Watching Giants Collide

26 06 2007

I love the preaching and written ministry of Dr D.M. Lloyd-Jones. Likewise with Dr John Piper. Both men epitomise a love and desire for God’s glory and majesty which is refreshing, infectious, and inspiring. Both men demonstrate a concern for fresh outpourings of God’s grace by the Holy Spirit on His people. Both men are ruthlessly exegetical and expository in their style of ministry – demonstrating a commitment to allowing God’s Word to speak for itself.

It comes as something of shock, then, when one finds the views of such men in collision. I am referring to an article which I have just listened to, and which can be read here, in which John Piper outlines a character sketch of the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and ultimately treats him with a fairly heavy hand. The title of the article is ‘A Passion for Christ-Exalting Power’ and Piper’s main concern is to outline Lloyd-Jones position on the work and gifts of the Holy Spirit. He finds much in the life of the late Welshman that is commendable, and seems to resonate with Lloyd-Jones’ position on pneumatology (which many of a Reformed persuasion struggle with), drawing quotes from some of the volumes not published by Banner of Truth, such as ‘Revival’ and ‘Joy Unspeakable’. Piper’s problem with Lloyd-Jones, however, is that he doesn’t seem to go far enough in his view of the gifts, and the energy which should be expended by the Christian in pursuing them. Ultimately he writes Lloyd-Jones off as something of a bookworm who couldn’t relate to people, and who wouldn’t risk his reputation to follow his convictions. Piper opens this character sketch by recommending Iain H. Murray’s two volume biography, but in referencing it seems to treat in a fairly derisory way.

My difficulty with Piper’s approach is not necessarily his advocacy of charismatic teaching (although I do struggle with his statements on this issue) but with his poorly nuanced view of Lloyd-Jones. No time is given to exploring the latter’s struggle against the onset of ecumenism or other issues threatening the evangelicalism of his day, and little is done to try to place Lloyd-Jones’ views within the broader context of Puritanism and church history. In essence Lloyd-Jones’ life is used as a springboard for teaching on pneumatology, and as far as he agrees with Piper’s position he is commended, where his views diverge he is condemned. This comes across as unfair, and not a little sloppy in terms of research – which is surprising given Piper’s normal brilliance in putting together biographical sketches. This lack of rigour is even demonstrated in simple things such as Piper’s repeatedly wrong assertion that Lloyd-Jones founded the Banner of Truth Trust (although it is doubtful that the Trust would have so flourished without the foundational influence and financial assistance he afforded to Murray and Cullum).

This doesn’t in any way affect my good opinion of John Piper – it just seems a shame to see such giants in collision. If anyone else has read/listened to this sketch, or has strong feelings about Lloyd-Jones’ take on the work of the Holy Spirit, I’d love to hear from you.




2 responses

3 07 2007
Gary Brady

Thanks for that interesting and incisive post Andrew.

3 07 2007
Andrew and Carolyn

Thanks Gary. I’ve been reading through ‘The Fight of Faith’ again in the wake of listening to Piper’s biographical sketch. I’m considering doing another post with some details from Murray’s volume set alongside comments made by Piper. There is a definite discrepancy between the man Piper describes, and the one Murray depicts.I’m also sorry we couldn’t meet last week, but look forward to fellowship when I’m next across, perhaps. We leave for S.America in autumn ’08, and so I may try to squeeze either the Banner or EMA next year!

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