Today I attended my first conference for the Evangelical Theological Society. It was the Northwest Regional Meeting here in Portland, OR, hosted by Multnomah University. It was a great day and I learned so much from it.
We opened with a devotional by my professor and academic advisor, Dr. Marc Cortez. It was a fantastic opening. He asked us why we were together presenting academic papers to each other when right outside the campus we could find a broken and hurting world that needs our attention. He reminded us of those who traveled to the Council of Nicaea who were pastors and men with families, yet they knew thinking about God was important because God thinks that it is important that we think rightly about him. God is a relational God and God wants us to know him more. Therefore, Christian theology is worship when done right. It is the response to God’s call to seek to know him. It is never wrong to come together for worship while doing theology as long as we have a window to the outside world. In essence, our worship will further our mission.
In the AM sessions the subject was historical Jesus studies. The first presenter was Dr. Craig Blomberg from Denver Seminary. He did an amazing job covering the first, second, and third historical quest in his fifty minute talk while also introducing what some call the “fourth quest”. He argued that the fourth quest will and should be characterized by the inclusion of the Fourth Gospel into the discussion. Dr. Paul Anderson from George Fox University was mentioned a few times. Our very own JohnDave Medina is one of Anderson’s students who has been working closely with him in his research in this area so it was great to see that they’re work is already have a positive impact in this area of study!
The second presenter was Dr. Marcus Borg of Jesus Seminar fame. He didn’t say much that was new. In fact, when I heard him and the aforementioned Paul Anderson discuss historical Jesus studies last March he gave essentially the same lecture (see my recount here). For Borg there is a difference between the “pre-Easter” Jesus of history and the “post-Easter” Jesus that was formed around the church’s memories morphing into metaphorical speech about him. It is essentially an anthropological approach: Jesus as defined by the experiences of his followers after his death.
Afterward these two asked questions of each other and then the audience had a chance to ask questions. Between Borg and Blomberg the central issues was the importance of a bodily resurrection. Of course, I saw eye-to-eye with Blomberg here in that a physical resurrection is very, very important.
I want to say that I was very proud of my fellow evangelicals for the kindness and hospitality that was shown toward Marcus Borg. Evangelicals are often labeled as a contentious bunch, and sometimes we earn that designation, but today was proof this is often not true.
After this we all went to lunch. My wife joined me at this point so she could be present for my paper presentation following. I enjoyed spending time with fellow Western Seminary Th.M. student Billy Cash and I finally got to meet fellow blogger Bobby Grow in person which was also a pleasure!
The afternoon was primarily paper presentations. At 1 PM I was one of the presenters. My paper was titled, “The Eschatological Voice of Romans 8.1-25”. In it I argued that we need to hear the creation affirming vision of the future that comes from this passage. I did my best to established that the intertextual relationship between the Book of Genesis and this epistle determine how we read 8.1-25.
Some people were more convinced or open; some were very much not so! One person struggled to reconcile my reading of Rom. 8.1-25 with 2 Pet. 3.10-13. I think I know what passage I may write my paper on for next year!!!
On a funny side note my left eye had developed a bit of a twitch earlier in the morning. When I was reading my paper the movement from white page to looking at the audience set it into a full on spasm. I kept going even though this happened about half way through my presentation. There is nothing like trying to think, maintain audience contact, and then answer their questions when your eye is going crazy!
In the second hour I attended a presentation by fellow Western Seminary student Paul Pastor. He titled his paper “Pure Speech: Intertextuality of Genesis, Zephaniah, and Acts”. It was the highlight of my day, an absolutely fantastic and insightful paper. He examined how Gen. 11.1-9 influenced the Book of Zephaniah and Acts 1-2. I really, really hope he continues on the journey into scholarship because he is exceptionally bright when it comes to literary criticism and a canonical reading of Scripture.
In the final 3PM slot I went to hear one of my professors, who is also designated as the first reader of my thesis this year, Dr. James DeYoung. He titled his paper “Origen’s Beautiful Captive Woman, Polyvalence, and the Meaning of ‘the Righteousness of God’ in Romans 1.17”. It was essentially an insightful survey into how scholarship has been reading “righteousness of God” in Romans 1.17 and where Origen’s interpretation comes into that discussion.
As a reward for being one of the presenters I got to choose a free book from those available. I grabbed a copy of Nicholas Perrin’s brand new Jesus the Temple. I enjoyed Perrin’s writing on the Gospel of Thomas so I am sure I will enjoy this book.
So what did I learn? First, wow, I never imagined being a presenter at a conference. I know it was a small regional conference, but I still think of myself as the person who is just happy to be there to listen to others. I am thankful to God to be able to participate and I am thankful that people came to hear what I had to say.
Second, this experience is humbling. I did not come away feeling like I knew everything; I came away feeling like I know very little about a lot! No one person can be the greatest theological voice. We need to come together in fellowship.
Third, this is so much fun! It is fun to study God’s word, to spend time with God’s people, and to worship God with our bodies, souls and minds. I am excited about next year’s meeting which I think will be on the campus of Western Seminary!