Westminster Seminary California’s 2017 Annual Conference commenced this year on Friday, January 13 in the evening and continued through Saturday afternoon on January 14. Just under 300 people from all around the world were in attendance for this event, which meant the WSC chapel was full with others tuning in via our live stream from places like Turkey, Germany and the Philippines! The conference, entitled "Is the Reformation Over?" was emceed by Dr. Charles Telfer and featured Drs. W. Robert Godfrey, R. Scott Clark, J.V. Fesko, Michael S. Horton, Julius J. Kim, and Prof. Joel Kim. Each speaker approached that question from different angles.
Dr. Godfrey’s topic was The Gospel Recovered and noted how the Reformation recovered the biblical Gospel, not provisionally, but definitively and that we need it today as every generation has needed it.
"If you are justified today, you will be justified tomorrow. It's a gift we cannot lose."
-Dr. W. Robert Godfrey
Dr. Clark’s was The Bible Recovered and showed us how the church has already read the Scriptures but she has not always read them well. We were shown that for much of its history the church read Scripture under the influence of powerful assumptions, which blinded her to vitally important truths. In the Reformation, that veil was lifted and the Scriptures were restored to their rightful place in the theology, piety, and practice of the faith.
Dr. Fesko started Saturday off with his topic, The Church Reformed. He revealed that the Roman Catholic Church maintains there is an ecclesiastical hierarchy that has the pope as its pinnacle, but Protestant Reformers challenged this notion. They rejected the claims of papal authority and returned Christ to his sole place of preeminence.
Dr. Horton followed with his topic, The Gospel Recast and challenged us with the fact that there is no shortage of “gospel” things, from gospel music to gospel vacations. He posed the question, what is the gospel itself and has it become captive to agendas that bear a loose relationship to the redemption in Christ that we find in the Scriptures? He then focused on various ways in which the gospel is being recast as a story about us rather than about the rescue operation of the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit.
"Is the Bible really understood, or is it merely mined for quotes for a message you could have heard somewhere else?"
-Dr. Michael S. Horton
Dr. Kim’s topic was The Church Reduced and he showed us that one of the key outcomes of the Protestant Reformation was the recovery of a biblical ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the church. He then showed how Luther and other Reformers emphasized the priesthood of all believers over and against the hierarchical systems found in the Roman Catholic Church. What Luther could not have expected, however, was that the Protestant church would gradually reduce itself to create "churches" of every stripe and color, where individual authority reigned supreme.
Prof. Kim wrapped up the topics with The Bible Relativized and told us that the fact that the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura is often challenged in the halls of academia and often ridiculed in popular media should not surprise us. What is surprising, however, is the lack of focus and dependence upon the Bible among churches and believers, even among evangelicals. He revealed that not unlike the time of the Reformation, there is an urgent need to recover the centrality of the Bible.
"Just as in the time of the Reformation, there is right now an urgent need to recover the centrality of the Bible for faith and life."
-Professor Joel E. Kim
Following these lectures, there was a Question & Answer session which allowed the audience and those watching via livestream to write or "tweet" questions for the faculty panel to answer concerning the Reformation or any of the above topics. It was a time of conviction, refreshment, and ultimately encouragement as we are reminded that God was in control 500 years ago, today, and 500 years from now.
Plenary session resources
- PLENARY I: “The Gospel Recovered” — W. Robert Godfrey
- PLENARY II: “The Bible Restored” — R. Scott Clark
- PLENARY III: “The Church Reformed” — J. V. Fesko
- PLENARY IV: “The Gospel Recast” — Michael S. Horton
- PLENARY V: “The Church Reduced” — Julius J. Kim
- PLENARY VI: “The Bible Relativized” — Joel E. Kim
- Questions & Answers — Speaker Panel
To view all sessions, click here.