CCL Annual Conference

Well, I am back from a lovely weekend in San Francisco, California, where I was the keynote speaker. It was a wonderful time getting to know supporters and others involved in the ministry of CCL, as well as an opportunity to fellowship with some very dear colleagues: our President, Andrew Sandlin, our Senior Fellow of Economics, David Bahnsen, our Distinguished Scholar of Law, Jeffery Ventrella, and our Junior Scholar of Philosophy, Richard Sandlin. A wonderful time, all in all.

I spoke twice, opening and closing the conference. More on that in a moment.

First, I wanted to give a brief report on the other contributions.

Andrew Sandlin followed my opening session with an address of what he calls "Libertarian Marxism: Dictatorship of the Egalitarian." I know, "Libertarian Marxist" sounds like a contradiction in terms. But his lecture was eye-opening for me. I was able to make a lot of connections about what is going on right now in our society, what 1960s radicalism was really all about, and the desperate need for Christians to boldly engage in the broader culture. I'm delighted to see that Andrew will be publishing this lecture as a booklet soon!

David Bahnsen's address is one of those talks that can go oh-so-wrong in a million ways. Entitled something like "Eight Stupid Ideas That Keep the Church Irrelevant," this has all the makings of just another run-of-the-mill church bashing session, or just another in a long line of what I call "Church Stinks" literature. I have absolutely no time for that kind of stuff, so, suffice it to say, I listened intently to what David had to say. I was more than pleasantly surprised. The talk was infused with an obvious and very personal lament. This was not the "chip on the shoulder" arrogant youth bashing everything he doesn't like in the church. This was a man lamenting. A man who clearly really wants the church to be successful and effective. David probably has the wittiest and sharpest tongue of anyone I've ever met, but his quips, while funny, were not inappropriate and, often, very serious. I am not going to review each of his "8 Things," because when the audio is available I want all of you to listen to it. But I found all of them to be well-considered, mature, and, above all, full of wisdom. He could probably stand to change the title of the lecture, I think, just because I really do think it gives the wrong impression. But the lecture was excellent.

Jeffery Ventrella is an astonishingly accomplished and competent man. I am so grateful to count myself one of his friends. Among Christians effectively engaging the public square, Jeffery is without question in the top ten of "most influential," in my opinion. But you don't know him because he is not in this business to build his own kingdom, but the Kingdom of God. He is Senior Vice President of the Alliance Defense Fund, and a man of not only extraordinary vision, but incredible competence and excellence in implementing his vision. He spoke on the provocative topic: "The Mission of the Church: Bomb Shelter or Ammo Depot?" Wow. That clarifies things rather strikingly! (I would argue, "Both," but in his context he's fighting those who say only the former.) He made some excellent textual observations about the necessity of good works in the New Testament (quite eye-opening to hear all those texts at one time!), as well as the fact that Christ came to "destroy the works of the Devil." Those "works" have to be replaced with.... something! Hey, here's a radical idea: why don't we replace evil works with good ones? Not so God will be happy with us; but because God IS happy with us. All in all, an excellent address.

So, a few words about my two lectures. They were enthusiastically received. They both directly engaged the contemporary revival of a "Two Kingdoms" model for relating Christianity and culture. The first is called, "Cultural Amnesia: What Makes Pietism Possible?" The other is "Grace Restores and Perfects Nature: Herman Bavinck and 21st Century Cultural Transformation." These were fairly in-depth critiques that you will not have heard or read anywhere else. In other words, this is very original material. My colleagues were gushing rather embarrassingly on Facebook (that means YOU, DLB) as I delivered them, so there is probably some high expectation for some to get their hands on these lectures. Good news: CCL will soon be posting the audio on their website, as well as the written manuscript. I will also be putting the written manuscripts right here on "Dead Reckoning" under the "Writings" tab. We will see what kind of interest they generate.

On a personal note, I was delighted that the Mrs. was able to accompany me on this trip. We didn't get to see or do much in terms of seeing the sights or anything. But there really is nothing worse in the world than crawling into an empty hotel bed. I think any traveling man can attest to that!

Brian Mattson