Even The Greats Get It Wrong from Time To Time

“You can never Christianize society. It is folly to attempt to do so. I would even suggest that it is heresy to do so. Man must be born again.
How can they live the Christian life if they have not become Christians? Good fruit can only come from a good tree, a good root; and the idea that you can impose a Christian life or culture upon non-Christian people is a contradiction of Christian teaching.”

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

1.) Of course this presupposes a pessimillennial eschatology. No one who was post-millennial would ever say such a thing. Pessimistic millennial views routinely pooh pooh the idea that Christ can be victorious in space and time history to the point that whole cultures and societies are so leavened with Christianity that they can genuinely be referred to as “Christian societies.” A Christian society does not mean, that every single person alive in that society is Christian but it does mean that Christianity has so leavened a society that the standards in that society (the expectations if you please) are informed by Biblical Christian categories.

2.) If one could never Christianize society, per Martyn Lloyd Jones (MLJ) then why preach the Gospel? It is simply the case that the successful preaching of the Gospel (as granted by God) will always lead to the Christianizing of society. How could the multiplication of countless conversions among one people group not lead to the Christianization of a society?

3.) The irony of a man who grew up during the last breaths of Christendom saying this is rich. The irony is furthered by the fact that he grew up in the British Isles… one of the places where God was pleased to breathe out Christian society.

4.) You see, this statement assumes that the preaching of the Gospel will always result in such a meager response that Christianity will never create a legitimately Christian society. It assumes that Christianity will always be a “back of the bus” religion as it pertains to its impact on social orders. It assumes that societies will always and forever be pagan societies. (What else can they be if they are not Christian?)

5.) Heresy to aim at Christian civilization? The Doctor at this point desperately needs a house call. Was Augustine heretical when he wrote “City of God,” which did more to Christianize Europe than anything ever written? Were Ulfilas and Patrick, and Boniface heretical in their work in Christianizing the Goths, Ireland, and the Germanic tribes? Were Clovis, Charlemagne, and Alfred the Great heretical for being instrumental in creating, politically, Christian lands and peoples? The Doctor’s statement is breathtaking in its denial of the history of Christianity. MLJ is suggesting that some of the grandest Christians ever were heretics.

6.) Of course individuals cannot live the Christian life if they have not become Christians. Did MLJ really believe that in order for a society to be Christian every single person without exception in that society had to be Christian? However, one can still have a Christianized society even if not all are converted. One can easily envision Christians capturing the levers of a social order and then moving that society towards a Christian ethos. As just one example, if Christians were able to leverage their influence in the law realm, they could bring to bear the the politicus usus of the law to the end that a society could run along a Christian world and life matrix when it comes to its criminal and statutory code. This would have the effect of Christianizing the society in an objective sense even if subjectively many in that society remained unconverted.

7.) The imposition of a religion upon a culture happens routinely in most societies. For example, the West was once overwhelmingly a Christian civilization but a handful of humanists were able to impose the religion of humanism on Western civilization. The same is true of Russia. Russia was once an Eastern Orthodox civilization and it had imposed upon it by a very small percentage of its Jewish population Bolshevism. MLJ is just in error here when he says, “the idea that you can impose a Christian life or culture upon non-Christian people is a contradiction of Christian teaching.”

The problem is that modern Christians, since the Enlightenment have lost their nerve. Having so redefined Christianity to be about the inward look that seeks to only slay individual peccadilloes it has lost the outward look to seek dominion in all areas of life in keeping with God’s standards. Christianity has largely become an effeminate religion and the Doctor’s quote reinforces that effeminate stance by wrapping it up in words like heresy and contradiction. There was a time when Christianity was masculine, outward looking, and dominion oriented. Men like Charles Martel, and John Sobieski, and Jean “Parisot” de la Valette had no problem defending Christianity as a civilization. Now Christianity doesn’t even want to speak in terms of Christian society or Christian civilization.

I love Lloyd-Jones. I have been significantly influenced by the man. I’ve read a large number of volumes written by him. I expect to shake his hand when I become part of the Church at rest. I am satisfied that he now knows how errant this statement was.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

One thought on “Even The Greats Get It Wrong from Time To Time”

  1. Horrible quote and regrettably most evangelicals agree with it today and the R2K guys are pouring gasoline on the fire.

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