Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Desiring God National Conference

From September 29 – October 1, 2006, Desiring God (John Piper’s preaching and teaching ministry) hosted their annual conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The title of the conference was “Above all Earthly Powers: The Supremacy of Christ in a Post-Modern World,” which was taken from David Wells’ book of, essentially, the same title (Above all Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, Eerdmans, 2005).

Wells was the first of six speakers, and after spending quite some time setting the context for his talk, he made a statement that has continued to ring in my ears: “We simply have no other Christ to preach than the one presented us in the Bible.” Whether we live in a pre-modern or modern or post-modern or ultra-modern world, whether we live in a part of the world where none of these categories makes sense, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and it is this changeless Christ that we must preach.

It is one thing to seek to understand the postmodern world so that we can preach the gospel in words and categories that make sense to people and that are persuasive to people. It is quite another thing to look to the postmodern world to give us a context for understanding, or as some are saying today, re-imagining Christianity itself.

Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is about as different from David Wells as one can be, but he said essentially the same thing: regardless of our changing cultural context, we cannot change the message of the gospel. We may need to change how we approach people and present the gospel, indeed we must, but we cannot compromise the truth of the gospel as we strive to contextualize it.

John Piper closed the conference Sunday with one of the more anointed sermons I’ve heard him give. I would strongly suggest that you visit and listen to it. He did a tremendous job of showing how a biblical vision of the magnitude of God puts the epistemological issues raised by postmodernism in proper context. That it is to say, he displayed how a massive vision of a massive God makes seemingly massive problems small.

I walked away from this conference more resolute than ever in several convictions: (1) The Bible is our only reliable source of information about who God is and who Jesus Christ is, and one of the main tasks of ministry is to show how this is so; (2) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; (3) Postmodernism is a cultural reality that must be taken seriously if we’re to preach the gospel with effectiveness; and (4) Postmodernism is not a worthy framework through which to reinterpret Christianity.

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