ETS 2014

The best part of this year’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society was its location. Over two feet of snow fell on my driveway while I enjoyed stimulating conversations by pools lined with palm trees. All things considered though, I’d rather live in West Michigan than San Diego. Our beaches are more beautiful, our lawns are greener, and our roads have a lot less litter.

Here are some of my takeaways from San Diego:

  1. There seemed to be less significant new books than in other years. Maybe I’m jaded, or maybe I don’t see the need to buy yet another biblical commentary, but there were fewer books that I thought I had to get. I am looking forward to reading these: James Smith, How (Not) to be Secular, Stephen Westerholm, Justification Reconsidered, Kevin Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding, J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, and Matt Perman, What’s Best Next.
  1. This was the year to honor our leaders. Zondervan surprised Doug Moo with a Festschrift in his honor, Leland Ryken received a standing ovation at the literary session devoted to him, John Feinberg had a similar session, Stan Grenz’s wife and children attended a session dedicated to his influence, and Stan Gundry honored his former professor at the Zondervan breakfast. If you were 80 years old and weren’t surprised by a Festschrift or ovation in your honor, you probably left a little sad.
  1. I attended an interesting conversation between Biologos and Reasons to Believe. Each seemed respectful of the other, but they clearly disagreed about the reading of Genesis, whether humans come from lower life forms, and whether one has to believe there was a historical Adam. I enjoy these conversations, though I worry a little that they can grant legitimacy to unorthodox positions. For instance, I have noticed a change in some of my students since I’ve started using Four Views on the Historical Adam. One of the contributors, Denis Lamoureux, denies there was a first man who brought sin and death into the world, and another, John Walton, says there doesn’t have to be. The sheer fact of their existence in this book stretches the boundary of what is acceptable in evangelicalism. I’m not saying they should be kept out—and obviously we need to have this conversation—but just as the challenger gains stature by appearing on the same stage as the president in a debate, so new views on Adam gain points just by being included in the conversation. I like the book and will continue to use it, but I’ve noticed that some students are more willing to entertain novel views on Adam after reading it. That worries me.
  1. Doug Moo gave a helpful talk on translation theory at Zondervan’s banquet in honor of the NIV. He was responding to some critics who favor the ESV and say the NIV isn’t literal enough. Moo made several good points, though I would have enjoyed hearing the other side respond. Of course, that would grant legitimacy to their criticisms, which wasn’t the purpose of the banquet (see my point above). It was interesting to hear the Committee on Bible Translation respond to questions from the audience. In all I learned that translating the Bible is hard, and translating the Bible into English is really hard.
  1. I heard a stimulating talk by Philip Ryken on using literary forms in preaching. The lecture was in honor of his father, Leland, and made me want to go home and prepare a sermon that used a biblical image. Love these inspiring talks.
  1. I led a workshop on whether Baptists can believe that God is doing something in baptism. I’m not sure how easily I can reproduce the paper here, but I may try to give the gist in the future.
  1. My friend Wendy treated herself to something that most other ETS attenders wouldn’t consider. She said she was going to the spa to get a pedicure. I thought it would be funny if she ran into Al, or Wayne, or Don while she was in there. We figured they would make her promise not to tell, so I guess we’ll never know.

4 Comments

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  1. Alternate views (you used the word “novel”) concerning the origin of mankind and sin are quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception in today’s evangelical circles. Celebrated and immensely popular pastor/author Tim Keller is one of the leading proponents. It’s no wonder some of your students are drawn to an unorthodox view of creation. It used to be understood that the origin of sin–involving an historical Adam and Eve–was foundational to orthodox Christianity.

  2. To Ray Paget:
    It goes beyond high profile pastors backing alternative views of Adam and Eve. The issue that is at hand is whether or not there are objective truths when it comes to faith. This was hammered home when I attended the Grand Valley State University 2014 Science and Faith conference. Dr. Deb Haarsma (Astrophysics), president of BioLogos, presented a paper called what Americans think and feel about evolution. One of the attendees asked her if BioLogos was dealing with the troubling theological issues of not holding to an historical Adam. She replied that we at Biologos are dealing with the objective truths that evolution is correct, it is up to theologians to work out the details. Not only was this a dangerous and irresponsible response but displayed that she equated science with objective truth and relegated religion/faith solely to subjective matters.
    The vast majority of American Christians view issues of faith as matters of opinion, therefore Scripture and theology have little or no grounds to making objective truth claims.

  3. Charlie: William Lane Craig asked her why Biologos couldn’t enlarge their tent to include others with a different view on origins. She didn’t really answer, except to jokingly ask Hugh Ross if he wanted to join. The sense I got was that their minds are mostly made up on the science. They’re not too worried about the biblical and theological implications. We all have to adjust to them. With that said, she seems like an extremely smart and charming person.

  4. Read “the real scandal of the evangelical mind” by Carl trueman: it’s amazing in its analysis of what scares you. It’s super short, you could read deeply in less than an hour.

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