Murray, Iain H. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990. 862 pp. $39.00. Purchase at Westminster books for $29.25.
This is the second volume, and at 800 pages twice as long as the first, of Iain H. Murray’s biography on The Doctor. Any biography that begins with an apology for its length is sure to be a marathon read. Both volumes combined are a total of 1,200 plus pages and present not only a biography of one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century but also a synopsis of church history during the same period. You can read my review of the first volume here. Keep in mind that I am reviewing these as I am reading them for my own personal edification.
This volume comprises the majority of ML-J’s ministry at Westminster Chapel beginning with his official call to be the next pastor replacing G. Campbell Morgan. It was interesting to note that he was not called with 100% of the vote even though his predecessor, Dr. Morgan, had originally invited him to come as his replacement. As ML-J “got comfortable’ (my wording) in his new role as the pastor of Westminster, he continued his mid-week evangelistic preaching across Wales and England.
Before you realize it, you have joined ML-J in his confrontations with the ecumenical movement, the charismatic movement, and the establishing of ministries such as The Banner of Truth Trust and the Evangelical Library. Furthermore, you will learn of his differences with John Stott and J.I. Packer and his work with the World Evangelical Alliance and the Inter-Varsity Conference. His love for his family is unmatched and the letters he wrote while on holiday or traveling abroad preaching are countless and show the tender heart he possessed.
Upon his retirement from Westminster in 1968 due to health concerns, we see that he did not slow down. In fact, without this retirement, chances are we would never have Preaching and Preachers–which was originally preached in the United States at Westminster Seminary. It was during the final 14 years of his life is when he adapted his sermons into what we now know as his series on Romans and Ephesians. While many more books have come out since his death in 1981, ML-J was very involved in the process and his wishes were kept by his daughter and those helping to bring his sermons into print. I do believe the recently published Living Water–52 sermons on John 4–was the last of any new material to come from the collection of ML-J’s sermons.
In a biography so expansive, there is too much to remember and even write regarding a review. That being said, this biography has already impacted me. I can only assume it will be one of those books I return to again in the future and say something like, “Oh! that’s where I got that from!” A few things stood out as exemplary for me as a Christian, a pastor and a reviewer.
First, the fact that he continued praying uninterrupted while a bomb was dropped merely yards a way. His zeal for the Lord and the worship of the Lord stands out above all else. His love for preaching and need to help guide other pastors (young and old) is exemplary. In a culture today where many pastors “play” at being a minister, much can be learned from ML-J.
Second, his love for books may be unmatched. Because of ML-J, we now have the Banner of Truth Trust. I gather from these pages that ML-J single handedly brought back the Puritans from the grave of modernity. His love of those great divines is, in many instances, why his own pulpit ministry was successful. He preached what the text said and did not worry about contextualization. He believed the people did not need to hear a message that spoke to their felt needs; rather, he preached what the text said and allowed the Holy Spirit to apply it to the particular person.
Finally, his love for the God he served. Everything he did was to that end. His prayers, his song selections, and his sermons were centered on the glory of God. From many accounts throughout the book, ML-J did not preach at or to the people in the congregation. Instead, he preached to an audience of One. Sadly, today this is done in word only.
I greatly appreciated Murray’s willing to take ML-J to task and show where he disagreed with what ML-J did or how he responded to certain situations. Murray certainly painted a picture of ML-J that he believed what said and did even if he was later found to be wrong. Murray also showed the humility in ML-J when he was shown to be wrong.
If you are a young pastor, I highly recommend picking up both volumes of this biography. If you are a Christian, you will find much about 20th century Christianity interesting. The book is aptly entitled The Fight for Faith. As a Southern Baptist, I appreciated the interaction between ML-J and Billy Graham. If I can be half the pastor, humanly speaking, as ML-J, I will have done more than I thought possible–I am just talking about his pulpit ministry.
There is much more I have left unsaid because of space restrictions, but trust me, anyone who calls on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will benefit from reading this biography.