The Doctor Himself and the Human Condition by Martin Lloyd-Jones

The following pages present typical passages from the papers and addresses given to medical practitioners and students by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones [1]. Widely – internationally – known from his thirty years of authoritative preaching in the pulpit of Westminster Chapel, London, he had entered the Christian ministry from the medical profession. He left Medicine in 1927, on the threshold of what held the promise of a distinguished career as a consultant physician, and throughout his life he remained deeply attached to the profession. He kept his interest in medical research and continued regularly to read the chief medical journals and literature. He changed course only because of what were for him the overriding claims of the ministry.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ main strength lay in his penetrating grasp of the Bible’s central message and his ability to apply it accurately to the contemporary situation. When in the pulpit his alert mind was wholly devoted to conveying to the audience the precise meaning of the text in its context. His teaching ability was such that illustrations were few for he felt little need to supplement the Bible’s material from the best secular literature or anecdote, with the result that few who heard him could easily forget his text and its essential thrust in its original setting. A now prominent Australian surgeon, who regularly attended Westminster Chapel during his postgraduate years in London, later commented – ‘I have always felt that I there received a complete course in Biblical theology and have greatly benefited ever since.’

Out of the pulpit, Dr. Lloyd-Jones made his beneficent influence felt in a number of directions. Chief of these, perhaps, was his impact on the University Christian Unions and members of the various professions. He gave much of his free time to the needs of theological students and younger ministers, and also, in their turn, to medical students and junior doctors. Being deeply read in theology and church history his accurately discriminating mind was at its best when sorting out the theoretical and practical problems of ordinands or busy ministers. One example, which is available in print, may be seen in the devastating reply to Dr. William Sargant’s book – The Battle for the Mind [2]. This tour de force was given at a ministers’ conference and led to an illuminating discussion. From 1939 to the end of his ministry, Dr. Lloyd-Jones gave up a whole day every month, except in the Summer vacation, to what grew into a largely attended ministers’ conference. Each autumn he also chaired the annual conference for study and discussion of the writings of the Puritans. His own papers at this conference and summing up at the end of the day’s proceedings were outstanding.

In spite of demands from his own Church, and midweek journeys across the country to bring encouragement to other congregations (and especially to preach at the induction of new ministers to their first charges), he rarely refused aid to the Christian Medical Fellowship. For over fifteen years he chaired the C.M.F.’s (London) Medical Study Group at which his restless research mind was given full rein in dismissing inadequately confirmed ‘findings’ or in demanding primary sources for statements which might prove only to rest on popular impression or statements copied from textbook to textbook.

Again, his own summing up at each stage of the Group’s progress – or, equally, at points of failure to achieve any – were frequently brilliant. The addresses which he gave at the Christian Medical Fellowship’s Annual Breakfasts during the B.M.A. Meetings at Cardiff 1953, Brighton 1956 and Swansea 1965 were by common consent among the best in a long series of such occasions.

Cold print is a poor substitute for the actual presence of this remarkable personality’s convincing tones and incisive reasoning, not to speak of his skilful use of both hands when driving home the truth. Because, in print, each arresting passage often proves so much a part of the warp and woof of a unified total argument, selection has proved difficult. It is hoped, however, that what is most relevant to the contemporary situation has been included. D.J.


[1] The Rev. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), M.B., B.S. (1921), M.D. (1923) M.R.C.P. (1925) Formerly Chief Clinical Assistant to the Medical Unit, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Minister of Sandfields Presbyterian Church, Aberavon (1927-1938); Minister, Westminster Chapel, London (1938-1968).

[2] Conversions: Psychological and Spiritual, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1959, Intervarsity Press.

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