Since this is an issue that hasn't yet gone away, and since I've been writing on it for decades, these are far from my final thoughts on "continumaticism." But as to the conference, I mean this to be the sum-up.
I gave a verbal sum-up to my church which, to my bafflement, became our most-downloaded recording so far. I would pick other messages I'd much rather see spread all around — like this one, this one, or this one — but what happens, happens, and only God can explain.
It did elicit one comment, and since it's a funny one, I share it:
So here we go:
FIRST: the GCC people were amazing. The 700 volunteers, the security — amazing. Very gracious provisions for everybody. They really treated us as guests.
SECOND: the music was amazing.
THIRD: the food was amazing.
What? Too shallow? Oh, sorry. Okay, here goes...
FOURTH: I am more impressed than ever with John MacArthur and the ministry he's headlined there.
That won't strike most of you the way it should, because a startling number of readers still (A) think I work for GCC; well, in fact, actually (B) think I'm Phil Johnson, who does work for GTY; and (C) assume all of us here are lockstep MacArthur fanboys.
Except I'm none of those things. Anyone who's ever heard me on the subject knows that I'm very critical of the whole concept of megachurches. Plus, in my entire 40+ years of Christian life, though I respect him, I probably have only heard a dozen MacArthur sermons all the way through (if that) and read maybe roughly a half-dozen books, give or take. "What would MacArthur do?" is not a question I ask myself, ever.
I say that to say this: I was immensely impressed that MacArthur even did this. At this point in his ministry, the man has ZERO to prove. He could retire today to a desert island, or to Cowlick, South Dakota and end his days in obscurity, and his entry in church history would remain secure and notable. And yet he did this.
Plus, he's not a stupid man. MacArthur knew he'd get grief, lies, slander, culpable misrepresentations, and vile bile — all of which began the moment he announced conference. He was sticking his finger in the fan, and he knew it. Why? What would possibly move MacArthur to put himself, his name, out there for this?
It can only be love for Christ, love for Christ's church, love for Christ's saints. That, and concern born of the abject failure of his younger peers to step up and sound this desperately needed cry, this trumpet-blast, themselves.
So MacArthur asked the best people he could think of, he corralled his church, he put himself out there, and he gave it all he's got. My respect — and affection — for him has increased exponentially.
Plus talking with some of the folks there made me rethink GCC as a whole. I still have issues with the whole concept of a megachurch, any megachurch. But I am compelled to say this: if you're going to do it, that's the way to do it. GCC invests everything it has, as far as I can tell, into ministry that serves people in Christ's name. They are pedal-to-the-metal for getting the Gospel and the Word out. They've got tremendous resources, and instead of rushing them off to some fancy neighborhood in the hills, they stay right there and give it all they've got.
This conference — which my dear little church in Texas couldn't have pulled off in that way — is an example. GCC hosted the conference and treated all comers as beloved guests. Plus they gave them all a copy of the book. Plus they put the whole conference online, translated it into a bunch of languages, broadcast it all over the world... for free! And now it's all online. Give, give, give. Amazing.
(That's right: so all of the people spouting off "responses" to MacArthur who haven't listened to the conference do so in spite of the fact that it's been provided to everyone gratis.)
A cynical person might say the conference was a book-promotion. Seriously? It isn't as if MacArthur is — oh, I don't know — some obscure writer who did a book on the Gospel and needs all the help he can get just getting the word out so people know it exists. He's John MacArthur. He's a living brand-name. He's the Stephen King of evangelicals. He could publish pictures of his golf clubs, and plenty of people would pre-order copies.
That MacArthur would do this conference said a lot to me about his heart, and what it said was all good.
FIFTH and finally: I'm disappointed, but not surprised, at the aftermath.
All these folks who mouth great swelling words of respect for MacArthur (and Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones and Owen and Calvin and the Bible) were explaining why MacArthur was dead-wrong and off-base before he'd even said a word. And they still are, great big surprise.
And what of Joni, Justin Peters, Conrad Mbewe? Ignored or treated ridiculously. That is, even the absolutely indisputable specifics regarding abusive false doctrine are largely brushed aside for the sake of saving Charismaticism's facade of respectability.
And what of MacArthur's dear esteemed colleagues? They launch "responses," in which they confess they haven't even listened to or read the conference or the book. That's what their swelling words of respect for MacArthur actually amount to.
In the process, unintentionally, they bear out every syllable of concern MacArthur and the other speakers voiced. It's almost a template:
- Profess great love, respect, admiration for MacArthur.
- Admit to not having listened or read.
- Prove MacArthur right.
So in conclusion: it was a good conference. It was a desperately-needed conference. MacArthur is right about every central concern he sounded. Specifically, he's right to give out this note: with all the conferences and organizations setup to protect the Gospel and Christology, why so little to protect the truth about and dignity of the Holy Spirit?
I think they need to do another conference.
If they don't, I very well might. For whatever it's worth.
My overall summary report to CBC