20/20 Conference, Plenary Session IV: Bill Brown

Bill begins with a story about the squalor of Calcutta: who takes care of these people? Hindus don’t-this is their lot in life. Muslims don’t-they are the scum of the earth. Only the Christians take care of these people.

Bill looks forward to the day when people don’t think of right-wing extremists when they hear Christian, but think of the gospel come to life. He’s talking to us about “Engaging the Culture for Life.”

The text is 1 Corinthians 9. In this chapter, Paul is talking about his Christian freedom until he reaches verse 19-23: though Paul is free and belongs to no man, he makes himself a slave to everyone. Paul has become all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some.

If Jesus came to set us free, he has set us free to be slaves to everyone, so that we might win as many as possible. We enslave ourselves to others so that we might win others to Christ. Whoever is within your sphere of influence, you have been called to be enslaved to them for the sake of the gospel. We must know how they think and what they do so that we can build a bridge from them to Jesus Christ.

The problem is too many churches have tried to enslave the world to us: dress like us, vote like us, think like us, or you are not welcome. That’s the opposite of what Paul says we must do. We must learn the culture, enter the culture, and build bridges from the culture to Christ.

Three alliterated points about cultural engagement (the crowd is laughing):

Bill wanted to be an astronaut until he met Jesus Christ. Then he got married and spent seven years of tribulation at Dallas Seminary (I promise, he said it). Now he speaks about the Christian worldview. We have Christian music, Christian habits, Christian lingo, but we don’t think like Christians. We are called to exegete both the Word of God and the world of God.

1. Attitude of the heart

Proper cultural engagement begins with the heart.

Three Christian approaches to culture:

A. Offended by culture-we withdraw. We get offended when non-Christians act like non-Christians, so we separate from them and retreat into our Christian subculture.

B. Delighted by culture-we assimilate. We want to find the church in the culture and the culture in the church, so we confuse the two. We can try so hard to be relevant that we become irrelevant. Like the prophets, we need our hearts broken over our culture so that we will properly engage our culture.

(The third approach was not clearly stated)

2 Peter 2:7-8 – Lot was distressed by the lawlessness of his culture, he was tormented by it. Do we have the spiritual sensitivity of even Lot, who was no paragon of virtue? Acts 17:16-17 – Paul was greatly distressed to see that Athens was full of idols.

More theology is communicated in a half hour of television than a whole month of church. We live in a theologically saturated culture; it’s just bad theology. We must be passionate for Jesus Christ, trusting that will lead us to a life of humility and a broken heart for our culture.

Nehemiah is an example of a believer who had a balanced understanding of how to engage the culture. He had a position of cultural prominence, but he knew his God and his people and he mourned over the destruction of Jerusalem.

Bill is glad that Christians are finally paying attention to human trafficking, AIDS, etc-we should have done that a long time ago.

2. Altitude of our minds

We live in a world under a curse because of the power of sin. The last word in the Old Testament is “curse.” The New Testament ends with the curse lifted. We have a wonderful story to tell.

Bill reads a nasty letter from a secular humanist. The letter is mean-spirited and inarticulate. Kind of like how many Christians respond to criticism.

You need to know the biblical worldview, but you also need to understand other worldviews. You must know what you are challenging with the gospel. You must know what need the gospel provides the answer to. You must build intellectual bridges to bring Jesus Christ to all people.

Lots of quotes from famous non-believers, some of whom who hate Christians-these are the prophets of our days.

Worldviews are the foundation of cultures. Every person has a worldview-it is part of being human. A worldview is a way of explaining and interpreting the world around you. Your worldview determines your values which determine your behavior. Worldviews answer the ultimate questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.

Three major worldviews:

A. Naturalism – the world as we see it, dominated by science. Everything is natural, nothing is supernatural, everything is physical, nothing is metaphysical. Representative naturalists: Thomas Edison, Katherine Hepburn, Stephen King, Marilyn Manson, Hoard Stern, Eddie Vedder, Bjork, Annika Sorenstam, Thomas Nagel, Christina Aguilera.

B. Transcendentalism – the world as we want it. C. S. Lewis says this is the natural bent of the human mind. This is a spiritual version of naturalism-nature is divine. Think pantheism, panentheism, etc. Divinity is not a person to know, it is a spirit to be used. “Luke, use the force . . . trust your feelings.” Representative transcendentalists: George Lucas, Tommy Lee, Kirsten Dunst, Madonna. Hebrews 9:27 negates transcendentalism: we die once and face judgment.

C. Theism – the world from God’s hand. God is the source of all things and all things are for him. Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all theists. As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is at the watershed of theism.

3. Authenticity of life

Knowing Christ transforms our lives and priorities. Francis Schaeffer says we cannot expect the world to believe if they look to us and do not see our love for others and our unity with each other. 1 Peter 3:15-16 – we must be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us.

We need to live the gospel so that our very lives commend Christ to the world.

Nathan Finn “Live Blogs” SEBTS Conference

For those of you who are unable to attend SEBTS’ The Gospel Comes to Life Conference, you may keep up with the conference as Nathan Finn “live blogs” the Mahaney, Driscoll, and Akin sessions on Friday and Saturday. Stay tuned. For those interested in attending, we are at maximum capacity in the chapel. However, we do have overflow seating with live video-feed, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Conference Notice: The Gospel Comes to Life

We at Between the Times would like to make you aware of a conference being held on SEBTS’ campus on February 6-7. The Gospel Comes to Life: Why Everything You Do Matters to God is a conference intended primarily for college students, but also open to seminary students, lay people, and advanced high school students. If you are interested in registering for the conference, please click here.

The thrust of the conference is the belief that the gospel is powerful and it is relevant for absolutely everything we think or do. Its relevance is not limited to the four walls of a church building, but extends to every square inch of the fabric of human existence, to every dimension of human culture, and to every intellectual and social endeavor of mankind. It is relevant not only to our private devotions, but to our college classes and our future vocations. It matters not only during Sunday morning worship, but also during coffee shop conversations, movie viewings, and discussions about public issues. Come and see how everything we do and think matters to God and how, when we discover this, the gospel really comes to life.

The plenary sessions will be led by Danny Akin, Mark Driscoll, C. J. Mahaney, and William Brown. The conference schedule is as follows:

Main Sessions

Session 1: Mark Driscoll
Session 2: CJ Mahaney
Session 3: Mark Driscoll
Session 4: Bill Brown
Session 5: Daniel Akin

Breakout Sessions: General Interest

How to Read the Bible: A Christ-Centered and Gospel-Centered Reading of the Grand Biblical Narrative (Steve McKinion)

The Bible Comes to Life: How Scripture Memory Transforms One’s Life (Andy Davis)

Christianity & Public Life: Bringing the Gospel to Bear on all Facets of Society & Culture (Bruce Ashford)

Theology & Culture: Toward a Theory of Cultural Interpretation (David Nelson)

Christianity & Human Intellect: How the Life of the Mind Matters to God (Bruce Little)

Christianity & Other Religions: Jesus among other gods (George Robinson)

Breakout Sessions: Christianity & Public Life

Music (Joshua Waggener)

Cinema (Ed Gravely)

Literature (Micah Mattix)

Creation & Evolution (Ken Keathley)

Science & Faith (Harry Poe)

Psychology (Sam Williams)

The Public Square (Jeremy Evans)

Education (Gary Bredfeldt)

Breakout Sessions: Christianity & Callings:

Your Calling in the Family (Dave Owen)

Your Calling as a Citizen (J. D. Greear)

Your Calling in the Church (John Hammett)

Christianity & Morality

Sex, Money & Power (Heath Thomas)

Life & Death (Mark Liederbach)

War (Daniel Heimbach)

The Environment (Dave Jones)