Pessimism Defined, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Political Divisions Among Christians


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Famed Welsh preacher and physician Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), in a sermon series on Romans 1 which he started in 1958, once had this to say about why Hitler had never worried him.

“I was never worried for a second about a man like Hitler; it was enough for me to read the thirty-seventh Psalm, and there I read of a man like him spreading himself like a green bay tree, a sort of colossus striding the whole earth. But I read on and learned that a day came when a man wanted to go to see him and to speak with him, and he could not find him. He searched everywhere for him; he could not find any trace of him; he had vanished. Why? God had blown upon him.”

And that is well. But Martyn Lloyd-Jones had other things to say too about politics. For instance, when he came to preaching on Romans 13 from 1966-1967, he expressed at some length how and why he did not believe professing Christians should ever divide over politics.

"Is there is only one view amongst Christians with regard to economics or any of these questions? The answer, quite plainly, is no. That is why I have always opposed the idea that there should be a Christian political party in this country. In some countries you will find such parties, but that, to me, is based on a complete misunderstanding of this teaching. You cannot have a Christian political party because Christians hold different views on the economy and other issues.

You can have equally good Christians in the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the Labour Party. What is it that divides them? Not their Christianity, not their spiritual point of view, but their opinions with regard to specific problems in the realm of economics, or drainage even, or one of these other questions that law and government have to consider.

Now I am not saying that the fact that people are Christians does not make a difference at all to their views on these matters. What I am saying is that you cannot say that there is ‘the Christian view’ with regard to most of these questions that have to be considered by the powers that be. And historically it has, of course, always been the case that Christian people have differed for one another on many of these questions without there being any reflection whatsoever upon their Christianity."

So then, Martyn Lloyd-Jones did not believe there should be a ‘Christian’ political party in Britain. Christians hold different views on the economy and other issues. Yet Christians congregate in separate denominations because we disagree about doctrine and practice too. Should we not do that either?

Clearly, not all disagreements between professing Christians are legitimate - for instance, in our day, consider the contention regarding sexual ethics, abortion, Climate Change, and public health policy. These are not just issues "of drainage even." It would be a mercy if we could say that, but we cannot.

And if MLJ held that equally good Christians should be found in every political party, does that include the Communist party? And what about when such a person believes they can mix in Marxism with the Gospel and deny that anyone who doesn't really knows and follows Jesus?

At a certain point, we must recognize that some profound political differences actually stem from profound theological and teleological differences. And some believe God's Word is a tool to transform their own hearts and minds, while others believe their political ideology should be the guide to reinterpret and even hijack the Scriptures.

When the latter happens, we cannot always just shrug dispassionately because it's generally true that Christians can disagree. Sometimes political differences between those who claim Christ both stem from and result in false teaching, a false testimony, and a false gospel. We must be clear about that.

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