A quick commute from the suburbs south of the city brought me to the huge campus of the First Baptist Church of Orlando, the site of the 2009 Ligonier Conference. Most of today was a pre-conference program celebrating the legacy of John Calvin (born 500 years ago this July).
First up was the scholarly Dr Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, speaking on Calvin as a Preacher and Teacher. An excellent blog posting (here) by Tim Challies will give you a fine summary of the address.
Second up, was Dr Ligon Duncan (“Al Mohler’s Presbyterian twin brother”). Although perhaps not as “famous” as some of the other speakers, Ligon Duncan has become one of the better preacher/teachers I seek to sit under. he is clear and compelling with his topics — and this morning’s message (“Calvin & the Christian Life”) was a particular blessing for me, nearly bringing me to tears. The main component here is the call to piety, including self-denial and a view of cross-bearing as part of the normal Christian life (not the exception). Ligon also gave this word of encouragement: “The Christian life is not characterized by perfection, but by spiritual growth.” What timely words in this address for this preacher!
Third: My esteemed friend from Michigan, Dr Joel Beeke, was asked to lead a breakout session during the lunch hour on “Lessons from Calvin on Prayer.” This was superb, and most useful!
Did I mention that this conference has arranged for a “Chick-fil-A” supplier to offer food on campus this year? Great sandwiches without the wasted time of driving around a strange town looking for a meal! One for Lunch and another for dinner; I’m set!
Thursday afternoon: back-to-back we had Dr Sinclair Ferguson on “The Doctrines of Grace” and Pastor Steve Lawson on “The Legacy of John Calvin.” Ferguson was good, and Lawson was good (and loud — the sound system’s fault, I think). I would dare say that Lawson’s summary of the legacy of this great man (“man of the millennium” by many accounts) is most excellent; I hope it gets published. He even quoted the TIME top ten item that I highlighted earlier in the month…. [see March 14th below]
The afternoon and the Calvin mini-conference ended with a Q&A session. HERE is a summary/transcript of most of the questions compiled by Tim Challies…. including this opening question:
WHY IS CALVIN STILL IMPORTANT 500 YEARS LATER?
Ferguson – because he was really the first great biblical exegete. Other theologians made a mark here and there, but none so great as Calvin. He had a genius for being to capture what the text was saying and what its implications were.
Lawson – Location, location, location. He finds himself in an important historical context in the greatest forward movement of Christianity since the second century. It was a perfect time for Calvin’s ideas to explode in a way that could influence successive generations unlike those that had come before. There was a kind of domino effect from Calvin on down through history.
Mohler – Calvin really was the combination of the systematician and the preacher. As great as Luther may have been, he did not leave behind a systematic theology. In Calvin’s day, to consider what was at stake, the crucial question surrounded what was the true church. We still talk about Calvin today because we face many of the same challenges today that he faced in his day. No one answered these questions with the quintessential clarity of Calvin.
Duncan – Calvin taught the people who in turn taught the successive generation so that people who were influenced by Calvin may not have even know his name. He was training the best of the current generation to train the next generation. It was only centuries later that we began to understand the magnitude of what he had done.
The main conference formally began this evening with two addresses: first, Dr R.C. Sproul on “The Holiness of God” focusing on Isaiah 45:1-8, “I am the LORD and there is no other God.” This was a fine weaving of exposition and theology. How do we define the holiness of God? Three classical methods (and examples) were shared, which also led to much adoration and praise of our great God. Second address tonight, was R. C Sproul Jr. on “Family Worship of the Holy God” — a topic he has covered here before. Tonight he opened Exodus 3 (Moses before God at the burning bush).
God has poured out timely and rich blessings from His Word today, and has refreshed many. Truely: “morning by morning new mercies I see.” [paraphrase of Lamentations 3]