Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Theological Training

I have been re-reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones, listening to some of his sermons and re- reading books about him (Iain Murray’s classic biography). I have also read Philip Eveson’s (principle of London Theological Seminary) good essay on Lloyd-Jones. One of the things I have been really interested in is Lloyd-Jones approach to theological education. While Lloyd-Jones (ML-J) was well educated – he was a medical doctor and one of the brightest young doctors in London, giving up a Harley Street practice to enter the ministry – ML-J had no formal theological training. Indeed, he turned down the opportunity to attend seminary. His education came through reading the classics – the Puritans, the Reformers, the great Christian evangelists of the 17th & 18th centuries. He later developed a suspicion of theological training centers in how they developed their curriculum. A snipet from Eveson’s essay shows this:

On the occasion of the opening of the London Bible College’s new premises in May 1958, Lloyd-Jones urged staff and students to keep to the revealed truth and seek to know God better.

‘You may have more BDs than any college in the country but only if the result is that your people know God better!’7 E. J. Young of Westminster Theological Seminary was present and found the preaching a memorable experience but the college faculty received the sermon coolly and refused to have it published for they were very aware of the implications of what he was saying.

For ML-J the issue was that theological education should never be about BA’s, MDiv’s, DPhil’s, but about preparing people for the ministry of preaching the word of God, being ministers of the Word – and theological education should revolve and be centered on that one goal. He was more in line with Charles Spurgeon’s vision through the Pastors college. The Pastors College trained men for the ministry of the gospel. Entry requirements revolved around whether you were already bringing people to faith and were preaching the gospel, not on how well educated you were.

London Theological Seminary was founded in that vain. Established in 1977 with ML-J as one of the key visionaries, it offers a two year course (not accredited by any university). Its course is a:

two-year intensive course in:

  • evangelical in its theology
  • intellectually rigorous and challenging
  • contemporary in outlook
  • practically-orientated
  • tailored specifically to the needs of those training for the pastorate.

ML-J gave the inaugural address at the opening of LTS. In it he spoke about theological education. Again, here is a section from Eveson’s essay:

[ML-J was emphasizing that ]scholarship does not make a preacher and he indicates how the theological training that had been on offer either hid the gospel or had been a complete waste of time. He gives the example of how the learning of classical Greek became to some extent a hindrance to those studying the Koine Greek of the New Testament and how the assured results of biblical criticism in one generation become out of date and useless with the advance of knowledge. What he is criticising is the emphasis on this kind of scholarship for interpreting and appreciating the Word of God.

It is for this reason that I strongly advocated church based training / interships / apprentice programs for new and growing leaders. Such internship’s should be rigorous and challenging including much reading, biblically based, but also practical and steeped in the every day life of the local church.

It also means you need biblically faithful and theologically astute ministers to do the training. Some theological training and the people that are being turned out by such institutions may have M-Div’s and D-Phil’s, good academic backgrounds, but many are ignorant of the key gospel truths and do not have the skill to preach and teach God’s word. Our goal in training should NEVER be “You must get an M-Div in theology” – but – “You need to be trained biblically – whether that results in an M-Div or not!”

This is how the church will be strong – biblically trained men and women who are steeped in scripture, in biblical theology, who have experience in ministry and are passionate to preach the gospel.

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