BibleMesh is live and at a major Christian conference near you. We are currently exhibiting at The Gospel Coalition 2011 national conference at McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, IL. I’m writing with a few conference updates and highlights from the first day, yesterday, Tuesday, April 12, 2011. The theme for the conference is “They Testify About Me: Preaching Jesus and the Gospel from the Old Testament.”
Yesterday, BibleMesh hosted a panel discussion entitled “What I’ve Learned from Years of Preaching Christ from the Old Testament” featuring Alistair Begg, Mark Dever, and Philip Ryken. The panel was held at 12:30pm at the BibleMesh stage (yes, we have our own stage). We expected 300, maybe 400 people if things really filled up. We were a bit surprised–to say the least–when we did a soundcheck 90 minutes beforehand and found people already reserving seats. Over an hour later, we realized that we very nearly had a fire-code crisis on our hands. Over 1200 people showed up, completely shutting down traffic in a wing of the conference. We attribute this attendance to God’s kindness, primarily, but secondarily to the excellent panel we were able to assemble. The discussion ranged over hermeneutical (interpretive) questions, different theological ideas, and the true litmus test for any preacher’s Christ-centered homiletical approach: Song of Solomon. We were thrilled with the commentary and insight afforded us by Dever, Begg, and Ryken. The video will be released soon; it will be a major help in preaching the OT faithfully, with the hermeneutical key ever in view.
The first conference plenary session featured Al Mohler on “Studying the Scriptures and Finding Jesus” from John 5:31-47. Mohler offered an exhilarating exposition of one of the core passages that grounds Christocentric interpretation of Scripture, a text in which Jesus suggests of the Old Testament scriptures that “it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). In the course of his discussion of the text, Mohler listed five common ways of preaching the Old Testament that are problematic. Here is a rough summary of this helpful material:
For many, the OT is a problem. Christians have struggled to understand it. Reasons: the OT is labeled Hebrew Scriptures in a context of political correctness. This insinuates that the OT is someone else’s book. Second, there are Marcionites, practical Marcionites, not card-carrying ones (those who believe that the OT is not Christian Scripture). Third, we counter those who say the OT is to be read only on its terms, without any reference to the NT. We must avoid synagogue readings. Fourth, dispensationalism–one of the more common twentieth-century evangelical theological systems–rightly saw discontinuity but did not see continuity between the Old and the New. Fifth, some preach the OT as outdated. McLaren, for example, speaks of Noah’s account as “disturbing.”
Mohler fully affirmed the revelatory identity of the OT and suggested that in Jesus, the OT finds it fulfillment. In a passage toward the end of his address, he noted that “Christ has appeared. The sacrificial system has showed us that it doesn’t secure redemption. We needed Christ, our great high priest.”
Later in the day, Tim Keller preached on “Getting Out” from Exodus 14, working out the ways in which the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt informs our own salvation. I heard people say that this was practically Keller’s finest public address. The message included a helpful probing of the ways that redemption frees the sinner. Here is a rough reporting of Keller’s material:
There are four layers to redemption: 1) believers are free from law objectively (under guilt, condemnation)—through Jesus we get out; 2) we are free from law subjectively—deep down inside, everyone knows we should be perfect, which some parents aggravate and make kids prove themselves; 3) we are free from bondage to sin (not under law)—every time you sin you’re destroying yourself, whether a big or little sin; 4) we are free from bondage to idols—if you love anything more than God, that is an idol.
Keller next covered how we find release from sin:
How do we get out of bondage? Crossing over by grace. Every other religion is like a process—you put down a pylon. Not with Christianity—one minute you’re not regenerated—the next you are. Dr. Lloyd-Jones would ask people he met if they were a Christian. They would reply, with typical British modesty, “I’m trying.” He would unfold to them the reality of the gospel. We are saved not because of the quality of our faith, but the object of our faith. If you are a Christian, you have already crossed over. All your other problems are flea bites. Jesus’ salvation frees from bondage; it allows us to cross over.
These were a few highlights from day one of the conference; there were many others, and there is so much going at this veritable Gospel Jam Bonanza that one can scarcely keep up. BibleMesh signed up several hundred pastors to experience our website, a great response to our platform. Other interesting points of the day included hearing that theologian Michael Wittmer of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary is publishing a book response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins. This is terrific news, as Wittmer is a gifted and faithful man and a book response will endure. The Band of Bloggers discussion–now in its fifth year, an impressive accomplishment for its developer, Timmy Brister–featured much stimulating content on one of the drivers of theological conversation in our day, blogs. I had the pleasure of sitting with Ted Olsen of Christianity Today during the event and benefited from his reflection on online Christian writing (Ted was one of the first evangelical bloggers, if not the first).
At the end of the day, a group of scholars and pastors presented TGC co-founder Don Carson with a festschrift. The project had been in the works for some time and was championed by Robert Yarbrough, John Woodbridge, Douglas Sweeney, and others. It was a great way to close a terrific first day. We at BibleMesh are grateful to be a sponsoring partner of the conference and a small part of what’s happening here.