Our second day of conference has been refreshing again. We were around 60 or so once more - a slightly different 60 from yesterday.
Garry Williams started us off with a paper arguing against the everything is ordinary approach that suggests that everything inimalized so that the divinely different in Christian worship is removed. “God does not indwell a place as he is always in us by his Spirit" goes the argument "and our whole lives are worship so someone should be able to move from mowing the lawn into public worship without setting off any alarm, until the single moment of preaching the cross.”
Garry countered with a theology of the divine presence of God, who fills all things - not circumscriptively or definitively but repletively (He added three clarifications - Creation is 'contained' by him, not him by it; God is everywhere but in a non-physical manner [not by mixture, division, multiplication, extension or diffusion]. There are different types of divine presence. He is present everywhere by essence. He is distinctively present by visibility and activity, by operational omnipresence. In heaven is “the court of his majestical presence, but not the prison of his essence” (Charnock). With his people he is present graciously and covenantally. In hell, by essence and wrath. He leaves and attends - “he departs from us when he leaves us to the frowns of his justice; he comes to us when he encircles us in the arms of his mercy” (Charnock)
His essential presence is foundational. Examples of applying the distinctions would include the presence of God in corporate worship and especially preaching, the Lord's Supper and prayer. Ethos and habit is the thing here. The question is not How would you behave if Jesus was here (bodily) but what are the practical implications of the fact Christ is here to do this? It is not A speaking to B about C but C to B in the words of A. This leads to fear and joy. How should we conduct ourselves in public worship? In sum, in a way that is appropriate to what God is doing.
Discussion followed. After lunch Bill James spoke helpfully on the means of grace as identified by Garry beforehand and again said helpful things. I chaired that one (hence no photo of Bill, sorry). Gerard Hemmings brought things together to close giving us boast important principles from Matthew 13 and some pragmatic suggestions for growing conservative churches.