A Calvinistic-Methodist (Lloyd Jones) perspective on Post Apostolic Gifts & Miracles.
I think it is quite without scriptural warrant to say all these gifts ended with the apostles or the apostolic era. I believe there have been undoubted miracles since then. At the same time most of the claimed miracles by the Pentecostalists and others certainly do not belong to that category and can be explained psychologically or in other ways. I am also of the opinion that most, if not all, of the people claiming to speak in tongues at the present time are certainly under a psychological rather than a spiritual influence. But again I would not dare to say that “tongues” are impossible at the present time. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones- letter to Dr. Gerald Golden, 18 September 1969)
Martin Lloyd Jones says true Calvinism is Calvinistic Methodism.
Calvinistic Methodism saves Methodism from degenerating into mysticism. There is always this danger. Put your emphasis on feeling, upon the ‘felt’ aspect, and you are already in danger of degenerating into mysticism, or into a false asceticism, or into a kind of ‘illuminism’. And all these, of course, have made their appearance in history. But Calvinistic Methodism saves us from that because of its great emphasis upon the doctrines. Here, you have got the doctrines, but in addition you have got this other element, the ‘felt’ element; It is a perfect combination of both. Not only does it guarantee our doctrinal correctness, it also saves us in the realm of experience itself from many aberrations, which have often ended in what seems to me to be nothing but a kind of Spiritism. Calvinistic Methodism saves us from that. So I argue that Calvinistic Methodism is true Methodism.
Secondly, I argue that Calvinistic Methodism is also true Calvinism. I want to show that a Calvinism that is not Methodist as well is one which we need to examine carefully. Calvinism without Methodism has certain dangerous tendencies, which we must recognize. If we do not we are in a very dangerous position.
Calvinism without Methodism tends to lead to intellectualism and scholasticism – that is its peculiar temptation. The result is that men talk more about ‘the Truth we hold’, rather than about ‘the Truth that holds us’.
Another danger which Calvinism without Methodism is prone to is that Confessions of Faith, instead of being subordinate standards, tend to be the primary and supreme standard, replacing the Bible in that position. I am only talking about tendencies, and not saying that this happens to all Calvinists. Officially we say that these Confessions are the ‘subordinate standard’; the Bible comes first, then these. But there is always a danger that the Calvinist may reverse the order.
A question arises here – it has already been suggested in one of our discussions. It is the whole question of the rightness of preaching from and through the Catechism rather than preaching through and from the Bible itself. I am simply putting it up as a question which we need to examine. The Calvinistic Methodists did not preach through the Catechism. Their whole tendency was to say – as was the tendency of Charles Haddon Spurgeon – that you should not even preach a series of sermons, but that each sermon should be ‘given’ to you, that you look to God for your sermons. I mean by that, that you look to God for your text and the message you are to deliver. That was the emphasis of Calvinistic Methodism. So I put it in this general way by saying that there is at any rate a danger that we may change the position of the Confession, and it ceases to be the ‘subordinate’ standard.
A third danger always, as a tendency in Calvinism unless it is corrected by Methodism, is to discourage prayer. This is a very serious matter. The Calvinistic Methodists were great men of prayer, and their churches were characterized by prayer-meetings – warm, moving prayer-meetings, which would sometimes last for hours and where great experiences would come to people. I am suggesting and I could produce facts- that Calvinism without Methodism tends to discourage prayer. I have known Calvinistic churches in which they have no prayer-meeting at all, and in which prayer is really discouraged.
Lastly, Calvinism without Methodism tends to produce a joyless, hard, not to say a harsh and cold type of religion. I am saying that this is a tendency. All this results from intellectualism of course; and the more the intellect dominates the less joy there will be, and a hardness, and a coldness, and a harshness, and a bigotry tend to come in. I had almost said that Calvinism without Methodism tends to produce ‘dead Calvinism’. But I am not saying that. Why not? Because I regard the term ‘dead Calvinism’ as a contradiction in terms. I say that a dead Calvinism is impossible, and that if your Calvinism appears to be dead it is not Calvinism, it is a philosophy. It is a philosophy using Calvinistic terms, it is an intellectualism, and it is not real Calvinism.
Why not? Because true Calvinism not only does justice to the objective side of our faith and our whole position, it does equal justice to the subjective; and people who cannot see this subjective element in Calvinism seem to me never to have understood Calvinism. Calvinism of necessity leads to an emphasis upon the action and the activity of God the Holy Spirit. The whole emphasis is upon what God does to us: not what man does, but what God does to us; not our hold of Him but ‘His strong grasp of us’. So Calvinism of necessity leads to experiences, and to great emphasis upon experience; and these men, and all these older Calvinists were constantly talking about ‘visitations’, how the Lord had appeared to them, how the Lord had spoken to them – the kind of thing that we have seen Toplady expressing in the hymn already quoted and in his Diaries. They also talked about ‘withdrawings’. Why have those terms disappeared from amongst us modern Calvinists? When have you last spoken about a ‘visitation’ from the Spirit of God? When did Christ last make Himself ‘real’ to you? What do you know about ‘withdrawings’ of the Spirit, and the feeling that your Bridegroom has left you and that He has not visited you recently? This is of the essence of true Calvinism; and a Calvinism that knows nothing about visitations and withdrawings is a caricature of Calvinism, I object to its using the term with respect to itself.
But more, Calvinism leads to assurance, and assurance of necessity leads to joy. You cannot be assured quietly and unmoved by the fact that your sins are forgiven, and that you are a child of God, and that you are going to heaven: it is impossible. Assurance must lead to joy. Not only that; knowing this leads to prayer. God is my Father. I am adopted. I know Him. I have an entrance, and I want to go there. I want to speak to Him and I want to know Him. This is true Calvinism. And that, of course, leads to a love of His Word. You meet Him in the Word. The Word instructs you as to how to find Him; it helps you to understand the visitations and the withdrawings. You live on the Word. Nothing so drives a man to the Word of God as true Calvinism.
Then, in turn, as I have been trying to say, true Calvinism is bound to emphasize the element of revival, the ‘givenness’ of the activity of God, the visitations of God. It is only since the decline of Calvinism that revivals have become less and less frequent. The more powerful Calvinism is the more likely you are to have a spiritual revival and re-awakening. It follows of necessity from the doctrine. You cannot work up a revival. You know that you are entirely dependent upon God. That is why you pray to Him and you plead with Him and you argue, and you reason with Him. These Fathers used to do this. How different is our approach to the condition of the church today from that which was true of these Fathers and their successors for several generations. Today we look at the situation and we say – ‘Well, things are very bad, everything is going down – what shall we do? We had better have an evangelistic campaign.’ So we call a committee together and we begin to organize, and to talk about what is going to happen in a year’s time or so.
Calvinistic Methodists did not look at the problem like that. This is how they looked at it. They said, ‘Why are things like this ? What is the matter? We have offended God, He is grieved with us, He has turned His back on us. What can we do about this? We must get down on our knees and ask Him to come back, we must plead with Him.’ And so they would use the kind of arguments you find Moses using in praying to God in Exodus 33, or such as yon get in Isaiah 63. They would reason and argue with God, and say, ‘After all, we are Your people, not those others. Why do You not come back to us? We belong to You, Your name is involved in all this’. They would plead the ‘promises’ with God, they would agonize in prayer until God heard them and visited them again.
This is Calvinism. Nothing so promotes prayer as Calvinism. Calvinists who do not pray, I say, are not Calvinists. These things follow the one after the other as the night follows the day. The true Calvinist is concerned about revival. Why? Because he is concerned about the glory of God. This is the first thing with him. Not so much that the world is as it is, but that the world is behaving like this, and that God is there. It is God’s world, and they are under God. The glory of God! This is the great thing which dominates all the thinking of the Calvinist. So he is waiting, and longing, and pleading with God to ‘show’ this glory, to show this power, to arise and to scatter His enemies, and to make them like the dust, and to show the might of His almighty arm. This is Calvinism. They want this. They are zealous, and they are jealous, for His name. (Read the whole thing HERE).
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