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Martyn Lloyd Jones Asks, Is Jesus Lord of Your Intellect?

bible literalism
Drawing by David Hayward

Or to put it another way, do you parse every thought you have through the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God?

Martyn Lloyd Jones, a 20th century Reformed pastor, who is quite popular among fundamentalist Calvinistic/Reformed Christians, had this to say on the matter:

‎”My thinking, if I believe that Jesus is the Lord, must be governed entirely by the Bible. In other words, I am not governed by modern thought. If I am governed by that, then Jesus is not the Lord of my intellect. So I cannot be governed by modern thought or by recent knowledge or by the latest discoveries of science. The moment I begin to be governed by those things, then Jesus is no longer Lord to me. I am putting myself in a superior position. I am making myself the lord.”

It should come as no surprise that Lloyd Jones rejected evolution. In his book, What is an Evangelical? , Lloyd Jones wrote:

‘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.’

Let this be a reminder of how the Evangelical doctrine of inerrancy and Bible literalism cripples a person’s ability to think and reason. When inquiry begins with an inerrant, infallible, inspired text there can be no hope of a satisfactory answer. Every answer must be fit into the Bible box and anything that doesn’t fit in this box is rejected out of hand. This kind of thinking breeds ignorance and keeps a person from seeing the world as it is.


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    I’ll not comment on the silly nonsense about him not believing in evolution (it’s as silly as trying to believe the earth is a flat disc). However I am going to continue to challenge the use of the term ‘literal’ with reference to the bible, even on the terms of fundamentalists.

    The term ‘literal’ is a very powerful word. It’s rather like the words ‘perfect’ or ‘unique’; you cannot have degrees of perfection or uniqueness, they either are or they aren’t. The nearest you can get to qualifying them is with words such as ‘nearly’, and so it is with the word literal. If the words in the bible don’t mean exactly what they say then they cannot be literal. If a pastor has to explain what the words mean, then they must mean something different to that which is written. No matter how powerful or convincing the metaphor, if it is a metaphor then it can’t be literal.

    I’m not sure if a metaphor is the opposite of literal, but they are mutually exclusive.

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    Martyn Lloyd-Jones was no fool, in fact he was someone with a withering intellect, when I still called myself a Christian I respected his teaching and would listen for hours to his sermons. Though I could never bring myself to accept the first 11 chapters of the Bible as history, the evidence against is just so strong and continuing to mount.

    My recollections of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones teaching is just how often he would find error in the theological interpretation of others in matters of specifics whilst leading them in general. As with virtually all preachers he looked back to the good old days (the 16th to 18th century) whilst bemoaning the state of the current church (1950’s and 60’s).

    In the end I suppose I should thank Lloyd-Jones and others like DL Moody who likewise insist that if the early chapters of the Bible are not literally true then the Christian faith falters as it helps me when I wonder what if I am mistaken in leaving faith behind.

    Recently I read Professor Norman Cohn’s book Noah’s Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought. It just confirmed the same pattern one sees in regard to the archaeology and evolution. Well meaning religiously pious scientists start out seeking to find evidence to confirm the Bible stories but eventually the overwhelming evidence causes them to realise this evidence casts extreme doubt on the historical accuracy of the Bible accounts.

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    Susan-Anne White

    Dr.Martyn Lloyd Jones possessed a towering intellect. He was a medical doctor and an assistant to Sir Thomas Horder, the Royal Physician. He gave up a medical career to preach the Christian Gospel. He did not give up his career to spend his life promoting and defending what you would describe as “myths.” Charity prevents me from comparing your intellect to his!
    By the way, I note your liking for the writings of Bart Ehrman. May I ask you to provide the atheistic explanation of the mystery of human suffering which Bart Ehrman struggled with and finally abandoned Christianity because of the existence of suffering in the world. How do you (and Ehrman) account for man’s inhumanity to man (the cause of so much suffering?)
    Also may I ask why you have become a foul-mouthed atheist when many atheists do not resort to such vulgarity when defending their position or attacking Christianity. You, Mr.Gerencser, are a maverick among your own kind i.e atheists.

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Bruce Gerencser