My second day in Minneapolis began early. We did not get back to our hotel until 11 PM last night and we were roused at 6 AM to get up and ready in time to get to an early breakfast with Justin Taylor and Roger and Amy of A-Team Blog. I had hoped to meet Roger last year when I was at the Shepherd’s Conference, but it did not work out, so it was nice to get in touch with him this time. We had a good time of fellowship, talking primarily about blogging (as you might expect). There is still no wireless in the convention center, so my posts today may be sporadic as it is possible that I will have to travel back to my hotel to find an Internet connection.
Last night David Wells taught about “The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World.” This morning Voddie Baucham will build on that foundation by discussing “The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Postmodern World.” He will be followed over the course of the day by Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and D.A. Carson. Voddie is an author, teacher and apologist. He has written a book, The Ever-Loving Truth, which helps Christians apply God’s Word to contemporary life. He serves as adjunct professor at The College of Biblical Studies in Houston, Texas and Union University in Jackson, Mississippi.
He began by reflecting on the propriety of quoting a person who is sitting in the audience, referring to D.A. Carson who was sitting in the front row. Carson gave him permission to quote him as he saw fit. Voddie then said that his intention today is based on a prayer he offered to God: “Grant me grace to stand up, speak up, and shut up.”
The supremacy of Christ is the issue at hand. Postmodernism is not what is supreme in this world. If there is an issue between Christ and postmodernism, Christ must win. There are two main competing worldviews in our culture and they have been referred to by many different titles. There is Christian theism on the one hand, and secular humanism on the other. Secular humanism does not acknowledge God for it begins with human knowledge. This is ironic, though, because the majority of people in our culture are secular humanists who believe in some kind of God.
Christian theism and truth
Christian theism views ethics as absolute while secular humanism views them as cultural and negotiable. What is ethical in one culture is not necessarily what is ethical in another. Each culture and each period of history negotiates its own ethics.
There are four basic questions that every person asks, no matter the time or place a person lives: Who am I? Why am I here? What is wrong with the world? How can what is wrong be made right? We may not all ask them in that form, but it is in the soul of each person to wrestle with these issues. He will answer these first from the perspective of our culture and then turn to Colossians 1 to answer them from Scripture.
Secular Humanist Perspective
Who am I? You are nothing! You are an accident, a mistake. You are a glorified ape and that is all you are. You are the result of random evolutionary processes. There is no rhyme, no reason, no purpose.
Why am I here? To consume and enjoy. No amount is ever enough as we always want a little bit more. All that matters is power. The answers to the first two questions bring about the social Darwinism that has caused such harm to the world.
What is wrong with the world? People are either insufficiently educated or insufficiently governed. People either don’t know enough or they aren’t being watched enough.
How can what is wrong be made right? More education and more government. Teach people more stuff. The problem is that if you take a sinful human being and teach him more, you create a person with greater ability to destroy. Then we govern them more, but who governs the governors?
How, then, do we respond as Christians? Colossians chapter 1 shows how the Bible responds to the same questions.
Who am I? Colossians 1:15-20 – the text doesn’t answer the question because it doesn’t start with me. The text starts with Christ because of the supremacy of Christ. The text begins with Christ as the creator of all things. Who am I begins with who Jesus is, for He is God. So who am I? I am the crowning glory of the creation of God. I am not accident! I have inherent dignity and worth and value. Christian theism cannot comprehend racism, classism and eugenics. “Christian theism looks at the black man and the not-so-black man (you categorize the world the way you want to, I’ll categorize it the way I want to). But it’s okay that you’re not black like me. God loves you just the way you are!” Here is the lingering and hovering question: within the confines of Christian theism there is no room for racism and other issues, yet we know of Christian cultures that embraced racism and slavery. Narrative is not normative. Just because it happened doesn’t mean it’s right. The more important question is what made it stop. What was the underlying worldview that rose up and showed the dissonance? We’ll learn that it was wrong by the standard of the supremacy of Christ.
Why am I here? Colossians 1:15-16 – Christian theism teaches that all things were created to bring Him glory and honor so He might have the supremacy in all things. This is why we all exist. He is to have supremacy and preeminence in all things. “God is not against us having things, but against things having us.” So much of what we do, what we study, what jobs we have, are based on our desire to consume and enjoy rather than to pursue the supremacy of Christ. We look for prestige rather than Christ.
What is wrong with the world? Colossians 1:21 – We are what is wrong with the world! We are God’s crowning creation and yet are hostile towards the one by whom and for whom we were created. The question is not “if God is good why do bad things happen?” but “how on earth can a holy and righteous God know what I did and thought and said yesterday and not kill me in my sleep last night?” Until we ask the question that way, we believe that the problem is “out there.” We believe that we are part of the solution rather than the problem. The problem with the world is me. The problem is the fact that I do not acknowledge the supremacy of Christ. I start with me as the measure of all things. The problem is that I judge God based by how well He carries out my agenda for the world, and I believe in the supremacy of me. As a result I want a God who is omnipotent but sovereign since then I can wield his power. If He is both omnipotent and sovereign, I am at His mercy.
How can what is wrong be made right? Colossians 1:22-23 – We see two things in this last set of statements. First, what is wrong can be made wrong by the penal substitutionary death of Christ and second that it cannot be made right any other way. We see the supremacy of Christ in His exclusivity. There is no other way in which men can be justified. Every other religion basically teaches that we need to ensure we do more good than bad and hope for the best. Three problems: I can’t be good because I am totally, radically depraved; What about all the things I did before my religious experience?; Where is my assurance? The answer to all of this is the supremacy of Christ. What is wrong can be made right by the blood of Jesus. “Christ paid a debt He did not owe on behalf of a people who could not pay Him back.”
We are the crowing creation of God, here to bring glory to Christ. We are what is wrong with the world, living as we do in pursuit of the supremacy of self, but all that is wrong can be made right through the atoning death of Christ and through repentance and faith on the part of sinners. When you juxtapose these worldviews, on the one hand you are left empty and hopeless. Man is left worthless, left to pursue his own satisfaction. On the other, you are precious, you have a purpose but you are powerless. This is okay, though, because you were purchased. This is the supremacy of Christ in truth in a postmodern world. As we walk through the highways and byways and look into the lifeless eyes of those who have bought this lie, let us rest assured that we possess the answer and are possessed by the answer. The answer is Christ and His supremacy in truth. Let us rest assured that those who walk aimlessly through life will never be satisfied by the answers of culture and the further we have run from Christ’s supremacy, the further we have run from the only thing that will ever satisfy and will ever suffice. Let us rest assured that the supremacy of Christ in truth also means the sufficiency of Christ in truth. Let us embrace this, and proclaim it passionately, confidently and relentlessly for after all, that is why we are here.
This was a powerful message–one of the most powerful I’ve heard in a long time. Be sure to get the audio recording of this one! It will be available for free from Desiring God’s web site within a few days.