Friday, March 16, 2007

Some Reflections on the Ligonier Conference

I’m thankful for the Ligonier webcast of the conference happening right now in Florida. I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch, listen and learn from some of the best apologetic, preaching, and theological minds in our day.

I’ve not been able to catch all the sessions, but what I have seen has been thought provoking. Just a couple of reflections so far, both from Piper’s sessions.

First, the Thursday evening talk on apologetics struck me again with the necessity of loving Jesus for who He is. Piper’s task was to define faith. And in his characteristic way, he went beyond typical definitions and analogies to underscore the indispensable place of affections for and highest valuation/esteem for Christ. Piper questioned whether a person really had faith if they had not received Christ, that is come to prize Christ above all things and for who He is instead of “receiving” Christ as an effective solution to fear, comfort, safety, escape from hell, etc.

Pastorally, I’ve often wondered about individuals who “confess” Christ but seem to have no genuine affections for Him. The number of people who say “I believe in him” as though assent were all there was to following Christ, and at the same time say or demonstrate that their affections reside elsewhere, is really quite concerning to me. It’s as though the gospel nestles in the ear or in the mind but doesn’t worm its way into the core, the heart, of the person.

And I was reminded of how many times I’ve been guilty of distinguishing between “head religion” and “heart religion” but construing the difference as a matter of whether or not “heart religion” was reflected in service to the church and various other outward displays that were supposed to indicate being “on fire for Christ.” I’m thankful for the ways that Piper and others have helped me draw, I think, a better distinction. The head may give intellectual assent, but true faith is a work of the Spirit that opens the blinded eye and stirs the heart of man with rejoicing, pleasure, and deep, centralizing affection for Jesus as He really is. The person with such a heart has “heart religion,” genuine saving faith.

Second, I was struck with Piper’s meditation on the effect of relativism on the use of language. Language when used to describe objective truth has a high, noble and glorious purpose. But he described how relativism is used to actually hide the truth, counterfeit reality and to evade real commitment and conviction. In a relativistic culture, language becomes ultimately about spin, about appearing to believe or hold the same truth but actually masking either shallow understanding or real denial of the truth.

It provoked me to think about the use of language in preaching, to be sure that my speech in the pulpit and outside the pulpit is plain and granite where the Truth is concerned. That doesn’t do away with the need to be loving, etc., but the Truth needs to be in al our speech.

I missed his first couple points in this sermon. But I caught a couple other effects of relativism. Relativism…
  • Cloaks greed in the guise of flattery.
    Cloaks pride in the guise of humility. “All over the country relativism is being sold in the currency of humility.”
  • Enslaves people. “If we create a kind of Christianity that says there is no truth we will simply create a kind of Christianity that colonizes slaves.”
  • Leads to brutal totalitarianism. “When relativism holds sway in a society over time sooner or later more and more people do what is right in their own eyes. And when enough people do what’s right in their own eyes we call it anarchy. There are only two solutions to anarchy. One is revival. Or a dictator.”

1 comment:

Ben and Sarah said...

Mr.T-
Thanks for your recap, brother! There's a slim possibility you'll just happen to see Sarah's parents in the crowd of the conference as you watch the webcast. We're praying for your labors...

bw