State of the Society
With the Evangelical Theological Society meeting November 14-16 in San Diego, I corresponded with ETS acting president Hassell Bullock of Wheaton College on what to expect. His answers touch on current theological debates such as justification and former president Francis Beckwith's Catholic conversion.
What are you most eagerly anticipating about this year's meeting?
I am most eagerly anticipating the four plenary addresses by renowned scholars, each to be followed by a theme session in which the topic will be further explored and discussed by other members of the society with the plenary speaker participating. This is a new feature of the plenary program.
What would a layperson find interesting about the ETS annual meeting?
Through the years the ETS has successfully appealed to pastors as well as scholars, and even to a good number of laypersons. The appeal, I think, has been the general concern in the society with the Bible and biblical theology, and how the teachings of Scripture are to be lived out in the world. This year, for one example, we will have several sessions on Christian formation. Further, the Near East Archaeological Society also meets parallel to ETS and offers interesting discussions of current archaeological developments, an area that has a strong lay appeal. Anyone registered for ETS may attend the meetings of NEAS.
What makes this year's theme, "Teaching Them to Obey," especially relevant to contemporary theological discourse?
The theme, "Teaching Them to Obey," taken from the Great Commission of Matthew 28, taps into the ethical content of the Great Commission and reaches back into the Old Testament as well as forward to the kingdom of God inaugurated by Christ. Our plenary speakers will explore this dimension, breaking the theme down into four component parts: the NT perspective (Douglas Moo, Wheaton College), the OT perspective (Christopher J. H. Wright, Langham Partnership International), the world perspective (Philip Jenkins, Penn State University), and the Christian formation perspective (David Wells, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary). We are trying to turn this dimension of the Great Commission facet by facet, so that we can see its multi-dimensions for faith and life as they are explored by scholars from four different disciplines.
Which papers do you expect will stir the most discussion?
I think such papers as R. Chisholm, "Did Chemosh Defeat Yahweh? Israel's Retreat and the 'Failure' of Prophecy in 2 Kings 3"; J. P. Moreland, "Teaching Them to Obey: How Evangelicals Became Overcommitted to the Bible and What We Should Do About It"; Alan G. Padgett, "Biblical Inerrancy for a Postmodern Age: A Reply to
Raschke and a Proposal"; the Christopher Wright follow-up session with Walter Kaiser; and the Richard Bauckham session with discussion of his book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.
Is there any merit to suggestions for changing the ETS doctrinal basis?
The recent return of Francis Beckwith, the ETS president, to the Catholic faith of his childhood, has obviously and understandably created questions within the society about the adequacy of our theological basis, which is quite brief: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."
The society was founded upon a simple theological basis rather than a statement of faith, with the intention of providing a broad evangelical basis for academic discussion, thus allowing and encouraging diversity within unity. While the proposed amendment will not change that basis, it will expand the statement quite significantly, and, while solving one problem, may create others.