Day one of the Gospel Coalition for 2011 has been very long, but profitable. As I've been up for 17 hours with a two hour drive and two hour flight in the mix, I will have to be brief. I had the privilege of being at the 2009 event and this by far is bigger with a much better venue - McCormick Place in Chicagoland. As is the tradition at TGC, an attendee receives free bibles and books. There were fewer goodies this year, but the participants have also increased. No one has stated a number, but i would wager greater than 6,000 folk are in attendance. There's a solid representation from multiple demographics though the heaviest concentration appears to be 25-40 year olds.
The conference is entitled They Testify About Me: Preaching Jesus and the Gospel from the Old Testament. We had four sessions today with an optional concert at 9 pm. Perhaps in the near future, i'll fill in some of the content specifics, but here is a summary.
Session 1 - Al Mohler introduced the subject matter by speaking from John 5:31-47: Preaching the Scriptures & Finding Jesus
Session 2 - Tim Keller preached from Exodus 14 and the redemptive story found in the crossing of the Red Sea: Getting Out
Session 3 - Alistair Begg preached the book of Ruth again showing the gospel message represented by the story: From a Foreigner to King Jesus
Session 4 - Panel Discussion - John Piper, Tim Keller, Bryan Chappell, D.A. Carson and Crawford Loritts: Preaching from the Old Testament
Long story short, these guys preached God's Word unapologetically and expositionally. If you haven't heard or seen these guys preach, you should. None of the three men moved from the pulpit as they spoke. Very few jokes were cracked, though Begg made up for Mohler & Keller in the humor department. They took the delivery of God's Word very seriously. They spent time reading large portions of Scripture in their sermons. They spoke with pastoral insight and experience, and often in a professorial manner of confidence in their subject matter obviously instructing a younger generation. The panel discussion was forthright and blunt with some minor disagreements among the men. It was fun to watch them mix it up extemporaneously.
As to what a number of SI folk would consider problematic - All three speakers today maintain a strong line of historical redemptive paradigm in their hermeneutic. They took a strong but not derogatory stance against dispensationalism, describing it a number of times as formulaic. All comments regarding or implying dispensational thought were gracious, with Mohler indicating dispensationalism does see some things correctly. Time prohibits a lengthier and detailed description of the sessions, but i would describe them as thoughtful, laden with Scripture and challenging. Keller ended his session by offering a gospel presentation as he indicated that in a crowd of that size, there were probably some who had never trusted in Christ's righteousness. It was quite moving.
Overall today focused on handling the entire canon of Scripture with a view to presenting Christ as the centerpiece in any sermon. i hope to pump out some more content tomorrow. If you want to hear audio or watch it live, visit www.thegospelcoalition.org.