Just an update for anyone who is attending the conference and looking for Doug or myself. We’re the guys with the laptops (but you already knew that). We’re sitting by the sound table in the back of the auditorium. Whenever there is a break we’ll be out in the lobby uploading our stories. Drop by and make your presence known!
The final session of the opening day features John Piper and Justin Taylor sitting in armchairs on the stage before us. Justin will be asking John questions about his theology, about suffering, and I suppose anything else that springs to mind.
The session began with a couple of personal questions. Piper described how he came to understand the absolute sovereignty of God through his studies at Fuller Seminary. He then went on to speak about the greatest occasion of suffering in his life, the death of his mother exactly thirty one years ago from this day.
The topics then changed from being personal to being more specific to the topic of the conference.
Justin asked about whether we should cease praying for the persecuted church in other area of the world and pray that we might experience that type of suffering, since it is through persecution that the church is strengthened and purified. Piper, based on Hebrews 13, said that it seems presumptuous to dictate to God the strategy He would use to purify the church. We should pray that God would cause the Word to grow and triumph through whatever means He can use. Let God be God and work as He wills.
After a brief but compelling discussion of “the absence of God” and the importance of pointing people to the cross, even when they feel that God is not present to help them, Justin asked John simply, “Where is God?” Intentionally ignoring the question of where God is in the hurricane and the acts of terrorism, Justin asked where is God in the suffering faced by children when they are abused? Can we maintain that God is sovereign over all things, even in the face of terrible suffering such as they type faced by children? John taught that the nub of the issue was whether anything good could come from a world where such evil is ordained. He turned the issue to infant salvation and told that he believes that all children who die in infancy are elect. The reason such horrors exist is to show the outrage of sin – the horror of sin against a holy God. As outrageous as a sin like this is, it pales in comparison to the outrage of man choosing himself over God.
Why is the process of sanctification so slow? We are, of course, so overwhelmingly evil. But if God is sovereign and is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, why does He not increase or satisfaction much faster? God can sanctify instantaneously, for that is what He does when we die. Yet He does not do this in our lives. The answer must be that the struggle with my sin will somehow, in some way, make me more satisfied in Him. Perhaps when we are in heaven we will look back and bask in the grace of God that He persevered with us.
The final question dealt with preparing for suffering, a topic I presume we will cover in more detail before the weekend is through.
One observation I made during this session, and I mean it as an observation and certainly not a critique, is that Piper’s answers strengthened the more he spoke. Often, his first comments after Justin asked a question would be a little bit weak. But as he formed his thoughts in his mind and began to unpack the topic, he would grow more passionate and his words would carry more conviction. I suppose that is probably typical for this type of question and answer format.
And now, I have to get to bed. I was up at around 5:30 this morning and that is Eastern time. I lost an hour in my travels to Central time and am beginning to feel it. I’ll see you again in the morning.