Book Reviews & Notices

Book Reviews & Notices


D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Letters 1919-1981, Selected with notes by Iain Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994, 248 pages, $25.95

Reviewed by Thomas Ascol

Iain Murray has done it again. In his classic two-volume biography of Lloyd-Jones he introduced and documented the amazing work of God in the life and ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Those volumes have encouraged numerous pastors to remain faithful to their calling and they receive my vote for the greatest Christian biography in the twentieth century.

This new book, a compilation of selected letters from “the Doctor” makes a perfect companion to the earlier work. Murray arranges the letters both chronologically and thematically. In addition, the table of contents includes a brief, topical annotation with each letter listed. Thus, the reader can quickly scan the contents to search for letters which address particular issues of interest. For example, in section 6 (“A Younger Generation and New Agencies”) the following entries are included: “To Mr Raymond Johnston, Counsel for Young Writers,” and “To Mr Peter Golding, Better Times are Coming.”

Section 3 has letters “To Friends and Fellow Ministers” in which can be found Lloyd-Jones’ counsel on “Waiting on Divine Guidance,” and “On Breakdowns in the Ministry.” The wisdom and tenderness which characterize his correspondence are especially demonstrated in the latter where a middle-aged minister who has suffered a breakdown is encouraged with four pieces of advice: “(1) Do not analyse your symptoms.” “(2) Don’t be in too much of a hurry.” “(3) Do not think at all about the work [back home]. It is God’s, not yours and He will care for it.” “(4) You will find that this experience will be most rewarding spiritually” (76-77).

Did the Doctor ever speak in tongues? What did he consider to be the most important sermon he ever preached? How did he view the Baptist Union in England? These and other questions are answered in the letters contained in this book.

Banner of Truth has enriched the evangelical world by putting these letters into a book. The thorough index adds to the value. I highly recommend it.

Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History, American Theological Library Association Monograph Series, by James Edward McGoldrick, Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1994, 181 pp., $27.50

Reviewed by Terry Chrisope

For anyone who has felt the attraction of Baptist successionism (“Landmarkism” in popular terminology), James McGoldrick has provided half the antidote. In Baptist Successionism he demonstrates that this peculiar but popular interpretation of ecclesiastical history is historically untenable. It may be said at the outset that he does so in absolutely convincing fashion.

McGoldrick acknowledges (p. 2) that he once held the successionist theory, which claims that there has been an unbroken line or succession of Baptist (or at least baptistic) churches from New Testament times down to the present era. This understanding of church history was popularized in the United States by J. R. Graves in the mid-nineteenth century and especially by J. M. Carroll’s booklet, The Trail of Blood, published in 1931. Baptist successionism, or Landmarkism, also typically incorporates a denial of any concept of the church as the universal body of Christ made up of all Christian believers, and a rejection of all other (nonbaptist) church bodies as genuine churches.

McGoldrick’s method is first to define in terms of theology and practice what it means to be Baptist, then to examine the historical groups down through the centuries that have been claimed by Baptist successionists. He gives particular attention to those sects which are mentioned as Baptist forebears in The Trail of Blood. McGoldrick is to be commended for not contenting himself with the pronouncements of later historians but instead has sought out the primary sources which describe the beliefs and practices of the groups he examines. He carefully subjects these documentary sources to critical evaluation regarding their reliability.

To cite McGoldrick’s conclusions is to call the roll of the heroes of Baptist successionism, but in each case the claims made for them by successionists are found to be unsubstantiated: the evidence shows that the Montanists and Novatians were schismatic Catholics, not Baptists; St. Patrick operated under the auspices of the bishop of Rome and did not adhere to the Baptist conception of church, sacraments, or ministry; the Paulicians were not Baptists but separatists from Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy, they were anti-Trinitarian, and held an adoptionist Christology; the Bogomils were an extension of a dualistic strain of Paulicianism whose theology was not even Christian, much less Baptist; there is no positive evidence that Peter de Bruys, Henry of Lausanne, or Arnold of Brescia or their followers were Baptists; the Albigenses inherited the extreme dualism of the Bogomils and “held almost nothing in common with modern Baptists” (p. 67); and the medieval Waldenses were similar to the Roman Catholic order of Franciscans, while the later Waldenses were more akin to Presbyterians and Methodists than Baptists. Although the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century might seem on superficial consideration to be genuine ancestors of the Baptists, McGoldrick demonstrates that they held different views than Baptists on the doctrines of revelation, Christology, soteriology, and ecclesiology, and that there are no real genetic links between the Anabaptists of the continent and the Baptists of England.

Whence the Baptist, then? McGoldrick argues that the main stream of Baptist life was an outgrowth of the Calvinistic Puritan movement in England, where churches of recognizably Baptist persuasion and practice (gathered church, believer’s baptism, and baptism by immersion) emerged in the 1630’s and 1640’s. He shows that these churches were one with their Presbyterian and Congregational brethren in the Calvinistic theology which they shared, even calling themselves Protestant and disavowing any connection with the Anabaptists. If this is the true origin of Baptists, then there is no possibility of a succession of Baptist churches from apostolic times. The Landmark doctrine is, in McGoldrick’s words, “a phenomenon of relatively recent origin” (p. 145), having emerged in the nineteenth century and been popularized by J. R. Graves and J. M. Pendelton.

In view of the paucity of scholarly works by competent historians arguing against Baptist successionism, McGoldrick’s book must be regarded as an important contribution. His conclusions are sound, his handling of the evidence sure, and his tone irenic but firm.

The other half of the case against Baptist successionism would be a theological argument based on careful exegesis of relevant New Testament passages–such as 1 Corinthians 12:13 and the Epistle to the Ephesians–but that would be the subject of a different book. As for this book, it is difficult to see how the historical argument could be any better presented than has been done by James McGoldrick.


The Church Member’s Handbook of Theology by Norvelle Robertson was published in 1874 by the Southern Baptist Publication Society for the purpose of instructing Southern Baptist church members in biblical doctrine. It contains clear expositions of the doctrines of grace and provides further evidence that these doctrines were widespread and commonly held by early Southern Baptists. Lloyd Sprinkle of Sprinkle Publications has recently republished this excellent work. It retails for $17.00. You may obtain a copy by contacting him at (703) 434-8840, FAX (703) 434-4136; P. O. Box 1094, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 22801.

The Life and Times of the Reverend George Whitefield by Rev. Luke Tyerman (2 vols.) was one of the two original biographies on the great revival leader. The 1877 edition of this massive work (1200 pages) has been republished by Revival: The Need of the Times, P. O. Box 458, Azle, Texas, 76098; phone (817) 444-3752, FAX (813) 237-3313. It is available at a cost of $79.00 plus shipping.