by Iain H. Murray
Trade Paperback, 496 pg.
Banner Of Truth, 2013
Read: Jan. 12 – Feb. 9, 2014
This is a frequently flawed book, and at times it was only a sense of duty/politeness to the person who eagerly pressed it into my hands that I persevered. But in the end, I couldn’t help but walk away awed at both the man and the book that tried to summarize his life (yet, I don’t think you’ll see me picking up the two-volume version this was condensed from anytime soon).
The first fifty or so pages, recounting his youth, medical school/early practice, and conversion — and even the beginnings of his ministry — were pretty tedious, and more often than not, far too detailed.
Once Murray was able to focus on his first years of ministry in Wales, and his eventual move to Westminster Chapel, the book took off. It’s clear that the hand of the Lord was upon his ministry, and gave him much evident fruit. It’s impossible to disagree with Murray’s explanations for Lloyd-Jones’ success, and I can only imagine ministers would benefit from reading this with an eye for how to reform their own work. Throughout the chapters detailing his pastoral work — particularly the chapter “Sundays in the 1950s” — Murray’s affection for, and devotion to, Lloyd-Jones threatens to overwhelm the narrative, and at times it seems that “the Doctor” could do nothing wrong. I remarked during that chapter that I wasn’t sure if I was reading biography or hagiography, which may seem a bit harsh. But really, Murray became a rabid fanboy here.
The chapters devoted to the controversies over Evangelical unity, conflict with Graham, Packer and Stott (and names that didn’t register with me) were again, far too detailed for my taste — but it’s understandable, I think. Murray was trying to set the record straight on certain issues/incidents, to make sure the historical record gets Lloyd-Jones’ perspective on them (particularly when others, claiming to speak on his behalf, got it wrong). Not having a dog in those fights, my eyes glazed over more than I liked, but I sure didn’t go back and re-read to make certain I didn’t miss anything. Murray is able here to critique Lloyd-Jones a bit in these chapters, which was good to see.
The final chapter, depicting the final three years of his life, as his cancer was gaining the upper hand, was moving, inspirational and convicting. Lloyd-Jones continued to preach when able, to correspond with and advise younger ministers, write and start Murray on his biography — spurred on by the knowledge that his death was near. Lloyd-Jones spoke of paying attention to death, dying the right way — with an eye to the glory he was going to, and anticipating it. No way that I try to summarize will do it justice, just read it for yourself. You might want to keep a Kleenex handy. This chapter made all the stuff I’d grumbled and trudged through worth it.
Not Murray’s best — but obviously a work of love for the subject. Can’t imagine a little of that won’t rub off on the reader.