Saturday, January 8, 2005
There are plenty of conference reviews out there; I only offer a few personal impressions. First of all, I grew up in Monroe, in Auburn Avenue, no less, and this conference was among the high-water marks of tangible ecumenism that I've experienced in my hometown (or anywhere else, for that matter). In the words of the Gloria in excelsis, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth."
Second, I didn't attend all of Gaffin's lectures because I had to catch up on some work and some sleep. One of my weird interests is Sabbath studies, so I naturally like Gaffin's book, Calvin and the Sabbath, although, like I told him with all respect as he autographed my copy of his book, he convinced me of Calvin's position such that his own "Summary and Evaluation" at the end of the book seemed a bit thin in comparison. He laughed, shrugged his shoulders, and said in essence, "What can you do?" He added that there are worse things in Calvin I could've embraced, a concession that struck me as curious to say the least. However, this was a conference on Paul and not the Sabbath, and, while my tolerance for all things boring is pretty high, I was exhausted. I had worked a week of 25-hour days and needed some rest. So, I guess there's a real sense in which Gaffin's lectures were a Sabbath to me.
Third, Bishop Wright was awesome. After hearing him teach, preach, and lecture, and after spending some time chatting with him, it occurred to me that he is a C.S. Lewis of our time. As I wrote to a friend in an email earlier this week: "Lewis was of course a literary scholar and a lay theologian while Wright is a biblical scholar, professional theologian, and now a senior bishop - but they're both classically-trained, imaginative geniuses; both men of eloquence when it comes to communicating deep things to popular audiences; and both Englishmen who care not only about their Anglican church but about all Christians in all churches, as well as those outside the church." He was a great blessing to Grace Church on Sunday and to the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference through the week.
As we were waiting in line at the deli on Tuesday, someone asked Bishop Wright when he started studying Greek, and he said around age 13, but that it was classical Greek - that he'd cut his teeth on Sophocles, Aeschylus, etc. This only confirmed what I'd been thinking about his resemblance to Lewis.
Then, in his lecture on (inaugurated) eschatology Tuesday night, +Wright's brilliant vision of the new heavens and the new earth was like good science fiction or something from Charles Williams, only better - it was out of this world and yet deeply rooted in the here and now. He described an invisible curtain that exists on the earth, a curtain that will eventually be lifted, and we will see in fullness that which we catch frightened glimpses of from time to time - Lord Christ ruling from his throne and the saints surrounding him - the kingdom of heaven that has been on earth since the resurrection. That's right. Wow.
Finally, I caught up with many old friends and became acquainted with several new ones. I've often thought that the social aspects of conferences are what ultimately determine their success or failure - that, and having at least one great speaker. This conference was a huge success, and everyone knew it.
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