Famous preacher: ‘Creation, not evolution’
Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, highly respected preacher of the 20th century, spoke at the 1971 International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (I.F.E.S.) Conference at Schloss Mittersill, Austria, on ‘What is an Evangelical?’1
He was concerned with subtle shifts in the commitment to the biblical gospel in the organisation that he had been intimately involved with over many years. In three addresses he covered the guiding principles for defining the essentials of faith for someone who claims to be an evangelical. He noted that doctrinal statements have to be spelled out from time to time to deal with whatever happens to be the point of departure at that time. He was concerned not to be divisive, but to be as inclusive as possible (p. 63), and then defined what he considered were ‘those truths which we regard as essential’. They were:
Scripture: the only and full authority
‘The first is the doctrine of Scripture.’ Dr Lloyd-Jones spelled out that an evangelical rejects the notion that church tradition can be added to Scripture in any way. Also, regarding divine inspiration, that the Bible was revealed supernaturally by God via men of His choosing—it did not result from men arriving at the truth ‘as a result of searching or thinking, or by means of philosophy. We must affirm that it is entirely given, that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21)’. They were not ‘inspired’ as a poet is inspired. Rather they were actually controlled by the Holy Spirit, so they recorded in their own styles, but without error, exactly what the Holy Spirit wanted.
Flowing from this, said Dr Lloyd-Jones, we must assert that ‘Scripture contains propositional truth’. That is, the Bible tells us things which are absolutely true for all time. Also, there is a supernatural element to the Bible—for example, in fulfilled prophecy. Also, the miracles of both the Old and New Testaments actually happened; they are historical. ‘We must assert the historicity of these manifestations of the supernatural’, said Dr Lloyd-Jones.
Furthermore, ‘we must believe the whole Bible. We must believe the history of the Bible as well as its didactic teaching. Failure here is always an indication of a departure from the true evangelical position.’
Two sources of revelation?
‘Today there are men who say, “Oh yes, we believe in the Bible and its authority in all matters of religion, but of course, we don’t go to the Bible for science” … They are saying that there are, as it were, two great authorities and two means of revelation: one of them is Scripture and the other is nature. These, they say, are complementary … so you go to the Scriptures for matters concerning your soul, but you do not go to them to seek God’s other revelation of Himself in nature. For that you go to science.’
Dr Lloyd-Jones said that this view ‘is not only extremely dangerous, but tends to undermine our whole position. We have got to contest it and contest it very strongly. … We must assert that we believe in the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis and all other biblical history.’
Sadly, this view of the Bible is rife today in ‘evangelical’ circles. This is the view of those in the American Scientific Affiliation, Christians in Science (which is U.K.-based), the Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology (ISCAST) in Australia, and Reasons to Believe (Hugh Ross), in the United States. Many of the principals in these groups claim they are ‘evangelicals’ and in so doing gain access to evangelical churches and theological colleges to promulgate this erroneous and dangerous teaching.
Dr Lloyd-Jones: ‘Creation, not evolution’
‘We accept the biblical teaching with regard to creation and do not base our position upon theories of evolution, whichever particular theory people may choose to advocate. We must assert that we believe in the being of one first man called Adam, and one first woman called Eve. We reject the notion of pre-Adamic man because it is contrary to the teaching of the Scripture.
‘Now someone may ask, “Why do you care about this? Is this essential to your doctrine of salvation? Are you not falling into the very error of over-particularization against which you warned us at the beginning?” I suggest that I am not, and for these reasons. If we say that we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, we must say that about the whole of the Bible, and when the Bible presents itself to us as history, we must accept it as history. I would contend that the early chapters of Genesis, the first three chapters of Genesis, are given to us as history. We know that there are pictures and symbols in the Bible, and when the Bible uses symbol and parable it indicates that it is doing so, but when it presents something to us in the form of history, it requires us to accept it as history.
‘We must therefore hold to the vital principle, to which I have referred earlier, of the wholeness and the close interrelationship of every part of the biblical message. The Bible does not merely make statements about salvation. It is a complete whole: it tells you about the origin of the world and of man; it tells you what has happened to him, how he fell and the need of salvation arose, it then tells how God provided this salvation and how He began to reveal it in parts and portions. Nothing is so amazing about the Bible as its wholeness, the perfect interrelationship of all the parts.’
Genesis ‘vital’ to doctrine of salvation
‘Therefore these early chapters of Genesis with their history play a vital part in the whole doctrine of salvation. Take for instance the argument of the apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans 5:12-21. Paul’s whole case is based upon that one man Adam and his one sin, and the contrast with the other one man, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His one great act. You have exactly the same thing in I Corinthians 15; the apostle’s whole argument rests upon the historicity. Indeed, it seems to me that one of the things we have got to assert, these days in particular—and it should always have been asserted—is that our Gospel, our faith, is not a teaching; it is not a philosophy; it is primarily a history.
‘The apostles, you remember, on the day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, were talking about the wonderful works of God. The works of salvation are God’s acts! The Bible is a record of God’s activity. Salvation is not an idea; it is something that results from actions which have taken place on the concrete plain of history. Historicity is a very vital matter. As I say, it is the very key to understanding the apostle Paul’s elaboration of his doctrine of salvation.’
Was Christ in error?
‘In addition to that, of course, the whole question of the person of our Lord arises. He clearly accepted this history, he referred to Adam, and in speaking about marriage he clearly accepts the historicity of that portion of Scripture.’
Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on to outline the danger of basing our biblical understanding on science. He pointed out that this was the error of the church in opposing Galileo—they had become infected with Greek philosophy, not the Bible, and that was the reason they opposed Galileo. He also points out that science itself is tentative, ever changing. Various organs were pronounced ‘vestigial’, useless, but have since been found to be important. He said ‘while we admit we cannot explain everything and that there are certain things put before us for which we cannot account, what we must say is this: Because the Spirit has born witness within us of the truth of the Scripture, we do believe whatever is asserted in the Scripture account of creation, about the whole cosmos, is true because God has said it, and though Scripture may appear to conflict with certain discoveries of science at the present time, we exhort people to be patient, assuring them that ultimately scientists will discover that they have been in error at some point or other … Thus we base our position on Scripture alone and this has always been the Protestant view of Scripture.’
‘The Fall and evil’
‘We must go on to assert that we must underline the fact of the historical fall of the first man, and that it happened in the way described in the third chapter of Genesis. Whether we can understand it or not is not the question. That is what we are told, and the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3 reminds the Corinthians that “the serpent beguiled Eve.” You cannot play fast and loose with these facts without involving the inspiration of the apostles, and ultimately, the person of our Lord. You will soon be saying that he was a child of His own age, that He was ignorant in certain respects, and that He had simply the scientific knowledge of His own times,2 and so on. You begin to query and to question His statements, and ultimately you will have no authority at all ….’
‘In the same way, we must assert the fact of the flood.‘ He apologises here for not having time to amplify this statement, but he undoubtedly had in mind key references by Christ (Luke 17:26-27) and Peter (2 Peter 3:3-7).
Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on to assert the importance of believing in the devil and evil spirits and the supernatural nature of the battle between good and evil. He affirms the spiritual deadness of man (‘not merely slightly defective’), that all men are ‘by nature the children of wrath’ (Eph. 2:3) and that there is only one way of salvation—through Jesus paying the penalty for our sin. Jesus died as our substitute, dying in our place, and God justifies the ungodly by a legal pronouncement, because of what Jesus did, not because of anything we do. He then says some things about the nature of the church—for example, that it consists of ‘the communion of saints’, not those born into a state or territorial church; and the importance of the ‘priesthood of all believers’ and that the sacraments have no value apart from faith by the recipient.
Then Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on to deal with ‘secondary truths not essential for unity’. He says ‘I have been dealing so far with the essentials …’
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was very clear: belief in the historicity of the biblical account of Creation, the Fall and the Flood, are non-negotiable essentials for anyone who would call themselves an evangelical. So where does this put those ‘evangelical’ leaders of the above organisations, IFES/IVF, and many ‘evangelical’ Bible and theological colleges, who do not believe in the historicity of Genesis? Or who say that it does not matter? Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones would say they are not evangelicals. In other words they have ceased to believe the Bible as it is meant to be believed.
References and notes
- D.M. Lloyd-Jones, What is an Evangelical? Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh (91 pp.), 1992. ISBN 0-85151-626-2. This article only excerpts small parts of the book that is highly recommended reading. The book can be bought from Banner of Truth Trust. Return to text.
- This very position has been stated to various people by one of the principals of ISCAST in Australia. Return to text.