My wife and I just got back from our short trip to the SCCCS Conference (Southern California Center for Christian Studies). SCCCS was one of the ministries that the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen developed. You can also see my wife's reflection on the conference on her blog, www.angelabrisby.blogspot.com .
AN ABANDONMENT OF BAHNSEN'S LEGACY
I was sorely disappointed with the conference this year. SCCCS has become influenced by the New Perspective on Paul and the Auburn Avenue theology. Many have stated that Bahnsen would not have had a problem with where things are now, but I highly doubt this. Bahnsen himself devoted several pages in his Theonomy In Christian Ethics discussing the necessity of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, which many (though not all) in the Auburn Avenue and Norman Shepherd movements deny. What is at stake is a complete revision of the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Not only this, but this year's conference was on Christianity and the movies. Throughout the conference, we were told that image is just as important as the Word. I don't deny that image is important, and I don't deny that Christ is the image of God. But God has been pleased and still is pleased to save primarily by the foolishness of preaching, as the apostle Paul calls it. The sacraments (the visible words) seal the Word preached in our hearts. This is why we Reformed Baptists (and many other Reformed Christians) think that the regulative principle of worship is vital to corporate worship.
IS PROPOSITION ALL THAT BAD?
Another theme that ran throughout the conference is that story is the important motif that we see throughout Scripture. That is to say, since we live in a postmodern society, we should supposedly get away from theological proposition, and return to the concept of story.
I see the above as extremely simplistic. I do not deny that story is important, but we need to have a good balance in all things. Just like we need both doctrine and practice, and theology and holy living, we need both story and proposition.
The fact is, even though people claim to think postmodernly, no one really, truly is able to think postmodernly. People still believe that 3+2 is always five. They still think in absolute categories, and the Christian faith with its notion of absolute truth still encompasses their thought. This is what Van Til and Greg Bahnsen always pushed forth.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the future if SCCCS continues on its current route. I predict that they will completely abandon Van Til's legacy and Bahnsen's heritage.
SOME DISTURBING EXAMPLES OF THINGS THAT TOOK PLACE
This section is kind of an addendum, as it were, listing some disturbing things that took place at the conference.
*Brian Godawa called Roman Catholics "Christians." Since when do those who deny the gospel (justification by faith alone) have a right to the name of Christ?
*A movie was shown that Tony Campolo made. (Campolo is not very orthodox, from what I understand.) The summary of the movie is that a Christian threw a birthday party for a prostitute. After the movie was shown, the speaker called this an example of "the gospel." A friend of mine rightly raised his hand during the discussion, asking how this was the gospel. There was no theological content to it. After my friend asked the question, someone who should have known better (being the son of Greg Bahnsen) mentioned that the gospel is "taking care of widows and orphans." Really?! So Mormons have the gospel? I mean, Mormons take care of widows and orphans. But what this fails to realize is five things.
(1) The passage in question is James 1:26-27. It says that "true religion" is to do those things. It does not say those things are "the gospel."
(2) The biblical defition of "religion" is theology put into practice. In other words, if you have the right theology, and put it into practice, then it is true religion. One example of this is taking care of the widows and orphans.
(3) The passage continues to say that true religion also includes keeping oneself unspotted from the world.
(4) 1:26 also says that true religion is to keep a tight reign on the tongue. The person who responded to my friend rudely did not keep a tight reign on his tongue. He didn't even respond to his argument!
(5) As my friend's wife pointed out, Angelina Joelee and Brad Pitt "take care of widows and orphans." So are we going to say, then, that Joelee and Pitt are "practicing the gospel"?!
WHERE IS REFORMED CHRISTIANITY GOING?
If this is the identity of SCCCS, I do not want to be a part of it. Guy Prentiss Waters has written a book critical of the New Perspective, as well as another one critical of the Auburn Avenue theology. Waters obtained his Ph.D. under one of the New Perspective writers, so he knows their theology well. He is well-qualified to critique these views. I would highly recommend those books for your library.
Where is Reformed Christianity going? True, Auburn Avenue and the New Perspective and Norman Shepherd and N.T. Wright do have some good things to say, but they have spiritually deadly things to say as well. The solution is not to revamp what the Reformers and Confessions brought us, but instead the solution is to pay closer attention to the Confessions and, most importantly, to Holy Scripture. Both the London Baptist and Westminster Confessions chose their words very carefully. It is scary to see that many getting involved in the NPP, Shepherdism, N.T. Wright, and the Auburn Avenue theology are literally becoming Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. I have seen it happen to some of my own friends.
May the Lord cause us to cling to Christ, and to be balanced in our theology and practice. Amen.