It’s my last night in Louisville. Tomorrow we have two more sessions, one more set of free books, and then a long ride home.
I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I expect that we’ll have some very interesting discussions tomorrow in the van.
- I love the type of theology being practiced here. I am really tired of purely pragmatic conferences, and this is a welcome change.
- I love the focus on Gospel. It’s exactly where we need to be focusing our attention.
- The books. I don’t need to say anything else.
- I also like the guys I’ve been hanging out with.
- The messages have been focused on some important issues.
- There are lots of people here I’ve met and would like to meet. Some I haven’t yet met are Trevin Wax, Justin Buzzard, Timmy Brister, and Kevin DeYoung (author of Not Emergent) – but I know you’re out there.
- The singing has been incredible.
- I’ve enjoyed getting a sense of who the speakers are. There’s something different about hearing them live and seeing them interact.
What I Long For
I love Reformed theology. But I’d hate to think that we were preaching to the choir, only focusing on areas of controversy. We truly need a Gospel movement that goes beyond Reformed categories.
I think the Reformed movement has lots to offer here. Tim Keller writes:
Reformed theology has always had great resources within it for missional work. For example:
- Stanley Grenz credits Calvin for teaching on the Trinity that stresses the communal aspect of God’s nature
- Richard Muller points out that Post-reformation Calvinist theologians forged a theology that wasn’t ‘modern’ and based on traditional rationalistic proofs of God,
- Jonathan Edwards provides theological resources for profoundly mystical personal experience of God,
- Geerhardus Vos and Herman Ridderbos stress that the Bible isn’t a systematic theology textbook but rather a narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration,
- Kuyper and Wolterstorff give resources for working on justice and renewal of culture.
There’s lots to work with! That doesn’t mean that many or most Reformed churches have used these resources that well in mission, however.
I long for these resources to be used well in mission.
I think it’s Keller who has said elsewhere that we’re still waiting for a Gospel movement that includes both a focus on the trajectory of the gospel (a renewed material creation) and the means (sheer grace, not works). “One of the biggest problems we’ve got is that the older evangelicals are really great at the second aspect of the gospel,” Keller says. “The newer younger evangelicals are fairly good at the first. But I don’t know yet of a movement that seems to be bringing these together properly.” (More on this here, and more on The Gospel Coalition vision for ministry here.) I’ve missed a Kuyperian vision for the renewal of creation at this conference, even though it’s been hinted at a few times. I’d like to see this teased out some more, as well as some engagement with the cosmic implications of the gospel.
For instance, is it possible to have a T4G-like focus on the salvation of individuals, and an N.T. Wright-like vision for the renewal of the material world at the same time? I’d like to see this explored.
I’ve loved this conference, but it’s only whetted my appetite for a Gospel movement that is broadly evangelical, theologically astute and engaged in mission and renewal. I’ve seen glimpses but I want more. Should provide some good fuel for prayer and thinking.