Metropolitan Tabernacle School of Theology 6-8 July 04 - Rep

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The Metropolitan Tabernacle's School of Theology was held from Tuesday 6th - Thursday 8th July. The official description of the school was as follows:


Until something disastrous happens, it is hard for the government to rouse the capital to concern and watchfulness in the war against terrorism. Sometimes it seems even harder to awaken God's beloved people to see the spiritual warfare and its demands. Across the country believers seem to want a moderately quiet life, even if it costs the diminution and disappearance of churches, or the degeneration of them into places of 'spiritual' entertainment. In all parts of the land we find groups of warm-hearted and truth-loving people, but little dynamism and sense of urgency.
One of the differences between human and spiritual warfare is that, when human soldiers fail and battles are lost, pain and suffering results, whereas when spiritual contenders waver and languish, they are able to enjoy pleasure and peace. This seems to be the situation in the West today. Souls perish on every side, churches sleep or die, and we live contented and happy lives. The struggle for souls and churches is fought by a few stalwarts, but where are the many? Spiritual warfare has almost slipped out of the evangelical dictionary.

In the 1950s a resurrection of the warfare theme was initiated but it has long since slipped back into the shadows. Where today is the spirit of Elijah for the fight against personal sin and worldliness? Where is that combatant spirit in the quest for the souls of lost men and women, and of the young? Where is the phenomenon of years ago, when young men were pressing into Gospel ministry? Where is the zeal and determination that filled prayer meetings everywhere in times gone by? Constantly we hear of Gospel churches on the very brink of closure and sale because no other churches can send workers or propose a new leader.
The solution to the needs of churches, some say, is to surrender to the worship culture of the charismatic world, burying the old standards of spiritual and reverent worship. They think we should exchange prayer and preaching for the 'sure results' of entertainment, and even conferences of noble reformed lineage are moving inexorably to this philosophy.
This year's School of Theology sought to be an inspirational call to see once again the nature of the spiritual warfare to which we are called, and to urge crucial, biblical commitment. For us, this is a cause far higher than all earthly causes, however important, such as the struggle against terrorism or the defence of the realm.
Is every godly pastor also a soul winner, and an inspirer and encourager of others, pressing them forward in the rescue of perishing souls? If only we could grow tired of ease, and sick of worldly abundance, longing instead for instrumentality, then we would surely see greater blessing.
Speakers this year unfolded different aspects of the true 'holy war', from the personal struggle for sanctification and commitment, to the church-level battle for souls and for worthy worship.

Overseas speakers:

Dr Joel Beeke, minister of Heritage Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, USA and President of Puritan Reformed Seminary
Phillip R. Johnson, Director of Grace to You Christian broadcasts and a teaching elder at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, Los Angeles

UK speakers:
Dr Peter Masters, Metropolitan Tabernacle
Rev Vernon Higham, Cardiff
Rev Malcolm Watts, Salisbury
Pastor Spencer Cunnah, Sheffield
Dr Ted Williams, former Medical Officer of Croydon


My Comments:

The Metropolitan Tabernacle School of Theology is the largest reformed conference of its kind in the UK - by a very long way. The attendance this year was higher than ever, and the Tabernacle was filled to within a few seats of capacity by Wednesday night, when nearly a thousand souls were gathered together.

The School opened with an address by [b:940e5c2264]Rev Malcolm Watts[/b:940e5c2264]who spoke powerfully on the Temptation of Christ. His first address examined the Temptation, showing how Satan failed to accept the revealed Lordship of Christ, and hence tempted Him regardless of the impossibility of Christ falling into sin. He noted how the temptation showed the humanity of Christ, and how Christ as the second Adam was to accomplish what Adam could not. He showed how Christ's strength may be ours in the Spiritual Warfare, quoting a historical account of a General whose army was outnumbered and had the figures relayed to him by a worried junior officer. The General looked at the younger man and asked 'And how many men do you count ME for?'. We were taught that as we were 'richly laden' with treasures of grace, so we must expect attacks from Satan. These attacks are to us an honour, and of benefit. The fight brings assurance, conforms us to Christ. We may overcome in the warfare by the means of grace.

His second address on Thursday, on our response to the Temptation of Christ, I only partially heard as I was doing a security duty in the lobby! It sounded good though.

Rev Watts was followed by [b:940e5c2264]Phillip R Johnson[/b:940e5c2264], who gave four talks over the school on the subject 'Pulling Down Strongholds'. His first address was 'The Essence of the War', based upon 2 Corinthians Ch 10. He urged us:

1. Not to misunderstand the battle (v3) - this is not a fleshly war, but a battle for truth which is
(a) Ideological, not about territory
(b) Closer to home than we think
(c) A battle waged in our minds - if we neglect our intellect we will be casualties.

2. Don't distrust the weapons that God has entrusted to you (v4) . The church today leans toward carnal weapons. In conventional warfare, the newest weaponry is often the best. In spiritual terms, the opposite is true. Our weapons are the oldest. We may appear unarmed to the carnal eye, but these weapons are mighty through God.

3. Don't relinquish the fight! The comprehensive aim of Spiritual Warfare is the 'captivity of every thought' - total captivity. We are to pull down, cast down, bring in! A full-on assault. Christ's victory will be by the Sword of the Word - we must not give in, Christ will finish the fight for us.

We are set against Strongholds - imaginations and logic of men - which seem impregnable, but we need not be intimidated. This battle is for the serious, not the apathetic or lazy. If we surrender our minds, it is like removing armour in the heat of battle.

In his second address, 'Guarding the heart from pollution', he spoke from Prov Ch 4 of:

1. The duty of guarding the heart - an essential duty to embrace and command to follow
2. The difficulty of keeping the heart.
3. The desirability of guarding the heart.

His final two addresses, of which I heard parts (on duty again) and await the CD, were titled as follows:
'I...yet not I': How Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility unite on the battlefield', and
'the method of mortification'.

[b:940e5c2264]Pastor Graham Hind[/b:940e5c2264] was due to have addressed the School on Satan's efforts to divert the believer from Spiritual priorities, in the sphere of family, and affluence and ease, but he was prevented by Doctors' orders. Instead we heard earlier than expected, and in two addresses rather than one, from [b:940e5c2264]Pastor Spencer Cunnah[/b:940e5c2264], who critiqued the modern charismatic concept of 'Mystical Spiritual Warfare'. In his first address, he touched upon five distortions of spiritual warfare as follows:

1. Binding Territorial Spirits. He noted the proponents fondness for Daniel Ch 10 v10-20 as a proof text for this, and showed that (i) This was a battle fought in heaven and (ii) it had nothing to do with Daniel!
2. 'Holy Laughter'. Enough said!
3. Marches, flags and banners - 'Claiming Authority'.
4. The 'Settler's Stake' - a practice of burying a Bible, placing a stake in the ground, anointing the spot with oil and taking communion.
5. Deliverance Ministry. The emergence of 'specialists' who can deal with posession, opression, etc.

He noted that the simplicity of the New Testament stands in contrast to the gimmicks of today,

In his second address he critiqued the five distortions, and gave five reasons why these are so common today:

1. A wrong view of God. The foolish idea that God is somehow prevented from hearing prayer by demons, and that He cannot until WE bind them! God is Almighty - period.
2. A wrong view of the Cross. It may look like weakness to the world - but there Christ defeated the 'strong man armed'.
3. A wrong view of the Binding of Satan (Rev 20). Satan's fate IS sealed. The evidence (in his opinion) points to Satan being bound at present (apologies to Premils!).
4. A wrong view of Salvation. He asked 'What is easier? To witness or to prayer march? - To live a holy life or to plant a Bible in the ground?'. The Lord uses human instruments in Salvation, and we have hard work to do!
5. A wrong view of the powers of darkness. We have responsibilities and we may not shift them to 'demons'.

He identified our priorities as Truth, Love, Righteousness, Faith and Prayer.

On Tuesday evening, [b:940e5c2264]Dr Joel Beeke[/b:940e5c2264] addressed the second largest gathering of the School as he began his series of messages on 'Fighting Satan' with 'Knowing the Enemy'. He reminded us that if we are true believers, Satan hates us beyond our imagination. We should not overestimate, but must not underestimate Him. He gave a brief history of Satanology, showing his fall and his attack upon mankind, the crown of creation, in the garden. He noted how at every point in history where Satan appears to have the advantage, God countermoves in power. Satan has never achieved 'check mate' because God knows all his moves before they are made. What a comfort - all of Satan's designs work to God's purposes. Satan is morally accountable to God, and will give account. Dr Beeke showed how the New Testament gives a clearer picture of Satan, working in secret with his army of fallen beings. He related the fall in demon posession after Calvary, and Satan's renewed attacks with the rise of Islam, paganism and so forth. Almost amusingly, Dr Beeke identified Satan as a newly headless chicken - still alive - but not for long!

His second address was about 'Knowing his Stratagems: Satan's devices and their remedies'. He drew material from four puritan books, three of which are available today. He spoke of how Satan treats us like mice as he sets traps as his strategy, and baits them as his devices. He identified Satans goals as destroying us, the imagebearers, overthrowing the Kingdom, retaining control of what he has, and regaining lost territory. He went on to look at remedies.

He gave three further talks, one more than scheduled to cover the gap in the programme, on 'Fighting Satan Defensively and Offensively', which was a reflection on Ephesians Ch 6., 'Knowing the defeat of Satan in personal life', and 'Knowing the defeat of Satan in Church and Nation'. In his final message, he picked out three resolutions we should make in the pursuit of this war:

1. Resolve to live by scripture alone - is the Bible our first love? Do we live it?
2. Resolve to treasure the church of Jesus Christ.
3. Resolve to live for reformation and revival in the church.

On Wednesday, we heard from three of the speakers mentioned above, and then from two new speakers. First, we were addressed by [b:940e5c2264]Dr Ted Williams[/b:940e5c2264], who is a christian believer who was the Director of Public Health in the City of Croydon, south of London. His talks, entitled 'Morals - Not for Children' were a damning insight into the appalling damage done in the last thirty or so years by the advent of so-called 'Sex Education' and freely available contraceptives. He showed conclusively how the terrible rise in the rate of teenage pregnancies in the UK directly relates to the rise in availability of free contraceptives. This was a sobering time. His second lecture outlined a a christian response to what is happening.

Following this difficult subject, souls were refreshed by the unique style of [b:940e5c2264]Rev Vernon Higham[/b:940e5c2264], now very advanced in years, but as animated as ever when in the pulpit. He gave a devotional address on 'Guarding and promoting union with Christ'. It was as ever a blessing to hear him preach, and a most uplifting and encouraging address.

On Wednesday evening, the largest gathering of the week met to hear [b:940e5c2264]Dr Peter Masters[/b:940e5c2264] make an impassioned plea in the first two of three addresses entitled 'The Battle for Souls'. Dr Masters contended that the Calvinism we recognise today is often far from authentic, and that we may consider ourselves 'spiritual freaks' as whilst the post 1950 revival in Calvinistic doctrine has touched upon many battles well, the Battle for Souls has been neglected, and now dying churches are turning to the charismatics and arminians for their 'ideas' - but the authentic Calvinism of past times has been forgotten. He showed that the Christian Warfare is about advance - prosecuting a campaign for the Lord. He contended that churches today are content to dig in, and establish themselves strong ministry for believers, whilst neglecting to press on in reaching the lost. He stated that if we forget the Battle for Souls, then we become 'methodological hypercalvinists' no matter what our stated doctrine might be.

He highlighted the need for Intelligent Strategy in church life, and pointed out that false teachers always have plans (Warren, PDC et al), and yet we so often have none at all! He pointed out that the battle for souls is a corporate as well as an individual matter, and reminded us that war is risky! He pondered on the self-sacrifice of thousands in two world wars, never hesitating to give their lives for King and Country, and asked why, today, christian believers are not willing to give... not their lives, but time and effort to the cause of the King of Kings!

In his second address, he showed how from the 1950s onwards, there were large numbers of calvinists even in churches with 'weak' pulpits. There was a resurgence in doctrine, but the battle for witness somehow slipped into the shadows. AW Pink was typical of the new 'romantic' form of calvinism emerging. Pink had no time for the life of the church, or for evangelism. The Puritans were badly misread in this period. Men believed that all they had to do was preach from pulpits... they forgot that the Puritans had large congregations compelled BY LAW to attend. There was no need to get people into church in those days - the biggest danger was people who believed themselves saved and were not.

To copy the Puritans in this regard (preach in the church with little activity outside the church) is farce. Dr Masters asked why there are so few young men coming forward for the ministry today, and offered an answer - if there is no spirit of battle in the church - what is there to compel these young men forward? Where is the love of lost souls that drove past generations to serve God?

At the end of this address and in his third, Dr Masters looked at what was done under Spurgeon. He pointed out the flaws in the final chapter of 'The Forgotten Spurgeon' by Iain Murray, showing how the Tabernacle did not collapse doctrinally after the death of Spurgeon as claimed (see my comments elsewhere on the PB about this), and showing the great ministry of the church, a working church - not just a preaching station. He raised many many facts, one of which was particularly stunning. A small church plant of the Tabernacle, Surrey Square Mission (still running a Sunday School today) in one year made... 72,000 home visits. How was this possible? The people of the church were serving the Lord!


The School was a great blessing to me, and I believe to all who attended. Oh that all would be willing to stand up and be counted in the great battle! So much apathy abounds, so much 'methdological hypercalvinism'. Awake, oh army of the living God! Awake! Let us stand in Christ, resisting the devil, feeding our souls, and reaching out in love to all without the Kingdom!

[i:940e5c2264]Must we be carried to the skies
On peaceful beds of ease
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bruising seas?

No! We must fight if we would reign
Increase our courage, Lord
We'll bear the toil, endure the pain
Supported by thy Word. [/i:940e5c2264]

Soli Deo Gloria.

[Edited on 7-17-2004 by JonathanHunt]
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