Last weekend I had the supreme pleasure of attending the 64th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society (there’s a mouthful!). I took over 80 pages of notes (43 front/back) and enjoyed the entire time immensely. I’ll be posting in the upcoming weeks and months on a number of these topics, so for now I’m just going to very briefly outline the talks I went to and give one or two comments each. I encourage readers to browse through these and let me know which ones they’d be interested on me writing on in a bit more depth. Feel free to ask questions as well.
Scripture, Geology, and the Age of the Earth
Readers know that I am very interested in the controversy among Christians over the age of the earth. I’ve written quite a bit on the topic. This session featured Gregg Davidson (University of Mississippi), a geologist, facing off against Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis. I have to admit that I was surprised by how much this debate focused on the science. Specifically, Davidson presented two very thorough evidences for an old earth, while Snelling rebutted these and argued that a catastrophic interpretation was perfectly consistent with the record. It was a fascinating back-and-forth. You can read an extended outline/review of this talk in my post: Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth.
Bioethics – Genetic Enhancement
Gary Alkin(? his name wasn’t in my program) presented a paper on genetic enhancement and whether it is morally permissible. Essentially, his argument was that while as Christians we are obligated to heal diseases and help others, we are not obligated to try to become superhuman, and indeed are perhaps prohibited from doing so. He countered numerous arguments for the notion that we should continue to try to ‘enhance’ humanity. It was an interesting paper. I have since written an extended examination of his paper here: Genetics and Bioethics: Enhancement or Therapy?
Whose Moral, Which Axiom- The Transforming Virtue of Sub-Creation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mythology
Thomas Provenzola presented a mind-stretching paper on how Tolkien’s use of myth helps us to think about care for creation. It was a fascinating look into philosophy and literature.
The Metaphor of Divine Repentence
Rob Lister of Talbot School of Theology presented a paper in which he argued that we must understand language about God both literally and analogically. He argued that open theists often err too far towards creating an anthropocentric concept of God, rather than understanding passages about God’s repentance in light of clear statements about His being. I was so fascinated by this talk that I went and got his book on the topic afterwards. I look forward to reading it.
Other Voices in Interpretation Panel Discussion: An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity, Part 2: Application to the Ongoing Discussion on the Trinity
Kevin Giles (Victoria, Australia), Steve Tracy (University of New Brunswick), Mimi Haddad (Christians for Biblical Equality), and David Malick (CBE) participated in a panel discussion on the evangelical statement on the Trinity. I was surprised to see how contentious this talk was, but unfortunately there are people who are undermining the Trinity by eternally subordinating GOD the Son. This discussion went beyond an egalitarian/complementarian debate and essentially touched on how we must not distort the Trinity for our own purposes.
The Stars Will Fall From Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe in the Synoptic Gospels
N.T. Wright, who needs no introduction, presented a paper arguing that the cosmic language used for the destruction of the temple is not so much due to an end of the space-time universe as it is because the Temple was the center of the universe for Judaism.
The Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity
Kevin Giles presented a paper arguing that orthodoxy on the Trinity does not subordinate the persons. Rather, the distinctions made between persons according to the orthodox faith are made according to generation (the Son is begotten by the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son). He stressed the importance of drawing implications of the Trinity from the Godhead and not from humanity.
An Examination of Jesus’ View of Women through Three Intercalations in the Gospel of Mark
David cogently argued that we can look at the narratives in the Gospels to see what Jesus’ view of women was. Because we can see with clarity how Jesus elevated women’s roles to that of equal to men, he argued that we should interpret hard passages in light of the clearer passages. This paper was very clearly argued and extremely compelling. I hope more work is done in this area, because the argument was very tight, and there is much development to come from it.
Complementarians, Egalitarians, and Unicorns: What are they, and do they exist?
Walker argued that the categories we are using to identify people in the gender debate reflect a genus/species fallacy which essentially drains them of all meaning. It may be helpful to develop new terms to make the distinctions more clear.
Biblical Theology and Creation Care
I must confess that I only went to this one because there weren’t any others going on. I’m very pleased I did, because this plenary talk proved to be one of the most interesting discussions that I attended. Moo argued decisively that we must not cause Christianity to lose credence due to clinging to faulty science. Furthermore, he argued that it is our duty to take care of creation. He traced an interpretive strategy through Scripture and argued very convincingly for the use of the hermeneutic he was pressing for looking at Christianity and the environment. I wrote an extended post on this paper and the following panel discussion: Caring for Creation: A dialogue among evangelicals.
Panel Discussion on Creation Care
Following Moo’s plenary talk, there was a panel discussion with Moo, E. Calvin Beisner, Russell Moore, and Richard Bauckham. This panel discussion was highly contentious and the audience clapped for their favored party numerous times. Beisner seemed to be the odd man out, as he did not deny climate change, but rather argued that we don’t yet know conclusively that it is anthropogenic (caused by humans). The other panelists argued that the science is convincing and that we do cause people to look with wariness upon Christianity. It was a very invigorating debate.
Body-Soul Interaction and the Theism-Naturalism Divide
Ryan West presented a paper arguing that many of the arguments raised against substance dualism are essentially faulty once one grants theism. He further argued that naturalistic dualists (of which there are few!) would be better off embracing theism, for their view is in extreme tension given the arguments he presented. It was a brief paper that was very well argued. The Q+A was great.
How Much Evidence to Justify Religious Conversion? Some Thoughts on Burden and Standard of Proof vis-a-vis Christian Commitment
The great apologist John Warwick Montgomery presented his paper on religious conversion. Essentially, the argument was that given certain benefits and a low price of commitment, people should commit to Christianity assuming the standard of proof has been carried. It was a fascinating paper, and Montgomery’s presentation style was both engaging and endearing. It was a huge pleasure to get a chance to talk to him briefly after the talk.
Taking a Stand Against Rand: A Biblical Evaluation of Ayn Rand’s Capitalism
I’m not very interested in Rand, but this paper by David Kotter was interesting enough to get me interested in the topic. He noted both good and bad portions of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and argued that ultimately, her perfect man has come to fulfillment in Christ. He presented a critique of a number of her views, while arguing that some things are worth looking at for Christians and the government. A truly engaging paper.
Throughout the conference I had numerous pleasures of running into fellow bloggers, friends, and huge names in philosophy and theology. I enjoyed lunch with Matt over at Well Spent Journey and stayed with Kurt over at Real Clear Apologetics. I was so delighted to meet Holly Ordway from Hieropraxis and engage with her in some great discussion. Other examples include running into Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe, socializing with William Lane Craig, however briefly, and bumping into numerous others (Jerry Walls, David Baggett, Nabeel Qureshi, and more). I also enjoyed interacting more with David Malick of CBE. What a blast!
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It was great to meet you! I’d really be interested in hearing more on the “Scripture, Geology, and the Age of the Earth” debate and the Tolkien talk. I’m hoping to make a post on Dr. Bloom’s fine-tuning talk later this week. 🙂