The blogging has been a little light around here for the last week since I’ve been away for ETS/AAR/SBL 2013. And for the first time in many years, I decided not to do anything online while I was there, which was rather nice. But here are some thoughts on the conferences in general.
1. Lots of Talk about Inerrancy
Some of you may know that the theme of ETS this year was inerrancy. But I don’t have much to say about the discussion since I attended very few of the sessions dedicated to that theme. I would have attended the opening session on Zondervan’s new Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy–with Pete Enns, Al Mohler, Mike Bird, and and John Franke–but I didn’t arrive until later that day. And my attendance at the plenary sessions was spotty to say the least. So you’ll have to look elsewhere to hear how that conversation went.
2. Growing Interest in Theological Anthropology
As usual, there weren’t many papers dedicated specifically to theological anthropology (assuming you eliminate any paper having to do with women in ministry and free will). But I had a startling number of individual conversations with people interested or actively researching in theological anthropology. And I had at least three conversations with people about whether it’s time to develop a study group specifically dedicated to that topic. That would give us a forum for addressing more deeply issues like human sexuality, race, disability, dignity/uniqueness, and embodiment, as well as the intersection between theological anthropology and other doctrines (Christology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, etc.). That’s sounds rather exciting to me, especially if we could make it intentionally interdisciplinary, so I’m going to look into that a bit more.
3. Meeting People New and Old
Every year I attend fewer papers and spend more time talking with people. And every year I enjoy the conferences more. It’s not that the papers are all terrible, though that can be a problem. It’s just that the people are great. And this year I particularly enjoyed talking with a number of younger scholars: from people still a year or two away from starting a doctoral program to those just in the first year or two of teaching, and everything in between. It was great hearing about their interests, struggles, and goals, and offering what encouragement I could. Selfishly, though, my favorite part of those conversations is walking away encouraged by what the next generation is doing and energized by their passion.
4. Attending Some Good Sessions
Unlike previous years, I’m not going to take the time to summarize any of the papers I attended. But several sessions stood out as particularly interesting. At ETS, I attended a set of papers on the doctrine of “eternal generation” (i.e. the idea that the Son is eternally generated from the Father). It was great to hear evangelicals engaging in really constructive theology on a topic that so often gets dismissed in evangelical circles as overly “speculative.” Another group focused several papers on exegetical/biblical issues surrounding what it means to be made ” in the image of God.” And my favorite question of the entire week was a man challenging two presenters to consider whether their views on the image could still affirm the humanity of his daughter, a girl with severe disabilities that render her incapable of almost any movement or external interaction. Always a tough question, it quickly made apparent that at least one of the views being discussed was in trouble. And one of the last sessions I attended had Marilyn McCord Adams presenting a paper that was both fascinating and humbling. (If you didn’t know, she’s really smart.)
There’s much more that I could say. But once again I walk away from the conference encouraged by what Christian scholars from a range of disciplines are currently doing, and the work that they will do in the future. And, as always, I’m also energized to press forward with my own writing and research, though I expect the academic afterglow to fade as quickly as it always does. But I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.