So, Word Alive, it was some little time ago now, despite it being the source and subject of the largest part of conversations since, I have not blogged it.
There was, it seems, quite a band of bloggers at the event, for those of you who missed it: http://adrianwarnock.com/2008/04/nw08-final-audio-comments.htm
The Piper talks are available and highly recommended at: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/2008/2718_Treasuring_Christ_and_the_Call_to_Suffer_Part_1/ http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/2008/2722_Treasuring_Christ_and_the_Call_to_Suffer_Part_2/
God is so good. What are the slim chances of being in the one 'impact-group' led by the one l'abri worker at this 5000 strong conference, I don't know about thunder claps, pathetic fallacy or whether in the eschatological scheme things there will be thunder in the new heavens.. but this was a moment of clarity like nothing else.
The conference slammed me on a number of things, quite aside from god giving me a light to see by for the next few months by godincidencing this l'abris chap out of nowhere. Nic puts the week as an "interesting, hard, weepy, angry, mind-turned-inside-out-stretched-into-bizarre-and-terrifying-new-places kind of week" Yes, no, absolutely.. I am wrestling with this gospel, with integrated spirituality, with rich Christians in an age of poverty, with defining ourselves by what we are not, and with the community:optional Christianity… the conference by its very medium and by its white-middleclass-ness and by the things (discourse on the environment etc) notable by their absence did more to stir these issues than settle them. The roots in the platonic dualism of the misunderstood gospel were opened up in the disintegrated/integrated seminar.. this I need to work through
Positively I took away so much encouragement in a Christ-centred, bible-saturated faith. Old people, wisdom and history and confident scholarship are things lacking in the circles I have moved in.
- Suffering -
There is a theme, that now seems to have run in my life for several weeks, to include Fletch at CICCU on James 1, and St Barnabas on Lamentations that is that we must suffer, and be fully present in our sufferings.. but at the conference I saw suffering in a new way, beyond giving an apologetic response to 'why suffering?' but that suffering is such a potent witness, although to say witness gives it an agenda, suffering well should be the substance and fibre of a Christian.. I want to want it.
And it is a theology to die for, without punning, everyone and anyone 'believes' in Jesus.. so the crucial difference is if we are joyful to suffer unto death and still *believe* in and treasure Jesus above all, and the construction through which we frame and speak of this rather than that, simplistically speaking is theology.. And this is central in my plea that everyone hear and inwardly digest the notion of 'treasuring Christ', and this is *the* point that most Piprian preaching boils down to, and it is different in its substance to vast swathes of other preaching and it offers deep hope.
- John piper in the flesh -
How is John Piper in the flesh Peter asks.. this week was funny, frequently breakfast banter relayed a Carson or a piper eating Shreddies or doing normal things etc.. the comedy of Christian celebrity culture.. I’m formulating a blog post 'heresies, hoodies and heroes..' which variously seemed to be the subject of many conversations at word alive. Christian book-signings, bizarre, please someone give me a verse on it… but yes John Piper in the flesh, if you get a chance, do, he has such a grasp on the wonder of the gospel, and such a gift for presenting it, and in the flesh (?beyond the audio recordings) he has such expression and presence in the way he is totally captured and driven by the glory, sufficiency, supremacy and everything of Jesus, it inspired me and evoked a hunger to develop in myself such a richly biblical, verse by verse understanding of Christ; in interview he is humble, self-effacing, and gently wise. James and I are working through his Romans series, its like getting to a main course having been fed starter preaching for years.. however, even given all of this, book-signings are still weird. really.
The repainting the faith seminar wound me up, essentially it was unnecessary and divisive presentation, which seemed to rub salt in the wound of Christian disunity on campus. With all the good intentions of wishing to obviate disunity by drawing out offending doctrines and theological trajectories in Velvet Elvis etc, I felt they left me confused and ill-equipped to truly answer the questions that divide us, that is to say, (in part) what is the gospel, and what is its social dimension. I am afraid for those who perhaps have not been a part of fusion etc, that the seminar will have deepened their suspicion of these who are brothers and sisters in Christ. Having said that, the dialogue, and tentative desire to understand the other, needs to be affirmed and I am keen to be a part of moves towards deep unity, perhaps the seminar grated with me, simply because it is the single issue I wrestle with most.
Bloggers were cautioned in the Ovey 'Humanity' seminars regarding the taming of the tongue, in the light of 1 Peter 2:22-23, I have fallen short of this (even in the above paragraph..) On a related note, I don’t how if you caught this brief note by Piper, it is a similar challenge, to a Christ-questioning blogs like this which tries so hard to appear clever:
John Piper wrote @ April 11, 2008 at 5:04 pm Tell them that it takes relentless intentionality to keep a Christ-exalting blog from become a clever blog. The temptation to entertain is almost irresistible. JP