Participants: John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, Francis Chan, Albert Mohler
Moderator: David Mathis
The following are notes taken during the panel discussion.
1) Thabiti, could you walk us through the gospel?
Thabiti Anyabwile: The gospel is literally good news. It is an announcement, a joyful, happy message sent from the courts of heaven to us subjects below. It can be explained by four categories: God, man, Christ, response.
- There is a God. The only God. There is none like him. He is holy, righteous, all-wise, and Creator.
- We are created and therefore we are owned. As creatures we owe him worship, adoration, honor, and praise. He has made us in his image for fellowship with him. He is angry with us because we all, man, are sinners. We have turned away from him and disobeyed him (Romans 1). We are hostile towards him as sinners.
- God is holy and righteous, but he is also a God of love. So he sent his only Son to take on flesh and live a perfect life before God to satisfy his requirements. He suffered on the cross in our place to satisfy the wrath of God. He was buried and resurrected. His righteousness satisfies the demands of God against sinners.
- Everyone who repents of sin and trusts in Christ has Jesus’ righteousness credited to his account. A miracle happens: you are made a new creature and all of the benefits of Christ become yours. Everlasting fellowship with him is yours.
2) How has God been stirring on you this weekend at the conference as you approach this evening?
Francis Chan: I am sick to my stomach right now. A lot of it is my own sin. After hearing Al speak, I was just hoping someone on my level would speak. I so thank God for all that Al explained. I’m wondering what else to say because I feel like the previous speakers have said everything.
I’m encouraged and thrilled that I’m on a team with these guys. But I’m battling my own flesh and insecurities. Nonetheless, I love the graciousness of these men. It helps the rest of us who don’t necessarily think as well or as deeply in these areas. There is a way to think in ways that make you more passionate about Jesus.
3) How would you, counsel someone who comes to you and says, “You’re too deep, too organized, and I can’t follow”?
Anyabwile: At the end of the day, I don’t know how to do anything but be me. I try to remember I’m preaching to an audience of One, but I’m also trying to serve these people. There is power in clarity and simplicity. I invite people to give me feedback. I want to be gracious and loving, but I don’t want my people to settle. I hope I’m approachable and take feedback and critique about my preaching. I don’t want to be seen as trying to be clever, but I want my preaching to be helpful and useful.
4) Are there other gains or advances or things to make use of for the gospel advance in terms of the postmodern thought?
Albert Mohler: The unregenerate mind can know many things accurately, and where they get it right, it is a judgment on where we’ve been thinking wrongly. This can help make us more accurate truth tellers. The great challenge for evangelicals is how to understand the cross-cultural communication challenges that we’re going to live with until Jesus comes. We need to think as faithfully as the Lord would lead us to think together.
5) John, walk us through how you handle being honored. What have you learned about how to take praise?
John Piper: God is in charge of keeping people humble, not us. You can expect that God will deal roughly with you in order to remind you that you’re not God and that you’re desperately in need of him.
It’s no accident that I've been given this book of essays written in my honor during this leave that I’ve taken because of pain and issues in my family and soul. I felt as I sat there that these folks don’t well me know enough. They don’t know what goes in on my living room, bedroom, kitchen.
You can feel a sense of disjunction between public praise and private life. I have learned to navigate my limitations and do the few things I can do as well as I can. I’m always thinking about what I can’t do. I think God fits us with weaknesses and leads us through the valley of the shadow of death and does what he has to do to break us. God is in charge of keeping us humble (Hebrews 12).
I would also say that we leaders here believe in a certain vision of God’s sovereign grace. There’s not a thing in you or me that inclined God to chose you for himself. It is totally free. This is our theology: unconditional election, regeneration, propitiation. Our theology is meant to flatten us so that no one would boast in the presence of God. Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. The new Calvinism is about smashing human pride and getting glory for God. The cross is good news showing how much I’m loved and that it’s free. He’s going to get you a theology with him so massively at the center that you won’t even think of being there.
6) How would you describe the role of audio and video as it relates to the life of the mind?
Albert Mohler: I am thankful for it. There’s a certain power to the image, a dangerous power. We are moved visually by things that we don’t want to be moved by, such as on TV and Hollywood. If you want to reach a lot of people, audio and video is powerful. But it can’t replace the written word. There are times we have to wean ourselves off of audio and video.
John Piper: The main reason why we must always be a people devoting thought to the written word is because the Bible exists. God didn’t do it any other way, and we’re stuck with it until he comes. God inspired the Bible. Reading is an act of thinking. The Bible mandates a focus on the written word and it mandates thinking.
The Bible also commands preaching because there is something more in preaching that people need. God has wired people to be fed not just by distribution of books. However, the Bible will never go away, which was God’s choice, because our brains mainly learn what to do by reading.
7) Can you explain the tension between our value for the freedom of religion (including Islam) and Islam’s insistence that religion be governmental?
Thabiti Anyabwile: We don’t live in a theocracy. The experiment historically of the wedding of church and state has been disastrous. I think there was a kindness of the Lord that, in the founding of our country, there was freedom of religion and also separation of church and state. We will work to protect that freedom according to the dictation of conscience. If we say to Muslims, “Enjoy the freedoms here, let us show you hospitality,” this would not cause the country to become something that it was not framed to be.
8) Francis, you referenced earlier a tendency towards anti-scholarship. Can you tell us how you moved from anti-scholarship to founding a Bible college at your church?
Francis Chan: I would read John Piper’s writings and it would stir in me a heart for Jesus. It helped me understand that reading and studying can cause us to love Jesus more and not necessarily be puffed up. So many writings have caused me to enjoy God and love God more. This made me more and more excited to read more, to study more, and to encourage others to do the same.
9) How do you understand how the life of the mind leads to greater unity and not greater diversity in the church when we are commanded to have the same mind?
John Piper: A devotion to doctrine and thinking hard about doctrine causes one to define truths and non-truths, which can lead to tensions. I would say the apostle Paul does want us to think the same thoughts doctrinally. He would like there to be one pervasive understanding of the atonement. I think the command in Philippians 2 to have the same mind means to work at it and that it matters.
Albert Mohler: John has modeled a way of thinking about thinking. We’re the truth people. We can’t act like truth doesn’t matter. The more you talk about truth the more you’re going to find that people disagree. We have to risk disagreement.
Disagreement isn’t the worst thing. It’s the price you pay to make sure you know what you’re talking about. We need to expose our thinking to each other. We need to be vulnerable with our thinking so that we can challenge and help correct each other. When there are disagreements, we might both be wrong, but we can’t both be right. There are going to be things we’ll disagree on until the Lord returns.