What is the greatest threat of the world to the church today?
HORTON: The greatest question in any moment is whether that Word above all earthly powers is being proclaimed by weak and sinful human beings.
THOMAS: From a personal point of view, my greatest threat is always that I lose my love for Jesus; I lose my passion for Him. I don't deny the faith. I don't deny the Apostles' Creed. I just grow cold and indifferent, and Jesus may spew me out of His mouth, to use the analogy of Revelation 3.
NICHOLS: You mentioned when we started this Dr. Sproul's bachelor's thesis, which was on the chapter of the whiteness of the whale. (If I remember right, the title was the "Existential Implication of Melville's Moby Dick." You knew he was going to be a theologian.)
But in there he uses the whale, of course, as representative of God. And the whiteness of the whale is the transcendence of God. And he talks about Ahab who charts the whale, and therefore knows the whale, and fails to grasp the transcendent nature of the whale. He has a line in there that says this represents our shallow perceptions of who God is, and you see in there the seeds that are sown that are going to come to fruition in The Holiness of God.
But to put this into a fine point—and I've heard this by John Piper—God rests casually on the American church. God rests far too casually on the American church. And so a real threat is not to have that vision that we see in Isaiah 6: that vision of the transcendence and of the holiness of God, and of who God truly is and of who we truly are.
GODFREY: Can I just add as a small note (because I think it's been so well-said here) that I'm intrigued as a historian that all three of these threats are internal threats, not external threats? It's not really the world we have to fear. It's ourselves.
And as another angle on these things that have been said, I think a great test for us as Christians is, do we love the gospel? Do we love the Lord? Do we love God? And do we do that through His Word?
My great concern is a sort of fatigue with the Word: "Oh, we know that. We've heard that."
Luther used to say "I want to hear the Ten Commandments every day, because I still don't know them." It wasn't that he couldn't recite them. He said, "They still don't grab me the way they ought to grab me."
I think a passion for the Word is another real danger that besets all of us: to begin to say "We know that." We always have to keep coming back to the Word. And we should, because it is so infinitely interesting.
Lightly edited for readability, this is a transcript of W. Robert Godfrey's, Michael Horton's, Stephen Nichols', and Derek Thomas' answers given at our 2017 National Conference. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.