Thursday, March 08, 2007

Shepherd's Conference Diary - Dr. John MacArthur - Part One

(Sola's note: Dr. John Piper was not able to attend the conference due to the death this week of his father. Please be in prayer for the Piper family as they go through this difficult time.

Due to short time and the amount of material, I will have to do this in sections with each presenter that I personally heard.

Wednesday's morning keynote address was by Dr. John MacArthur, and it dealt with something that is a rather controversial topic these days among evangelicals — eschatology. I agreed with what he had to say, but let me state at the outset that I have dear friends who are solid evangelicals, yet they disagree with me in this one area of doctrine. Core orthodoxy requires belief that a physical return of Jesus to earth will take place, which amillennialism recognizes. However, I do believe that eschatology is an important issue, and that an amillennial approach to the end times is inconsistent with sound hermeneutics. But to Dr. MacArthur's message we go....

More specifically, as John put it, "Sovereign Election, Israel, and Eschatology." For time's sake, I won't exhaustively detail his message, but instead will give highlights. He began with a pretty funny - yet astute - question. "When was the last time you were at an amillennial prophecy conference?" After the chuckle went round the packed auditorium at Grace Community Church, John went on with the following observations.

When you listen to prophecy being discussed in some circles today, you have to wonder if the end matters any longer to them. Yet at least 1/4 of Scripture deals with the end times. The perspecuity of Scripture is on the line. To adopt an amillennial (and although John didn't say it, I think preterists also fit here) line, one must set aside standard hermeneutic approaches whenever prophetic texts are encountered. When you encounter some amillennials of yesteryear, they readily admit that one will come to a premillennial interpretation of Scripture if it is taken literally.

Dr. MacArthur then noted that it pleases God when His Word is taken at face value. It's important to be consistent in how you handle Scripture. He added (I must say that Rev. Kevin Johnson and I have frequently observed this on our radio program) that it's odd how many otherwise solid Bible and Reformed scholars part company on the subject of eschatology. They confuse the elect i.e. Israel and the elect i.e. the Church. "If you get Israel right, you'll get eschatology right." It's all in understanding the Old Testament covenants and promises. It's in upholding God's integrity through a consistent hermeneutic. I couldn't agree more!

A few more points, and please understand that I am quickly skimming over an hour-long message. It was wonderful to hear a key Bible teacher deal forcefully with this all too neglected issue. He stressed the difference between biblical premillennial theology and what he called the popular "newspaper exegesis and cartoon eschatology" that is often mocked today. He then pointed out that amillennialism's eisegesis reading everything into 70 A.D. is just as bad.

Amillennials read the Old Testament through a New Testament filter, and that helps lead to a spiritualized, allegorical interpretation of prophetic texts. It is important to understand the connections between God's sovereignty, along with God's election of both His people Israel and His people the Church. There are parallels between the election of Israel and our own election - God doing for His elect what they could not do for themselves, and doing it unilaterally. As it's getting late and I have to be up and at 'em early, I will try to finish this tomorrow in between sessions.

In concluding today's post, let me say that all of today's speakers that I heard were excellent. I attended Phil Johnson's heavily attended seminar on the impact of postmodernism on the church, and he did a great job as always. I'll jot some of the highlights later. We heard Dr. Steven Lawson on the necessity of pastors recovering the power and thunder of apostolic preaching. He nailed this generation's weak preaching right between the eyes - the results of devaluing the proclamation of God's Word in favor of entertainment. And an even greater danger lies in preaching that might be accurate biblically, but there is no fire or passion in the preacher, making one wonder if he really believes what he's preaching. That was a stunning point and I think it had all of us thinking deeply about it at the conclusion. Finally, Pastor C. J. Mahaney delivered a powerful message on the need for preachers, pastors and teachers to avoid the deadly sin of pride, taking his key text from Isaiah 66:1-2. I'll want to devote a whole post to that as it was truly a wonderful, spot-on message. C.J. took the place of Dr. Piper at the last minute, and the Lord really anointed his message.

More later!

1 comment:

lee n. field said...

>"When was the last time you were at an amillennial prophecy conference?"