Saturday, September 30, 2006

Theology for All Conference

Went to Theology For All conference at Duke Street Church, Richmond today. Also present were Nathan Burley, Rosemary Grier, Gareth Batten (2 sessions already blogged)and our speaker, Carl Trueman.

I'll blog some of the quality things he said in the days ahead as I process them! It was great to hear perspective on the church today from a church historian - I was very struck by the different angle this brings on theological issues. "A church without church history element is doomed to be irrelevant...". This was supplemented by a strong desire for a growth in humble orthodoxy in the church.

Today inspired me towards full-time study - too many problems occur because of doctrinal shallowness, and lack of grasp of church history. Though, this from David Field makes me query whether the CofE route would be the best option. The jury is out on that for now.

MP3s of Carl Trueman's lectures today will appear in due course. Given the ocpious notes that Grier, Burley and I were taking I guess you'll be able to read up on them soon too. A personal highlight was conversation with Miss Grier over coffees (and hard to handle muffins) on a range of issues during the day.

14 comments:

  1. For a supportive (and Calvinist's) view of the C of E, despite all it's faults, read something by JC Ryle, like Five English Reformers, or Christian Leaders of the 18th century. He's great!

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  2. Ryle writes of his day, Jonny - is there not a Calvinist writing well of the CoE now? Besides, you puzzle me: Ryle's 'Five English Reformers' reads as an awful inditement of Ryle's AngloCatholic fellow bishops in the CoE who thought nothing of reintroducing the things the 5 English reformers had been martyred for standing against. Ryle was by God's grace a great man, but he stood out a mile in the CoE of his day, and that for a reason.

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  3. Five English Reformers is great though tragics, not least cos so many battles have not been won.

    Must be some more recent strong voices.... Stott, Packer, Lucas, Jensen, Goldsworthy, Webb, Adam....

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  4. I didn't realise Goldsworthy is Episcopalian. Dave, do you know of anything written by those you've listed which deals well with the mixed leadership issue, and that Field raised? If there is stuff around I need to read it. A friend & I (rather immaturely) questioned Vaughan Roberts on the issue over breakfast at Forum one year, and his answer boiled down to being true to the 39 articles while the others weren't... which I didn't 'get' as I thought that was the issue rather than the answer, in a structure in which doctrinal discipline is absent. It's obviously far more than an abstract issue, and I thought you might well know of what's been written on it from reformed anglican perspectives!

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  5. The majority answer would seem to be the 'I believe the 39 articles so it's the liberal and or anglo-catholics that should leave teh CofE, therefore I'm in it till they chuck me out cos all these resources in the CofE belong to evangelicals anyway' argument and other derivatives, though perhaps there are people I study with at Oak Hill who are more carefully thought through on this one.

    If that is the bets argument then it fails to convince me since one can leave the church of England and take the 39 articles with you. What is worth fighting for in the CofE can be packed up and taken with you somewhere you truly have the freedom to proclaim the gospel. This is, IMHO, proved by the story of my sending church, a plant from a CofE church which exists (and thrives, by the grace of God) outside diocesan structures and remains faithful to the 39 articles. See www.christchurchcentral.co.uk

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  6. I have a saved-draft post on the stay in and change things issue. Can't decide whether to publish it. Actually I have a few posts in that undecided category... losing my nerve....

    I've just presumed about Goldsworthy from his Moore connections...

    Thanks for your thoughts Pete.

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  7. The trouble with the 'stay in and change things' reasoning is that it has the focus on the denomination and not either the local church, or the world. We can make denominations, and denominational matters, a bigger deal than they are. Field does this in making the theology of bishops that no one pays any attention to a big deal. But there are benefits for the local church and for the world that come from being part of the CofE. And these are the things that matter - not church politics, or a desire for a perfect human organisation only populated by the holy.

    I still think that the best argument is 'it's the best boat to fish from'.

    A possible parallel is the early Christians and the synagogue. By worshiping and preaching there they were surely often under the authority of, and 'in communion with', people who while not necessarily hostile did not buy the Gospel. However they only left this great (and natural) platform for the Gospel when literally forced out.

    PS I am 99% sure Goldsworthy is an Anglican. He ministered in an Anglican church according to BWM.

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  8. Ok, now that I've bothered to reach up and lift my Goldsworthy trilogy off the shelf above my desk, I do see it says he (was at time of publication) an Associate Minister of St.Stephen's, Brisbane. Which sounds quite Anglican! Lol, my wee 'oh, didn't realise..!' comment raised far too much discussion, sorry!

    Being in the best fishing boat around is all very well, but can you be a fisherman in the finest vessel in the water if the rest of the crew are intent on throwing back all the fish you catch, or are sharks in disguise? (Ok, I'll not push that picture any further, it's getting confused already.)

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  9. Being in the best fishing boat around is all very well, but can you be a fisherman in the finest vessel in the water if the rest of the crew are intent on throwing back all the fish you catch, or are sharks in disguise? (Ok, I'll not push that picture any further, it's getting confused already.)

    Fair point, but you have moved from the local church to the denomination very quickly. Perhaps a slight tweak to the metaphor would improve the image. There is one design of boat (the Anglican one) which is best to fish from. All the fishermen come from the same port-town (denomination) and meet up now and then. But a fish coming into one local church (one boat) is not necessarily going to be very affected by the fishing practices or beliefs of the others.

    Also, the fisherman may be influenced to an extent by the practices of the port-town but most Evangelical fishermen spend more time at fishing conferences at other towns, and read books published by IVP. And while gaining all the best fishing wisdom that the ports of the world have to offer, he still has the best boat too.

    ...well that was fun.

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  10. It's true that Five English Reformers includes blistering critiques of some of the people in the CofE but he also says don't leave the CofE until they have left behind the 39 articles etc. I think the CofE has certain advantages, with links to church schools and also a historical foundation which gives opportunities those within it to proclaim the gospel in ways which perhaps non-conformist churches don't have. Admittedly, not enough people take advantage of these and there is a whole lot of dross in the CofE, but I think there are opportunities to make use of within the denominational structures. Also, I think that Lloyd-Jones and Stott discussed this back in the 60s or so, but have no idea if any books or articles came of it.

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  11. Well ok then, let's really push the metaphorical boat out! :)

    And those fished into the good boat who move on to another area think, ah, the boat in port-town X was good so I'll go to another boat from port-town X in this place. And they dry up through lack of... the gospel.

    I think I've a stronger view of a denomination Dave K, which was why I so quickly jumped to it (but maybe that's because I'm presby). I wouldn't be at all happy with being one good ship amongst a load of associated boats who are not just being bad fishermen but effectively killing those they're supposed to be saving. Paul damns false teachers to hell; I don't think he meant you're to happily share in official fellowship with them while actually not spending much time with them. Which I think is what David Field was getting at.

    I'm not saying this is easy (as I wince at my own words) or that any church has it sorted - we heard Carl speak of the challenge of church discipline at TFA. But we can always aim... Whereas the evangelical argument seems to amount to let's pretend - "let's pretend we're not in the same denomination - see, you'd hardly notice!" "let's pretend that those in spiritual authority over us to whom we've promised to submit aren't actually heretical - look, we can mostly ignore them!" "Let's pretend we're independent!" I know faithful men of God lovingly shepherding flocks of believers with the word in the CoE, whom I greatly respect. But the world in which they're fishing doesn't hear the arguments for being in a mixed denomination - they just hear a mixed message, or a message compromised by association.

    On the other hand, I'm convinced that independency isn't Biblical... yes, and I've just joined an FIEC church. Some things are less important than others...

    And this all together with the glorious fact that we rejoice in gospel fellowship with believers of all denominations who preach Christ faithful to the Scriptures. I just wanted to state that again :)

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  12. Jonny, MLJ and Stott didn't so much discuss this as disagree on it in a huge conference. MLJ had been given the final address of the conference and spoke on unity in truth. He didn't issue a specific challenge to those in mixed denominations, seemingly because he was a visionary - he hadn't worked out what application would look like, but was preaching what he thought gospel unity was. But Stott, who was also speaking at the conference, thought that many young clergymen were on the verge of leaving the CoE as a result of MLJ's talk, so he breached etiquette, stood up after it and said some words against that effect. This gave the impression that MLJ had issued a call to come out and form some sort of pure demonination, which he hadn't, and that was what was reported in the press, making rather a scene.
    (If I've not got that approximately right, correct me someone.)

    MLJ's addresses to the BEC (now Affinity) on unity and truth and such are to be found in a volume called Unity In Truth, published by EP.

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  13. Rosemary,

    Thanks for your challenging comment.

    "let's pretend that those in spiritual authority over us to whom we've promised to submit aren't actually heretical - look, we can mostly ignore them!" "Let's pretend we're independent!"

    I agree that is the most difficult aspect of it all. It's all very difficult.

    And those fished into the good boat who move on to another area think, ah, the boat in port-town X was good so I'll go to another boat from port-town X in this place. And they dry up through lack of... the gospel......

    But the world in which they're fishing doesn't hear the arguments for being in a mixed denomination - they just hear a mixed message, or a message compromised by association.


    I can see that danger, but in my experience such has been the emphasis on the gospel in most evangelical Anglican churches that I have attended that I think it is hard to imagine someone leaving them and attending a church because they are Anglican, rather than gospel-centred.

    Although I do have a fault of underestimating the damaging effect of bad theology, the main point of my comments (unclear though it may be) has been that for the ordinary person in the world, or in the pew, the theology of Anglican bishops, or other Anglicans does not have much effect on them as by far the strongest influence is the local church.

    ... I do feel the force of your arguments though, it is so, so difficult.

    PS I would be a presby too in an ideal world - but not really much of an option in England.

    PPS sorry for my incomplete and rushed answer too. I've been away for a few days and thought that even at this late hour I should answer your thought-provoking post with an answer.

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  14. Sorry Dave K, only just saw your reply so you're probably not going to see this... hm.

    Difficult indeed. Not much more I can say really.

    For English presbyterianism, there is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with around 10 congregations and growing (also in Affinity)! But/so yes, I know what you mean.

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