The Doctor: Form and Spirit

I want to quote a sentence to you from a man who was about as far removed from being an Evangelical Christian as anyone could be, but he was a great thinker and an acute observer – the late Dean Inge.  He has produced a little book on Protestantism; it was one of a series.  I will never forget the first sentence in that book, it was so true.  He put it all in one phrase; he said: ‘Every institution tends to produce its opposite’.  Now that is a very profound remark.  It is a very perfect summary of the very thing I am trying to say here.  He was writing on Protestantism, and what he was able to show so cleverly, and which I want to repeat is this: that by today Protestantism has become almost the exact opposite of what it was at its beginning in the sixteenth century.

Why does such a thing happen?  It occurs as a result of the struggle between the spirit and the form.  I do not think there is a greater struggle than this.  The spirit must always have a form and that is why you have such a thing as the Christian church.  An idea must always take form if it is to be of any value.  But there is always a tension between these two.  Certain dangers arise, and the biggest danger of all is that the form tends to cripple the spirit.  I do not think you can begin to understand church history, you cannot understand the Bible, unless you have got clear in your mind this struggle and tension between form and spirit.  – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans Vol. 11, p. 150

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