Thursday, October 19, 2006
Reflection on...Above All Earthly Powers: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World
This reflection has been a long time coming…considering the conference was approximately three weeks ago. Have you ever noticed that when you reflect on something very recent that it is not so much something you have digested? The quick reflection just becomes a regurgitation of your notes. Well, I waited a while to write my reflection…instead of reading my notes you can track a few things that stuck with me for more than a day. [That’s just my excuse for waiting for so long.]
Anyhow, these are my brief reflections of the conference.
There was a lot of hype… I don’t like to go with what’s popular, but it felt/feels like the Holy Spirit was/is really at work in these messages. However, I need to bear in mind Edward’s thoughts from Distinguising Marks. Perceived appearances don’t always signify authentic work of the Spirit. However, the fact that this conference stuck so tightly to the Word of God I would say it is of the Holy Spirit! Also, I wish I could see some of the fruit from these conferences in local churches. I know it’s probably happening, but I just can’t see it with my limited perspective.
The bookstore is a huge part of the conference…and I think books are important, but in fighting consumerism this might be stumbling some brothers [just a thought...]. In the process of possibly stumbling brothers they bought some pretty good books though.
I appreciated every message, but I was very frustrated with the audience at times. If you listen to the recordings you might be able to pick up on what I mean. I know there were probably some dissenters in the audience, but the majority already shared the same mindset and convictions as the speakers [so basically they were preaching to the choir…which isn’t necessarily bad]. Anyhow, when a preacher would rebuke the erroneous views and poor epistemologies…a ton of people would laugh. As if to say, “yeah you’re right, and it’s so obvious by what you are saying…that it’s hilarious that these men we don’t even know are losing the gospel…and are so deceived.” This is serious stuff...and the audience laughed way to much at some of these things. This was mostly on the first night…because Piper came out in the first interview panel with all guns blazing against the Emergent Church epistemology. This really was discouraging to me because I have friends who are persuaded to the Emergent wiles and ways of thinking. And it’s been difficult to discourse. I think that this kind of approach might not be effective to reconcile them to orthodoxy. If you come out abrasive to the person’s face that’s one thing, but I don’t think that is what this conference was intended to be. After that first night I was afraid it was just going to turn into an all out Emergent-church-bashing-fest. Fortunately, all the speakers were very gentle and humble in the rest of their talks and very gospel centered. John Piper modelled humily in an incredible way on the last talk!
My favorite talk was by Tim Keller [Redeemer Presbyterian, NYC]. Because of my age  I have thought in the past, “well, I’m postmodern because I’m young.” Well, news-flash, I’m not a postmodern [completely]. Next to Mark Dever’s “Mountain” analogy for the thought “every religion is correct just taking different paths to the same God” Tim Keller had another great way to describe this view. He talked about an Indian proverb of an elephant that was extremely helpful to identify that those saying “all paths are different paths to the same God” are just as presuppositional and exclusive as Christians truth that "Jesus is God within the Trinity and is the only way to God". In order for a person to make the statement “all paths lead to the same God” they have to be able to see all the paths that lead to God. They are espousing that they have knowledge of absolute truth, which they are trying to strip from you. He was very upfront that as Christians we must honestly deal with defeater arguments. If we do not do this we cannot expect people to understand our worldview shaped biblically by God.
Keller also developed his talk off a theme from Martin Lloyd-Jones, “the demon is in too deep.” Saying that a narrative presentation of the gospel must accompany evangelism...we can't just do the four spiritual laws and think that people get it. His combination of gospel centeredness, wit, social analysis, and experience really brought a lot to the table.
Really, I learned way more than I can state in a reflection like this, but suffice it to say that it gave me a renewed vision of God and challenged me to start to focus on where God would have me serve.
The only difficult aspect to a conference like this is that you learn a lot, and then when you want to apply some of what you learned you come across as arrogant or a perceived know-it-all. We need to be humble. Also, there wasn't a lot of advice on how to apply these things to the local church if you aren't in leadership of it.
One last thing on evangelism. Toward the end of D. A. Carson's talk he spoke a little of evangelism. That the love of God is displayed in the Father's love of the Son, and that evangelism of Christians must be the same way. People know God's love by Christians exhibiting Trinity love...love of our brothers and sisters in Christ. John 13:35 "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." [ESV]