This past weekend, I took the opportunity to attend the Preserving the Truth Conference, hosted by First Baptist Church of Troy. I don’t attend a lot of conferences, but this one was close, so I could stay at home at night and not spend money on a hotel. It was cheap, so I could afford it without feeling guilty. And some friends were going to be there that I hadn’t seen in a while. So I went. And overall, I enjoyed it.
I won’t comment on all of it, but instead I will just hit some highlights that I think are worthy of reflection and consideration.
My friend Chris Anderson spoke Friday night on Gospel-Driven Separation from the book of Jude. It was an old theme he has written about elsewhere—that we should love the gospel more than the fight over the gospel. We should love salvation more than separation. Separation is not relished; it is only necessary as a last resort. Chris publicly said what many have said elsewhere and some do not like to be said, namely, that our separation should not be driven by the alphabet (SBC, IFB, IFCA, GARBC, FBF, BJU, or whoever else). He even mentioned the “red meat” that preachers throw to the crowd to generate “Amens” (if you aren’t a Baptist, you probably won’t know what that means). Ironically, even after saying that, I think his comments on separation got louder “Amens” than his comments on the gospel. I tried not to LOL at that; I only smiled.
Someone (I am not sure if it was Chris) also mentioned the history of fundamentalism, and the fact that “stay in and fight” and “come out” are both legitimate options for biblical obedience. It is good to remember that “come out” doesn’t have to happen at the same pace for everyone. And just because some “stay in and fight” does not mean that they are applications of Romans 16:17-18 (see below) or 2 Thessalonians 3 or 2 or 3 John.
Dr. Mark Minnick followed Chris with a message on The True Fundamentalist Position on the Gospel. The title is an interesting one, if not a bit staggering. But I think Dr. Minnick, in his usual manner, handled the topic well, spending most of his time working through Romans 3:21-26 showing that the gospel is the imputed righteousness of Christ to the believer based on who Christ is and what he did.
However, I was disappointed that Dr. Minnick never got to the response to the gospel—faith and repentance. I think this is the real issue in fundamentalism. Few, if any, disagree about imputed righteousness, but a great many disagree on whether or not an unbeliever has to accept who Jesus is in order to be saved. IMO, FWIW, this session could have more profitably dealt with the nature of saving faith. Perhaps another session would have been profitable on this topic. At the end, he kind of threw in a bunch of stuff quickly about separation that perhaps would have been better done with more time.
During the panel discussion on Saturday, Minnick clarified the difference between the gospel and the response, but I do not remember him saying this during the message. It would have been helpful to clarify what he was talking about and what he was not talking about.
However, as usual with Dr. Minnick, he painstakingly worked through the text so that in the end, whether you agreed or not, you could clearly see how he derived his position from the text.
Dr. Doran preached from Romans 16:17-18 where he explicated the “dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching.” He helpfully emphasized that the “teaching” is apostolic teaching, not your personal preferences or even convictions on matters, and furthermore, that the issues in view are issues of eternal significance that tear at the fabric of the gospel. In other words, it is not the teaching you received from your pastor, seminary prof, or whoever. It is what the apostles themselves taught, and it refers to things which may cause people to stumble and end up in hell. What you learned in your church is included only if it is what the apostles actually taught.
Dr. Doran also clearly established his rejection of Rice’s position on secondary separation, which will disappoint those who think he is giving up fundamentalism.
This is a message well worth listening to for those who try to use Romans 16:17-18 as a bludgeon against all those who might use a different style of music, or prefer a different translation, or God forbid, have pulpit fellowship with someone “questionable” in their minds.
The panel discussion was particularly good, IMO. I listened to the panel discussion from the FBF meeting and this panel discussion is what that one should have been. There was some disagreement. There was some good exchange. We all found out that Dave Doran claims to be the right of Mark Minnick, though to those of us looking on it didn’t appear that way. In fact, to those in the audience, it appeared that Kevin Bauder is certainly the most far-left guy there, aside from Mike Harding who had his own little place. Harding was so separated, even from this group, that he wouldn’t even sit down with the boys.
There are some bloggers who will not be surprised that Bauder is on the far left, since he is reputed to leading a mass exodus out of fundamentalism. It is perhaps good that some weren’t there to hear this, because if you haven’t heard this it will be easier to maintain with a straight face that Bauder is surreptitiously commandeering fundamentalism to erase its existence and blend it with conservative evangelicalism.
In this discussion, the issue of the response to the gospel came up. Dr. Doran said he believes that Ryrie’s position (redefinition of biblical repentance) is more dangerous that MacArthur’s, even though MacArthur has been unclear on some things, though I think Doran stopped short of calling Ryrie’s teaching a false gospel. I actually agree with Doran, and no one on the panel challenged him.
The relationship of “who’s going to who” (in terms of fundamentalists and evangelicals) also came up and I thought it was a good exchange.
There was a good discussion on seminaries as well.
I would like to have seen a bit more interaction on the charismatic issue. There was some, but the question was put forth essentially “What happens when we become non-cessationists?” instead of “What are the ramifications of fellowship with non-cessationists?” Both are interesting topics worthy of consideration, but the latter is probably of more importance than the former.
I am also reminded that a panel discussion with seven members is a built unwieldy. Two or three, perhaps four is there is enough variety, is a better number.
More generally, there was a pretty broad age range, and I would be interested to see some data about the breakdown of ages and where they came from. Perhaps some database wizard at FBCTroy can work us up a report. There were enough young guys there to remind me that just because you can grow a little facial hair (and now have permission to do so) does not mean that you should. And if you do, please enlist a wife or someone you trust (if those are not the same person) to give you some advice on how to trim it.
There was also a wide range of dress, which I comment on here for only a couple of reasons. I actually didn’t wear jeans or shorts, which means I “dressed up.” I did see a few guys in jeans (made me jealous … I know, gross immaturity there. I sure hope I grow out of this one). I did see a number of people in coats and ties (and not just the speakers), even though the conference information said “business casual.” I suppose some people just like coats and ties, even on Saturday. It’s a cultural thing, I know (yes, it really is a cultural thing; no, you aren’t more spiritual because you wore a suit on Saturday at a conference where business casual was the order of the day). It was just interesting to see the variety. And no, I don’t care what you wore, or wear. And I am kidding about being jealous of jean wearers. I went back to the old paths today with my trusty Levi’s. Again, it was just interesting to me.
You can listen to the audio at the Preserving the Truth website.
It was good to see some old friends and make some new ones, and it was good to be home at night.
All in all, some interesting stuff.