Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Experience AND Doctrine

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Experience AND Doctrine November 27, 2007

The following passage from the Doctor is a bit reminiscent of an old post of mine entitled, “I Want It All!

“. . . the trouble has generally been . . . that people have emphasised either experience or doctrine at the expense of the other . . . This is something that has been happening in the church from almost the very beginning . . .

When the whole emphasis is placed upon one or the other, you either have a tendency to fanaticism and excess or a tendency toward a barren intellectualism and a mechanical and a dead kind of orthodoxy . . .

As you read the stories of Luther and Calvin and other reformation fathers you will find that they began to fight this war on two fronts. They were fighting a dead, mechanical intellectualism on one hand, and they had to fight these other people who were running to excess and riot on the other.

Then in the seventeenth century you find the same kind of thing in connection with the Puritan movement . . . There were three main sections . . . in the middle you had people like the great John Owen and Thomas Goodwin in London, who constantly emphasised what they regarded as the only true scriptural position . . . which emphasises Spirit and doctrine, experience and definition. You must not say it is either/or; it is both. These, too, had to wage a warfare constantly on the two fronts. They had to fight the dead, barren intellectualism of many in Anglicanism and in the ranks of Puritanism, and the wild excesses of the early Quakers and various others . . .

As Evangelicals we find ourselves fighting on two fronts. We are obviously critical of a pure intellectualism and of a dead mechanical church which lacks any life . . . the gospel of Jesus Christ is a life-giving gospel. That is one side; but on the other side we see certain tendencies and we see certain excesses and we say “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits to see whether they are of God.” And thus we seem to be opposing everything, and so we receive criticism from all sides . . .

For myself, as long as I am charged by certain people with being nothing but a Pentecostalist ,and on the other hand charged by others with being an intellectual, a man who is always preaching doctrine, as long as the two criticisms come, I am very happy. But if one or the other of the two criticisms should ever cease, then, I say, is the time to be careful and to begin to examine the very foundations.

The position of Scripture . . . is one which is facing two extremes. The Spirit is essential, and experience is vital. However, truth and definition and doctrine and dogma are equally vital and essential. And our whole position is one which proclaims that experience which is not based solidly upon truth and doctrine is dangerous.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John, pp. 400-403.

My new pal, Chris, has published the following two quotes on this subject:

“Because some wings of the church have appealed to experience over against revelation, or have talked glibly about ill-defined ‘spirituality’ that is fundamentally divorced from the gospel, some of us have overreacted and begin to view all mention of experience as suspicious at best, perverse at worst. This overreaction must cease. The Scriptures themselves demand that we allow more place for experience than that. . .”

D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul and His Prayers, Grand Rapids (Baker, 1992), p. 191.

Relative to Romans 5:5, Moo writes:

“The confidence we have for the day of judgment is not based only on our intellectual recognition of the fact of God’s love, or even only on the demonstration of God’s love on the cross . . . but on the inner, subjective certainty that God does love us . . . and it is this internal, subjective, yes, even emotional, sensation within the believer that God does indeed love us – – love expressed and made vital in real, concrete actions on our behalf – – that gives to us the assurance that ‘hope will no disappoint us.’”

Douglas Moo, Commentary on Romans, pp. 312-313.

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