I thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Gospel Coalition Conference. The event was organized well and the layout of the convention center was easy to follow. I wish I had had more time to take in some of the extra panel discussions sprinkled throughout and the post-conference event. Apparently an extra session was called Thursday morning, where D.A. Carson addressed the Rob Bell issue, speaking on what universalism is and why it isn’t a confessionally Christian position. [Download the audio here.]
Seeing 5-6,000 people in attendance at this kind of an event was special for me. I’ve spent time in an ultra-conservative fundamentalist group, and for many years I learned to look with deep suspicion on anyone who didn’t agree with me on almost every point of doctrine and practice. To see the unity in Christ, the desire for good preaching, the passion for the Gospel in such a diverse and mixed group of people was thrilling. God uses all kinds of people, and united around the Gospel message we have room for varying points of view on secondary doctrines and matters of practice. I was thrilled at the idea of The Together for the Gospel conference back when it first launched. So it was a joy to finally experience on a large scale a similar event that focuses on people coming together for the Gospel.
The theme of the conference was especially meaningful to me. I’ve been studying the interrelation between the Old and New Testaments for quite some time. Seeing Christ in the Old Testament afresh has been faith building for me and has revolutionized my reading of Scripture. The topic was treated carefully and not just academically. Christ in the OT was preached as something for us to rejoice in. I believe that many preachers will be more equipped to preach from the Old Testament after having attended this conference. Many of the books recommended for preachers to read, will also prove helpful.
Dispensationalism wasn’t necessarily treated as a big problem needing to be addressed head on or anything. Some speakers said certain forms of dispensationalism bias one toward not preaching Christ from the OT. I would agree, but much of what was said at the conference can apply no matter what position is taken on dispensationalism. I don’t think reasonable dispensationalists would have been offended by the conference at all. They may have been challenged or even encouraged by it, but not offended. Not being dispensational myself, I might have missed something there. I just think the way the conference handled this point was commendable.
Finally, the book tables and exhibits were breathtaking. Lifeway Christian Stores helped sell the books, but numerous publishers had their representatives on hand to help with the book tables. From a book-lovers’ perspective, there were great discounts, giveaways galore, and a lot of excellent books on hand. That made the conference special in its own right.
For more on The 2011 Gospel Coalition Conference you can check out the Desiring God blog here for live summaries of each of the sessions.