1. Evangelical

When Martyn Lloyd-Jones Confronted a Pastor Who Loved Controversy and Denunciation

Iain Murray recounts a meeting between pastors T. T. Shields (1873–1955) of Toronto and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) of London, in a story that will sound very relevant to our current discourse.


T. T. Shields was a vigorous denouncer of all denominational apostasy. In theology Shields and Lloyd-Jones stood close to one another; both were Calvinists, both millennial in their view of unfulfilled prophecy.

But there was an important aspect of Shields’ ministry with which Lloyd-Jones was not in sympathy. He thought the Baptist leader was sometimes too controversial, too denunciatory, and too censorious. Rather than helping young Christians by the strength of his polemics against liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics, Lloyd-Jones believed that Shields was losing the opportunity to influence those whose first need was to be given positive teaching.

Murray recounts a time when Lloyd-Jones and Shields planned to meet together:

As Dr. Lloyd-Jones spoke with [his wife] Bethan, who was not to accompany him, of this forthcoming meeting and they prayed about it, he came to the conviction that if Shields gave him any kind of opportunity he would raise the matter which limited his admiration of the older preacher’s evangelicalism.

Lloyd-Jones later recounted what took place at the meeting:

Shields came to fetch me and we had lunch. We talked on general subjects and then we went to sit in the garden.

There, as we drank coffee, he suddenly turned to me and said, “Are you a great reader of Joseph Parker?” [Parker was a 19th century English Congregational minister.]

I replied, “No, I am not.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I get nothing from him.”

“Man!” he said, “what’s the matter with you?”

“Well,” I said, “it’s all very well to make these criticisms of the liberals, but he doesn’t help me spiritually.”

“Surely you are helped by the way he makes mincemeat of the liberals?”

“No, I am not,” I responded. “You can make mincemeat of the liberals and still be in trouble in your own soul.”

“Well,” Shields said, “I read Joseph Parker every Sunday morning. He winds me up—puts me right.”

I felt my opening had come, so we began. We had a great debate. He was a very able man and we argued the issue about which I disagreed with him.

In defense of his attitude he said, “Do you know, every time I indulge in what you call one of these ‘dog-fights’ the sales of the Gospel Witness go right up. What about that?” [Gospel Witness was a newspapers, started by Shields in 1922, that had 30,000 subscribers.]

“Well,” I replied, “I have always observed that if there is a dog-fight a crowd gathers; I’m not at all surprised. People like that sort of thing.”

Then he brought up another argument.

He said, “Now, you are a doctor and you are confronted by a patient who has got cancer. You know that if that cancer is not removed it is going to kill the patient. You don’t want to operate but you have to do so because it is going to save the patient’s life. That is my position. I don’t want to be doing this kind of thing, but there is this cancer and it has got to be removed. What do you say to that?”

I responded, “What I say to that is this: I am a physician but there is such a thing as ‘a surgical mentality,’ or of becoming what is described as ‘knife-happy.’ I agree, there are some cases where you have got to operate, but the danger of the surgeon is to operate immediately. He thinks in terms of operating. Never have an operation without having a second opinion from a physician.”

At this point Shields got up, walked down the garden and then came back to reopen the conversation:

“Well,” he queried, “what about this: you remember Paul in Galatians 2? He had to withstand Peter to the face. He did not want to do it. Peter was an older apostle, a leader and so on. Paul did it very reluctantly, but he had to do it for the sake of the truth. I am in exactly that position. What do you say to that?”

“I would say this,” I responded, “that the effect of what Paul did was to win Peter round to his position and make him call him ‘our beloved brother Paul.’ Can you say the same about the people whom you attack?”

Shields was finished. Then, after we had stopped arguing, I made a great appeal to him. I said, “Dr. Shields, you used to be known as the Canadian Spurgeon, and you were. You are an outstanding man, in intellect, in preaching gift, in every other respect, but over the McMaster University business in the early twenties you suddenly changed and became negatory and denunciatory. I feel it has ruined your ministry. Why don’t you come back! Drop all this; preach the gospel to people positively and win them!”

Murray concludes:

Dr. Lloyd-Jones continued this appeal as they drove back in the car. With tears in his eyes, Shields—then fifty-nine years old—at length confessed, “I have never been spoken to like this in my life before and I am most grateful for you. You have moved me very deeply. I will tell you what I will do. I will call a meeting of my board tomorrow night, tell them exactly what we have discussed and put myself in their hands. If they agree with you I will do what you say. If they don’t, I won’t.”

The meeting, as Dr. Lloyd-Jones eventually heard, took place as arranged and Shields’ men told him not to listen to the advice he had received.

Thus no change was to follow the memorable meeting of the two men, except that Dr. Lloyd-Jones became more firmly convinced of the way in which an orthodox ministry can be spoilt by a wrong spirit and by wrong methods.


— Iain H. Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years (1899–1939) (Banner of Truth, 1982), 271–73. Posted with permission.

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