When I started working on my last post 3 months ago, I quickly realized the two major issues from the Shepherd’s Conference were John MacArthur’s eschatology and Phil Johnson’s treatment of Mark Driscoll. I decided to separate these issues into two separate posts.
I am troubled by John MacArthur’s eschatology, which tends to come up more often than it should. He is a great preacher when he’s preaching through the Bible verse-by-verse, but at the Shepherd’s Conference he gets to speak on his pet subjects, and I think he does so irresponsibly. A few years ago it was his Dispensational Premillennialism, and his claim that those who don’t see things his way aren’t good Calvinists. This has been addressed by many others, so I won’t go into it right now. This year, the issue was his interpretation of Genesis 1, but this message was just as much influenced by his eschatology as the Dispensational one a couple years earlier.
Rather than glorying in the amazing purposes of God’s creation, and exegeting the text to show us what our God-given duties are as stewards of creation, he just rants. He uses his “it’s all gonna burn” worldview to bash Christians who are actually trying to do their part to not over-exploit the natural resources of which God has made us stewards.
He calls the planet “disposable”. When Jesus said heaven and earth will pass away, he didn’t mean we should trash the planet. It’s like saying you shouldn’t build a house to shelter your family because it’s going to rot anyway. Or like saying you shouldn’t even have children because they’re just going to die one day. God made Adam the steward of the garden, and though he fell, men are still the caretakers of the earth.
Not only that, but the earth is the birthplace of the elect. We should do as much as we can to be the means by which God brings the full number of the elect into his kingdom, and that means looking to future generations of the covenant community as well as ensuring that all nations are taken care of as far as it depends on us, because we can’t preach the gospel to them if they’re dead.
Two thousand years ago, or 1500 years ago, or 500 years ago, or 250 years ago, if the Christians who lived then had a view of the earth as disposable, where would we be today? The question must be taken much more seriously in this age where we have the following two ingredients: 1) nuclear weapons, and 2) Dispensationalist politicians and lobbyists who are influencing foreign policy and intentionally trying to lead us into Armageddon.
Once I was sitting with some friends at Wendy’s in a town a couple hours away, and there was a Reformed Amillennial pastor in our company. I was self-congratulatorily speaking about my own progression from pre-trib to post-trib, but the Amilleniarian took me in a whole different direction. I was basically blind-sided because I didn’t know anything about the traditional Reformed eschatology. But he said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The Reformed build churches to last. They are thinking about the generations that will follow. The Dispensationalists, on the other hand, only deal with the current generation. You can see this in their buildings. Compare the ancient stone churches and cathedrals of the Presbyterians, built to last for hundreds of years, with the disposable strip-mall or movie-theater churches of Dispensationalists. They don’t mind because Jesus is coming back any moment now. I think you can also see it in their polity. Often at Dispensational churches, if the rock-star pastor burns out, dies, or falls into sin, there is no one left to carry the torch. The lack of committed membership and the lack of leadership might result in a church completely falling apart. Again, they don’t mind, because Jesus is coming back any moment now. The Reformed, on the other hand, will have a plurality of elders that will provide continuity for after the current pastor is gone. Actually, the Reformed polity is not based on the cult of personality, so who the primary preacher is would not be as big of an issue as it would be at other churches in the first place. Although losing him would bring grief, it wouldn’t result in the church falling apart, because the leadership provided by the elders would remain intact.
Now for some final remarks about the conference. Other than the Genesis message and Phil Johnson’s caricature of Mark Driscoll, I think the other messages from the conference were pretty good. But you can hear them for free without paying hundreds of dollars and driving a long way and being a captive audience while your eschatology is being attacked (captive because you want to get your money’s worth, so you’re not going to get up and leave in the middle of it). I’d say downloading is the way to go.