Dr. Hal Poe
Dr. Poe spoke on the nature of the Gospel. Poe began by tracing us backwards through the last century and showing how American Protestants had attempted to synthesize and simplify the Gospel. I particularly appreciated Dr. Poe’s attempt to clarify that our simplification of the Gospel is not a helpful move but rather one which has led to a radical misunderstanding of the Gospel. Further Dr. Poe pointed out that attempts to synthesize the Gospel has led to a place where Christians are no longer comfortable sharing their faith on a consistent basis and instead have to be trained in evangelistic technique which rarely expresses the whole Gospel. He said, “Evangelism aids are a sign of failure. They show that Christians no longer talk about their faith in their everyday life. Why would a follower of Christ not know what to say? “ As he further decried the overly simplistic message that many preach he claimed that, “The Gospel is not only the message of how to get saved, it is the message of how to be saved. “ I really appreciated Poe’s point that contextualization of the Gospel is important. He argues that while the Gospel content never changes, the questions asked by each generation does change. He used examples from the lives of Peter, James, John, Paul & most of all, Jesus, to illustrate that when they shared the Gospel they would often start at differing places depending on their audience and the questions their audience would ask.
Poe’s message resonated strongly with me and proved to be both engaging and most importantly, essential, if we are to be effective in the coming days. I would hope that more would hear and heed his timely words in relationship to the Gospel.
Dr. Timothy George
There are few theologians in Southern Baptist life today that can begin to be mentioned in the same breath as Dr. Timothy George. Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Dr. George continues to place his mark on Southern Baptist, and more broadly on American Evangelicalism, as a thoughtful, irenic, Gospel-centered and Christ exalting voice. Today’s message was no different. Joining the Union students for chapel, we heard Dr. George address the issue of the faith in a message that circled around three specific topics. He began by dealing with “The Faith”, moved on to consider, “My Faith” and finally concluded by considering “The Church’s Faith”. In speaking Dr. George humurously took a shot at those that would reject the use of creeds and instead encouraged us to consider their value, he did so, however, while positing the danger of creedalism, which can lead to a deemphasis on Scripture. One of his greatest quotes came during this time when he said, “No creed but the Bible” is a pretext for “neither creed, nor the Bible.”
I cannot imagine a time when I would not be moved and challenged by the preaching of Dr. George and today was no different. I would highly recommend that you take a few minutes to listen to him. If you would like to do so, click here.
Dr. Duane Liftin
Dr. Litfin is the President of Wheaton College and was given the topic, “The Future of American Evangelicalism”. His was a particularly interesting topic in that he is not a Southern Baptist, and is able to offer something of an outsider’s perspective on the convention.
Dr. Litfin made a few observations which are not startling, but are certainly true none-the-less. Thoughts such as the fact that Evangelicalism is now so sprawling in scope that it is difficult to define, and that evangelicalism is unable to police itself, simply because of its nature. That coupled with the decreasing influence of Evangelicals due to a lack of moral credibility has driven the movement to a point where it is not nearly what it was in its heyday. As a Southern Baptist who believes it to be vital that we partner across Evangelical lines I found it particularly compelling when said, “As an outsider, I say to you Southern Baptists: participate everywhere you can with whoever you can, without compromising the truth.” He went on, however, to warn us to, “Stay gospel-centered, Christ-centered, and Word-centered” if we are to retain any sense of influence for the Kingdom.
Unfortunately I missed Dr. Ray Van Neste’s talk as I needed to spend a bit of time with my wife.
Dr. Robert Smith
The day concluded with a worship service that highlighted hymns from 400 years of Baptist history and featured the preaching of Dr. Robert Smith, professor at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL. The music was regal, majestic even, and although it’s not my favorite style on a regular basis, I very much enjoyed singing through our theological history and found it to be an uplifting time.
Dr. Smith’s message, while not a lecture like most of the other speakers, was an absolute clinic in powerful, biblical, Christ centered preaching. Dr. Smith preached on “The Church’s One Foundation” from Acts 8:26-40. With a message the powerfully exalted a Christocentric passion in our preaching and teaching, Dr. Smith challenged and encouraged us while preaching entirely from memory. His capacity to remember exact quotes as well as copious Scripture amazed me, and his grasp of the text and his ability to unpack it challenged me. I was particularly compelled when he said, “Too much preaching has become Christologically bankrupt & deficient. We have become modern day Arians.” His point being that we have far too often removed Christ from our preaching. Although we would claim otherwise, we are functioning as practical Arians. Additionally I really appreciated the reminder when he strongly directed our thoughts to the Holy Spirit. He reminded us that the Holy Spirit, “is not the stepchild of the Trinity” and that when we come to faith, God does not become a “quartet”. Instead we should learn to value and be grateful for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We should seek the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
All things considered today was another good day and one in which we were both challenged and encouraged. I’m looking forward, very much, to hearing from Mark Devine and Danny Akin tomorrow, among others. It should just get better!