Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The L'Abri Conference 2007

I thought these Redwoods looked nice and fit the idea of growth and new life in this post...if you don't think so I think you will agree that they at least look nice.
In the last post I wrote about some of the changes the Lord is bringing me through in how I engage other people, particularly unbelievers. The men the Lord has been using to bring this change about are Francis Schaeffer and Jerram Barrs. L'Abri of course is the communal ministry that the Schaeffers started in the 50's, it has blossomed to numerous communities throughout the world. The idea of L'Abri was to be a vibrant community in which unbelievers and believers could come and study to find answers to their questions. One of the motto's of Schaeffer was that there is no question that is off limits, if Christianity is the truth it can answer any question man may have. So unbelievers are encouraged to come to L'Abri as questions, raise objections and really find answers in Christianity.

It is this emphasis on a communal/relational witness (although L'Abri is not technically a commune) that I think is desperately needed in our day. In that the Emergents are right, they are late in saying this but they are right. This relational approach to evangelism is really faithful to what the Bible says about man, because man is more than just a biological machine, man is personal, emotional, and in need of real love. This is because man is made in the image of God, and as such all men's lives are precious and valuable. There are no insignificant people. This is the heart of the Bible centered relational approach to evangelism I am falling in love with.

This brings me to the conference. I had been listening to Jerram Barrs' messages on these topics for the past few months and I knew I had to go to this conference in Minnesota put together by L'Abri on Postmodernism and truth. It was absolutely wonderful, I don't think I could have been more impressed with all that I saw and heard.

Apart from the content of the messages the thing that has impressed me the most is the sorrow over the lostness of man. One of the most touching examples was when one of the speakers was telling of his ministry in Africa and he recounted to us his visit to one of the old slave fortresses in Ghana. It was in this fortress that about a thousand slaves would be held prior to be shipped out to various countries. When you walk into the room the slaves were held you realize the floor you are treading upon is not dirt it is human excrement and blood. As he continued his tour of the fortress he saw a beautiful white building and asked the guide, "What is this building?" the guide replied "That was the church that the traders met in." The church was located above the dungeon that housed the slaves.

How utterly tragic. But what was beautiful was to be in the conference room and with tears in my eyes hear numerous sniffles and noses being blown as we sorrowed over how ugly and hypocritical man can be and that the Church did not act as the Church and speak out against these moral evils. That is something to weep over. This should be our attitude towards the lostness of our culture, one of sorrow. Don't get me wrong I think anger is also Biblical, but I just wonder how the world sees us when we speak out on the lostness of our culture. Do they see people who are mad at homosexuals and women who think abortion is a right, and thus are just an angry mob trying to impose our morality on everybody?

We must weep because these are real people who are made in the image of God whose lives are precious who are living in homosexual lifestyles. These are real women who are so warped in their fallen thinking that they honestly believe that as a women it is their right over their own body to choose whether or not to terminate a child in the womb. When we can see these people as lost people made in the image of God not "Them" or enemies then can we have a loving witness that is seasoned with salt. If we can't do this we will always be dismissed as an angry hateful activist group seeking to impose our will on others.

Don't get me wrong this will not be at the expense of conviction, we must tell the homosexual that he is living in a sinful lifestyle, we absolutely must. But, if we don't truly love the lost person who is caught in this lifestyle why are we even telling him he is in sin at all?

That has really been what the Spirit of God has been working in me, how to truly be salt and light in this lost and dying world. One of the examples Jerram brought up was how Jesus dealt with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and as such he used his power to strong arm money out of people, it is also noted that he was rich, so put the two together. When Jesus sees Zacchaeus he invites Himself over to his house, to the dismay of the "Religious" because they knew what kind of person Zacchaeus was. Zacchaeus repents and repays fourfold what he stole. This is how we are to be with lost sinners, we are not to be friends with them in their sins by participating with them but friends with them while they are sinners.

Now as for the messages themselves time would fail me to write on all of them and I really am still digesting what I heard. But one of the clearest was Jerram's message, it was in part testimony and all in all an exhortation to take the Bible to the lost man because the Bible answers all of man's problems. It really does, and if we don't think so we might as well pack up shop. There were three questions in particular that Jerram hit on that the Bible gives needed answers to postmodern man:

1) Who/what Am I?

2) Where can we find a basis for morals?

3) Why do I see so much that is evil in this world?

These were the questions that Jerram had prior to his conversion to Christianity, he found no anMeaningless meaningless!, says the Preacher, All is meaningless. (Eccl 1:2)swers. These are fundamental questions surrounding our existence. It is the hallmark of postmodernism that it has given up hope of ever finding any answer (At least in any universal/rational sense). Schaeffer called this giving up on reason and the hope of ever finding a uniformed answer to man's problems and questions going under the "line of despair". All that is left once we give up on the hope of a universal uniformed answer is leaps into non-reason hoping to find some sort of answer through personal mystical experience.

What Jerram warmly heralded is that the Bible has the answers that postmodern man is in desperate need of. I say desperate because man's state in this postmodern ethos is truly desperate, it is the suicidal and the Nihilists who feel this desperation and are being the most consistent with their thinking. I am being serious.

When in our thinking we can make no sense of life all we are left with is absurdity. Duchamp's bicycle wheel on the stool (pictured above) is an example of a statement about the absurdity and meaninglessness of the human condition.

I have found this with all the non-Christians I have talked with, they simply don't have any answers to these questions, but they will always inconsistently with their worldview hold on to the Biblical truth irrationally. This is glaring in the area of morals. Most unbeliever make moral judgements all day long yet really have no real basis to determine right from wrong any higher than personal preference. This is tragic.

But we as Christians have an answer for modern man, the Bible, the written word of God. It explains who/what man is saying that he is a creature and is personal, creative and moral because he is made in the image of God. It gives a foundation for ethics which is outside of man based upon the character of the God who made man, thus they are objective and universal ethics. The Bible also answers the question of why we see so much evil in the world, man is fallen and in rebellion against his Maker. The image of man Jerram gave citing Tolken is that of a prince who was once clothed in a royal robe now still wearing what used to be the robe man is clothed in the rags of his former majesty. Thus, we see both beauty and ugliness in man. The beauty is what man once was as God created him, the ugliness is what man has become as he has rejected God.

To wrap up, there is still so much to say but I really am still digesting and praying through what the Lord is bringing me through. All in all I a just very excited, I am excited to live in a manner that is heartfelt and salty to all I may encounter.

If anyone wants to listen to some of Jerram Barrs' messages you can find some here.


natamllc said...


as I started to read this one I was going to quit until I read Ghana and the place being spoken about there, that portal to slavery.

I was there myself visiting and know of what you write about hearing at the conference. I went also to Benin City in Nigeria to their sending off place for the slave trade. I made many "Christians" rich in this world's goods!

Yes, you touch an open wound. It really is not healed nor do I believe any amount of sorrows or reparations will do to heal that wound or right that wrong done to Africans.

This error is a CROSS healing thing.

I was just at Murray Road Community Church in McKinleyville, Ca. this morning. I was meeting with several Pastors.

After the meeting I stayed behind to pray.

On the wall was tacked a very large poster of the TEN COMMANDMENTS.

All of a sudden I realized as I was deep in SPIRITUAL PRAYER reading the Ten Commandments that the OPPOSITE of each of those ten commandments is the HEART OF SATAN and what he wants for humanity!

Everything he is allowed to do in this world is exactly opposite of each of these ten commandments.

I then reflected on this from Acts 26 and became more emboldened:

Act 26:11 And often punishing them through all the synagogues, I compelled them to blaspheme. And being exceedingly furious against them, I even persecuted as far as the outside cities.
Act 26:12 In which also traveling to Damascus with authority and decision power from the chief priests,
Act 26:13 at midday along the highway, O king, I and those with me saw a light from heaven shining around me above the brightness of the sun.
Act 26:14 And all of us falling to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me, and saying in the Hebrew dialect, Saul, Saul why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the prods.
Act 26:15 And I said, Who are you, Sir? And He said, I am Jesus whom you persecute;
Act 26:16 but rise up and stand on your feet, for it is for this reason I appeared to you, to appoint you a servant and a witness both of what you saw, and in what I shall appear to you,
Act 26:17 having delivered you from the people and the nations, to whom I now send you,
Act 26:18 to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the authority of Satan to God, in order that they may receive remission of sins, and an inheritance among those being sanctified by faith in Me.

Pastor Tom Baker at his blog site Law and Gospel has done a great service to me and so have the writings of C.F.W. Walther, from his book "the Proper distinction between Law and Gospel". I believe you and Lisa were here on several occasions when David S. preached on that? You certainly know of Tom Baker.

Anyway, continue on. Do not become overwhelmed or disappointed with mankind.

We are either on one side clearly or the other side clearly or somewhere in the middle or off to the right of center or left of center on any given day not being all the way right or left.

Oh God, grant us boldness to proclaim the Love of God found only in Christ Jesus our Lord every day now!

Richard Dawkins said...

Bob, is uncertainty a sin, or have you ever encountered the capacity for vacillation in humankind? The reason I ask is one of scorn to the certitude of those religious acolytes who prescribe moral barometers without conception of the realities of corporeal existences. I wish you, and your family every happiness in the world, but disagree with your subscription to supernaturalism.

zilch said...

Bob- as an empathetic atheist, I'm of course against slavery. But the Bible condones slavery, as I'm sure you're well aware. So why are you, as a Christian, against slavery? Just asking...