Sunday morning started bright and early, although Laura and I skipped out on the community groups to eat a leisurely breakfast and work out. We arrived at the Convention Center early to get decent seats (which became like a game in the subsequent sessions) and looked forward to hearing the morning's speaker, Mark Dever.
Mark is the senior pastor at Capitol Hills Baptist Church and the author of "Nine Marks of a Healthy Church." I just recently became aware of his ministry through T4G and because I have some MBBC acquaintances who have interned at his church. I figured he would be good, but since I had never heard him speak, I didn't know what to expect.
What I got was about an hour of jam-packed practical advice on primary and secondary doctrine. Which do we separate over and which can we lovingly disagree on and still cooperate together? It was fascinating and informative, the session on which I took the most notes. There is no easy way to summarize everything he gave us, so I'll just give you the few things that affected me most.
He defined the 3 things that are primary: (I copied this from Tim Challies - he had better notes than I!)
We must agree upon three things in order to put our trust in God and be saved. God, the Bible and the gospel. We have to believe in the one true God—that He is one, that He is triune, that He is uncreated, that He is morally perfect and that He is the one we are called to believe in. There are theologians today who speak of “anonymous Christians,” of people who believe in no God or in another God. But the Bible does not support this. We have to believe that the Bible is how we know the truth of God. How do we know what God is like? Because He has revealed Himself in Scripture. We must believe the gospel. The good news is that Jesus Christ became incarnate. Without this understanding we couldn’t uphold the truth of God’s triune nature. We also confess his substitutionary death on the cross, of His resurrection and His impending return. We are made right with God by faith alone, by trusting in this Jesus. Someone who does not believe in this gospel is not a Christian. Calling yourself doesn’t make you that, so even though many people consider themselves Christians and call themselves by Christ’s name, they cannot be truly saved unless they believe this.
He gave a 4 fold test for any issue:
1. How clear is it in Scripture?
2. How clear do other's think it is?
3. How near is it to the Gospel?
4. What would the effects be doctrinally and practically of allowing disagreements to occur? (this is where our conscience can play a role.)
*Some of the Scripture he used included: I Cor. 14:1-5, Acts 15:36-41, and Rom. 14:22
He then took 4 test cases to hold to the test: the Millennium, prayers for the dead, egalitarianism and complementarianism and cooperation in evangelism.
The one that made me think the most was the debate about egalitarianism and complementarianism (woman's roles in church). He explained why he (and T4G) doesn't separate over baptism, even though he is a Baptist, and why they do over egalitarianism. His answer was simple and profound. We have over 5 centuries of paedo baptists who have done great work for the Kingdom, and have taught us great things about God and our faith, all the while being faithful to Scripture. Unfortunately we only have about 50 years of egalitarianism and in that short time the movements that champion this stand have done much to undermine Scripture.
That explanation made a lot of sense to me, as did Mark's whole session. It was a blessing to hear him.