Yesterday wrapped up the 65th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in Baltimore, Maryland. For those of you who don’t know, ETS is a society of theologians and biblical scholars who are dedicated to biblical inerrancy and a belief in the Trinity. At the annual meeting, members come together to present academic papers, meet with publishers, and catch up with old friends. What follows are some random reflections about this year’s meeting.
1. It’s been about five years now since Pete Enns left Westminster Theological Seminary because of a conflict about his views on scripture. Upon his departure, he and WTS issued a joint statement saying that “his teaching and writings fall within the purview of Evangelical thought.” I think that claim was highly disputable in 2008. That claim is indisputably false in 2013.
In a panel discussion with Albert Mohler, Mike Bird, and John Franke, Enns denied the inerrancy of scripture, called into question the exodus of Israel, and compared the Bible to a “theological compost pile.” During the discussion, Mohler defended the inerrancy position, and it was clear that Enns was having none of it. Whatever the dispute was in 2008, I don’t know how anyone could argue that Enns is within the fold now.
All the panelists plus Kevin Vanhoozer are contributors to a new Counterpoints book on inerrancy, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. If you want to understand where Enns is today on this issue, get the book.
2. I always like to hear from Robert Yarbrough. He’s a great scholar with a pastor’s heart, and he knows how to deliver the goods. And that is exactly what he did in his presidential address on Wednesday night. Among other things, he expressed his general optimism about the relevance of inerrancy to the modern evangelical movement. He chastised western academics who sit in privileged places scorning inerrancy while brothers and sisters in the Muslim world die to defend it. It was a powerful word, and I look forward to its appearance next year in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. I am very grateful for Dr. Yarbrough.
3. I am a Southern Baptist Christian, and I can’t help but notice how many papers were delivered by scholars from Southern Baptist Seminaries. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I think there were over 100 papers from scholars hailing from Southern Baptist schools. That includes about forty presentations from Southern Seminary alone. My first ETS meeting was the 2000 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. My observation is that in the last 13 years, the SBC has been on the rise at ETS. What a reversal from the situation 30 years ago when Southern Baptists were in a pitched intramural battle over inerrancy. Back then, many Southern Baptists didn’t even recognize themselves as evangelical. Now they are the vanguard for the defense of inerrancy at evangelicalism’s leading theological society.
4. On the lighter side, I presented a paper in the Greek Language and Exegesis section. Because of the subject matter, I thought I would try to spice-up the introduction of my paper with some humor. Let me just tell you. It wasn’t funny. At all. It was cornier than a Ray Van Neste pun (love you, Ray!). I fancy myself as having a better sense about these things, but I certainly didn’t this time. Nevertheless, I will say this. Although it was kind of awkward in the moment, it sure is funny now!
5. One final confounding thing: Every year, ETS issues nametags that hang from a lanyard worn around the neck. I don’t know why, but no matter what I did the name tag always turned around so that may name was against my chest and my “Banquet Ticket” was facing out. I saw countless others who displayed the name “Banquet Ticket” just as I was. How is it that our name tags always seemed to be facing the wrong way? You would think that it would have been facing the right way at least 50% of the time, but that was not at all my experience. No matter what I did, it seemed like it was facing the wrong way at least 90% of the time. This is a great mystery in the universe.
Seriously though, it really was a great conference, and I want to say thanks to the Executive Director of ETS Michael Thigpen for executing another fantastic meeting. I am also grateful to Southern Seminary for making it possible for me and my colleagues to attend yet another year.