Ligonier Day 1: Coffee, Books & Sproul

Travel was safe. Child slept and hardly cried on the plane. Day one started with a proper Dunkin Donut breakfast and some excessive book buying. Onward to the important stuff!

R.C. Sproul - The Article on Which the Church Stands or Falls

Sproul’s lecture on “Justification by Faith Alone” was nothing unheard by those who are familiar with Sproul’s ministry. Among some clarification concerning Catholic doctrine though, Sproul made some good comments.
First, the Catholic doctrine of Justification has been reduced too much by Evangelicals. They teach justification by faith + works or grace + merit. These are heretical for their addition and not because they exclude Christ but because they include us. Sometimes the focus of attack on Catholics is their neglect of Christ and His work. But that is neither the consistent nor proclaimed Catholic doctrine (perhaps just the experienced watered-down form). It's worth noting that Sproul would level a similar accusation on "free will" advocates.
Secondly, Sproul took us to the passage in Galatians concerning Paul withstanding Peter. But did Paul really withstand Peter concerning the gospel of justification by faith alone? It certainly looks that way if the general theme of “justification” is read into the book of Galatians without an in-death analysis of Paul’s words. Paul is addressing the inclusion of Gentiles with Jews at their eating table. How is this about justification in its "sin removing" form? I personally am not sure it is. I am beginning to see more and more legitimacy to N.T. Wright’s claim that Paul is addressing justification in a gospel/covenant realm that focuses on the inclusion of Gentiles with Jews. I think Paul is addressing this as well in Ephesians. So does this exclude the sin perspective of Justification? No. Christ as High Priest makes atonement for only His people and God has only called out to be His people those whom He will preserve to make plentiful. The simply sin perspective of Justification is contained withinthe Gentile incorporation perspective that is of incredibly importance in the book of Galatians. Perhaps a more in-depth look at N.T. Wright's teaching of justification will be needed in the future! Lucky you and me!

Steve Lawson - Feet Firmly Planted in Midair

Sadly, Robert Godfrey was unable to attend the conference due to sickness. As a church historian he is one of my favorite speakers and I was excited to hear him. Alas, we get the southern Baptist for another message!

Starting with Pilate, the world has continued to echo a question of derision concerning ultimate truth. Lawson did an excellent job of describing the growing wealth of relative thought in our culture. It is staggering to hear the actual numbers and I'll save you the math lesson and simply reiterate that it was staggering.

Lawson's lecture moved to the practical very quickly. He quoted significantly from an article condemning and  slamming Tim Tebow for his recent acceptance of an offer to speak at First Baptist Church in Dallas. The pastor of FBC Dallas is openly Evangelical and no more "horrific" than Lawson himself but the author of the article had his literary guns set on the FBCD pastor. He teaches that Jews, Muslims and Mormons will go to hell...so far all Biblical but Lawson is willing to take the pastor one step further...Lawson will accept that most Baptist will go to hell too! This got laughs and was likely the only light portion of the message (the reality behind the joke is no laughing matter). All of this was set to demonstrate the continuing active rejection of truth and more specifically God's truth. God is the giver of truth and in fact is Truth. Jesus Christ is this revealed truth and the Scriptures reflect and preserve the testimony of witnesses to this truth. The church today will see the persecution of "Rome" and "Jews" is they testify to this truth. Morality and truth cannot be negotiable for the church.

Because of the continuing truthfulness of God's truth, it is always relevant. How is this relevancy acceptable in our culture? It isn't. So why is the church facing only moderate persecution from the world? Because we've lost the authoritative truth of God. But we have the Scriptures don't we?! We value them highly don't we!? No. Instead of holding on the commanding, authoritative and powerful truth of God, the church is floundering while finding God's truth "entertaining" or "worth pondering". Yikes. Maybe it is time for lunch...

Q & A

The best part of the conference is always the questions asked to the panel. Despite the many great questions I'll only have the time to interact with one. The question was stated simply, "Can there be fellowship between padeobaptists and credobaptists?" The answer(s) was yes and no. And I think once described everyone should accept the answer. 
From the Baptist perspective, many churches do not permit an individual to become a member of the church until a confession of faith and public baptism. Once this is done, a church letter can be shared to change membership. But you still have to have a "believers baptism" to get in the door. On the Reformed side, while they will not reject church membership to those who hold to credobaptism, none are allowed to hold offices (deacon, teacher, elder, etc.) within a Reformed church.
So are these saints really in fellowship? Yes and no. Of course they share the fellowship made available to the body of Christ. But are they fully capable of sharing the fruits of church membership and spiritual gifts? The answer is a resounding "no". This makes my current situation all the more interesting. But perhaps more on that at a later time!

Alistair Begg - Preach the Word

Starting at 7:20, you would think a soft spoken Scot would put you to sleep. So what passage did Begg started with? You guessed it, Acts 20:9-12. Begg joked that too many preachers can do in minutes what took Paul hours. Ouch much? How about when Begg continues to press how many have talked themselves to sleep (in spirit of course). Ouch more? Coming away from any Begg lecture one must face the confrontations of practicality.

Are you praying for your pastor? Begg believes the mass exodus of the evangelical church at the close of service is a spiritual crime. Let us slow down our worship and permit for more prayer for the effectiveness of the Word of God in our pastors. This would affect every aspect of Christian life. It would have to since God's Word is concerned with every element of our lives. We must recognize that both the Scriptures and their interpreters were given to us by God. Enough of reading a passage and asking, "how does this make you feel?" but instead "do you understand what you are reading?". And when the church answers "no", we must accept that our pastors are given to provide understanding of the Scripture.

There was a lot more in this hour and throughout the day. But I can't give everything away for free! :-)

Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.