Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Martyn Lloyd-Jones Book Reviews and Interview

Christopher CatherwoodMy Interview with Christopher Catherwood, author of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century and Grandson of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The ministry of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, has had an increasing impact on my life and the life of my wife. First, his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount was significantly used to help my wife grow in her faith and understanding of Reformed theology some thirty years ago, when she read and discussed it with friends. I’m reading that book now. Second, last year, I read his 1965 book Spiritual Depression and listened to the sermons that made up the book, which was a wonderful experience. We also watched the new documentary about his life and ministry Logic on Fire last year. In addition, I’m using his Walking with God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotional Selections as a part of my daily devotional reading.

Martyn Lloyd-JonesI recently read the new book Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century written by Christopher Catherwood, who is also a grandson of “The Doctor”. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, and would highly recommend it to you; keep scrolling down to read my review.

It is with great joy and respect that I had an opportunity to interview Christopher about the book and his grandfather.

CoramDeo: What are some of your personal recollections of your grandfather?

C.M.S. Catherwood: where can one begin – there are so many! I was his eldest of six grandchildren and he died on my 26th birthday in 1981. My main memories are his effortless kindness and total enthusiasm – he loved to encourage, treated all grandchildren without condescension and spiritually mentored us when we became Christians in our own right – vital to say since God has no grandchildren and I became a Christian as a child through realizing that my ancestry did not get me to heaven! We played croquet together as partners – being slaughtered regularly by the duo of my mother and grandmother – and many word games, and he nurtured the love of history that I have now enjoyed all my adult life.

CD: There seems to have been a resurgence of interest in “The Doctor”, perhaps aided by the release of the documentary Logic on Fire, your book and others, including Steven Lawson’s forthcoming book. Your book speaks about his relevance to us today. Why do you think he is still relevant today, nearly 25 years after his death?

CMSC: This resurgence of interest has been so exciting! Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition have also concentrated upon him recently – hence the endorsements for my book from Mark Dever and D.A. Carson. I think people want real preaching with Biblical unction, with the kind of Christ-centered preaching that epitomized the ministry of Dr. Lloyd-Jones.

CD: I was particularly impressed reading in your book how he approached all doctrine and practice from Scripture, not from a denominational or theological bias. Are there evangelical leaders today that model that example?

CMSC: dangerous question as everyone has their favorite preachers! I don’t know enough American or U.S. or British preachers to know how to answer that question fully, but the kind of ministry that Mark Dever has at Capitol Hill Baptist Church is very much the kind of model for 2015 that is similar to that of the Doctor, which is why I use it as an example in my book.

CD: Similar to the above question, I was impressed with some of Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ particular beliefs on topics such as spiritual gifts, the Lord’s Supper, eschatology, etc. You write that he came to those views based on the Scripture. What can today’s pastors and theologians learn from this?

CMSC: Scripture and loyalty to Scripture should trump denominational shibboleths. Do we believe it from the Bible or as part of the package that comes with particular denominational loyalties?

CD: You write that Dr. Lloyd-Jones described himself as a “Bible Calvinist, not a system Calvinist.” Can you explain what he meant by that?

CMSC: Easily! Today we have a major renaissance of Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist convention – folks like Mark Dever and Al Moehler. Historically Reformed = Presbyterian = paedobaptist, but now we see Godly Evangelicals in the PCA coming together with Baptists, ALL of whom believe in the Doctrines of Grace: take The Gospel Coalition led by D.A. Carson (Baptist) and Tim Keller (Presbyterian). Belief and fellowship is based on scriptural unity rather than denominational affiliation.

CD: One final question, what was your particular reason for writing this book, and what you would hope your readers would take from it?

CMSC: My grandfather is not someone one can pigeonhole, and I wanted people to see him as both I and thousands of people in his lifetime saw him, as a giant of the faith who was totally Scripture-based and Christ-centered. And that is how Christians should always be and should be in 2016 and beyond!

Martyn Lloyd-JonesMartyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century by Christopher Catherwood. Crossway. 160 pages. 2015.
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This short book is written by the eldest grandson of the great British preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who died in 1981. His goal with the book is to “introduce ‘The Doctor’ to a new generation of readers and to help those discovering wonderful biblical truths for the first time learn how to think scripturally for themselves as Christians”. He presents Lloyd-Jones “as a preacher in whom one could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit—what the Puritans called unction—and to show how the Doctor’s message is as relevant today as it was then.” He hopes to show how relevant Lloyd-Jones’ life and thinking are to evangelicals in the twenty-first century.

He begins the book by providing a brief biography of Lloyd-Jones, who was born in 1899. At the age of twenty-one, Lloyd-Jones was a doctor of medicine. He was also Chief Clinical Assistant to the Royal Physician to King George V, Lord Horder, the top diagnostic physician of the day. He married Bethan in 1927. At the age of twenty-six he gave up what would have been a very prominent medical career in London, to become a pastor, though he never attended a theological college or seminary. He served in Aberavon, a run-down part of South Wales, from 1927-1938. In 1938 G. Campbell Morgan asked Lloyd-Jones to become his joint minister at Westminster Chapel in London. When Morgan retired in 1943, Lloyd-Jones became sole minister of Westminster Chapel, remaining there until cancer forced his retirement in 1968. In 1950 he began what still remains one of his best-known sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount, the book version of which (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount) I am reading now, and which had a profound impact on my wife’s spiritual growth thirty years ago.

Catherwood discusses controversies in Lloyd-Jones’ ministry, including a 1966 Evangelical Alliance meeting in London in which he made his views public on whether evangelicals should stay within doctrinally mixed denominations. This led to his permanent split with a young J. I. Packer, though he and John Stott would later reconcile.

Lloyd-Jones described himself as a “Bible Calvinist, not a system Calvinist.” One of the main points of Catherwood’s book is that you do not have to agree with Lloyd-Jones in terms of his conclusions (on baptism, the Lord’s Supper or eschatology, for example), but it is wise to employ his method, which is that all doctrine and practice should originate in Scripture.

Catherwood also discusses Lloyd-Jones global impact, including the United States, where his influence is perhaps greater now than when he was alive. He ends the book by stating “We do not need to follow the Doctor in all his practices, but his principles remain as relevant and as Bible-based and Christ-centered as always.” I say “Amen” to that.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

Walking with GodWalking with God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotional Selections by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Crossway. 400 pages. 2003.
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Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London for thirty years and one of the twentieth century’s leading voices in evangelical doctrine and preaching. But he is perhaps more popular and influential these days than ever before due in part to the new film project Logic on Fire and the new book Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century by his eldest grandson Christopher Catherwood. This year I have read his classics Spiritual Depression and am working through his wonderful Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Recently, I began using this daily book of readings.

Walking with God Day by Day is a daily devotional containing short excerpts from many of Lloyd-Jones’s books. The daily readings will cover a number of subjects such as salvation, the Gospel, revival, the Kingdom of God, knowing God, the victory of faith, and many more. The reader is told where the reading came from, in the event that they want to check out that particular resource. In addition, each reading ends with a helpful “Thought to Ponder”. For example, in a reading from God the Holy Spirit, the thought to ponder was: “Notice the names or the descriptive titles given to the Holy Spirit.”

I very much look forward to my daily time with “the Doctor” in 2016, and I think you will too.

Spiritual DepressionSpiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Granted Ministries Press. 354 pages. 2011
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This 2011 edition of the classic book by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones from Granted Ministries Press includes a Biographical Foreword from Geoff Thomas who knew Lloyd-Jones, and an audio disc containing 24 sermons in the Spiritual Depression series. I was blessed greatly by listening to Lloyd-Jones (“The Doctor”), preach the sermons at the same time I was reading the book. The audio disc doesn’t correspond one for one with the book. The book includes 21 sermons, 7 of which do not appear on the disc. The disc includes 24 sermons, ten of which are not included in the book.

In the Foreword, Lloyd-Jones writes that the sermons that make up the book were preached on consecutive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. The need for the sermons arose as the result of pastoral experience. In today’s terms, we would call Lloyd-Jones a “straight-shooter”. He doesn’t hold back and is not “politically correct”, which was refreshing.  He deeply cared about the souls of his congregation members, and also those that would read these words.

Lloyd-Jones writes that it is interesting to notice the frequency with which spiritual depression is dealt with in the Bible.  He also stated that it appeared to be a particular problem that many Christians of the time (the book was published in 1965) were dealing with. He indicates that one of the main reasons is the terrible events that people had lived through, including two wars and the consequent upheavals.

He looks at the Biblical teaching on the subject and then looks at examples or illustrations of the condition in the Bible and observe how the persons concerned behave and how God dealt with them.

Why is he looking at the subject?

  1. For the sake of those who are in the condition that they may be delivered from this unhappiness.
  2. We must face this problem for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the glory of God. In a sense, a depressed or miserable Christian is a contradiction in terms and a very poor recommendation for the gospel.

What are the causes of the spiritual depression? Below are several that I wrote down as I read the book:

  • Spiritual depression is more likely to affect introverts than extroverts. Introverts have to be careful not to slip into a condition of morbidity.
  • Physical conditions.
  • A reaction after a great blessing, a reaction after some unusual and exceptional experience.
  • The devil, the adversary of our souls. He is most subtle and most dangerous when he comes as “an angel of light” and as a would-be friend of the Church and one who is interested in the gospel and in its propagation. He is also relentless.
  • The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief.
  • The failure to realize our union with Christ.
  • Looking back into the past and to the fact that some spent so much time outside the Kingdom and are so late in coming into it.
  • Being afraid of the future.
  • Concentrating too much on our feelings.
  • No clear understanding of certain principles.
  • They do not see clearly that their heart is not fully engaged.
  • Their will is divided.
  • They never fully accept the teaching and the authority of the Scriptures.
  • They are not interested in doctrine.
  • They do not take the doctrines of the Scriptures in their right order.
  • A refusal to think things right through.
  • A lack of balance is one of the most fruitful causes of trouble and discord and disquietude in the life of the Christian.
  • Our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel.
  • Because of their past – some particular sin or because of the particular form which sin happened to take. There is no more common difficulty. He had to deal with more people over this particular thing than over anything else.
  • Satan can rob us of our joy.
  • A failure to understand the New Testament doctrine of salvation.
  • A failure to really believe the Scriptures.
  • Dealing with sin.
  • A spirit of fear, of ourselves and a fear of failure.
  • False teaching.
  • People who are weary and tired in the work.
  • A lack of discipline or diligence.
  • Suffering through manifold trials from anything in this life that troubles you and casts you down.
  • Being chastised by God.
  • The tyranny of circumstances, the things that happen to us.

Lloyd-Jones writes that the forms which this condition may take seem to be almost endless.

What about the treatment or cures? Lloyd-Jones writes that we have to take ourselves in hand. We have to talk to ourselves. We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing “ourselves” to talk to us.  We have to address ourselves, preach to ourselves, and question ourselves. Other cures I wrote down were:

  • We have to study the Scriptures.
  • Avoid making a premature claim that your blindness is cured.
  • Submit yourself utterly to Him.
  • Great faith.
  • Knowledge of biblical doctrine.
  • How we endure trials certifies our faith.
  • God chastens us in order that we might be sanctified.
  • God puts us in a spiritual gymnasium. He strips and examines us. We are to submit to Him and do exactly what he instructs us to do.
  • Contentment or a glorious self-sufficiency.
  • Do what He has told you to do. Live the Christian life. Pray and meditate upon Him. Spend time with Him and ask Him to manifest Himself to you. Then you can leave the rest to Him.

As you read the book, you will note that Lloyd-Jones comes to a turning point in Chapter 9. Up to that point, he looks at difficulties in the category of preliminary difficulties, those initial stumbling blocks – difficulties arising from a lack of clarity with regard to the entry into the faith and the Christian life. He then looks at difficulties which tend to arise after that stage of the preliminaries.

This is one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read. I highly recommend the book, particularly this edition which includes an audio disc of Lloyd-Jones delivering 24 sermons from the Spiritual Depression series.

Logic on Fire

Logic On Fire: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a great preacher who was best known for his time at London’s Westminster Chapel. Although he died 1981, more than 1,600 of his sermons are available online for free download at the MLJ Recordings Trust. A few podcasts of his sermons are also available on iTunes. In addition, many of his sermons are also available in book form, including Spiritual Depression, which I recently read.

This well-made documentary about the life and ministry of Lloyd-Jones is directed by Matthew Robinson. It contains three DVD’s:
• Disc 1: Feature Film, which is comprised primarily of interviews with family members, pastors and theologians shot in historic locations across Wales, England, Scotland, and the United States. The disc also includes three extras, including fascinating recollections from Iain Murray and others about the 1966 National Assembly of Evangelicals organized by the Evangelical Alliance when he called evangelical pastors to leave denominations that contained both liberal and evangelical congregations and his dispute with John Stott.
• Disc 2: Six additional special features.
• Disc 3: One section (on Lloyd-Jones) from Behold Your God: Thinking Biblically, a new 13 DVD series on discipleship.
Also included is a beautiful 128-page book, which includes biographic information about each of the 42 interview participants to the film, including daughters Elizabeth and Ann, Lloyd-Jones’ grandchildren, pastors and theologians such as Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Ian Hamilton, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, and Donald S. Whitney. Iain Murray’s reflections were particularly interesting due to his close relationship with “The Doctor”, serving as his assistant.

The book also features a director’s statement from Robinson, thoughts on the music score from Gregory Wilbur (I’ve previously enjoyed his album My Cry Ascends: New Parish Psalms), and the transcript of four sermons used in the film
I particularly enjoyed the footage filmed inside of Westminster Chapel and the recollections of his daughter and grandchildren.

I thoroughly enjoyed this package, which includes a wealth of information about Lloyd-Jones, and is very well-done. This will be most appreciated by pastors who respect Lloyd-Jones. I recommend that pastors find time to watch at least the feature film, if not more, with their leadership teams.