I wish to the Thank Randolph Street Church, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the musicians--I presume from RSC--and the two speakers, Burk Parsons and Phil Johnson for their ministry to Doug and I. As the pastor of a small church I was incredibly impressed with the fine job the folk at Randolph did in hosting this conference.
Prior to the conference my only real point of reference with the conference was Phil. Johnson--he is an integral part of John MacArthur's ministry. I have benefited immensely from Dr. MacArthur's ministry. I know that Phil has been the editor of most of his books, and I have read some of Phil's postings on various issues of our day and found them to be helpful. Phil also had the good fortune to marry a friend of mine, Darlene. So, since the conference was relatively close, I had friends in the Charleston area where I could spend the night (Thanks Marty & Lee), the registration was cheap (The food I ate was worth far more than the price of admission.) and the conference came along at a time when my spirit was thirsty for some preaching on the Gospel of Christ, I attended. I wasn't disappointed. On several levels I found it to be a refreshing time. Thanks to all who made it possible.
As any of you know who follow this blog, my attendance at this conference also intersected with some searching in regard to Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, and my identity. (For those who may rightly observe that I'm way to old for an "Identity Crisis," let me say I think I know who I am. I'm just trying to figure out where that puts me in the nomenclature of Christianity in the 21st Century. (Note the end of my October 22 post on this blog.)
This conference perhaps made the question more pointed.
The two speakers, in question and answer sessions both kinda seemed to back away from Gospel-Centered as a definition of what the church ought to be. If I remember correctly, there were suggestions that "Gospel-Centered" is too narrow a focus. If I understood, I tend to agree with that.
My thoughts/questions were also piqued by a statement in the conferences handout, "The Appalachia region has been long neglected by God-centered, gospel-saturated movements." If they mean by that there is a need for more, I'll give a hearty "Amen!" I don't think that is what they meant, though. It appeared to me that a great deal of ministry that I would regard as Gospel saturated, and God-centered was being ignored or rejected in that comment. I know a great many ministries in that region which I would regard as God-centered and Gospel-saturated. Many of these ministries have withstood the inroads of gimmickery that has marked way too much of Evangelicalism.
The same handout contains one of the great old God-centered, Gospel-saturated songs. "And can it be that I should gain . . ." I found myself wondering, based on what I saw to be the general ethos of the conference, if the author of that hymn, Charles Wesley, would be considered to be conducting a God-centered, Gospel-saturated ministry? (Were it only a matter of one 2 day conference I would not raise the question. This conference is one expression of a considerable movement.)
Let me finish by asking the same question several ways:
- Is Calvinism an integral part of the Gospel? (One passage from Spurgeon that was shared from the platform would lend me to think that the answer is yes. Though, the reading of that passage was accompanied with a statement to the effect that in general Spurgeon did not make a big deal of his Calvinism, put Arminians down, etc.
- Did John and Charles Wesley conduct a God-centered, Gospel saturated ministry?
- Is Calvinistic purity a requirement for conducting a God-centered, Gospel saturated ministry?
- Does the kind of statement made in the conference program create a needless and unhelpful division within the body of Christ?
My questions are sincere. Should anyone enter into dialog, I hope to learn from the exchange.
To God be the glory!