Saturday, October 24, 2009

How a Calvinist [D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones] Helped Me Affirm My Wesleyanism

The late Welsh Calvinistic Methodist preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), is one of the major reasons for my Wesleyan thought today. Back in the 90’s I was undergoing a minor crisis of sorts. As an ordained elder in the Church of God (Anderson) I kept wondering about my foundations. I believe every church affiliation needs to have a solid reason for its existence. One thing that kept pestering me was the question, “What reason keeps us from just being Nazarenes?” (Yes, I realize the Church of God predates the Church of the Nazarene; however, them seem to be the larger blip on the radar in the evangelical world than us.)

I bought Lloyd-Jones' book, The Path to True Happiness. While Lloyd-Jones, himself, died in 1981 his sermons continued to be printed in different books. This collection of sermons dealt with John chapter two. Lloyd-Jones unfolded his conviction that Christians should seek a deeper experience with the Holy Spirit. In the book he spoke of the Wesleys and Whitefield and their intense desire for a deeper relationship with God. True Happiness made me hungry for “experimental” Christianity as the Doctor called it during his life. (We could call it “experiential” Christianity today.)

He pointed me to an interest in John Wesley. Though I’d been a Wesleyan all of my theological life I’d never taken the time to study Wesley for himself. That pursuit to origins led to this blog—previously known as Fetter Lane—and my purchasing the 14 volume works of John Wesley.

A hunger for Great Awakening—revival—began to stir in my soul. The desire for the “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” [2 Cor 11.3 ESV] minus all of the fads that contemporary evangelicalism seemed obsessed with took prominent place in my thinking.

Adding his famous and watershed book Joy Unspeakable to my library helped increase that hunger. Lloyd-Jones believed the deeper experience of God could be looked at in different ways, including:
Baptism with the Holy Spirit. He believe this often was subsequent to salvation and it filled one with power for evangelism and a great assurance of salvation through a direct and immediate witness of the Holy Spirit to the human soul. Lloyd-Jones didn't straitjacket the experience by saying what phenomena would occur during the reception of the mighty Spirit of power but he emphasized the result.

Sealing of the Holy Spirit. Lloyd-Jones believed this often occurred after the initial experience of salvation. He believed the Authorized (King James) translated it correctly:

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Eph 1.13-14)
Obviously this made him very different from contemporary Calvinists! He was different: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a Calvinistic Methodist. He loved Puritan Thomas Goodwin, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Awakening Welsh ministers Daniel Rowlands and Howel Harris. Lloyd-Jones spoke of the personal experiences of Thomas Aquinas and Blasé Pascal that forever changed their lives. He increased my hunger for direct knowledge of God and the unction [anointing] of the Holy Spirit.

While the Doctor didn’t persuade me to abandon my Arminianism he did encourage me to think and act like the Wesleyan I professed to be! That’s how this great Calvinist helped me affirm my heritage. I believe I should emphasize the Wesleyan contribution to our Church of God Faith and the need to seek a new Great Awakening for our day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Church of God (Anderson) Goes Swimming in Postmodernism

We now have curricula written from the postmodern standpoint. The Journey material has a postmodern biography to explain where it's coming from, what it addresses. I still contend that we need to dump much of the 19th-21st century thought and focus on 18th century Wesleyan Awakening. Of course, I'm a self-professed dinosaur who believes much of contemporary evangelical focus is fraught with spiritual peril.

No, I'm not emerging.

When One Minister Opposes Another

John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:49-50 ESV)
Sometimes the worst critics of a minister are other ministers! It happened in John Wesley's life. He, his brother, Charles, and George Whitefield were charged with fanning the flames of "enthusiasm"—emotional outbursts, sometimes extreme, from the British populace. Such things were frowned upon by the proper Anglican Church. Consider this entry from Wesley's Journal, dated Wednesday, September 21, 1757:
After an hour with a few friends in Truro, I rode forward to Grampound, a mean, inconsiderable, dirty village. However, it is a borough town. Between twelve and one I began preaching in a meadow, to a numerous congregation. While we were singing, I observed a person in black on the far side of the meadow, who said, "'Come down; you have no business there." Some boys who were on a wall, taking it for granted that he spoke to them, got down in all haste. I went on, and he walked away. I afterward understood that he was the minister and the Mayor of Grampound. Soon after, two constables came and said, "Sir, the mayor says you shall not preach within his borough." I answered, "The mayor has no authority to hinder me. But it is a point not worth contesting." So I went about a musket-shot farther and left the borough to Mr. Mayor's disposal.
Why the minister/mayor of Grampound opposed Wesley the Journal does not reveal. For whatever reason Wesley was rebuked and he thought it not worth the fight to stay.

This is shaky ground; on the one hand a minister has an obligation to protect the flock from danger, heresy and discord. On the other hand he must be careful not to quench the Spirit. It isn't always the easiest thing to discern or a preacher may be sure he is protecting his flock when, in fact, he is attempting to stop a move of God unaware.

Let us who have ears to hear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. We wouldn't want to end up opposing another John Wesley.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is an Arminian a Mad Dog? Civility in Discourse

In a short essay entitled "What is an Arminian?" John Wesley summarizes his contemporary condition that self-confessed Arminians found themselves in:
To say, "This man is an Arminian," has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, "This is a mad dog." It puts them into a fright at once : They run away from him with all speed and diligence ; and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal. (x. 358)
Why is it so easy to be so uncivil in society today? Yes, the stakes are high but does this give us excuse enough to engage in it? Calvinists do themselves no favors if they continue to call Arminians/Remonstrants "semi-pelagians" because it will do nothing to secure for themselves a willing audience open to the Reformed view. I believe caustic names are used when one person believes another won't listen so the opposition is simply written off and dismissed with a label.

John Wesley had an interesting take on being wrong. In his Sermons on Several Occasions, he confessed:
But some may say, I have mistaken the way myself, although I take upon me to teach it to others. It is probable many will think this, and it is very possible that I have. But I trust, whereinsoever I have mistaken, my mind is open to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say to God and man, "What I know not, teach thou me!"

Are you persuaded you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. Point me out a better way than I have yet known. Show me it is so, by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the path I have been accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it, labour with me a little; take me by the hand, and lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace: I can go but feebly and slowly at best; then, I should not be able to go at all. May I not request of you, further, not to give me hard names in order to bring me into the right way. Suppose I were ever so much in the wrong, I doubt this would not set me right. Rather, it would make me run so much the farther from you, and so get more and more out of the way.

Nay, perhaps, if you are angry, so shall I be too; and then there will be small hopes of finding the truth. If once anger arise, Eute kapnos, (as Homer somewhere expresses it,) this smoke will so dim the eyes of my soul, that I shall be able to see nothing clearly. For God’s sake, if it be possible to avoid it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not kindle in each other this fire of hell; much less blow it up into a flame. If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not be loss, rather than gain? For, how far is love, even with many wrong opinions, to be preferred before truth itself without love! We may die without the knowledge of many truths, and yet be carried into Abraham’s bosom. But, if we die without love, what will knowledge avail? Just as much as it avails the devil and his angels!

The God of love forbid we should ever make the trial! May he prepare us for the knowledge of all truth, by filling our hearts with his love, and with all joy and peace in believing!
Excellent advice; gentleness brings a much more willing audience to listen to a new point of view.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Revival

We have a special blessing offered from the Internet today! Part one of a sermon on revival preached by the late Welsh Calvinistic Methodist, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, is online for free listening or download in .mp3 format! Anyone familiar with his watershed book Joy Unspeakable knows that The Doctor defined "revival" was when a group of people were filled with the Holy Spirit at the same time. (He also called it the sealing or the baptism with the Holy Spirit, etc.) Lloyd-Jones believed it was subsequent to salvation but, unlike Wesleyan Methodists, he didn't believe it was entire sanctification.

To download it for free one must register (for free) and will be given a download link. In part one Lloyd-Jones—a physician before he became a preacher—speaks of the church's need to diagnose properly its malady so it can know the method of treatment to correct it. Though he preached this sermon 50 years ago in 1959 it is still as urgent today. I'm eagerly awaiting part two that will be made available next Sunday!

(John Piper wrote an assessment of Lloyd-Jones and his belief in the baptism with the Spirit. You may find it here. Also, you may refresh your soul with a chapter from Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Blessing. It's called "A Superabundance of Blessing" and may be read here.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Humility to Avoid Schism

I ran across a fascinating letter from John Wesley to Howell Harris; from what I can gather the English Arminian Methodist, Wesley, was attempting to prevent a doctrinal dispute on Christian Perfection between himself and the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist, Harris. Wesley self-deprecatingly speaks of himself in the letter dated August 6, 1742:
Brother, is thy heart with mine, as my heart is with thy heart? If it be, give me thy hand. I am indeed a poor, foolish, sinful worm ; and how long my Lord will use me, I know not. I sometimes think, the time is coming when He will lay me aside. For surely, never before did He send such a labourer into such a harvest. (xiii. 159)
Wesley betrays no presumption that the ministry the Lord gave him was his by right or worth; the Anglican priest from Epworth makes himself of no repute and praises in wonderment the grace of God. It's a beautiful letter of humility. Let us all learn to use such virtues lavishly.