Takeaways from Southeast Region ETS

I thought I’d share with my friends a little about what I learned while I was at my regional ETS meeting up in Wakeforest, NC this weekend.  I’ll first share observations specific to each meeting and then close with some general observations.

  • Devotional: Doctor Köstenberger opened the meeting with a devotional from 2 Peter 1:3-10.  He urged the group to pursue moral and academic excellence as God empowers us.
  • Parallel 1: I went to a paper reading by Paul Himes (SEBTS) who argued quite persuasively that the primary referent of  “strangers and sojourners” (1 Peter 2:11) was literal (i.e., that the people being addressed were literally strangers and sojourners).  I thought he made some solid points for this minority position on the text; however, I felt that he failed to take into account the intertextuality of the passage and how Peter uses the OT elsewhere.  I also felt that he did not adequately explain the surrounding context as well as I would have liked.  Overall, though, it was a solid paper.
  • Parallel 2: Stephen Stout (New Life TS) presented a great paper which analyzed the Pauline emphasis on the humanity of Christ.  It is often argued that Paul cared little for Christ’s humanity and focused solely on His divinity.  This argument was soundly trumped by this well-reasoned paper.
  • Parallel 3: Jeremy Kimble (SEBTS) did a spectacular presentation of a paper on the use of Deuteronomy in 1 Corinthians 5.  I’ve become more and more fascinated by intertextuality, so this naturally interested me.  I left with a deeper appreciation of the implications of the use of the OT in the NT, the difficulties of church discipline, and the importance of church discipline.  All-in-all, this was a wonderful paper with far-reaching implications.
  • Plenary 1: Doctor Paul House (Beeson) presented a lecture on biblical theology which provided an excellent introductory survey of the topic.  I appreciated his straightforward style and clarity.  He challenged the group to commit to doing biblical theology by looking for how the Scriptures cohere, and not whether they cohere.  Part of his presentation included a segment on Paul and Isaiah as biblical theologians.  Just as Isaiah used Moses and Paul used Isaiah to form their themes, so we must be committed to finding and using the themes of all the biblical writers as we study the Scriptures.  Ultimately, Dr. House challenged us to see the disciplines of Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, and Biblical Theology as streams flowing into the Mississippi River.  All of these valuable exercises are necessary in order to achieve a proper understanding of Scripture.
  • Plenary 2: Doctor Hafemann (Aberdeen) attempted to pursue a new eschatological schema for doing biblical theology.  In this lecture, he decried the use of contrasts (law vs. grace, dispensational approaches, etc.) in favor of a more positive approach to the interconnected whole of Scripture.  In doing so, he appealed to, what seemed to me, stretched parallel structures in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.  Overall I thought the argument was quite weak and was one of the least interesting sessions.
  • Parallel 4: Ryan Martin (CBTS) presented a paper which attempted to parallel two opponents of Jonathan Edwards and current proponents of the NPP.  The paper was fascinating in that it brought out the fact that challenges in understanding justification have existed for centuries.  Orthodoxy has always confronted these challenges head-on.  I did think, however, the attempt to construct the parallels may have been slightly overdrawn.
  • Plenary 3: Doctor Köstenberger (SEBTS) brought the final plenary address.  This particular lecture was my favorite by far.  He pointed out the importance of Gabler’s call towards a biblical theology back in 1787.  In response he demonstrated trajectories of modern biblical theology.  He listed the following four:
    • The Classic approach of segmenting each writer or book and tracing particular doctrines through their works.
    • The Central Themes approach of allowing for various themes to be traced through Scripture.
    • The Single-Center approach of allowing for one theme (usually unhelpfully broad) to be traced through Scripture.
    • The Metanarrative approach of watching a particular story play out throughout Scripture.
  • Parallel 5: Doctor Maurice Robinson (SEBTS) presented a fascinating paper demonstrating the Byzantine priority in a textual variant in Acts 5:24.  He argued quite convincingly that only the majority reading could explain the rise of the other readings.  He succeeded in convincing even the most skeptical in the group.  I found my views more or less deepened by this interaction.
  • Parallel 6: Richard Winston (CBTS) presented a paper on the use of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5.  Once again, I found myself fascinated by the importance of intertextuality.  Even at the heart of a tough debate, the insights gained through the OT were critical.  I did think that he attempted to make the Qumran community speak too far into the interpretation of the text.

In general, here are some thoughts I had while riding several hours back home on Saturday:

  • Evangelical Christianity is far more conservative that I had been led to believe.  Not only was essentially everyone I talked with or heard (with only 1 small exception) staunchly conservative theologically, but they also were militantly opposed to doctrinal deviations.
  • God has gifted the Church with an impressive number of scholars who are devoted to an honest study of His Word and ministry to local churches.
  • I’m a nerd.
  • Presbyterians make me smile.
  • I can’t wait for next year.

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