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Title: Lloyd-Jones and the Interwar Calvinist Resurgence
Authors: Bebbington, David William
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Editors: Atherstone, A
Jones, DC
Citation: Bebbington DW (2011) Lloyd-Jones and the Interwar Calvinist Resurgence. In: Atherstone A, Jones DC (ed.). Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Life and Legacy of ‘The Doctor’, Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, Imprint: Apollos.
Keywords: Lloyd-Jones
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: InterVarsity Press, Imprint: Apollos
Abstract: Extract of first 800 words of chapter: ‘Calvinism in England', declared Charles Breed in 1932, ‘appears to the casual observer to be declining.'[1] Breed, the pastor of Rehoboth Strict Baptist Chapel, Manor Park, was reporting to an international conference on the Reformed faith in London that was gathering information on the present position of Calvinism in the various countries of the world. He went on to paint a picture of steady decline in England since the Reformation, with Anglicans and Nonconformists sharing equally in the decay. But it is noteworthy that he qualified his depiction of a downgrade in his own day with the words ‘to the casual observer'. He believed that, in the providence of God, there was hope of a resurgence of Calvinism. Historians have commonly supposed, like Breed's casual observer, that Reformed teaching was evaporating in interwar Britain. In Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (1989), for example, there is a comment that the first Puritan conference organised under Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1950 was ‘the beginning of a revival of interest in the Reformed theological tradition'.[2] Lloyd-Jones's ministry, The Banner of Truth magazine and its associated publishing house, the Evangelical Movement of Wales and the Crieff Brotherhood in Scotland follow in that book as symptoms of a recovery of Calvinism, but all arose in the postwar years. The interwar period is tacitly held to have been a time when Reformed beliefs languished. It is generally accepted that there was a Calvin revival on the continent in the 1930s, loosely associated with the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy but spearheaded by the Calvinist Society of France, founded by Auguste Lecerf in 1927.[3] What this chapter will show is that something similar was happening at the same juncture in Britain. The international conference of 1932 in which Breed participated was one of the leading symptoms of the phenomenon. There are grounds for seeing the interwar period as a time of Calvinist resurgence in Britain. There is nevertheless a great deal of evidence in the years between the First and Second World Wars that Calvinism was unprecedentedly weak in Britain. The leaders of opinion were strikingly hostile. Thus in the last year of the First World War Maurice Bowra, later the celebrated Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, but then only nineteen, found himself in command of an artillery battery on a hill above the French town of Noyon. He received an order to flush out a party of Germans who were using the cathedral as an observation point, but Bowra was loathe to open fire on a historic building. ‘Then', he recounts in his autobiography, ‘I remembered that Noyon was the original home of John Calvin, and my qualms vanished. I felt that nothing could be too bad, even after some four centuries, for this enemy of the human race, and I set to work with care. I fired a plus and minus, and my third shot fell neatly into the middle of the church.'[4] It may well be that Bowra was also responsible on this occasion for the destruction of the birthplace of John Calvin, which had to be reconstructed in the aftermath of the war.[5] In Scotland, where the sense of indebtedness to the Reformed faith was bound up with national identity, there was less corporate aversion to Calvinism. At the quatercentenary of the Reformer's birth in 1909, for example, there had been a celebration in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, attended by the Lord Provost and the councillors in their civic robes.[6] Nevertheless even in Scotland there was a shifting of attitudes between the wars. The ‘Scottish literary Renaissance' led by Hugh MacDiarmid deplored what it saw as the restrictions on creativity forged by the cultural legacy of the Reformation. In 1933, for example, Eric Linklater, a prominent member of the group surrounding MacDiarmid, delivered a radio broadcast announcing that Scotland was ‘still crippled by Calvinism'.[7] The teaching of Calvin was out of favour with those who set the tone of public debate.   [1] Charles Breed, ‘England', in The Reformed Faith Commonly Called Calvinism: Report of the International Conference held in May, 1932 (London: Sovereign Grace Union, 1932), p. 135. [2] D. W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), p. 261. Cf. John J. Murray, Catch the Vision: Roots of the Reformed Recovery (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2007), chapter 1. [3] Patrick Cabanel, ‘French Protestants and the Legacy of John Calvin: Reformer and Legislator', in Johan de Niet, Herman Paul and Bart Wallet (eds), Sober, Strict and Scriptural: Collective Memories of John Calvin, 1800-2000 (Leiden: Brill, 2009), p. 63. [4] Maurice Bowra, Memories, 1898-1939 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966), p. 83. [5] M. G. C[ampbell], ‘John Calvin's House', Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society of England vol. 3 (1925), pp. 86-89. [6] British Weekly, 27 May 1909, p. 188. [7] Quoted in Peace and Truth [hereafter PT], January 1934, p. 13.
Rights: The publisher does not allow this work to be made publicly available in this Repository. Please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author. You can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study. The publisher has allowed an extract of 800 words from this chapter to be made available in this repository.
Type: Part of book or chapter of book
Affiliation: History

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