Archive for Ligon Duncan
This years T4G (or T4TG as R. C. Sproul suggests it should be renamed) was a great conference. Powerful and thought provoking messages from almost all the speakers.
Dever’s message on the church putting the Gospel on display was quintessential Dever.
Sproul was phenomenal (even though C.J. didn’t understand it). He looked at how philosophy and the German higher critics deviated from the Gospel, and demonstrated how their mistakes are being embraced today. This was one of the best lectures I’ve ever heard about theological liberalism.
Mohler, as in the last T4G, looks at how our current Christian cultures evangelical zeal often undermines the Gospel itself.
In the same vein, Thabiti unmasks the problem clearly about how the contemporary evangelical fixation with cultural engagement is a disastrous derailment of the Gospel.
MacArthur’s theology of sleep is a theology of the Gospel, because ultimately the salvation of the unbeliever is a work of God, not a work of man, and that allows him to sleep at night. The Arminian gospel so prevalent today, if taken to it’s logical conclusion, should drive us insane because it makes salvation dependent upon us.
Piper, well, what can you say about Piper?
Ligon Duncan makes a great case for why we need to be reading the original sources of the early church fathers, and helps us to navigate the criticisms brought upon them. Quite an eye-opener.
Matt Chandler talks briefly and movingly about how his efforts to prepare his people for suffering was God’s way of preparing him for his brain cancer. Matt, as always, has very amusing ways of getting across solid theology.
C.J., well, is C.J. talking about his favorite subject, ordinary pastors.
Ligon Duncan and John Piper join Al Mohler on his radio program to discuss the doctrine of justification and the challenges posed by the New Perspective on Paul.
This years Twin Lake Fellowship was held in April. I’ve been slowly listening to these messages since April, and while many are very good, there are a few that stand out.
Ligon Duncan gave two messages that deal with the incredibly important issue of theology, what it is for, and how systematic theology is important for pastoral ministry. He has touched on these issues in other conferences, but here we have two very strong messages dealing with this head on.
Ligon Duncan’s message is a tour de force of a defense of the need for systematic theology. In a day when the spirit of the age is to assert “deeds, not creeds,” and views theology with suspicison, this is a much needed message. Duncan unravels many arguments raised against systematic theology. The major falacy is that you cannot not have a theology. Everyone operates on a theology. And to think you can act without theology, you’re just kidding yourself. We are all theologians. The question is, are you a good one or a bad one.
Two other messages not to miss: Doug Kelly’s message on Deuteronomy 23 and David Robertsons message on Emergent Calvinism.
Doug Kelly–God Turns Curses into Blessings (Deuteronomy 23:3-6)
Derek Thomas–The Majesty of God (Romans 11:33-36)
Ligon Duncan–What is Theology For? (Titus 1:1, 1 Tim 6:2-4)
Ron Gleason–on Herman Bavinck
Ligon Duncan–Systematic Theology and Pastoral Ministry
David Robertson–Emergent Calvinism
Terry Johnson– Biblical, Historical, Theological Case for Reformed Worship
Jonathan Leeman–What in the World is the Missional Church?
What a privilege it is to be ministered to by God, through the likes of the men that are involved in the Gospel Coalition. This years conference was focused on Paul’s second letter to Timothy. The title should be gripping for those in ministry: Living the Vision of 2 Timothy.
It seems the headliner for Entrusted with the Gospel is Tim Keller’s message on idolatry, using Acts 19:21-41 as his text. Tim looks at how Paul always seemed to attack the idols of the culture or place he preached before giving them the gospel. Keller takes quite a detailed look at what constitutes idolatry and gives some very helpful thoughts and examples to help us think through this issue of idolatry. Tim points out that we live in a very idolatrous age, and even in the church we have our own systems of idolatry.
John Piper (2 Tim 1:1-12) tackled the subject of courage, as he examines the timidity of Timothy, and the boldness that Paul calls Timothy to. Piper understands the gift that Timothy received through the laying on of hands was the white hot flame of courage to stand alone in the face of opposition. Piper calls all pastors to be bold and courageous, because that is what Paul modeled, and it’s what the sheep need. The sheep need bold leaders who will stand up courageously without wavering. And Paul’s final motivation for Timothy is the fact that before the foundation of the world God chose Timothy to be his man.
Phil Ryken’s message (2 Tim 1:13-2:13) ‘The Pattern for Sound Words’
Mark Driscoll gave a very helpful look at rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:14 -26). Mark’s message has the flavor of coming from the battlelines as he looks at quarrels about words, irreverent babble, and ignorant controversies, and he humbly admits some of it comes from his own hand of failing. A significant part of his message looks at categories of people who bring quarrels, babble and controversies into the church. These categories are quite humorous and can be helpful, but we have to take care that we don’t put people so quickly into boxes as they struggle to grow into their faith.
K. Edward Copeland (2 Tim 3:1-9) looks at the subject of godlessness in the last days when men are ever learning but not able to come to the knowledge of the truth. His message title is verycaptivating: Shadowlands: Pitfalls and Parodies of Gospel-Centered Ministry.
Brian Chapell (2 Tim 3:10-4:5) looks at what it means to preach the Word. Chapell has a very rich section of 2 Timothy about all Scripture being God-breathed, and preaching the Word, being ready in season and out of season.
Aijith Fernando is National Director for Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, and he has a unique perspective having come from a country that once was very Christian while under British rule, but the new nationalist fever in Sri Lanka is seeing a new wave of persecution of the church as a move to cast off the relics of the British occupation. New legislation in their parliment attempts to make it illegal to evangelize anyone under the age of 18. This has some serious implications for Aijith’s work with Youth for Christ, and his subject of missions is very gripping.
Ligon Duncan (2 Tim 4:6-22) looks at the subject of Finishing Well.
Don Carson concluded the conference with a discussion of what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 9 when he said he became all things to all men, a widely abused scripture both liberally and conservatively. Carson does a masterful exposition of the text to draw the correct understanding of what Paul was saying, and how we should shape our ministry efforts by this principle.
The Q&A session was just marvelous. The main focus was on how 2 Timothy and a Scripture-focused ministry works itself out in the ministry of the church. Piper, Keller and Loritts provide impassioned pleas for church leaders to stay true to the teaching and preaching of Scripture at all points, and from that flows the shape of ministry. Loritts said it best when he said, “We have to be careful that we believe that God is articulate.” In other words, Scripture is God’s wise and powerful articulation to his people, and it should be treated as such. Piper said, “If Scripture bores you, get out of the pulpit.”
If you are in ministry, this conference will challenge, instruct and encourage you.
What is the Twin Lakes Fellowship? From the website…
The Twin Lakes Fellowship is a ministerial fraternal devoted to the encouragement of Gospel ministry and ministers, and to the promotion of healthy biblical church planting. The Twin Lakes Fellowship is a ministry of the Session of the historic First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS (in conjunction with several other PCA sessions and ministers in Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina). This fellowship is designed to pursue a twofold purpose: (1) to encourage ministers and churches to promote the work of church planting through their local congregations and (2) to encourage ministers in their personal growth in grace, so as to maximize their effectiveness in promoting the work of the Gospel.
Ligon Duncan kicked off the conference with a very strong, clarifying call for faithful expositional preaching.
David Meredith, who is a pleasure to listen to, took on the subject of evangelism, and gave his impressions of the Evangelism Explosion material. Don`t miss this one.
Doug Kelly, Carl Trueman, Sean Lucas, Derek Thomas and Terry Johnson all gave messages worth a listen.
Ligon conducted 3 wonderful telephone interviews. He interviewed Thabiti Anyabwile about his two books: The Faithful Preacher, and The Decline of African American Theology. Tim Keller was interviewed about his best selling book The Reason for God. And finally, David Wells was interviewed about his book (then forthcoming) The Courage to Be Protestant, and Wells gave an excellent summation of the 3 divisions of the church today: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents. Wells must be listened to.
- Seminar 1 – Introducing the Twin Lakes Fellowship (Dr. Ligon Duncan)
- Exhortation – Evangelism (David Meredith)
- Tele-Interview 1 – Thabiti Anyabwile
- Worship Service 1 – Sermon (Dr. Douglas Kelly)
- Seminar 2 – The Heidelberg Catechism (Dr. Carl Trueman)
- Exhortation – Sermon (Dr. Sean Lucas)
- Worship Service 2 – Sermon (Dr. Derek Thomas)
- Seminar 3 – Public Prayer (Terry Johnson) [handout 1 and handout 2)]
- Tele-Interview 2 – Dr. Tim Keller
- Tele-Interview 3 – Dr. David Wells
Castle Church’s podcast Christ the Center interviews Dr. J. Ligon Duncan about how the Westminster Confession can serve the church today in our anti-confessional church zeitgeist. Ligon states that the anti-confessional proponents are a dying breed because they are unable and illequipped to stand up against the antagonism of the culture. There is a growing interest among young people for a confessional form of Christianity.
In fact, Ligon makes the insightful comment that those who are most antagonistic to confessions and our church heritage are not those outside the church, but those within our ranks. These people believe the only way to reach the world is to jettison our church heritage, when in reality, most people outside the church don’t know our what the church heritage is. And when we talk to people we will find that people are often interested in church history and heritage. When they become antagonistic is when we teach the Bible.
A very timely and helpful discussion about the role of confessions.
If you haven’t listened to the panel discussions from this years Together for the Gospel conference, they are online now. As I mentioned in my post on T4G 08, some of the panels provide necessary context and background for some of the messages, particularly regarding the messages by Thabiti and Dever (at least as far as my comprehension goes).
Also, the other panels provide incredible discussion and instruction, wisdom, along with a great deal of CJ humor and humility (which helps us identify with these great men). You will want to listen to these over and over.
I just returned flying home from T4G in Kentucky, and the entire conference is already online. The panel sessions are not up yet, but I would guess those require some editing. Here is a brief overview.
Ligon Duncan gave an excellent overview of how systematic theology is used throughout Scripture, primarily responding to those who would dismiss the necessity of systematizing Scripture in favor of using Scripture only as a storyline.
Thabiti Anyabwile look at the issue of racism, and helpfully uncoupled the concept of race from ethnicity. However, this was a very difficult and often slippery subject to deal with, and to get the full benefit you need to listen to the panel discussion that followed for certain clarifications.
MacArthur gave a clear and powerful look at the doctrine of total depravity, or ‘complete inability’ as he prefers to call it. He not only lays out clear doctrine from Scripture, he shows how misunderstanding this doctrine dramatically impacts the clarity of the gospel message.
Mohler examined the relentless attack on substitutionary atonement and wrestled through the arguments with us, allowing us not only to see through the issues raised, but allowing us to glimpse into his incredible mind.
R. C. Sproul’s message on the Curse Motif is, as Al Mohler described it, one of Sproul’s most powerful messages that he’s ever heard. This message was stellar. Don’t miss this one.
John Piper was also in top form with an incredibly challenging message about how we are to endure suffering for the sake of Christ. This will change the way you approach ministry.
C. J. Mahaney brought us back down to earth and the harsh realities of daily life and ministry and cleared the road for success in getting back to work. This was vintage C. J.
Listen to all the panel discussions. The panels are one of the strong points of this conference, and often the panels are more engaging and challenging than the messages they preach.
Patristics? For pastors? I have to admit I know very little about the early church fathers. However, I do hunger to understand more about the period of the early church. What has hindered me has been unfamiliarity of the period, coupled with the inaccessibility of the reading material. I must also admit that I harbored a very unfortunate sense that the early church was simplistic, moralistic, and because it deteriorated rapidly into two predominant forms of heresy (Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) it was therefore unecessary.
In this interview conducted by Tony Reinke, Ligon Duncan demonstrates that the early church fathers is the most relevant study of church history for our contemporary culture. Evangelicals have, by in large, left the church fathers to the Roman Catholics. But Duncan explains that not only did the 16th century reformers know the church fathers very well, the culture the early church fathers engaged is most like our own in the 21st century, being very pagan, pluralistic, and gnostic.
In discussing the great merits of knowing the church fathers, Ligon Duncan provides a few book recommendations:
The Spreading Flame, by F. F. Bruce, Ligon considers the best historical overview of this period.
Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley, provides a few chapters on the early church that provide a quick summary of the history and players.
Everett Ferguson’s, Backgrounds in Early Christianity, is an excellent resource book that provides bite-sized, yet very effective summaries of certain heresies and philosophical schools that influenced the culture.
Peter Brown’s biography, Augustine of Hippo, is a phenomenal work by one of the greatest Augustine scholars in the world.
J. N. D. Kelly’s, Jerome, is another biography of notable stature of an early church giant.
As far as primary writings, Ligon recommends reading these books:
Athanasias’ Incarnation is a classic, and you should try to find the version that contains C. S. Lewis’ classic introduction.
The Apostolic Fathers, edited by J. B. Lightfoot (later updated by Holmes) should also be on your list of reading.
Geoffrey W. Bromiley’s Historical Theology: An Introduction is a helpful tool for gaining background information on how certain theologies developed.
Iraneus’ work Against Heresies is also a classic worth having.
Finally, Ligon talks about how Tom Oden had been swept up into deep liberalism, and who didn’t return to orthodox Christianity until he began to read the church fathers and discovered that the liberal view of them was wrong. Oden wrote about what he learned in his book, After Modernity, What? which J. I. Packer writes the introduction to.
This is a fabulously informative and challenging interview that will excite your interest in the church fathers.
J. Ligon Duncan delivered two excellent messages at Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Ligon challenges us to consider how the individualism, consumerism and relativism of our times have deadened our ability to delve deep into the Scriptures and to live Biblically. He cites how the people of Puritan days would listen to 2 to 3 hour long sermons, because for them Scripture meant something serious given that the smell of burning flesh of that era was present with the persecution of Christians.
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