February 13, 1980,
Statement by Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones concerning the discussion on justification at Westminster Seminary.
I am in entire agreement with the view of Phillip E. Hughes, Stanford Reid and Palmer Robertson. Shepherd is wrong about modern evangelistic preaching. Its trouble is not that it preaches justification by faith only, but that it does not preach the glory and the majesty of God, the law, the depths of sin and man’s complete helplessness and hopelessness. It caters psychologically for man’s cry for a friend, or help, or comfort.
Personally I could not as a preacher make the free offer of salvation if I held Shepherd’s view.
His basic trouble is that he does not start with the scripture but with the Confessions and Catechisms. It is a kind of scholasticism and at times in its subtlety almost [J]esuitical.
The next basic trouble is a constant failure to deal with the history of the book of Acts and the accounts of conversion. There, emphasis is on immediacy. The converts were baptized at once. See Acts 2 and Acts 8 in Samaria, Saul of Tarsus in chapter 9, Cornelius in chapter 10, Lydia and the jailor [sic] in chapter 16. There was no insistent on good works first.
In other words, Shepherd does not realize that justification is a once and for all act. He even talks of eschatological justification and regards it as something that is not complete until the judgment. He does not seem to recognize our lords distinction between the “gate and the way” in Matt. 7:13, 14. He likewise does not give sufficient weight to Rom. 4:6, “God who justifies the ungodly” and the statement in Romans 5, “while we were yet sinners and enemies.” He does not recognize that justification is entirely God’s forensic act of declaring we are just because he has imputed to us Christ righteousness. The result is no one could ever bring against Shepherd the charge brought against Paul in Rom. 6:1. Still more serious, he completely misses the jump in Rom. 8:30 from “justified to glorified” without sanctification being mentioned. The same is found in Rom. 5:1, 2.
In other words, his view of justification is that of the Roman Catholic’s, also that commonly in the second century that justification is based on sanctification.
I am not happy about his view of repentance. It is essentially a change in the mind and outlook as the Latin and Greek words indicate. A man realizes that he has been all wrong and bitterly regret this. He turns right round submitting himself utterly to God and desiring and proposing to show this in his future life. He only does this later, but has already repented and is justified. The works prove and demonstrate this.
Another big defect is his misunderstanding of and misuse of the Westminster Confession and the Catechisms. They were concerned as James was to warn against mere intellectual assent or what the Puritans called temporary professors. They rightly emphasized works as regards church membership and admission to the Lords supper, etc., but Shepherd constantly applies this to justification. He does not realize that the purpose of works is: 1) to test profession, 2) to glorify god and to please Him and show our gratitude to him, 3) to help in the matter of assurance, 4) to prepare us for heaven. I John 3:3.
A text he misses is Eph. 2:10 “we are his workmanship created a new in Christ Jesus unto good works.”
1. Shepherd removed the scandal from the preaching of justification and its inevitable subjection to the charge of antinomianism. His teaching is a subtle form of legalism and eventually is “another gospel”.
2. His teaching makes assurance virtually impossible as one is never satisfied with one’s works. Assurance is found in Rom. 5:1, 2 and Rom. 8:1 and I Cor. 1:30, “Who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” Christ is our only righteousness.
3. His teaching is contrary to that of the evangelicals of the last 400 years and he seems to rejoice in this! See Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon and all the great evangelists as well as the great theologians.
4. To teach this to students is tragically wrong.
D. M. Lloyd-Jones (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to O. Palmer Robertson and Paul G. Settle. Thanks to Wayne Sparkman, Director of the PCA Historical Center for his help with this document.)
Dear Dr Scott,
I am glad that Lloyd-Jones calls a spade a spade.
Thanks for the article.
You don’t actually agree with all of this, do you? His idea of conversion experience is derived from extra-ordinary circumstances in the book of acts, and he claims that Shepherd is spending too much time in the confessions. I think he has his own issues. Am I wrong?
I’ve published some evaluation of some of the Doctor’s views in Recovering the Reformed Confession.
I don’t think the concern was about too much time in the confessions but a matter of priority.
At bottom, however, the Doctor was a gospel man. His evaluation of Shepherd was an important historical moment.