Core Christianity Comes to Austin
I recently attended the Core Christianity conference in Austin Texas. The theme of the conference was “The Promise Driven Life”. Nancy Guthrie and Michael Horton were the main conference speakers while Adriel Sanchez led a seminary before the second day of the conference got started. Fernando Ortega led worship and Adam Christing was the M.C.. The main conference consisted of four lectures, generally covering Core Christianity’s “4 Ds”: drama, doctrine, doxology, and discipleship.
Nancy Guthrie opened the conference with her lecture “What’s Your Problem?” This focused on the drama that mankind finds themselves in. In one sense, you could consider this lecture a biblical theology of sin. There were four main points that moved from the invasion of sin into the world, the impact that sin has on world, the intention of God for allowing sin, and finally the solution for sin. Very helpfully, she closed the lecture by summarizing the drama of mankind: the problem is sin and the solution is a savior.
Michael Horton gave the next lecture, “What’s Our Problem?”. This focused on the doctrine of the Christian faith, mainly by contrast. He addressed three different errors that are found in the church, errors that can build on each other toward apostasy. The first generation of errors is assuming the gospel. Everyone knows it, but no one preaches it. The second generation of errors is using the gospel. We can take the message of Jesus and find ways to support what we want to accomplish. The final generation of errors is moralistic therapeutic deism. The gospel becomes a how-to guide for self-realization and self-actualization. He linked these together as a process of apostasy: first the gospel is assumed, then it is utilized, and finally, it is forgotten.
On the second day of the conference, Nancy Guthrie opened the conference with her lecture “Problem Solved?”. This lecture focused on the doxological nature of the Christian faith. If her first lecture could be considered a biblical theology of sin, this lecture could be considered a biblical theology of the Lamb of God. She followed the thread of scripture dealing with sacrifices through the scriptures. This thread is developed from the skins that clothe Adam and Eve after the fall through the end of Revelation where all mankind is either hidden in the lamb’s blood or hiding from the lamb. Her message can best be summed up by John the Baptist upon seeing Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
The conference was closed by Michael Horton and his lecture “Now What?”. This lecture focused on what discipleship is. He gives some statistics about a modern church methodology that ranked church membership by their commitment. Those who were most committed, the disciplers in this scheme, were burnt out and felt empty and in need of help. The response given was that they needed to take care of themselves and their own needs. Horton presents this an example of a flawed, business model methodology of church life. He uses it as a launching pad to discuss healthy discipleship. The same message that gives us life in Christ also inspires and empowers us to disciple others. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the nourishment of the believer from beginning to end, and the gospel is the promise of God to deliver. The same power that brought forth creation out of nothing is the power that brings new life in dead sinners. This is the same power that drives our discipling of others. It is the gospel that gives meaning to our entire lives.
The four lectures built off of each other. The Christian life is a drama, but it is a drama that contains doctrine. When we understand the doctrines of the Christian faith we are driven to doxology. And because our lives overflow with this doxology, we are able to disciple others. There was a clear progression with the lectures, a progression that was methodological. All of these things rely on each other in a specific relationship. If any of them if removed or perverted, everything crumbles. This seems to be why this project is being billed as “Core Christianity”.
The conference was enjoyable, but not perfect. Adam Christing as MC was funny, but having him MC between lectures seemed a bit gimmicky at times. Before and between the lectures, Adam would say a couple jokes, do some magic tricks, and Fernando Ortega would lead worship. It seemed that the design of the conference was to appeal more to a broader evangelical audience. I actually think that is where the conference could do the most good. The conference took place at a PCA church, and while the content was good, I found Nancy Guthrie’s lectures to be more relevant to a PCA-type of audience than Michael Horton’s lectures. Guthrie’s lectures followed a much more narrative driven, biblical theologically minded approach to finding Christ in all of the scriptures. Horton certainly complemented her lectures, but he seemed to focus on the statistics and sociology of broad American Christianity. Given what seemed to be a pretty substantially reformed audience, I think that Horton’s lectures do more to help us understand what our coworkers and neighbors hear in church than resonate with our own experiences. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can come across as preaching to the choir in reformed circles.
I’m glad that I was able to attend the conference. There were memorable moments in each other lectures, and while I was somewhat familiar with Horton, it was a delight to hear Nancy Guthrie speak. Her experience and her passion are a great voice for the church today. Really, I think she was the highlight of the conference. I look forward to seeing how Core Christianity develops and I think it can be a helpful tool for the church today.