I had breakfast this morning with British überblogger Adrian Warnock at the Starbucks on the lower level of Waterloo Station. I have corresponded with Adrian via the Internet for more than a decade now, but we had never met. My mental image of him was a mustachioed, bespectacled, English gentleman with a sweater and umbrella. He's a medical doctor, you know. Turns out he is a young guy, very engaging. We talked about the blogosphere, theology, preachers and authors we both appreciate, the iMonk, and Jollyblogger. Had a great time. It was too dark in there for Darlene's camera to get a good image, but there it is.
[Note: Moments after I made the above post, a series of terrorist attacks brought all London to a standstill at the height of the morning rush hour. At 8:51 AM, A bomb rocked a London Underground train just leaving Liverpool Street station toward Aldgate. Seven people are confirmed dead in that blast. (In a remarkable twist of irony, former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani was in London, having breakfast very close to Liverpool Street when the attacks began.) Five minutes later, a second bomb halted an Underground train between the Russell Square and King's Cross stations. Twenty-one people are confirmed dead in that blast. Twenty-one minutes later, at 9:17, a third bomb exploded on another Underground train at Edgeware Station. Seven were confirmed dead in that blast. At 9:47, exactly half an hour later, in Tavistock Place (adjacent to Russell Square, close by the British Museum) a fourth blast opened a double-decker bus like a can of sardines, killing at least two. All transportation systems in central London were immediately shut down. The death toll is expected to rise. As the day wore on and news leaked out, I made the following posts:]
1:00 PMEMERGENCY UPDATE
The coordinated terrorist attack (news reports are reporting seven major explosions) hit central London just minutes after Darlene and I left Adrian Warnock at the train station this morning. Adrian has e-mailed me to say he and his family are safe, though his brother narrowly missed one of the explosions.
Darlene and I are also safe. We were not in the immediate vicinity of any of the attacks (all of them were north of the Thames; we're south); but cell-phone systems have been shut down for emergency use only, so we've been unable to call friends and relatives. Authorities have also closed Central London so that the Underground trains and buses cannot go in or out. In fact, all London Transport is currently closed. Buses are queuing at Elephant & Castle. Here is a picture taken through the upper-story window of the Metropolitan Tabernacle:
The Scene at Elephant & Castle
Sirens have been blaring nonstop all morning. The School of Theology continues, though attendance seems a little low this morning. We're getting periodic updates on the news between sessions. I most likely won't be able to post a further update until late evening, but we wanted friends and family to know we're OK.
6:30 PMupdate on the disaster in London
Injuries from the bombings are reported to be widespread and severe. Ambulances have been coming and going all day. A friend of ours who is a physician was called in to work a special 12-hour shift in the emergency room. There have also been nonstop police sirens (as well as the ambulances) traveling every conceivable direction all day, and the streets this evening were so full of pedestrians it reminded me of India.
Other than that, we are basically insulated from the confusion and tragedy, watching, as you are, only on television. But London officials seem to have things well in hand. I've been amazed at the number of train stations and bus lines that are already repoened. We're hoping things will return to near normal before we have to travel to Heathrow tomorrow morning. If we get through security in time, perhaps I'll blog from the airport lounge. Other than that, this is probably the last you'll see of me before I get back to Los Angeles.
7:00PM Recapping the School of Theology
Today, of course, was the last day of the School of Theology. Believe it or not, the London bombings barely disrupted the conference. Announcements were made about travel conditions at every break throughout tre day. Other than that, all sessions went on as planned, and all speakers stuck to their planned messages. (I briefly considered doing a special message in the final hour on the goodness of divine providence even in disaster, but on second thought decided to go ahead with my message on as planned, on justification by faith from Philippians 3:9.)
I'd love to give a summary of every message from the conference, but that would take too long, and I couldn't do justice to any of the messages in such a short space. Here are just a few highlights:
- On Wednesday morning, Pastor Chris Buss gave a brilliant message from 2 Corinthians 5:20 on the need to persuade unbelievers with the gospel. He fired a few well-aimed missiles at hyper-Calvinism. Chris has a wonderful accent, and an informal, easy-to-listen-to style. His message was one of the true highlights of the week.
- Vernon Higham was the next speaker. He has spoken at the School of Theology every year I have been here, and he is always one of my favorites. He has a sweet disposition and a very gentlemanly stylebut ironclad convictions. He is a poet, too. (A book of his hymns has been published in a hardcover edition.) He was a pastor in Cardiff, Wales, for many years, but now is busier than ever in itinerant ministry. He's a delightful person, and always interesting to hear.
- Today, in the earliest afternoon session, Dr. Peter Masters gave a message on evangelistic preaching that made a perfect complement to Chris Buss's Wednesday morning message. He gave a wonderful defense of the gospel's free offer. To say that Dr. Masters is not a fan of John Murray's book Redemption: Accomplished and Applied would be putting it mildly. He objects to Murray's treatment of regeneration as an instantaneous, almost unconscious event. Dr. Masters sees regeneration as a process that subsumes various aspects of God's converting workeffectual calling, conviction, spiritual awakening, conversion, and the genesis of faith. These, he said, usually aren't simultaneous; they occur over time and are the work of God's Word on the mind. That's why evangelistic preaching ought to be persuasive. When an elect person comes to faith, his mind ought to be fully convinced in the process. Dr. Masters said that John Murray, by contrast, seems to regard conversion as so much the work of God that the believer's mind is, in effect, totally passive and may even remain unconscious of the change that has occurred.
Dr. Masters at one point said of Redemption: Accomplished and Applied that in his assessment, "about 25 percent of it is hyper-Calvinistic." He made a very direct appeal for a return to passionate, persuasive, evangelistic preaching. It was a great message, very thought-proroking and well worth listening to. Dr. Masters' opinion on Calvinism and evangelism would seem to have a special credibility in light of the amazing fruits of the evangelistic ministry here at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
I've met at least a dozen people at the conference who are here from Northern Ireland. One particularly interesting guy was converted from Roman Catholicism at age 28. He is now doing evangelism among Roman Catholics. He talked about the difficulty of ministering in a society where the gospel has been politicized. He believes the close linkage between evangelicalism in Northern Ireland and Iain Paisley's political stance has seriously hurt the cause of the gospel in that nation. It reaffirmed my conviction that the church ought to avoid becoming a political lobby.
Anyway, we have a busy last night planned, fellowshipping with some friends, so I must get going. See you later.
11:30 PMOne final update
The BBC are currently reporting the confirmed death toll at 38. At least one of London's morning newspapers already has an early edition that reports 53 dead. Our doctor friend, who works in a hospital in central London but not in the immediate neighborhoods of any of the bombings, reports that multiple victims with amputated limbs have been admitted to that hospital. Television news programmes tonight have shown disturbing pictures of horrible carnage. A massive hunt is underway for the bombers. The death toll will almost certainly rise, and many lives will be deeply impacted by this atrocity.
We have not ventured north of the Thames tonight. Even on the South Bank, however, emergency vehicles are still very active and sirens of all kinds are constantly blaring. After listening to several horror stories about commuter delays, Darlene and I have decided to allow an extra three hours for our trip to Heathrow tomorrow morning. If everything goes well, we should be back in California by this time tomorrow.