Thursday, March 15, 2007

Faith of our Fathers

I'm writing this post from cloudy Orlando, Florida. I just got back to my hotel room after a packed afternoon and evening of teaching at the Ligonier Conference. I have to admit, I originally wanted to go to the Shepherd's Conference at the Master's Church in California (John MacArthur's Church), however it sold out months before. I opted, then, for the Ligonier Conference. Don't get me wrong, I love these Ligonier Conferences, however the Shepherd's Conference is geared for pastors (and they give away more swag, I hear). Further, this Ligonier Conference is addressing the issue of Apologetics from a slightly different perspective than I enjoy (R.C. Sproul is quite a bit more friendly to Thomas Aquinas than I am, but that's a different subject). So, I was originally hoping to attend MacArthur's Shepherd's Conference, especially looking forward to hearing Pastor John Piper, a tremendous model of a "shepherding" leader.

Providence is a funny thing some times. As it turns out, I'm glad I'm here instead.

First of all, John Piper's father went to glory a couple weeks ago and he couldn't speak at the Shepherd's Conference as a result. I would have missed him. Second, it turns out Dr. MacArthur preached an opening sermon that asserted true Calvinists would be premillennialists! I kind of laugh thinking of that notion. Anyways, it would have been punishing for me to listen to that. I mean no disrespect, I often joke that God allows John MacArthur to have an erroneous eschatology (view of the end times) so he isn't right on everything. He is a very faithful servant of Christ and expositor of the Word, I just think he is off on his dispensational premillennialism. I am at the Ligonier Conference and John Piper is here! Dr. Sproul and Dr. Piper both spoke tonight. Dr. MacArthur is teaching tomorrow, as is Dr. Al Mohler and Dr. Ravi Zacharias. I seriously doubt there could be a better line up of Reformation-friendly speakers at any conference in the world today. Despite my aforementioned misgivings about Dr. Sproul's particular brand of Apologetics, I know I am in the presence of some of our contemporary titans of the faith.

This whole experience has me marvelling at God's work in raising up such men to carry the torch of Reformation. I also note these men are all in their sixties, with the exception of Dr. Mohler. Sproul and MacArthur are right close to seventy. Zacharias and Piper are in their early sixties. These men have become seasoned fathers in the faith. I really am humbled to be in their presence and only mention those few slight differences of perspective with the utmost trepidation so as not to relay any disrespect whatsoever. Each of these older men have impacted my personal spiritual and pastoral development immensely:

Dr. R.C. Sproul- I was a teen-ager when first exposed to Sproul's teaching. I remember reading "Chosen by God", a philosophical explanation of the doctrine of Election, and being thoroughly convinced of it's truth. Then, while at Moody Bible Institute, I heard him preach in person and was blown away by his lucid explanation of the Holiness of God. I think the great contribution to the reformed faith and evangelicalism Dr. Sproul has made is his ability to bring lofty doctrines to a level everybody can understand, without compromising the meaning. The resurgence of Reformation theology in our day is largely due to Sproul's faithful teaching and writing. He is the most influential "teacher" in the Church today, I think.

Dr. John MacArthur- I was also a teen-ager when I began listening to tapes from MacArthur's "Grace to You"broadcast. His verse-by-verse, plain, straightforward exposition ignited a hunger for God's Word in me. He was a big reason why I went to Moody Bible Institute, where he was a trustee when I attended. He has not wavered one bit in all these years. He has ministered at the same church for 35-plus years. Sure, I quibble with his dispensationalism, but not his regard for the authority of Scripture and commitment to the exposition thereof. I could only hope to emulate such skill in handling the Word of Truth. He and the late Dr. James Boice are the modern models of faithful expositional preaching. With Boice now in glory, I think John MacArthur is the great "expositor" of the Church in our day.

Dr. John Piper- I was in college when I was first exposed to Piper's "Christian Hedonism". The thought was so new to me that I would be most satisfied when I found my satisfaction in God alone! The other men have written voluminously making it hard to say which of their works are most important, Piper, on the other hand, while having many books to his credit, has one in particular that will define him- "Desiring God". A true work of spiritual genius for our day. On top of this contribution is a passion I have not seen in anyone quite like Piper. His passion in preaching compels me to fall in love with Christ all over every time He speaks of my Savior. John Piper is the chief "pastor" of the Church today, I humbly submit.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias- I was in college when I heard Ravi Zacharias speak at Moody Bible Institute. His eloquence is striking. He is a tremendous biblicist, yet, on top of that, his command of vast amounts of philosophical and cultural material is totally unique in our day. There are many as smart, but few who can communicate arguments and propositions so lucidly and effectively. I really see Zacharias as a modern day Paul at Mars Hill. While I think his chief contribution is the building up of the saints, God is using Him to draw thousands to Himself each year. I think Ravi Zacharias is this generation's great defender of the Faith.

Seeing these men reach their older years impresses upon me the need for a new generation to honor the legacy we have been given. I do not fret that God will raise up more titans like these men. For now, this day, I am very grateful to be at this event in the presence of my fathers.
May I preach, teach, defend, and shepherd in a way that honors the Savior they have so earnestly labored to display.


M. Jay Bennett said...

I agree! These men have each had a huge impact on my own spiritual pilgrimage, especially Sproul and Piper. Your experience with both is identical to my own. My first read of Sproul was Chosen by God. Afterward, I was convinced of and enamored with the doctrine of unconditional election. Piper's Desiring God radically changed my understanding and experience of the spiritual life. Thankfully, I've never recovered! And it was Piper who introduced me to Jonathan Edwards. If we ever meet face to face, the first thing I will do is thank him for introducing me to Edwards.

Wish I was there to enjoy them with you. Maybe next year?

Frontier Forest said...

Wished I could have been a mouse to see your expression when you first learned of MacAruthur' topic, "true Calvinists would be premillennialists!" I bet you rolled your eyes and gave a huge AMEN for some extra excitement, huh? Bet Sproul reacted just about the same way you did?