Al Mohler’s Address

Before I give the substance of Al Mohler’s session, I have to address a comment that will not come out of the queue. It accuses Steve Lawson and Al Mohler of being Anabaptists. A quick lesson in history. The Baptists came from the magisterial Reformed tradition, NOT the Anabaptist tradition. The Anabaptists have their descendents in the Amish and the Mennonites. To confuse confessionally Baptist theologians (as in, London Baptist Confession Baptists) with the Anabaptist tradition is slipshod history. They are from two completely different swaths of the Reformation tradition.

His session is called “I’ve Got Half a Mind, Too.” The Christian mind is necessary for the Christian life. He wishes to conduct an autopsy on the mind of the age. He’s really dealing with the Noetic effects of the Fall. He notes that Bebbington’s definition of “evangelical” does not include anything in the way of distinctive thinking or whether evangelicals think at all. So, we need to think about thinking. This requires, of course, a great deal of intellectual energy. There is another factor, which is the difference that conversion makes in our thinking. We face an intellectual crisis of monumental proportions today, especially when it comes to postmodernism. People are skeptical now about whether it is possible to know anything. The Enlightenment has greatly affected the way we think. Now, we have supposedly left the postmodern way of thinking, and are now in the “Late Modern” period.

Mohler reflects on Romans 1:18ff. Here we learn that the knowledge crisis is not new, but rather ancient. That sin constitutes a conspiracy against the truth is vital knowledge for us. The Fall brought about a tremendous confusion in knowledge. As we deny the truth, the culturally collective tendency to rationalize our sin comes to the fore. Modern universities (such as Harvard) tell us that they are seeking the truth. However, it is a massive and intentional evasion of the truth. This is because the theme of Romans 1 is not about what people DO not know, but rather about what they WILL not know. Their ignorance is thoroughly intentional. We should therefore not use our conscience as our guide (Jimminy Cricket notwithstanding), because even our conscience is corrupted by the Fall. Idolatry is the end result of our corrupted thinking. This is because corrupt thinking inherently dethrones God.

1. The Fall affects our thinking. 2. It is genetic in our thinking. 3. Therefore, God has hidden certain things, even for our own good.

There are (at least) 15 Noetic effects of the Fall. 1. Our thinking is now opposed to God. All knowledge comes from God, so if our knowledge of God is corrupted, then so is our knowledge of everything else 2. Ignorance; 3. Distractedness (we all have theological ADD) 4. Forgetfulness; 5. Prejudice; 6. Faulty Perspectives; 7. Intellectual fatigue; 8. Inconsistencies; 9. Failure to draw the right conclusions; 10. Intellectual apathy (we are all apathetic about some knowledge); 11. Dogmatism and close-mindedness. 12. Intellectual pride; 13. Vain imagination; 14. Miscommunication; 15. Partial knowledge. Even when we know rightly, we don’t know completely. Mohler says there are fourteen, but in his speech I (LK) counted 15 effects of the Fall on our thinking.

One of the beautiful things about the Gospel is that Jesus Christ has started the rescue operation of how we can escape or neutralize or lessen these effects through the grace of God.

There are five principles of modern thinking: 1. anti-realism, especially in moral issues; 2. moral relativism; 3. therapeutic universalism (you’re either in therapy or in denial); 4. radical pluralism; 5. pragmatism. We have moved from impossible not to believe in God to possible not to believe to impossible to believe.

I (LK) have to admit that trying to keep on the train of thought is very difficult. He talks very fast, and he is so brilliant that he is trying to give us five thousand points in one hour. It’s like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hydrant.

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Joel Beeke’s Address

The title of his address is “Parenting By God’s Promises.”

The premise of his book is that God is a God of grace. The covenant of grace is the bedrock of parenting. We parent based on the covenant. He doesn’t want to presume regeneration, nor does he want to ignore the covenantal promises. He argues that if we refuse to say to our children that they need to repent and believe, then we will create little Pharisees.

After laying the covenantal foundation of parenting, he gets into the how, which is written under the rubric of prophetic, priestly, and kingly tasks. Finally, he looks at some of the major problems. In this address, he wants to focus on four areas.

These foundational covenantal truths are the first issue. Parents need to believe that the covenantal structure of the promises is the reason why we will believe in God’s grace. The only perfect parents are those who don’t have kids yet. We should bring up our children “seamlessly,” which means that all the major influences will work together to bring up our children in the nurture of the Lord.

Secondly, we should use this rubric of prophet, priest, and king in the home. Of course, these offices have an echo in our lives in general. However, it is also true in our parenting. The prophetic task means that we should seek out opportunities for teaching. Family worship is vitally important to this. As priests, we are to be intercessors for our children. We should pray for them in our family worship. As kings, we have to fight against Satan and sin in this life. As parents, we help our children to discern God’s will. We discipline them, and guide them in their spiritual and temporal lives.

The third thing is that we must ourselves be models for living out the Gospel. Proper child-rearing is as much caught as taught. We have got to live what we teach them. A parent has to be a transcript of their teaching. We must love our children as Christ loves us. We should never fail to let our children know that we love them. We should not be shocked when our children sin. We sin, after all. We must ourselves grow in sanctification. The Gospel must inform and shape the way we deal with problems in the home. None of our children will ever treat us half as badly as we have treated our Lord Jesus Christ. We should therefore make sure that our interaction with our children should be largely positive.

Fourthly, we must recognize the times and seasons of the Christian life. How can we teach our children about the changes that will come into their lives before those changes occur?

Questions and Answers

The panelists are Sproul, Sr., Ferguson, Mohler, Lawson, and Godfrey.

The first question is about science. Mohler says this is a gospel issue. The historical Adam, for instance, impinges on Gospel issues. Science is not a unified body of knowledge. Science is not the same as scientism. Ferguson adds that pastors are generalists. Ministers, therefore, need to be careful about pontifical statements. Similarly, scientists are often unaware of the philosophical issues that are relevant to their own scientific field.

Second question: how can a person grow in knowledge in an environment that is hostile to it? Lawson says a gradual approach is helpful, starting with study Bible, progressing to commentaries. Listening to podcasts, as well, is good. We do not grow past our knowledge of God’s Word.

Evolution is the third question (more specific than science). Godfrey says that the people who are always changing their minds are the scientists, not the Christians, even though it is the scientists who are always charging the Christians with changing their minds. Science’s conclusions are always provisional. The Bible’s conclusions are never provisional. Mohler adds that scientists are mostly methodologically committed to naturalism. Evolution is the cardinal doctrine of atheists.

How do we present the gospel in a loving way to other religious beliefs? Ferguson says that we have to be confrontational. Mohler says this is such a difficult issue. Jesus was confrontational.

Why should we trust the authority of the Bible over other sacred writings? Lawson says the unity of the Bible, the prophecies of the Bible being fulfilled, and the claims of the Bible are reasons why we believe that the Bible is God’s Word. I (LK) would say that I would prefer the presuppositional approach. The other sacred writings don’t claim to be revelation. Sproul says that the sacred writings of other religions make fundamentally contradictory claims to what the Bible says. They can’t both be true. Godfrey says that one of the important practical things we need to say is that we want people to read the Bible. Objections are made against Jesus, not primarily against us. Ferguson adds that most people who make this objection have no knowledge of what is in the Bible. We ourselves, of course, need to know the Word better.

Is it a sin for a Christian to vote for a Mormon or a Roman Catholic? Mohler says no, because we’re not electing a church officer. Nevertheless, world-view matters. Mohler says that religion being private and not public is nonsense. There is a difference between church and government. Ferguson cracked the joke that if our best options are people with names like Rick, Mitt, and Newt, then the name Elizabeth starts to sound a whole lot more attractive.

Should we shelter our children from hostile world-views? Godfrey says that the Dutch approach is not to isolate, but to give them what they need to understand, interpret, and respond to the world. Mohler brings up the point about sex. We need to take the lead and teach our children about it, because the idea that we could shelter our children from even knowing about worldly views about sex is delusional.

Are the inalienable rights the Declaration of Independence truly self-evident, or are they dependent on Christian revelation? Sproul says that general revelation is the origin of any “self-evident” truths.

Is post-millenialism anti-intellectualism? Godfrey says no.

What can the local church do about the problem with pornography? Mohler says it is one of the most insidious problems of the modern world. He says that computers should be in the kitchen where the mother of the house is chopping carrots with a sharp knife! Lawson says that we need an all-encompassing view of the holiness of God.

Bob Godfrey’s Address

This address is entitled “We Don’t Need No Education.” How has anti-intellectualism affected the church?

1 Corinthians 8:1 is a very misused text. It is often used to oppose intellectualism. Jerome wrestled with the question, “How do I relate my learning to my faith?” Augustine said it is possible to have much wisdom without knowledge, and vice versa. So why bother with the knowledge? Some Christians have therefore rejected the pursuit of knowledge. But Paul is talking about knowledge that has been distorted and misused, not true knowledge. God does want us to love Him with all of our minds. Anti-intellectualism became very prominent in the nineteenth century. The democritization of our nation fueled revolts against doctors, lawyers, and therefore ministers. The heart of religion was experience, not knowledge. This made an educated ministry unnecessary. However, Christianity is capable of a vigorous, intellectual defense and propagation, despite what the 19th century attacks on Christianity (and what the second Great Awakening and all its subsidiary theological tenets) would say. The problem with saying that we live in a post-Christian world is that it allows us to have the cop-out “It is so old-fashioned, we don’t even need to think about it.”

Religion is up, but theology is down. We don’t have an absence of theology. We have, rather, lots and lots of bad theology. Many churches are personality-driven, and so are institutionally weak.

Education, as being relative, will not examine the Bible as to its truth value. So, it always relegates the Bible to literature.

Sproul Sr.’s Opening Address

The title of Sproul’s address is “Have You Lost Your Mind?” All comments are summaries of Sproul, unless marked by ‘LK.’

We are living in the most anti-intellectual climate in the history of the Christian church.

I. The relationship between the mind and the body. This is a very mysterious connection, especially the way in which the mental relates to the physical. Behaviorism reduced all thought to mere material reactions (a la B.F. Skinner). Skinner argued that freedom and dignity are simply an illusion. If our opinions are due to what we eat, then how can he hope to convince anyone else of his opinions? Sproul argues that if Skinner is correct, then we can’t help what we think. Who is Skinner to try to convince us otherwise? I (LK) would add that Skinner’s own opinions, then, are due to his own influences. So he has no basis on which to try to convince me. Back to Sproul, the chief place where we live, and who we are, is what we think. Descartes believed that everything material has extension. Everything mental, however does not have extension. Extension has characteristics related to space and time. This, of course, raises the question of how the non-extended (the mental) can give rise to the extended. Descartes used the idea of the mathematical point, which has aspects of both extension and non-extension. Descartes’s followers said that there was not enough God in this. God is the primary cause, but there are secondary causes for things. God established the relationship between mind and matter. Hume, of course, thought that the entire discussion of trying to determine this relationship is a fool’s errand. As a man thinks, so he is.

II. The relationship between the mind and the will. Jonathan Edwards said that the will is the mind choosing. For him, then, the will is a function of the mind. Edwards says that we always choose whatever we are most inclined to do at a particular moment. Does this mean that we are determined? Yes, but it is self-determination. And this is the very essence of freedom. In order for the decision to change, the inclination has to change. What makes a person a person is intentionality (Husserl).

III. The relationship between the mind and the heart. The heart is primary. God looks at the heart. But there cannot be anything in the heart that is not in the mind. So, for the heart to be changed, the mind has to be changed.

Chris Larsen’s Opening Remarks

Christianity has abandoned the field of the mind to the enemy. We have retreated into our Christian ghettos, happy with mediocrity. Instead, we should meditate on Psalm 72. Our God is the Lord of the mind.

Sproul Q and A

Right now (10:30 AM), Sproul, Sr. was asked about the election year, and whether Ligonier is talking about theological issues this year: Sproul is talking about the separation of church and state. He argues that the church does not have the power of the sword, and the government does not have the power to administer the sacraments. However, he also argues that the separation of church and state has been changed to mean a godless state. Abortion is a similar issue to slavery. He says that abortion is the greatest moral issue this country has ever faced. Slavery was rightly condemned. Therefore, abortion should be all the more so. The church has the duty to tell the state what it believes about the issue.

Next question: Is there a series on the book of Revelation? Sproul jokes that his mind has changed about 50 times on it, so his series is not generally distributed!

Next question: Does God ordain or cause sin? Sproul answers that God does ordain whatsoever comes to pass, and yet does not cause sin. God ordains evil for a good purpose (for punishing sin and for manifesting His mercy). Through concurrence, God can work through people’s sin to His own glory without being tainted by sin itself.

Next question: what is the greatest issue that the next generation will have to face? Sproul answers by starting to talk about classical education, and then says that issues about the person and work of Christ will be the biggest issues in the next generation.

Live Blogging Ligonier Conference 2012

I’ve never done any live blogging before, so this should be fun. The conference starts at 1 PM today. Fortunately, my normally pokey-slow internet connection is lightning fast down here in Orlando. I even have 4G speed on my mi-fi device. I don’t plan on saying absolutely everything that the speakers do. I plan on concentrating on things that I find helpful, and perhaps adding some of my own thoughts. The theme of the conference is “The Christian Mind.” For more information, go here. An additional point of interest for my readers is that Michael Horton and Bob Godfrey are both speaking at the conference.