If you want me to read a blog or pick up a book, just tell me that it has book recommendations in it. I just read a blog this morning, for instance, which offered the 5 top books which a pastor whom I appreciate would take on a deserted island. And then, only last week, I picked up a book called You Must Read, which had the favorite book from 32 current Christian leaders, one of whom was another pastor I like named Alistair Begg. Begg’s recommendation? – a classic which I can now highly recommend: Martyn Lloyd Jones’, What is an Evangelical?
Lloyd Jones’ book is short, a collection of three lectures he gave in 1971 at the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), sort of a British Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
And it seems that the second of the three lectures (I haven’t gotten to the third yet) is the heart of the work, where Lloyd Jones goes to pains to give the various characteristics of an evangelical. In Jones’ mind, there are surely true Christians outside of evangelicalism, but when Christianity loses its evangelical emphasis, well…
You can be a Christian and yet defective in your doctrine, but our concern and our endeavor is to have the true doctrine presented in its fullness because we believe that it is only as this is believed and preached and propagated that men and women are going to be converted and added to the church. When the church has gone wrong in doctrine, she has ceased to be a converting influence.
In short, when you meet a Christian unconcerned about the plight of the lost, you are meeting someone who though perhaps truly saved, is nevertheless sorely confused about biblical truth.
Distrust Reason – The Message of 1 Corinthians 1 – 4
And one of the characteristics of an evangelical really resonated with me –
“…the evangelical distrusts reason and particularly reason in the form of philosophy.”
I have personally seen this again and again. It happens when someone raises up their own reasoning or the reasoning of another above the Bible. I spoke on this in my sermon three weeks ago, when we looked at the end of Luke 10 where Martha was frustrated that Mary was not doing her share of the housework, opting instead to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His teaching. In response to out-of-sorts Martha, Jesus said, “…one thing is necessary”, and it wasn’t making sandwiches for guests. He continued, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42 (ESV) Logic and reason dictate that housework and cooking are priority – time with God is therefore nice but unnecessary – and most people live by such reasoning. However, Jesus said that sitting at his feet was the true priority.
The classic place where reason is raised above Scripture is in regard to Scripture itself. “It has so many errors and contradictions in it,” critics say. Yet Jesus Himself was content to trust all of Scripture as coming from the mouth of God. He said, “Scripture cannot be broken.” John 10:35 (ESV)
If not the death-knell of faith itself, such elevation of reason is almost always the death-knell of zeal. Jones makes this point by appealing to Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians…
Philosophy has always been the cause of the church going astray, for philosophy means, ultimately, a trusting to human reason and human understanding. The philosopher wants to encompass all truth; he wants to categorize and explain everything, and that is why there are no more important passages in the Scripture for us at the present time than the First Epistle to the Corinthians, starting in chapter 1, at verse 17, and going right the way through to the end of chapter 4, with especial reference to chapter 2.The apostle’s whole contention in those chapters is that things were going wrong in Corinth because they were beginning to bring back faith in human wisdom, philosophy; and his point is to show that this is diametrically opposed to the preaching of the gospel.
Jones quotes 1 Corinthians in at least two different places, showing that the Apostle Paul was the original distruster of reason and philosophy…
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV), or,
“If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.'” – 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (ESV)
Continued next week…