Shep-Con Q&A: What We All Missed


If you run in conservative evangelical circles, then you are well aware of the debate that has been swirling around the issue of social justice and how it relates to the Gospel.

If you are ignorant of this controversy, a cursory glance at Twitter will quickly fix that.

To ever so briefly summarize, over the summer a group of theologians crafted a statement on social justice and its relation to the Gospel that made waves throughout evangelical Christianity.

Some well-known theologians signed it. Some didn’t. It caused a bit of a stir for a while, but (at least to me) it seemed like things settled down once the holiday season hit.

But then last week, the Shepherd’s Conference happened in California. During the conference, there was a Q&A with Phil Johnson, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Albert Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, and John MacArthur.

Inevitably, questions about the relationship between social justice and the Gospel were asked. Cue awkwardness, defensiveness, and a clear line of demarcation between the men on the panel - something we haven’t seen much of in the last ten or so years of their relationships.

Since then, there has been endless analysis, debate, specualtion, and the like. There have been accusations of liberalism, racism, and a whole host of other issues. Questions about denominational splits and institututional disagreements swirled about, and cries for clarity emerged from both sides. Chaos, disarray, and disunity are words that come to mind.

However, in all the analysis that I’ve read, I haven’t heard anyone focus on something John MacArthur said somewhere in the middle of the panel.

(Just to note here, as far as I know the panel is currently unavailable for viewing. It was on Facebook and a few other platforms for a while, but since then it has been removed. It is yet to be seen if it will be re-released once the tech crew for ShepCon edits/masters it. If you want to watch bits of the panel and learn more, both James White and Todd Friel have released analysis/commentary videos on YouTube.)

MacArthur offhandedly remarked that he had received considerable criticism for inviting the men who hadn’t signed the Social Justice Statement to the conference (Dever, Mohler, and Duncan specifically). Later, he mentioned that he didn’t want to fight his friends and insisted that the men were in lock-step theologically. And to me, that is super encouraging. Even a man like MacArthur, who has strong opinions on these issues, is not ready to draw hard lines of separation between himself and those who see differently on this issue. And he was willing to risk his reputation with certain individuals to have men at his conference who he not only agrees with theologically, but calls his friends.

I think that should be a point of focus for us. Even in the midst of this controversy, there is a huge amount of unity amongst those on the different sides of this debate. I think it’s important for us to remember that.

It will be a while before this controversy is sorted out and greater clarity is reached. But until then, I think we need to exercise grace and patience and remember that there is far greater unity amongst these men than the panel made it seem.

Questions? Comments? What were your thoughts on the panel? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter @1689millennial!

A Ministry of Humility

Hi friends! It’s been a minute since my last update here, but I assure you, I’m still cranking away at the Tim Challies reading challenge, even though my pace has slowed considerably due to this semester kicking into high gear. I have two midterms coming up, so I would appreciate your prayer for those.

In the meantime, I would like to take a few minutes with you to observe a verse from the book of Mark. I just finished up translating Mark 1:1-15 for a Greek homework assignment, and yesterday Dr. Vickers, my professor, highlighted verse 7. It reads, “And he [John the Baptist] preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie’” (ESV).

This proclamation comes at the end of John the Baptist’s ministry. He came in the fashion of an Old Testament prophet, calling people to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. He had amassed a fair amount of disciples and had gotten the attention of the religious hierarchy in Israel. If Twitter had been around at the time, you might say John the Baptist was trending. But just at the height of John’s popularity, a new figure emerges onto the scene. Except, he isn’t a new figure. Not really. Because John has been pointing to him all along. His entire ministry was devoted to preparing a people group for the coming of this other individual. This single other individual that John declares to be the “Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.”

This man is Jesus.

And just at the height of his popularity, just when you think John is going to call attention to the success of his own ministry, he says this: “If you think what I’m preaching is something else, just wait until you hear Jesus!” He is so great, in fact, that John says he isn’t even worthy to drop to his knees in order to loose the straps of this man’s sandals!

So often, in our follower-centric world, we can become more concerned with amassing a platform than pointing to Christ. We can become obsessed with what others in the church think about us - about how much we are serving, or how many times we get called on to pray, or how often we volunteer to set up tables for the fellowship dinner - that we miss the point of our service entirely.

Our service is meant to point to Jesus, the humble servant who bent down to wash the feet of his disciples, even though his disciples weren’t even worthy to touch the strap of his sandals.

John’s ministry was a ministry of humility. Is yours?

As always, I’d love to hear from you, so be sure to drop a comment below! I’m still working my way slowly through Reformed Preaching, so be on the look out for that review in the upcoming weeks!

Squarespace just unveiled an iOS app, which I am using to write this post! I’m going to be experimenting with it lately, so my next few posts might look a bit more minimalistic than they have in the past. I feel like I’ve been much too focused on writing polished, pretty articles and that has severely limited my ability to post consistently.

Until next time,