This is my final day at the conference. The conference proper will end at lunchtime today, though attendees are encouraged to remain until after a communion service tomorrow afternoon. However, I will be spending the day in and around Los Angeles before heading to the airport to catch the redeye flight home so that I can celebrate my son’s sixth birthday with him tomorrow.
I made my way into the worship center a little bit early today and took a couple of photographs of the daily “pastor rush,” something that has become legend around this conference. I managed to get a couple of blurry but humorous photographs which I will post at some point.
Al Mohler will once again be teaching this morning under the banner of The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
He began with an interesting quote which prec“Preparing to hear and preach the Word of God should have an amazing way of clearing the mind.”
Christianity, we are told, must change or die according to Bishop Spong (and so many others). He wrote a book and suggested a twelve-point reformation of Christianity. He said that the twelve points were based on:
Theism is dead. Since it is dead, Jesus cannot be God. Creation and the Fall are myths that are now outdated. The virgin birth is out because it is tied to Christ’s deity which is also out. The miracles are out because we no longer believe in the possibility that the supernatural can intrude. The cross must be dispensed with as the center of Christianity because the cross is a barbarian idea. There is no visible resurrection of the dead for Christ. The ascension cannot be translated into our age. There is no eternal, objective standard written in Scripture to judge our ethical behavior. Prayer is out because of the death of theism. The church must abandon guilt and any warning of fear of hell. We must embrace and celebrate all forms of human diversity, including, of course, sexual orientation.
The last couple of hundreds of years have seen heresy after heresy arrive and, in some way, be worked into some manner of what calls itself Christianity. There is a certain fatigue that comes to those who have to respond to form after form of these new heresies. It is a perpetual challenge to deal with all of this. We need some advice from someone who knows a whole lot more about this than we do.
2 Timothy 1:8-14. We need this word. We need this advice and need to hear Paul speak to Timothy as the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul.
A ministry of no shame: “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner.” Paul was constantly in trouble with the Roman Empire and was in a position of maximum shame, yet wrote these words to Timothy. As long as the minister is faithful, shame is impossible. Paul carried the scars of his suffering as badges of honor. In Hebrews we learn that Christ is not ashamed to call as brothers those who suffer for Him. There is no shame between the Redeemer and the redeemed. Yet one of the reasons that people are always trying to change Christianity is premised on a belief that we should be ashamed of Christ and ashamed of biblical truth. You can be harassed and hurt and slandered, but you cannot be ashamed.
A ministry of no confusion: We see this in verses 9 to 11. “If you want to stay out of trouble, preach in generalities.” If you stay on the near side of saying so close to something, people will never get close to being offended. Paul wanted Timothy to be clear about the gospel – to understand the clarify of the gospel. As believers we must be firm on both affirmations and denials. When Paul reasoned with the Athenians on Mars Hill, Paul both affirms and denies. He speaks not in generalities, but in specifics.
There are a few things we must see. First, the divine initiative. This is God’s act, for He saves. We need to point this out! It is God who does this. It is Christ who is seeking and saving the lost. Second, divine purpose. God’s purpose is grace. He created the world and now saves us to display His grace in the drama of redemption. Third, the divine timetable. This took place in eternity. We need to discover God’s purpose in ages past, not only in the present lest we lose the scope of God’s work. Fourth, a divine appointment. Paul was appointed for this purpose.
A ministry of no fear: We see this in verses 11 and 12. There is suffering in being in the ministry, at least in part, because of the scorn of the world but also in the hurt of seeing people reject the gospel. We are kept by the power of God and place our trust in Him.
A ministry of no compromise: Verses 13 and 14. There are two imperatives: follow and guard. The priority here is to guard this pattern – there is a pattern of sound words. Timothy’s assignment is not to be creative. On the contrary, Paul told Timothy to follow the pattern of sound words he had heard from him! Paul simply told Timothy to preach what Paul had preached, and say what Paul had said. We have an old story to tell and it is not ours to change or modify. It is ours to guard. It calls for tenacity and wisdom and activity. All of this implies that the faith is something that is and will be and always has been. We contend for the same faith that was held by all of the great men of church history.
Where do we find this pattern of sound words? Look how Paul talks to Timothy about this pattern of sound words. 1 Timothy 1:15 – “The saying is trustworthy…” Paul is telling Timothy that is the type of wording he should use. This pattern continues throughout these two epistles. There is a right way to describe the work and person of Christ. We need to learn how to say it right! We learn this pattern through the words of Scripture, but also through creeds and confessions and preaching and hymns. The difference between orthodoxy and heresy is often so slight that we need to be sure we know the right words. “Getting it close isn’t good enough.” “Theological liberals are never out to destroy the church, but to save Christianity from itself.”
The Emerging Church
A motivation: The motivation is to adapt Christianity to this age in a way that is relevant and missional. Their critique of modern Evangelicalism is almost entirely correct. The problem is what is behind that critique, which is, in the case of some but not all, the propositional character of revelation. Many leaders deny that this pattern of sound words is what is to be the sum and substance of our message. In many ways the Emerging Church embraces postmodernism and moral relativism.
Unfortunately at this point Dr. Mohler pretty well ran out of time so was not able to cover this topic in more detail. He went through this information very, very quickly. The obvious point of his examination of the Emergent Church was that it does not follow the biblical pattern of sound words.