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.