Purpose:

The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Mar 24, 2012

Report on the southeastern regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, 2012

I just had the privilege of attending the 2012 southeast regional meeting of the ETS right here in Wake Forest, NC (March 24-25). The main theme was one of my favorites, "Biblical Theology." The plenary speakers were Drs. Paul House, Scott Hafemann, and our very own Andreas Köstenberger.

Sadly I could not attend all of it (due to working 3rd shift as a security guard), but I did get to present a paper, listen to most of the plenary sessions, attend a few papers, and, most importantly, fellowship with a few of my friends and professors.

Dr. Köstenberger kicked things off Friday afternoon with a brief devotional on "Excellence," based on 2 Peter 3:1-11 (the full text of his devotional may be found on his blog, "Biblical Foundations"). This devotional is based in part on his new book, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (just recently started reading it myself; kudos to Dr. Köstenberger for beginning the book with a very interesting personal testimony; kudos also to my friend Alex Stewart for helping him with the book in the role of a research assistant).

The first plenary address (which I sadly missed), was by Dr. Paul R. House (Beeson Divinity School) on "New Creation, New Creations and the Unity of the Bible (Part 1)"; the second plenary address, designed to complement Dr. House's work, was by Dr. Scott Hafemann (University of St. Andrews, formerly of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), "New Creation, New Creations, and the Unity of the Bible (Part 2)," where Dr. Hafemann examined the Apostle Paul's conept of the "New creation" in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15. One of the most significant statements I took away from Dr. Hafemann's presentation is that for the Apostle Paul, the concept of a "new creation" is not an abstract thing but rather an ontological reality, a life working itself out in love.

Dr. Köstenberger gave us the 3rd plenary address on "Recent Biblical Theologies and the Future of the Discipline" where he surveys various approaches to Biblical Theology in the days since J. P. Gabler's seminal work and discusses the various issues surrounding Biblical Theology. The full text of Dr. Köstenberger's presentation will soon be published on the online journal Themelios.

Every year the regional ETS meetings award 1st-3rd places for student papers, and my brilliant friend Mike Rudolph won first place with his discussion of "Gar when De is Expected"; in this paper, Rudolph actually does his own translation of a significant portion of Appolonius Dyscolus' work where Appolonius discusses the use of the Greek particles gar and de. Now this is primary research par excellence!! Congrats to Mike for his fine work (this is not an isolated incident; Mike, who is also under Dr. David Black, is producing some fabulous linguistic work as he finishes up his doctorate).

Second place went to Ryan Martin, from Central Baptist Theological Seminary, who presented on "New, Fashionable, Lax Schemes of Divinity: Jonathan Edwards and the 'Old" 'New Perspective on Paul'"; third place went to Jeremy Kimble, "Exclusion from the People of God: An Examination of Paul's Use of the Old Testament in 1 Corinthians."

I wish I could have attended more seminars, but I did stop to hear my friend Joe Greene present an excellent examination of "The Spirit in the Temple: Bridging the Gap between Old Testament Absence and New Testament Assumption." I also sat in on Grant Taylor's "Typology and Application: Biblical Theology in John 15:25." My own paper that I presented was basically chapter 2 of my dissertation, "Strangers and Foreigners: An Examination of Social Identity in 1 Peter," and I've gotten some good feedback on it (but hey, does anybody actually ever get negative feedback when presenting a paper among friends??) Other papers I would have loved to hear include my former professor Ben Merkle on "Biblical Theology and Prophecy: Establishing an Interpretive Framework for Understanding Biblical Prophecy," textual critic (and the prof I sometimes grade for) Maurice Robinson on "The Byzantine 'Priest' Variant in Acts 5:24," as well as papers by my friends David Stark ("'Till Death Did us Part': Romans 7:1-6 as a Recasting of Numbers 5:11-31"), Josh Chatraw ("Evangelicals, N. T. Wright, and the Historical versus the Canonical Jesus"; by the way, check out Josh' recent article in JETS critiquing the Biblical Theology of Bart Ehrman), and Mark Catlin, "Who is the Servant of the Servant Songs? Understanding the Servant Typologically."

A few other papers I would have been interested in attending include C. Gordon Olson on "The Importance of Diachronic Lexicography in Biblical Theology: A Study of Eklegomai," R. K. McGregor Wright, "Is There a Positive Case for Libertarian Freewill in the Bible?" and Jud Davis, "Biblical Theology and Psalm 22: 'My God, My God, Why . . .? in its Historical and Canonical Context." Sadly, the need to work and sleep a little bit (the downside of working as a 3rd shift security guard during seminary!) and conflict with other interesting papers kept me from them.

Most importantly, however, the conference was a time of fellowship. The greatest highlight for me was when 3 other students and one professor and I went out to lunch and just got to talk theology and have a great time. The ETS meetings are a great time to "hang out" with people whose passion for Biblical Studies is equal to or (far!) greater than my own. While presenting and listening to papers can be a lot of fun, iron only sharpens iron when it is actually coming into contact with other iron. In the same way, Christian edification occurs mostly through personal interaction.

So, for the benefit of any current or future seminary or doctoral students reading this, what are the benefits of an ETS meeting? I thought of a couple (keep in mind that this is coming from an independent Baptist, whose own movement has quite often been characterized more by separation than fellowship, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for bad!) 1. First of all, this sort of thing challenges you to think. Just as an athlete cannot expect to remain competitive in his field without constantly challenging his muscles, so also anybody called to teach God's Word will experience atrophy of the brain without constantly stimulating it through theological dialogue. Listening to others present their ideas, whether good or bad, forces my brain to grapple with their claims and, in the process, points me to resources that can help me in my further research. Also, listening to those who hold one's own views on most things theologically is not nearly as mentally rigorous as listening to those from a different perspective. The former is comparable to a newly-promoted major league hitter who only faced fastballs in the minor leagues; he'll be ill-prepared to deal with the curveballs and sliders of experienced pitchers!  2. Secondly, as mentioned above, fellowship is extremely important. On the one hand, I am not going to truly fellowship as Christians with those who deny Christ's deity and other key doctrines. On the other hand, I have learned that I can enjoy the company and dialogue of born-again evangelicals who love Jesus as much as I do, despite their views on eschatology, church leadership, etc. Let's face it, I'm stuck with them in the eternal state for, well, eternity, so I might as well learn what it's like to be around them! :) And I just might make a few friends and learn a thing or two in the process . . .  [there are, of course, degrees of ecclesiastical fellowship in matters of theological compatibility, etc.; but that's a different discussion for a different time] 3. Finally, presenting a paper at ETS is great practice for public speaking (whether teaching or preaching). It forces me to organize my ideas coherently and exposes me to questions from the audience that (generally) are positive but can also pick apart any weaknesses in my argument (wisely, all ETS paper presentations are required to leave 10 minutes at the end for Q&A; in practice, this usually gets cut to about 5 minutes which is what happened with my paper).

Seminary students and Bible teachers, then, should seriously consider attending ETS or similar meetings. Theology, after all, does not happen in a vacuum.

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