Tim Keller: Martyn Lloyd-Jones & Preaching

Posted: April 18, 2011 in church, ecclesiology, preaching

Tim Keller

Tim Keller recently posted a couple extremely interesting articles in which he discusses D.M. Lloyd-Jones’ book of lectures, Preaching and Preachers.  Lloyd-Jones wrote the book in response to the flurry of controversy surrounding the primacy of preaching in his day (the mid to late 1960s).  In many ways, the controversy that Lloyd-Jones felt he had to engage is very similar to our situation today (a good reminder that there is really nothing new under the sun, and that we should look to the past to help us understand the present).

In his first post, Keller summarizes Lloyd-Jones’ cultural context:

The first thing that struck me was how this nearly 70 year old Welsh minister (called “the Doctor” by his followers), lecturing in 1969, could have anticipated and addressed so many of the questions surrounding preaching that we are wrestling with in our own culture today. During the post-World War II era in Britain, there was a growing resistance to the older idea of the “primacy” of preaching. Previously it was considered the single most important thing that the minister of the church did. However, by the mid-1960s, there were many in the UK arguing that the era of the pulpit was over and that other things must displace it because preaching—and certainly traditional preaching—was no longer the most effective way for the church to reach people.

D.M. Lloyd-Jones

Keller closed his first article with this concluding thought:

What is so striking is how all of this discussion that happened 40-50 years ago in Britain has been happening in the U.S. over the last 10 years. In Lloyd-Jones’ day the call was that “preaching won’t work with modern people” and today it’s the same claim with regard to postmodern people. In his day the charge was that preaching had to keep up with the television age, and now it’s a call to adapt to an internet age. But almost all the proposals for how preaching must adapt are basically the same. Therefore, the Doctor’s response and critique of them is very relevant. We will look at them in the next post.

In the second post, Keller reflects on some of Lloyd-Jones’ reasoning in regard to preaching.  While he notes that he does find Lloyd-Jones’ arguments “compelling,” he offers a word of warning:

If you move beyond these posts and read the Doctor’s book—as I hope you will—you will quickly see one possible reason why people have not followed him. Dr. Lloyd-Jones makes a host of dogmatic assertions about very specific practices…

He frowned on small group ministry and had few other ways for the church to gather as a community or do discipleship and instruction. As it turned out, in the end his church was too preaching-dependent and after his retirement the church experienced a crisis.

Some of these “dogmatic assertions” included the need for the pulpit to be above the congregation, the importance of the preacher’s robe, objections to preachers announcing their texts/topics ahead of time, and a few other extra-biblical imperatives.

In his next post (yet to be published), Keller will describe Lloyd-Jones’ foundational argument for the primacy of preaching, explaining why he finds that it still stands.  Should be good!

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