Reflections, Part 5- Why Did We?
by Greg Linscott
I have tried to address the objections to why we invited Phil. What I’d like to finish with is a post on the more positive aspects behind the invitation…
Emphasis on the Word. To me, this was key. If a speaker isn’t going to present and apply the Scriptures, what makes our event a Christian one? Phil has a well-earned reputation in being a sound expositor of the Scriptures, and his working partnership with John MacArthur does nothing but enhance that.
Boldness for the Truth. Phil has been willing to address erroneous teaching, behavior, and problems within and facing the American Evangelical scene. Whether “we” agree with the extent of some of the relationships the folks at GCC have established or not, the fact is that Phil, MacArthur and co. have used those relationships as a platform for influence toward what they believe to be the truth. Examples of this would include the aforementioned “Strange Fire” conference, MacArthur’s “Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillenialist,” or even the video below addressing the excesses of “The New Calvinism”:
I personally appreciated Phil’s comments in this 2012 interview:
“The abuse of the term evangelicalism and the corruption of the evangelical movement really started, I think, with a core of people who included the founder of Christianity Today who wanted a new kind of evangelicalism and that was their term – new evangelicalism… They wanted to do away with certain evangelical distinctives and embrace a kind of ecumenical diversity instead. And slowly and gradually that’s what they did. My argument would be today, these days, you could read Christianity Today, you barely will find any actual theological evangelicalism in the magazine at all…”
“The distinctive of evangelicalism is we as evangelicals believe the Gospel, which means that spiritual redemption is the only true remedy for what ails fallen humanity… The Gospel is about sin, righteousness and judgment, but it’s not politically correct these days to preach about those things and it’s amazing and appalling how few pastors are willing to break those political conventions and go against the spirit of our age. It’s just not fashionable to do that and truly proclaim the Gospel.”
Doctrinal Affinity. One fact often downplayed is Phil’s unapologetic affirmation of the doctrinal principles that define the MBA. In Phil’s own words to me, “I’m a dispensationalist, cessationist, and young-earth creationist.” You can see his signature appended to our current speaker doctrinal/position statement below:
Shifting gears a little, I would like to comment on how evident it was that the men benefited from his ministry to them. First of all, the initial response showed that there was a keen interest in what Phil brought to the table. There were over 100 more men in attendance in comparison to the same event last year, representing several churches who had not participated in recent days. While there may have been other factors that also played into the increase (a drop in expenses, and a venue change from a campground to a local church facility in the Twin Cities metro), Phil’s reputation as a preacher was not, I am confident, a neutral factor in the upsurge.
I had several older men approach me afterwards, both pastors and laymen, who spoke well of the benefits they received. One veteran pastor noted “this is one of the best Men’s Fellowships we’ve ever had… perhaps the best.” Another confessed his skepticism of the invitation going in, but said with conviction, “I don’t know how you couldn’t have been blessed and challenged by what we just heard these last 2 days.” One of the most encouraging comments came to me in a feedback survey response:
“This was the most worthwhile Men’s Retreat that I have ever attended. Men of all ages (I’m 67) could relate to Phil Johnson’s message, and grow from his consistent scripture-based teaching.”
I enjoyed very much the personal time I was able to spend with Phil along the way. We spent nearly 6 hours traveling between Marshall and the Twin Cities, due to Phil speaking at our church on Sunday. The conversation did nothing to reduce the impression that there are many things we would hold in common, and I was actually intrigued to hear of how familiar he was with people and voices in “our circles,” and the high regard he held some of them (even as he observed that there are some of those who didn’t appear to have a high opinion of him).
I don’t pretend to know everything the future holds. In the whole scheme of things, this event may be a mere flash in the pan. I know that for me, it has shown that we have friends we can appreciate and benefit from- and not just nationally known figures like a Phil Johnson, but the pastors and churches who came to hear him. It showed me the need for people to lead. As much as we don’t want the return of a Fundamentalism centered around a centralized, personality-driven leadership, neither is it efficient to be permanently mired in committee doing nothing because we can’t reach a consensus and we are concerned about negative response. It seems to me that in our (right) emphasis on the separatist nature of the Fundamentalist idea, we have too often neglected and forgotten the “big tent” aspect of Fundamentalist fellowship. I am hopeful that this event will serve as a reminder to others that “not all fellowship is created equal,” and that there can be blessing and benefit in centering around common principles to better accomplish the work God has called us to.