This is a guest post by Christopher Catherwood. He is the grandson of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and coeditor (with Elizabeth Catherwood) of The Christ-Centered Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Classic Sermons for the Church Today.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commonly referred to as the “Doctor,” was the prince of preachers of the twentieth century—perhaps the greatest since Spurgeon in the 19th century and Whitefield and Edwards in the 18th.
He was also the world’s best grandfather!
He died on my 26th birthday, March 1st, 1981, and he and I had a close grandfather/grandson relationship. I took very much after his side of the family, with a personality and intellectual interests very similar to his father, my great-grandfather, Henry Lloyd-Jones.
No one was more encouraging, enthusiastic, devoted and supportive than Martyn Lloyd-Jones to his six grandchildren (born between 1955 and 1971). He was a deeply committed family man. What was extraordinary was the fact that, despite having calls on his time from literally all over the world, he always made his family a top priority. He was never too busy for us.
A Family Man
A story that illustrates what kind of grandfather he was to me (and that also reveals how late he went to bed): We kept in touch while I was at university. One day during my first year, I came across an interesting and often controversial part of modern Evangelicalism and decided I needed to hear his perspective—I just had to know what he thought before I could go to bed! So I phoned my grandfather from a callbox very close to the spot where the Protestant martyrs were put to death in the 16th century.
It was 1 AM.
Despite the very late hour, we had a long theological conversation! Yes, he was that kind of grandfather.
He and I were often partners in the very British game of croquet, with my mother and grandmother partnering with each other. This was my grandfather’s way of relaxing as he edited his sermons on Ephesians and Romans.
I should say that the ladies usually trounced us . . .
A Life-Long Learner
Throughout his life, my grandfather continued to read medicine—just for relaxation! One time I had a serious eye injury and a disturbingly bad reaction to something after surgery. The doctors dismissed it as nothing, but he recognised the symptoms from a medical journal he had read only a short time before. He insisted on seeing my notes and discovered that I had an allergic reaction to one of my medicines, exactly as described in the journal. My medication was changed, I was soon fine, and my grandfather’s diagnostic skills had been shown to be as acute as ever.
He and my grandmother spent the school and university holidays with us in my parents’ house in Cambridgeshire. He had a special chair (which I inherited) in which he would do all his editing. He would discuss what he was writing over meals, so we learned tremendous amounts of theology while eating! He was also fascinated by history, an enthusiasm that he passed on to me. For me, twentieth century political history was enthralling. For him, that was the story of his student days, when he would sit in the balcony of the House of Commons, watching the great statesmen of the day debate. He was an eyewitness to significant events. At Christmas, he would give me history books as presents and took great pleasure in watching me open them.
A Spiritual Mentor
My grandfather’s family prayers could be as deep and lengthy as those pastoral prayers for which he was famous at Westminster Chapel. All the family would be there, and it was in this context that we saw him as our paterfamilias, as he would dispense his great wisdom before and after prayers.
He was (he always told us) a Bible Calvinist, not a systematic Calvinist. He always encouraged us to think for ourselves and never to hold views simply because he held them. He loved goading his descendants into vigorous discussion! Our opinions had to be Scripture-based—a way of life and thinking that is still powerfully with me now more than 30 years after his death. He was a spiritual mentor to all of us, and thus much more than simply a fabulous grandfather. His biblical wisdom, enthusiasm for truth, and “logic on fire” in his every day conversation as well as in his preaching are with us still.
I hope and pray that Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ published sermons inspire you as they continue to inspire me. The Reformed theology to which he devoted so much of his life is flourishing. In addition to preaching it, he truly lived and embodied it.
I pray that the same will be true of you as well.
Christopher Catherwood (PhD, University of East Anglia) is the grandson of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a supervisor for the Cambridge University history faculty, and a former regular instructor at the University of Richmond’s School for Continuing Education. He is associated with Churchill College in Cambridge and is the author or editor of more than twenty-five books, including Church History: A Crash Course for the Curious and The Christ-Centered Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Classic Sermons for the Church Today (with Elizabeth Catherwood). He lives in Cambridge with his wife, Paulette.