What a day-and-a-half! Duncan, Mohler, Sproul, Piper—all on Thursday. Those four guys combined think more thoughts in an average day of vacation than I’ll think in a lifetime. Then Mahaney and MacArthur on Friday. Plus multiple panel discussions between the core four and one of the special guests. Like I said before, I would be foolish to try to summarize when Tim Challies has done it so masterfully. Here are some brief reflections:
Duncan on preaching the Old Testament: He was preaching to the choir with me. My love, understanding, and appreciation for the OT has grown tremendously in recent years. I’m still a little more rigid on my literal, grammatical hermeneutic than Duncan, but far more committed to the contemporary relevance of the OT than MacArthur.
Mohler on preaching and the culture: Vintage Mohler. He deconstructed the nature of the contemporary cultural attacks on biblical authority in general and the gospel in particular. I expected a more direct connection to preaching than he developed, but it was still great. The best thing I’ve heard so far on this topic is a workshop by Sam Horn last month at the Wilds Youth Worker’s Conference.
Sproul on justification by faith alone: Everyone needs to hear Sproul do this once in your life. To me the best part of Sproul’s presentation was his answer to Dever’s question about the difference between salvation and justification during the post-Sproul panel discussion. He developed perfectly the biblical concept of salvation as a past, present, and future event. This may be a radical concept to some, but he talked about how salvation does involve works. [Take a deep breath.] Justification—the past, retrospective, completed aspect of our salvation—is by faith alone. Sanctification—the present, ongoing, progressive aspect of our salvation—is inseparable from our works, even though it is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes this work.
Piper on the glory of God in preaching: This was the hands-down highlight of the conference. I suspect that just about anyone who was there would say the same thing. I am not going to do him an injustice by commenting. Just buy the recording. Sell your hair, your watch, your firstborn child if you must. Just buy it. [The MP3 CD of all sessions is $11—$11!!] You will never hear a message that more efficiently communicates the essence of the God-centeredness of God unveiled in his passion for His own glory and His own name.
Mahaney on application in preaching: Mahaney brings so much to the table in his emphasis on and demonstration of an authentic life of faith. His family of churches provides such a stellar pattern of biblical church community—of believers covenanted together to mutual edification. People are involved in one anothers’ lives in a deliberate way so as to admonish, support, and build up the body of Christ. Scarcely a month goes by when I do not hear of someone from circles similar to mine whose spiritual life has not been revitalized and transformed by one of the churches in the Sovereign Grace family.
MacArthur on 40 years of gospel ministry: MacArthur thinks expositional preaching might be kind of a good idea. You may have heard him say something along these lines before. ‘Nuff said.
I hope to share some choice quotes, some overall impressions, and some thoughts on the conference leaders' theological affirmations and denials in future posts.