments take us in another direction – Lloyd-Jones’ ‘children’ creating “tiny banana republics” which have been disastrous for British evangelicalism. This resonates with me, but I don’t know why. I need to think a bit more. Would anyone else care to comment?
10 thoughts on “Tiny Banana Republics”
Trueman’s suggestion that DMLl-J fostered “separatism with no doctrine of the church” is a travesty of his position. In the 1966 address itself “the Dr” asked, ‘How often have evangelicals discussed the doctrine of the church?’ I suggest that people read the address itself, published in Knowing the Times (BoTT). See also his 1968 address ‘What is the Church’ at the BEC Conference. (Published in Unity in Truth EP). Trueman is of course a Presbyterian. Lloyd-Jones did not argue for a new connexional regrouping of evangelical churches, but he was deeply preoccupied with the doctrine of the church. Evangelicals had tended to express their unity via para-church organisations, while remaining separated from each other on a church level by remaining in their historic denominations. DMLl-J challenged this lack of inter-church unity in ’66 and thereafter. He wanted wholeheartedly Evangelical churches with diverse forms of church government to link up under an umbrella group like BEC, not to form a new Evangelical super-denomination. I suggest that Trueman’s charge that “the Dr’s” view amounted to ‘separatism with no doctrine of the church’ is a typical example of Presbyterian contempt for the Independent view of Church government.
As for separatist evangelicalism beating an undignified retreat in the face of modernity, is that really Trueman’s view of the FIEC, Evangelical Movement of Wales and other bodies associated with Affinity?
I am not arguing that all is rosy in the Independent Garden. The 1966 address was a dividing point for UK Evangelicalism. But DMLl-J was right to call Evangelicals to come out of the mixed denominations to foster church-based gospel unity.
Thanks for sticking your head above the parapet. Perhaps in his defence, Trueman is saying that, whatever Lloyd-Jones’ doctrine of the church, what emerged subsequently as a result of the split with Stott et al. was ‘separatism with no doctrine of the church’. This is not quite the same thing as you are saying. However, it would be interesting to see how Trueman would elaborate on what he means by this.
Pity the Reformation21 site does not take comments. It would have been interesting to see how the debate would develop!
I still have a sneaking suspicion that Trueman means ‘separatism with no Presbyterian doctrine of the church’. Certainly FIEC & Grace groupings, for example, are very church conscious. Even if this were not the case, church-less separatism is not rooted in the Dr’s teaching. To me ‘separatism with no doctrine of the church’ is an oxymoron anyway because separatism is all about Independent gospel churches separating from error to function as gatherings of visible saints.
You may well be right that Trueman’s presbyterianism is coming through, but there is limited value in speculating without his clarification.
That’s the problem. Trueman does not explain why he thinks that those who followed Lloyd-Jones in the aftermath of his 1966 address lapsed into “separatism with no doctrine of the church”. He does not tell us exactly what he means by that phrase, or give us any basis for his argument. Perhaps there is little value in American Presbyterians making sweeping statements about the UK Evangelical scene?
Its is a pity indeed that Reformation 21 does not allow comments. Then we could ask the professor to justify his assertions.
By the way, how do you know that: “Not an Admirer of All Things Welsh (though Carnarvon Castle is worth a visit if you get the chance)” is indeed Carl Trueman?
Guy (Not an admirer of all things American & Presbyterian)
I think it is in the nature of the blogging medium for statements to be unsatisfyingly incomplete!
Trueman is actually an Englishman. If you look his bio in the link above you will see that he was a lecturer in church history at various UK institutions until 2001. I don’t know if he specialises in 20th century Britain, but I think he merits a seat at the table in the discussion of the UK evangelical scene.
As regards his identity, he is identified as ‘Carl’ by a later contributor who himself uses a pseudonym. The only Carl allowed to post is Mr. Trueman. I guess ‘Cambrensis’ is Derek Thomas, one of your compatriots now ministering in a US presby church.
I stand corrected. So, he’s English. That explains everything!
Ah! Some common ground. I sympathise.
Let the Celts unite!
BTW Guy, I submitted a question to the contibutors through the ‘Contact Us’ link on Ref21 asking for a fuller justification of Trueman’s views. The subsequent message said that the reply will either be by email, or through the blog.
Watch that space!
I wait with bated breath for enlightenment from an English Presbyterian.
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