The Men Who Trained Me (and some books) – Pt. 1

I thought I’d do something different for a change.  I seldom write anything about myself on this blog, but I had the idea of putting down a few words about the men who trained me and to whom, to one degree or another, I owe a debt.  None of them is responsible for how I turned out.  The monster was self-made. But I want to introduce you to these men:

The first man is David N. Myers M.Min., a knowledgeable Bible teacher who helped me principally by giving me good books to read.  He showed me the value of commentaries and introduced me to the six volumes of Explore the Book by J. Sidlow Baxter.  He also kindled my interest in manuscript evidence after an encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness demoralized me (when each time I tried to prove the deity of Christ from my NIV (1984), the JW just referred me to the footnotes which through the reading into question).  I borrowed from him Caspar Gregory’s Canon and Text of the New Testament, Dean Burgon’s The Revision Revised, F. W. Kenyon’s Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, F. F. Bruce’s The Books and the Parchments, and other works to help me understand what was going on.  Burgon in particular impressed me. He was very erudite, but could write clear prose.  His arguments for what he called “the Traditional Text” were more searchant (so it seemed to me) than the other scholars, who often parroted one another.  Anyway, Dave Myers was a great help in this and other areas.  Later I would read F. H. A. Scrivener’s massive Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the NT (2 vols), and the intriguing study by Harry Sturz called The Byzantine Text-type and NT Textual Criticism.  These served as balances to Bruce Metzger (whose hard to procure Chapters in the History of NT Textual Criticism is terrific), and Kurt Aland.

Unfortunately, I was also introduced to the work of controversial American Fundamentalist Peter Ruckman.  I say unfortunately, not because of his personal issues, but because for a while his sarcasm rubbed off on me.  While I still think Ruckman made some points which needed to be made, and he did make me laugh at a time I really needed to laugh, I’m afraid I came away from his books and tapes more negatively affected than edified.  Some years later I read Westcott’s Commentary on Hebrews and discovered what I had been missing.  When attending London Theological Seminary in the mid-1990’s I came across the Life of Westcott, which gave the lie to the nonsense then propagated by Gail Riplinger. She literally composed quotes from different parts of the book and cut and pasted them together to make new quotes!  Anyway, it was Dave Myers who drilled home to me the question, “what does it say?”  And in a circle of friends who looked upon non-dispensationalists with suspicion, it was he who, when I pointed to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, told me that he was a very godly man.  Funny what things stick with you.

Bernard Lambert was a former missionary to S. America and was a Baptist preacher who would fill pulpits in many Baptist churches in East Anglia, England.  For some reason Bernard, who was retired when I knew him, took a shine to me and we became friends.  Bernard was a dark-suited 5 point Calvinist bookworm with whom I spent many hours talking about books and churches.  Like me, he was a bit of a maverick who disliked the politics and brown-nosing rife within evangelicalism.  I remember him getting emotional about the ostentation he saw at a certain Reformed conference.  He thought monies gifted to an organization should not be spent that way.  Bernard is now with the Lord. I owe him much.  It was he who confronted me with the choice I had to make between remaining as a ladder-climbing Purchaser and going to Seminary.  Since I had felt the call of God to the ministry for years, I knew the road I should take.  This was confirmed when, despite all appearances, I was accepted at London Theological Seminary (who only accepted a handful of students per year).  One of my most cherished possessions is the set of The Works of John Murray (4 vols) which Bernard gave me when I was at a rather low ebb in my life.  The great thing I remember about Bernard was his belief that the people of God needed encouragement.  Through him God encouraged me.

Graham Harrison taught Systematic Theology at London Theological Seminary (LTS) when I was there in the mid 90’s.  He was a solid and rather two-dimensional Calvinist, and, having myself my own thoughts on that subject, he seemed a bit suspicious of me.  I recall him scrupulously avoiding answering my questions about New Evangelicalism; something I think is a rather important thing for a theologian to have opinions about.  Still, his erudition impressed me.

Philip Eveson was the Resident Tutor and taught Hebrew and exegesis at LTS.  He was a pious man, always cheerful and amusing. He had a pastor’s heart, and my chief impression of him was of his concern for the students.  He noticed me staying up till the early hours reading Joseph Hall’s works and old copies of the Westminster Theological Journal and asked if I would be student librarian of the D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones library.  I naturally said yes!  I kept finding Kit-Kat wrappers in the Doctor’s books.  Eveson informed me that it was sometimes hard to get the Doctor to eat anything, but that he would always eat a Kit-Kat. When I visited Mr Eveson a few years afterwards he told me that he thought I never quite understood the Five Points.  I rattled off to him a list of authors (e.g. Pink, Palmer, Gill, Warfield, Coles, Steele & Thomas, Berkhof, Owen, Boettner) and politely told him that he was mistaken, but that I believed (and still believe) that the formulation of TULIP was more deductive than inductive and that the doctrines needed reformulating. He wasn’t impressed.  But I remain convinced that the way these “doctrines of grace” are formulated is far too deductive.  So while I have Calvinistic leanings I feel little compulsion to be a card-carrying “Reformed” man.

Hywel Jones.  Dr Jones seemed to like me because I didn’t walk in lock step with most of the other students.  I read the guys I was supposed to read (like Machen, Owen, John Murray), but I would read Dispensationalists like Pentecost and Ryrie, and Arminians like Lenski, and he didn’t seem to mind.  Jones taught Homiletics and Exegesis of the Books of Matthew and Hebrews.  In the staid Calvinist institution that was LTS, where students became molded into little models of what a Reformed preacher was supposed to be (I think the august, always serious, append a mini-sermon to every prayer stereotype was overdone a bit), Dr Jones had more breadth to him.  When I received an unexpected call to a church in the United States, it was Dr Jones who told me, “You’ll have to have a very good reason to say no.”  I didn’t, so I came.

Robert Oliver, the methodical and quiet spoken pastor-scholar, taught Church History at LTS, and was my favorite lecturer; though not perhaps my favorite prof.  His lectures were always precise and well-prepared; often read out from a manuscript with occasional remarks about an incident or preacher.  He was an excellent teacher, though to me he seemed rather snobbish as a person.  He certainly appeared to have his favorites, but maybe that was just my self-conscious perspective?  That said, I don’t think I could have had a better guide to the history of the early Church than Dr Oliver.

I want to give a hat tip to Dr David Green, who was a student at LTS at the same time that I was there.  It was David who taught me about postmodernism, particularly from the perspective of Art.  He gave a superb presentation to the students on the topic, which, perhaps because of my studies in Art History I really related to.  I recall our times chatting in his room (which was next to mine) about theology, postmodernism, art, the Puritans, and life.  He was a very genial man with real depth to him.  I have a memory of him reading Oliver Heywood’s Heart’s Treasure and telling me how it was impacting him. Perhaps his memory of me will not be as sunny.  I may have mystified him, as I mystified myself.  But his example of simple piety and warm affection for souls left its mark.

Lastly I should recognize Iris, the cook at LTS.  Not only did she fatten me up, she told me all sorts of stories about Dr. Lloyd-Jones, whom she had known well.  She once described the Doctor arriving at their flat with two cases; the big one was heavy with books and the smaller one had his clothes.  She told me how he would always wear his raincoat, and could hardly be prevailed upon to part with it.  MLJ disliked the pretension of signing his own books, but he did sign Iris’s copy of The Sermon on the Mount, which I was shown.  Iris was a straight-talker, and she had to put me right more than once.

Part Two


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