I attended Wheaton College’s N.T. Wright conference this past week, and had a great time visiting my old western suburban backyard. Wheaton put on a good show, with a great supporting cast to back up the imposing performances of the bishop from Durham. I only wish some of my Moscow friends could’ve joined me. After hanging out with a number of Canadian Reformed ministers over the long weekend, I began to slip “eh” onto the end of my increasingly Kuyperian-inflected sentences.
Somehow, I was unaware until a few days ago that another noteworthy conference was underway at the very same time down in Louisville: Together for the Gospel (T4G). Names such as Sproul, MacArthur, Duncan, Mohler, Piper, put together what I think may have been the first massively organized assembly of neo-Reformed figureheads. Over at Christianity Today, Brett McCracken writes about his experience last week attending both events. The whole review is worth a read. (McCracken is right to highlight Vanhoozerâ€™s talk, which was one of the best parts of the weekend for me.)
For the T4G folks, protecting disputed doctrines against heresy is where good theology is born. Clear thinking comes from friction and protestation, from Hegelian dialectics (R.C. Sproul spoke on this), but not from compromise. The Patristic Fathers got it right whenever they were ironing out disputed doctrines and fighting against heresy, said Ligon Duncan in his talk. But on matters that were not disputed, he said, their thought sometimes got muddled up.
The exact opposite point was made at the Wheaton Conference by Kevin Vanhoozer, professor of systematic theology at Wheaton, who suggested that theologians like Wright (and, presumably Christians in general) are more often correct in matters they collectively affirm than in matters they dispute. This statement reflects the contrasting spirit of the Wheaton Conference as regards unity: Itâ€™s what we affirmthat matters. Are we on the same page on the core issues? Can we agree on the claims of the creeds? Yes? Then letâ€™s hash out the details of theological minutia (which is definitely important) in a spirited, friendly debate as the people of God exercising the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2).