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Lloyd-Jones: What is an Evangelical? (2)

In the second lecture, Lloyd-Jones gets down to the main business at hand: defining what is an evangelical. Lloyd-Jones sees the issue as a doctrinal and attitudinal matter.

At the same time let us remember that we are not merely to define what is bare orthodoxy. You can have a dead orthodoxy. I am concerned to define the evangelical in a way which goes beyond statements of belief. It is as important to define the evangelical as being against a kind of Protestantism or even reformed scholasticism, as it is that we should define the evangelical by contrast with those who are heterodox in their doctrine and belief (317).

Guiding Principles in our Approach
With this approach in mind, Lloyd-Jones offers four principles which ought to guide our attempt to define evangelical.

1. “Let it also be understood that our object in this discussion should not be merely the preservation of a tradition” (317). We are not concerned to maintain tradition for tradition’s sake. We are not trying to keep people out of our club. Our aim is not to be polemical. We are concerned about the souls of men and women. We are here to spread the good news of salvation. This is the reason we must be careful about our definitions and careful about the truth.

2. “Secondly, with reference to method, I am again concerned to emphasize that, at the same time, we must be historical in our approach” (318). We should learn from history without being subservient to it.

3. “The third [guiding principle] is the importance of the place of negatives as well as positives” (319). We will not stand firm in the faith if we insist on only being positive. We must state what we are for and what we are against. People are often for the right things, but their thinking is muddled and inconsistent, and they end up accepting things they shouldn’t.

4. “A fourth general principle is this: that we must be very observant of people’s subtractions from the truth on the one hand, and of their additions to the truth on the other” (320). People are often carried away from the truth, slowly over time, because they do not notice all that is being left out by their teachers, preachers, or authors. Others lack the discernment to notice all the subtle additions their teachers are putting on top of the gospel. Both subtractions and additions are deadly in the long run–especially deadly because they are so subtle.

General Characteristics
Using these guiding principles, Lloyd-Jones then ventures to give a definition of evangelical by calling attention “to certain general characteristics of the evangelical person” (322).

1. The evangelical is entirely subservient to the Bible (more on this tomorrow).

2. “The next thing about the evangelical is that he uses this term as a prefix and not as a suffix…What I mean is that the first thing about the man is that he is an evangelical…He may be a Baptist, he may be a Presbyterian, he may be Episcopalian, but he is primarily, first and foremost, evangelical” (322-23).

3. The evangelical is always watchful. He is discriminating and examining.

4. The evangelical distrusts reason and particularly reason in the form of philosophy. We are not concerned about contradictions between the gospel and the philosophies of our day. Reason and scholarship must be kept in their place. They are servants, not masters. Reason can teach us how to believe, but not what we believe. We must not be afraid of scholarship, but we are not desperate for the approval of the academy. Remember, most of the lasting damage to the church in the past two centuries has come through the seminaries.

5. “The next thing about the evangelical is that he takes a particular view with regard to the sacraments” (329). Evangelicals have only two sacraments and they do not make them the focal point of our thought and worship.

6. The evangelical also “takes a critical view of history and tradition” (329). He sees discontinuity in the history of the church, spots where the church became hardened and then broke free, by God’s grace, into purer light.

7. The evangelical is “always ready to act on his beliefs” (330). We don’t just discuss; we do.

8. The evangelical is “is a man who always simplifies everything” (331). He is a clear thinker. He can state the gospel clearly. His worship is simple and uncluttered with forms and vestments and all the rest. “Formalism is the characteristic of the non-evangelical; freedom is the characteristic of the evangelical” (331).

9. The evangelical is “always concerned about the doctrine of the church” (332). He is interested in a pure church. He does not believe in a state church. The evangelical is not just interested in starting movements, but in coming together as churches.

10. “The next thing, clearly, about the evangelical is the tremendous emphasis he puts upon the rebirth” (332). Conversion is uppermost in the evangelical mind. We are interested in more than correct belief. We want power, prayer, and piety. “Pietism has almost become a pejorative term at the present time and a term of abuse. I am getting very tired of evangelicals attacking pietism. I maintain that the true evangelical is always pietistic and it is the thing that differentiates him from a dead orthodoxy” (333). The evangelical cares about the way people live.

11. “Yet another characteristic is the evangelical’s interest in revival. The only people who are ever interested in revival are evangelicals” (334).

12. The evangelical “always give primacy to preaching” (334).

13. “My last point is that the evangelical is a man who is always concerned about evangelism” (335).

Well, the good Doctor certainly knew how to take an issue and look at it from every angle. I find much in his approach and assessment that is tremendously helpful, and one or two items that seem a bit out of place. But I’ll save the analysis for the end.

Next up: the third and final lecture, in which Lloyd-Jones explains what an evangelical must believe and what evangelicals can disagree on. Should be interesting.

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