Have just spent the first day at Oxygen, a great big conference here in Sydney for pastors and others in ministry. Here's what the great and the good of Sydney evangelicalism/Anglicanism (and some squit at the end) thought about it…
The day started with John Piper setting out his basic thesis which, no doubt, many are familiar with. God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.
Piper grows on you every time you have the chance to hear him. I began with a quiet frustration that, to be cycnical, every talk he gives is essentially the same – the pre-eminence of the glory of God. But then it dawned on me that this was why the Hebrews had phylacteries! Some things just need to be front and centre on our foreheads! As I reflected upon 10 years of Piper's ministry (or at least just over 10 years of my own awareness of it) I conclude that he's won his basic argument. Evangelicals are, I think, mostly persuaded. So I didn't agree with 100% of what I heard – on occassion it just felt like the grid was being pushed too hard onto certain texts – but the basic premise was undeniable.
Piper's evening talk began his work of applying this truth into various areas, beginning with our emotions. And this is where he came into the fore. Again, there were minor quibbles with some small arguments but all is forgiven because it is clear that here is a man who does truly delight in God in Christ and longs for us to do the same and for us to long for our sheep to do the same. No arguments from me.
Lennox's contribution was equally edifying. Building from the word/growth dynamic in Acts he encouraged us to speak truths about Jesus, just as the first Apostles had. Jesus had appeared “with many convincing proofs” (Acts 1) and so we could share the message with confidence. His seminar that I also went to was vintage Lennox. He powered his way through people's apologetic questions. As with Piper before him there were moments where we parted company – in particular as he spoke to the ability of unregenerate people to respond to God. I think there was some confusion here (as there is with any Arminian position) – on the one hand we were told that people have some capacity to respond in and of themselves, on the other we were told we need to rely on God's intervention.
Nevertheless, lots of good stuff to walk away with. Lennox's main point is that he has no quibbles with the evidence and, indeed, much of the science. He just wants to challenge the conclusions people draw from that evidence and the assumptions that underly their thinking in the first place. We were also reminded of the absolute refusal of many to even engage with our arguments.
All in all, a great first day. As I said in the voxpop, it made me want to think harder about how we equip our people for apologetics.
More tomorrow, but now to sleep.