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Dr. Joseph Pipa Jr.
Christians familiar with the Westminster Catechisms revel in the clear and beautiful answer to the opening question, "What is the chief and highest end of man?" (...to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.) What is becoming more and more muddled in the mind of many others are the answers to that and other questions such as, "What is the origin of man?" and "What is his nature?"
These and other questions about the human equation will be examined during Greenville Seminary's 2013 Spring Theology Conference on "The Doctrine of Man." The conference will be held March 12-14 at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, Simpsonville, S.C. Although the early-bird rate deadline has passed, registrations are still open for this important conference.
"Man was not created in an indifferent or neutral state, that is, neither good nor bad, without a holy character, nor was he in a state of infancy, a sort of an imbecile, who was slowly to awaken and develop, but he was created a mature man in a state of perfection," M.J. Bosma wrote in his 1927 Exposition of Reformed Doctrine, "The Doctrine of Man," adding, however, that this state of moral perfection did not mean he had reached the highest state of excellence of which he was capable.
"...Had Adam not fallen, there would have been development; Adam was perfectly happy, without any defect, but he could have gained higher excellence, greater knowledge and joy," Bosma said. "Adam had not reached the limit of increase; that would mean stagnation and consequent unhappiness. Adam was not created to stay in one fixed condition. He was at the beginning and not at the end of the way. He could increase, and he could also fall. He was a changeable being, who had the possibility of sinning and of not sinning. ... His life was holy, but Adam was not yet confirmed in the possession of life; he was to undergo a trial in order to be confirmed in his state and gain eternal life."
Adam stood in a two-fold relation towards God: as creature and as covenant head, Bosma said.
"Adam as a creature of God was naturally under obligation to love and serve his Maker, but to this natural relation of Creator and creature God added the covenant relation. As God's creature, Adam had to obey his Maker individually for himself, without any regard to his descendants. As placed under the condition of the covenant of works by God, he acted not alone for himself, but was the representative of the human race...."
Conference speakers will explore a variety of issues related to this original state of man, his fall, his redemption, and his divine commission.
The full roster of conference speakers and their topics is as follows:
- Dr. Richard Belcher — "The Supernatural Creation of Man" (including examination of modern theories of theistic evolution)
- Dr. Guy Waters — "The Covenant of Works"
- Dr. Joel Beeke — "Temptation and Fall" (free Tuesday evening service)
- Mr. Matthew Holst — "Red in Tooth and Claw? An Exegetical Evaluation of the Doctrine of Death Before The Fall"
- Dr. Bill Vandoodewaard — "Thomas Boston and the Four-fold State"
Regular registration rates are now in effect and continue until the registration deadline of 5 p.m. March 7. Higher rates will apply when the registration table for on-site sign-ups opens at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, March 12.
This year's events will include a return to the practice of a preconference chapel on the GPTS campus at 10:30 a.m. Guest speaker for the pre-conference chapel is Dr. E. Calvin Beisner of the Corwall Alliance for Stewardship of Creation. Dr. Beisner will speak on "Making Common Cause Against a Common Enemy in a Multifaceted Spiritual World War."
An Open House Reception in the seminary's Commons will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. A prospective student luncheon will be held in the Commons at 11:15 a.m. Senior students and faculty members will be on hand to greet prospective students and answer questions.
Tuesday and Wednesday evening sessions at the conference site are open to the public and will be broadcast live on the Internet through SermonAudio facilities. In past years, some conference-goers have indicated they had difficulty hearing speakers in the church sanctuary. Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church recently has made significant technical improvements to its sound system. We expect these improvements to enhance listening ability for those with hearing impairments.
We see the Doctrine of Man as an increasingly important topic at this time as the biblical understanding of man's origins, nature and purposes is under concerted attack. It is critical for all believers and especially leaders in the church to examine these issues thoughtfully. We hope to see many turn out for this conference and ask that you encourage your pastors and elders to consider attending.