Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Revisiting British Neo-Evangelicalism: The split of Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones with Dr. J.I. Packer

Over at the Heidelblog, Dr. R. Scott Clark has posted an interesting post regarding J.I. Packer and his compromise in the ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together). It is agreed that Dr. Packer's compromise did not "just happen". The spirit of compromise started with Packer's involvement in the British New Evangelical movement (partly due to his Anglican via media convictions) as stated by Martin Downes and Carl Trueman (via video), resulting in a break with "Old" Evangelicalism in the split with Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones in 1970.

In 1959, Packer gave an address that later become the book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. In this post by Downes, we can see that there was already some form of a "young, restless, reformed" generation back then. Yet, it was not long before Packer's compromise led to the tapering off of that movement. Lloyd-Jones died without a true successor, and the entire Reformed (English non-conformist) movement in the UK, while still present, is left leader-less, as Trueman states.

This has implications for the modern New Calvinist movement. History has shown over and over that compromise ultimately destroys a movement, even if the initial results seem multiplied many-fold. Yet, few it seems want to learn from history. The biggest growth of the Church comes in times of contention and strict denunciation of errors, as seen in the early Church and the Reformation era. Compromise (and worldliness, which is a form of compromise) severely harms the Church. In the Second Great Awakening, the toleration of the Pelagian heretic Charles G. Finney resulted in whole sections of New England being referred to as the "burnt over district" (cf Iain H. Murray's book Revival and Revivalism) as many professing Christians from Finney's "revivals" apostatized. New Evangelicalism as an experiment is not yet over, but the results can be already seen in the multitudes of churches jettisoning the Gospel in all manner of ways (for example the Emergent Church Movement), and the toleration of heresies enabling them to leaven the churches and destroy souls.

With the toleration of the Federal Vision heresy by no less than Dr. John Piper in the recent Desiring God conference 2009, the need of the hour is for the proper exercise of biblical separation (not separationism) and the rejection of the New Evangelical paradigm, in order for this Calvinist resurgence to continue strong. Otherwise, history will repeat itself again, with different people involved. (Try substituting the name of J.I. Packer with John Piper), and that will be a sad thing indeed.

Add: Martin has posted extracts from Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones' address on evangelical unity here. Notice that Lloyd-Jones linked Evangelical Unity with the necessity of separating from false churches and thus the doctrine of separation, unlike the New Calvinists.

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.

[Bold added]

Let's see if the Gospel Coalition would embrace the same form of Evangelical Unity that Lloyd-Jones advocated, or the type of ecumenical unity that Packer and [John] Stott advocated.


Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

I have studied this issue and may just write about it on my blog.

Thanks Daniel for posting this brother...Mark

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Lloyd Jones was a Prophet of sorts and his counsel was not heeded.

Sad in a sense, but we must press on.

PuritanReformed said...

Hello Mark,

you're welcome. Welcome back to the blogosphere brother. Am anticipating your piece on this.