'Replies from Christians'

12. 'Hope'

16th November, 2010

(Continued from page 255)

[TCE: the reason is obvious, as anyone who has spent time with those who label themselves 'evangelicals' will recognise; as with many other titles, evangelical is a title some 'Christians' give themselves - even when they are anything but!]

To the causes of this impending division we must now turn. In the first instance, what has already emerged in the preceding pages needs to be underlined. Within English evangelicalism there was now a major difference in mood with respect to the whole scene. By this  date Dr Lloyd-Jones had travelled the country ceaselessly for over thirty years and he knew the general conditions as did few others. In addition, instead of spending long summer breaks abroad (as many wished him to do), he was generally in many different parts of Britain and seeing churches from the pew rather than from the pulpit. As an ordinary member of the congregation attending for worship on a Sunday, the impression he received was often very different from that of a mid-week service where many attended from other places, when he was preaching.
His summer holidays in 1960 and 1962 sharpened his conviction that the whole country was involved in a spiritual decline of vast proportions. Whether in East Anglia or Oxfordshire, Cornwall or Somerset, the north of Scotland or Wales, everywhere conditions were much the same. 'The tragedy,' as he told members at Westminster, 'lies not merely in the smallness of the congregations, but in their utter deadness and their apparent dislike of the truth when presented to them'. Meeting with forty or more ministers in the Highlands of Scotland, he noted their view that 'even in the last five years there had been a deterioration in the situation'. [This meeting occurred in connection with special services at the Free Church of Scotland in Dingwall in September 1960, the church which C. H. Spurgeon had opened for his friend Dr John Kennedy in 1870. ML-J enjoyed being in the same old manse in which Spurgeon had stayed, but this visit led him to think that belief in the possibility of revival was weak even in the Scottish Highlands.]

Almost everything he saw outside London confirmed his impression that the situation was profoundly serious. To his friends at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Library in 1961 he said: 'I think it is more than likely that the times will get worse and that there will be a great searching even amongst us who are called evangelical. We will be driven back to certain foundations; we may become a very small company.'

The basis for these opinions, and the fact that these were held by a man who ministered to what was probably the largest regular congregation in London,
were things passed over by most evangelicals who still believed that the success of recent evangelistic campaigns was a warrant for optimism. They were confident that evangelical influence was growing. Far from accepting ML-J's diagnosis, they believed that an evangelicalism with a modern image and an up-to-date presentation of the Christian Faith could even yet win the centre ground in the denominations. It was consequently, in their view, a very inopportune time to be thinking of any kind of 'withdrawal'. Conservative evangelicals in the Church of England were the most prominent in this mood of hopefulness and, because of their numbers, their colleges and their traditional place of leadership in English evangelicalism, their decision with respect to ecumenism was bound to be widely influential. From 'the benevolent neutrality' advocated by Bishop Gough and others in the early 1950's, numbers of Anglican evangelicals now began to move to the position of active involvement in ecumenism advocated by A. T. Houghton. 'Co-operation without compromise', the phrase we noted in the United States in 1956, was now applied to the new policy in England. If the evangelical voice was to be heard in the corridors of power where it could count, there was, they argued, no other alternative. The 'Choice before evangelicals', to use the headlines of a report of an address by A. T. Houghton, was 'Isolation or involvement'. Ecumenism was the discussion of the age and if evangelicals did not speak from within that discussion their opinion would count for nothing. 'The fault of evangelicals who eschew dialogue,' wrote John Stott, is to assert their evangelicalism in an 'inflexible way which is quite irrelevant to the modern confusions and perplexities of the Church'.

Those who took this view were confirmed in their belief in its rightness by the welcome now being accorded to them in various congresses and commissions for ecumenical discussion. J. D. Douglas (Church of Scotland) applauded the 'notable gesture' of the organizers of the 1964 Nottingham conference who 'encouraged the attendance of a number known to be conservative evangelicals'. He believed that the Nottingham invitation 'reflects a graciousness of spirit that augurs well for the future' and noted that 'one of the evangelicals, the Rev. A. T. Houghton, was asked to give one of the major addresses'. Anglican evangelicals similarly received invitations to join the various forums for ecumenical discussion within their Church.
Soon it was to seem a far cry from the comparatively recent days when evangelical Anglicans, in Stott's words, were a rejected minority, a despised minority movement'. In 1964  the Rev. John Weller, Secretary of the Faith and Order Department of the British Council of Churches, could report that: 'The dialogue between 'conservative evangelicals and others' is going on at the moment here in Britain more widely, more vigorously and more fruitfully than perhaps at any time in these last few years.'

Here, then, was a very major difference of view among evangelicals.
Instead of believing that those who took an opposing view were gaining a real influence for biblical Christianity, ML-J consider that they were actually contributing to the existing decline and confusion. The main problem in the nation was the unbelief in the church. As he told an Evangelical Alliance Rally, held to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible, in the Royal Albert Hall, London, it was the church which had engaged 'in undermining the faith and belief of the masses of the people in this Book as being the Word of God'. He instanced 'a recent statement to the effect that we can 'expect to meet atheists in heaven''. Everyone knew that he was referring to the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 'If a man can go to heaven who does not even believe in God,' he went on to ask, 'why should we ask him to believe in the Bible? Why should we have a Christian church at all?' [This address, 'How Can We See a Return to the Bible?' given on October 24,1961, is reprinted in Knowing the Times.]

[
TCE: an obvious conclusion to be drawn from allowing almost any view to continue in the local church, or worldwide church, when you do not separate from those who promote such obviously dangerous, un-Biblical, views!]

To ML-J it was a plain matter of fact that most of the church leaders, Anglican and Free Church, did not believe the Confessions of Faith of the denominations to which they belonged. By the mid-sixties the Labour leader in the House of Lords could not be contradicted when he said that there was not one bishop holding to a Protestant position; mass vestments, prayers for the dead and stone altars had the approval of all. Meanwhile, on the liberal side of the Church of England, John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, was propounding an impersonal God according to the ideas of Tillich and Bultmann. [In a booklet, Keep Yourselves From Idols, a discussion of 'Honest to God' by John A. T. Robinson, 1963, J. I. Packer wrote: 'All that is distinctive of the Christian faith in God, as opposed to that of a Moslem or Hindu, seems to have gone from the bishop's theology.'] In the Methodist Church, involved in reunion negotiations with the Church of England, things were no better. The Methodist Recorder could report that one of its best-known leaders, Dr Donald Soper, proposed a ban on Bible reading for the year 1965 and for this reason: 'The present situation with regard to the Scriptures is intolerable. They represent an incubus that cannot be removed until an almost completely new start is made ...' Far from regretting that 'the traditional Non-conformist Sunday is dying', Soper professed to be glad: 'Let it die. Better still, kill it off'. In an article entitled, 'The Methodism Gone Forever ...' also published in The Methodist Recorder, John J. Vincent argued that all the doctrines of justification, of saving faith, assurance and holiness, 'belong to an intellectual and theological world which is no longer ours. They describe experiences which are no longer normative for Methodist people.' [The Methodist Recorder, Sept. 7, 1961]

When an evangelical at the Methodist Conference in Plymouth in 1965 moved an amendment to recall the Church to its own articles of faith it was defeated by a vote of 601 to 14!

Yet the price for ecumenical dialogue was that the very men who tolerated, or even approved, this state of affairs had to be regarded by evangelicals as fellow Christians. As one of the evangelicals, after the Nottingham Conference of 1964, was to declare: 'The real question at issue in the whole discussion of the ecumenical movement is one of trust. 
'Are we or are we not willing to trust the Christian sincerity of those who name the name of Christ, who call Jesus Lord, but differ from us in doctrine?' [Evangelicals and Unity, pp. 29-30] This was indeed the question and to ML-J's amazement many evangelicals -- led by the Anglicans -- decided there had been a serious mistake in the way in which they had previously been answering it. The issue was thus becoming clear: either the former evangelical attitude was wrong, narrow and bigoted, or the new policy was a move away from Scripture. If it was the latter, what could account for such a change of direction? Dr Lloyd-Jones saw two main reasons.

First, doctrinal commitment had become so weakened in evangelical circles that the judgment of leaders was being shaped by considerations of success and wider influence in a manner hitherto unknown.

The position of Dr Billy Graham and his Crusades made a critical difference at precisely this point. In contrast to Graham's early unwillingness to co-operate with liberals (which explained the shut doors he encountered in England in 1952) he was now ready to receive the support of virtually any well-known religious leader. Men whose teaching had been disastrous in its spiritual effect were thus being given an identification with a message which their ministries opposed.

On this point ML-J talked with Graham face to face. They met in the vestry of Westminster Chapel early in July 1963, and at the request of the American evangelist who came to seek support. The Graham organization was planning a first 'World Congress on Evangelism' to meet in Rome and wanted ML-J to be the chairman of that Congress. The latter's reply to this appeal has been recorded as follows:

I said I'd make a bargain: if he would stop the general sponsorship of his campaigns -
stop having liberals and Roman Catholics on the platform - and drop the invitation system, I would wholeheartedly support him and chair the Congress. We talked for about three hours, but he didn't accept these conditions. ['Martyn Lloyd-Jones'. An interview by Carl F. H. Henry, Christianity Today, Feb. 8, 1980, p.29. Reprinted in Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Chosen by God, pp.96-108]

In attempting to show Dr Graham the inconsistency of his policy, ML-J instanced how the evangelist had introduced Dr John Sutherland Bonnell of New York as a helper in the All Scotland Crusade of 1957 even though Bonnell was a known liberal in his theology.
When Graham replied that he could have more 'fellowship' with Bonnell than with a number of evangelicals, ML-J advised him that true fellowship was based upon something other than a likeable, warm personality. Graham had capitulated to the ecumenical idea of Christian 'fellowship' without agreement in the truth of the gospel and his example inevitably became an influence, to use ML-J's words, in 'shaking people's convictions as to what exactly it means to be an evangelical'.

Shortly after this meeting and when ML-J was on the eve of his fifth visit to the United States, Graham wrote:

          July 18, 1963

Dear Dr Lloyd-Jones:

Just a note to thank you for the wonderful time of fellowship with you in London, and even more for your kindness and thoughtfulness in taking me to the doctor. You will be interested to know that the lump in my throat has improved considerably due to the medicine that I am taking faithfully. I know that the advice you and the doctor gave me was sound. We are praying constantly for your ministry here in America. My wife is eager to have you in our home for a meal when you come to Montreal. My only regret is that I must be away in our crusade in Los Angeles at that time. It would be the greatest joy for us if we could welcome you to the Los Angeles crusade after you have finished your meetings.

I have been giving much thought and prayer to our discussion, and I am sure that it was ordered of the Lord.

With my deepest personal affection for you in Christ, I am

    Most cordially yours,

     Billy

[Graham had been suffering from throat trouble when he saw Lloyd-Jones who personally took the evangelist to see a medical friend. ML-J did not appear at the Los Angeles crusade.]

When ML-J reached the States later that same month it was to find that his unwillingness to act as chairman at the projected 'World Congress on Evangelism' had not been taken as final. He and Bethan were met as they disembarked from the 'Queen Mary' by John Bolten with whom a friendship had been formed in the work of the IFES since the first meetings at Harvard in 1947. Bolten, along with J Howard Pew and a few others, was one of the chief financial backers of the Graham organization and of the 'new evangelicalism'. The latter term was, in fact, originally coined by Bolten's own minister, Harold J. Ockenga of Park Street, Boston, and Fuller Seminary.

The network led by Ockenga and Graham was now facing something of a crisis as it risked losing the support both of the older fundamentalism and of the main-line denominations. The whole policy, related as it was to obtaining wider acceptance and approval, was in danger.  ML-J would know a little of this through Wilbur Smith (who was later to resign from Fuller Seminary) and others but he was taken by surprise when Bolten used the occasion of their three days of holiday together at his seaside home at Gloucester, north of Boston, to press the importance of his agreeing to Graham's proposal.  Bolten was one of many who admired Lloyd-Jones yet failed to understand that he was held by a theology which left him deaf to the pragmatic argument of 'wider influence' when it came to questions affecting fundamentals. The preacher's mind was closed and when the Congress was finally held in Berlin, not Rome, in 1966 he would not be there. [Carl Henry is mistaken in saying that ML-J was there as an 'unpublicised observer' (Confessions of a Theologian, 1986, p. 258).]

The next twelve months after the summer of 1963 also
confirmed that Dr Graham would not change his direction. In a televised interview with Cardinal Cushing of Boston, he spoke of the 'new day of understanding and dialogue'. 'You've made a great contribution to this ecumenical spirit,' Cushing replied. When Graham returned to London in1964, for preliminary talks on a further Crusade, his biographer tells us that his first engagement was with Archbishop Ramsey and that soon after he was to see the Bishops of London and Southwark. The latter (Mervyn Stockwood), a supporter both of John Robinson and of re-union with Rome, was asked to serve on the Council of Reference which was to support Graham's 1966 Earls Court Crusade. [The 1966 Crusade was perhaps the first in England to have the public support of Roman Catholics. In the words of Mr N. St John Stevas, MP, 'Mr Graham's mission is not to make converts to his own faith but to send them back to the churches of their own tradition ... his efforts should have the support of Catholics' (the English Churchman, June 17, 1966).

The acceptance of this ecumenical patronage on the part of Graham could only have one effect upon those who had confidence in his judgment. If the evangelist was so impressed by the 'brotherliness' of non-evangelicals, then there was surely reason to say, 'Well, I wonder whether these doctrines we've been emphasizing are so important after all'.

To say this is not to make Dr Graham out to be the main cause of the doctrinal weakening in Britain. If weakness had not already been present, evangelicals would never have been carried away, as they were, by the new policy of co-operation. What would once have been called compromise was now being openly justified. An example from the realm of Christian literature will illustrate this. Dr William Barclay of Glasgow was one of the best-known religious figures of the 1960's. As an author and broadcaster he had mastered the art of communicating ideas in a popular manner to the average person. But although Barclay spoke much about the Bible he had no belief in its authority as the Word of God and his views on the person and the birth of Christ were not those of historic Christianity. Barclay's biographer quotes ML-J as affirming that Barclay was 'the most dangerous man in Christendom? It is probably an accurate quotation. [William Barclay, The Authorised Biography, Clive L. Rawlins, 1984, p. 651.]  ML-J believed that people were confused by the attractiveness of Barclay's presentation and because of some of the good things which he did say. But what concerned him more, in terms of encouraging confusion, was that Professor F. F. Bruce was now working in harness with Barclay in the production of a series of 'Bible Guides' of which Lutterworth Press were the publishers. Bruce, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, remained a signatory to the IVF Basis of Faith and yet saw no inconsistency in being publicly identified with one whose beliefs were far removed from that basis. This disturbed ML-J so much that in November 1962 he referred to the point in a sermon at Westminster Chapel. 'Was he forgetting,' asked one indignant correspondent, that 'both editors are Christian men' and that Bruce 'exercises a wide influence for great good in the world of biblical scholarship ?' 'If I may say so,' continued the same writer, 'I am surprised that you have taken the liberty of mentioning the name of any writer in a critical way from a public platform.' In ML-J's view, the writer was missing the main point. What is the value of evangelicals affirming a statement of faith if they see no harm in making common cause with those who teach the opposite? By action, if not by word, such a policy treated evangelicalism as a party rather than a biblical position.

The second factor which ML-J saw as contributing largely to this change in direction among evangelicals is closely related to the first.  Alongside an unwillingness to insist upon Scripture, there came an excessive fear of being thought negative, controversial and belligerent. Criticism of almost any kind had become very unpopular among professing Christians.  A loving attitude was thought to be one which accepted everyone for what they appeared to be. If discernment between truth and error and the need to 'beware of men' were still counted as Christian virtues they were now low down the list of priorities. The duty of 'contending earnestly for the faith' was put still lower. To emphasise these things was to risk losing the increased acceptance for which evangelicals hoped. Those who defended this change generally did so in terms of the hard, unattractive contentiousness which had formerly, so it was said, too commonly prevailed. In one form or another the words Professor McKenzie had used in defending Schweitzer were repeated endlessly:  'A man may believe the whole creed, every letter of it and be an eternity away from the spirit of Christ'. It is true that there have always been cases of orthodoxy divorced from compassion, but it was now implied that anyone who took 'the fight of faith' seriously was bound to be such a person. If there was one thing left which was still considered worthy of condemnation it was 'lack of love'. Such was the atmosphere into which evangelicals were being drawn in the 1960's and it goes far to explaining why Dr Lloyd-Jones was so often alone in what he said.

It is significant in this connection that Dr Lloyd-Jones' Sunday morning sermons in the early 1960's gave much time to an exposition of 'the wiles of the devil'. The Bible, as he reminded his people, warns us that things are often not what they seem to be and that vigilance and a suspicion of human nature, because of the Fall, are constant duties for the Christian. Included in these sermons were several on the devil's use of error and deception and when one of these, on Roman Catholicism, was printed in the Westminster Record, it caused no small comment. Some professed to be critical over not so much what he said as the way in which he said it. The minister of Highbury Quadrant Congregational Church wrote to  him: 'Whilst much of your criticism of the Roman Catholic Church may be true, the terms in which you present it seem to me to be appalling. I am sorry you should ever think it right to speak in such a way.' The same writer went on to express his fears over what such a sermon could do to hinder reconciliation among the churches.  [On the other hand, a converted ex-Roman Catholic wrote to thank him for 'a balanced and very true exposition . . . Your booklet is so far removed from the many publications which seek to denounce the errors of Rome but rather create a laughing stock on account of the elementary errors about fundamental beliefs'.]

More strange was the attitude of those who regarded his sermon as irrelevant to evangelicalism. At the Islington Clerical Conference of 1960 the Rev. M. A. P. Wood
saw no danger from Roman Catholicism and, as late as 1962, the Rev. A. I. Houghton was denying that the direction of ecumenism was towards re-union with Rome. Yet within a few years evangelicals were to use the same argument which they were now adopting to support co-operation with liberals, namely, a shared spiritual experience, to justify a friendly response to the overtures which came from Vatican II.

Instead of backing off from the convictions expressed in his sermon on Roman Catholicism, Dr Lloyd-Jones returned to the subject in 1964 and related it to the general change which he saw taking place in evangelicalism. On June 10 in that year he gave the concluding address in the series of Campbell Morgan Memorial Lectures which had been delivered annually over 16 years. His subject,
'The Weapons of our Warfare', based upon 2 Corinthians 10:4, provides one of the most important statements of his thinking at this date. He saw three main dangers confronting evangelicals. The first was 'to think that there is no warfare any longer' because there was no more battle to be waged. Many Christians now thought that 'all is changed, even Roman Catholicism is changing'. He went on:

Here was something, people thought, that would never change. The conflict and the fight between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism was assumed to be something that was permanent; whatever changes might take place within Protestantism there would always remain this fundamental difference between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant outlook. But we are told that even that is changing now, that Rome is changing.
Was not this quite obvious in the appearances of the late Pope John on the television screens? What a fine, kind, and benevolent-looking man; and all he said was full of such a loving Christian spirit!  Moreover the Roman Church, we are told, is now advising and urging her people to read the Bible. We must give up those old ideas of conflict; we are all becoming one, and those old differences are no longer there. So must not talk any longer about a 'warfare'. [ Knowing the Times, p. 201 The other main points of this address were 'the danger of avoiding the warfare' and 'the danger of fighting with the wrong weapons'.].

It should be said that ML-J read a good deal by Roman Catholic authors both in books and journals. He was familiar with such authors as Hans Kung and even read the monthly
New Blackfriars edited by English Dominicans, of which most evangelicals had never heard. A frequent contributor to Roman Catholic journals, Mr H. W. J. Edwards, records how he went to hear ML-J preach on one occasion and afterwards 'dared' to enter the vestry:  'to my very great surprise Dr Lloyd-Jones beamed upon me and said (in Welsh), 'H. W. J. Edwards? Why, I am so glad to meet you' ' [From a letter to the author, November 1, 1981, which began, 'I am not the only (Roman) Catholic to grieve upon hearing of the departing of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, now I believe, in glory'. Far from being an ecumenist, Mr Edwards considered that Vatican II moved his Church closer to the Pelagianism opposed by Augustine].  ML-J was never an advocate of any personal hostility to Catholics and the possibility of being a Christian and a Roman Catholic he would never deny, 'such people are Christians in spite of the system to which they belong and not because of it'.  But he regarded the Roman Catholic system as the ultimate form of anti-biblical comprehensiveness.

Of course, as ML-J went on to say in his 1964 Campbell Morgan Memorial Lecture,
there was change in Rome but that had happened many times before. It is part of her distinctive nature to accommodate to different circumstances. The one form of evidence that would justify a new hopefulness, namely change in her fundamental doctrine and repentance for her former apostasy, did not exist. Evangelicals were being influenced by the mood of the times, not by scriptural convictions. They were acting as though a better image and a more 'brotherly' approach would win influence for the truth, as though all the historic differences were chiefly due to misunderstandings and a lack of mutual confidence. Speaking on this point in an address on the fourth centenary of the Scottish Reformation in Edinburgh, ML-J represented the modern approach to differences in these terms: 'We will have a friendly chat and discussion, we will show them that after all we are nice, decent fellows, there is nothing nasty about us, and we will gain their confidence.' And he went on: 'Was Knox a matey, friendly, nice chap with whom you could have a discussion? Thank God he was not! Thank God prophets are made of stronger stuff!' ['Address in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, April 5, 1960, published in Knowing the Times, pp. 90-105].

(Continued on page 257)

The Methodist Recorder could report that one of its best-known leaders, Dr Donald Soper, proposed a ban on Bible reading for the year 1965 and for this reason: 'The present situation with regard to the Scriptures is intolerable. They represent an incubus that cannot be removed until an almost completely new start is made ...' Far from regretting that 'the traditional Non-conformist Sunday is dying', Soper professed to be glad: 'Let it die. Better still, kill it off'. In an article entitled, 'The Methodism Gone Forever ...' also published in The Methodist Recorder, John J. Vincent argued that all the doctrines of justification, of saving faith, assurance and holiness, 'belong to an intellectual and theological world which is no longer ours. They describe experiences which are no longer normative for Methodist people.' [The Methodist Recorder, Sept. 7, 1961]

When an evangelical at the Methodist Conference in Plymouth in 1965 moved an amendment to recall the Church to its own articles of faith it was defeated by a vote of 601 to 14!

Yet the price for ecumenical dialogue was that the very men who tolerated, or even approved, this state of affairs had to be regarded by evangelicals as fellow Christians. As one of the evangelicals, after the Nottingham Conference of 1964, was to declare: 'The real question at issue in the whole discussion of the ecumenical movement is one of trust.  'Are we or are we not willing to trust the Christian sincerity of those who name the name of Christ, who call Jesus Lord, but differ from us in doctrine?' [Evangelicals and Unity, pp. 29-30] This was indeed the question and to ML-J's amazement many evangelicals -- led by the Anglicans -- decided there had been a serious mistake in the way in which they had previously been answering it. The issue was thus becoming clear: either the former evangelical attitude was wrong, narrow and bigoted, or the new policy was a move away from Scripture. If it was the latter, what could account for such a change of direction? Dr Lloyd-Jones saw two main reasons.

First, doctrinal commitment had become so weakened in evangelical circles that the judgment of leaders was being shaped by considerations of success and wider influence in a manner hitherto unknown.

The position of Dr Billy Graham and his Crusades made a critical difference at precisely this point. In contrast to Graham's early unwillingness to co-operate with liberals (which explained the shut doors he encountered in England in 1952) he was now ready to receive the support of virtually any well-known religious leader. Men whose teaching had been disastrous in its spiritual effect were thus being given an identification with a message which their ministries opposed.

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