The “Scripture and…” Seminars in Boston

I say it every year, and I mean it every year – my favorite events of IBR/SBL are the Scripture and Hermeneutics, Scripture and Doctrine, and Scripture and Church Seminars. These seminars attempt to combine rigorous biblical study and philosophical and theological reflection in an ecclesial context. This year, the SAHS and SADS seminars will continue their themes from last year, the Kingdom of God and Divine Action in Hebrews respectively. The SACS seminar will discuss the theme of the Kingdom of God from an ecclesial and liturgical perspective. I’ve listed the program, including date, time, and location, below.

If you’ll be in Boston, I’d encourage you to sign up for these seminars (links to SADS, SAHS, SACS sign-ups), as well as for the dinner on Saturday night. That meal is the absolute highlight of the entire week, for me, and this year the cost has been reduced – so please join us!


1:00 PM to 3:15 PM
Room: Back Bay C (Second Level) – Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB)

Benjamin Quinn, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Presiding

Steve Harris, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Hebrews in Historical Theology: The Contours

Craig Bartholomew, KLICE, Tyndale House, Cambridge
Creation, the Ongoing Priesthood of Jesus, and Divine Action in Hebrews

Gareth Cockerill, Wesley Biblical Seminary
The Present Priesthood of the Son of God

Luke Stamps, Anderson University
“No One Greater”: Hebrews and Classical Christian Theism

Scott Hahn, Franciscan University of Steubenville
Covenant, Sacrifice, and Divine Action in Hebrews

Q & A Panel with Presenters

Q & A Additional Panelists
Michael Rhodes, Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies, Panelist
Amy Peeler, Wheaton College, Panelist


4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 306 (Third Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)

Heath A. Thomas, Oklahoma Baptist University, Presiding

Jason Hood, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston Campus
God’s Empire: Exploring the Structure of the Kingdom in the Gospels

David J. H. Beldman, Redeemer University College
“Where Now Is Your King?” The Kingdom of God in Judges

Lynn H. Cohick, Wheaton College (Illinois)
“The Kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph 5:5): Kingdom in Ephesians and Philippians

Julien Smith, Valparaiso University
The Transforming Image of the Ideal King: Paul’s Apostolic Defense (2 Cor 2:14-4:6) in Light of Greco-Roman Political Ideology

Walter Strickland, Southeastern Seminary
Interpreting the Kingdom of God: The Ethics of Black Liberation in James Cone and J. Deotis Roberts



4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 103 (Plaza Level) – Hynes Convention Center (HCC)

Michael Wagenman, Western University, Presiding

Vince Bantu, Covenant Theological Seminary
Biblical Interpretation and Liturgical Performance in Global Christian Perspective

Peter Leithart, Theopolis Institute
The Kingdom of God and Everyday Liturgies in the Old Testament

Ruth Padilla-deBorst, Boston College
The Kingdom of God and Everyday Liturgies in the New Testament

Dru Johnson, The King’s College (New York)
Placebos, Elevator Buttons, and High Powered Lasers: How Ritual Ethics Enable Us to See the
Kingdom of God


Craig Bartholomew and the Kuyperian Tradition

IVP Academic will soon (April 24th) publish a new volume on retrieving the Kuyperian tradition by Craig Bartholomew, H. Evan Professor of Philosophy and Religion & Theology at Redeemer University College. Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition: A Systematic Introduction aims to identify “the key themes and ideas that define this tradition, including worldview, sphere sovereignty, creation and redemption, the public square, and mission. He also goes beyond Kuyper to show how later thinkers developed these ideas,” including Bavinck, Dooyewerd, and Berkouwer (from the back cover).

Bruce Ashford, Provost, Dean of the Faculty, and Professor of Theology and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has interviewed Bartholomew about this book at his blog.

I’d encourage you to take a look at both the interview and Bartholomew’s forthcoming book, available for pre-order now on Amazon and at IVP’s website.

The “Scripture and…” Seminars at IBR/SBL 2016

The highlight of my ETS/IBR/SBL experience every year is the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar. If you’re unfamiliar with SAHS, it began in 1998 under the direction of Craig Bartholomew and produced what I consider to be some of the best biblical scholarship available in the Scripture and Hermeneutics Series. Last year, SAHS unveiled their latest project, A Manifesto for Theological Interpretation, and also presented papers on the Old Testament and Worldview. In my estimation, SAHS is a “can’t miss” event for those attending IBR/SBL (in full disclosure, I’m biased as a committee member). This year’s meeting is on Saturday, November 19th, from 4-6:30pm. The theme is “The Kingdom of God,” and the schedule is as follows:


Opening Liturgy     

Heath A. Thomas (Oklahoma Baptist University): ‘The Kingdom of God is Among You’: Retrieval of the Kingdom for Today

Catherine McDowell (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary): The Image of God and the Kingdom of God


Brant Pitre (Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans): The Last Supper and the Kingdom of God

Jonathan T. Pennington (Southern Seminary): The Sermon on the Mount and the Kingdom of God


Closing Liturgy

This is an outstanding group of scholars, and I’d encourage you to sign up here.

Last year Prof. Bartholomew also initiated the Scripture and Doctrine Seminar, led by a committee consisting of Bartholomew, Kevin Vanhoozer, Scott Hahn, Luke Stamps, and Benjamin Quinn. Their theme this year is a continuation of last year’s event on Divine Action. The SADS meeting takes place on Friday, November 18th from 1-3:45pm, and the schedule is as follows:

Welcome and Introduction – Benjamin Quinn
Context Setting Introduction: Craig Bartholomew and Luke Stamps
Andrew Pinsent (Oxford University, Faculty of Theology and Religion): The Second-Person Perspective on Divine Action in Hebrews
Amy Peeler (Associate Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College): A Fearful Thing to Fall Into the Hands of a Living God: Divine Action In Human Salvation
Alan Torrance (School of Divinity, St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews): What does the Continuing Priesthood of Christ tell us about the Doctrine of God?
Mary Healy (Sacred Heart Major Seminary): The Holy Spirit and Christ’s Ongoing Priesthood in Hebrews.

Again, this is a fantastic group of scholars, and I’d encourage you to sign up here.

There is also a new seminar being formed, the Scripture and Church Seminar, and it will have a planning discussion on Sunday, November 20th from 4-6:30pm. If you would like to attend this discussion, please sign up here.

Finally, please join us for a meal together on Saturday evening.


Fumbling in the Dark

Yesterday I tweeted the following:

Many times when I read essays tied to the historical-critical method, it sounds like grasping for hope after the world’s gone dark. The irony is, the ones using the historical-critical method turned off the lights on themselves by capitulating to modernity.

I’ve been asked to clarify this statement, so let me give it a shot.

First, by “historical-critical method” I mean the approach to biblical interpretation that is “. . . thought of as the standard way of studying the Bible objectively,”[1]  and that “. . . ‘factually’ divides science from speculation or primitivism.”[2] It typically utilizes such tools as redaction criticism, source criticism,  tradition criticism, and the like. It’s goal, as can be seen in the quotes above, is to provide a “scientifically objective” means of interpretation so that the subjective faith element cannot become a factor in the hermeneutical process. Of course, postmodern/post-liberal/post-conservative/post-whatever biblical scholars have heavily critiqued this latter aim of the method, but they continue to utilize the tools proffered by modernity.

When I read those who capitulate to this approach, even those who deny the ability of the interpreter to be “objective” in their use of the historical-critical tools, I often find that, after the text has been cut to pieces, the interpreter is left grasping for straws as to what the text actually means. This is especially true of what it means for those who read the Bible today. So, for instance, I recently came across an article on 2 Peter 3:1–13 that argued that we should no longer preach from this text because it so clearly communicates cosmic annihilation, perhaps derived from a Stoic view of the world. Here, 2 Peter 3 is not “the Word of God for the people of God,” even though this scholar was explicitly arguing from a liturgically oriented standpoint; instead, it is something to be discarded for its discord with the rest of the NT’s more environmentally friendly teaching. This conclusion was reached partly by using source criticism. Or, in another instance, I read an essay on Song of Solomon that explicitly utilized historical-critical methods and assumptions and asked, given this method and these assumptions, what can we do with this book? The answer, after only a few pages, was, not much. We can’t say that it’s about Christ and the church under the historical-critical method, but we don’t want to say it’s just a sex manual. But what else is there to say? Again, the author didn’t really provide an answer.

This, to me, is fumbling in the dark after you turned the lights off on yourself. The assumptions and philosophical foundations of the historical-critical method effectively neuter the Bible of any Christological or spiritual message. The closed universe of modernity cuts off the supernatural. The Enlightenment rejection of the past and of tradition, in favor of my own autonomous authority, circumcises any connection I once had with previous interpretive communities. The belief that “objective” tools can be used like a sausage grinder means that the text becomes a dismembered, disjointed, bloody mess after we are done cutting it into bits in our hermeneutical machine. There is no sense of the inspiration of the Spirit, the Christological focus, or the transforming power of the text. There’s only a mess of hot dogs, and not the “100% beef” kind either. There remains some sense, because of the tradition that won’t let us go even though we’ve kicked it to the curb, that the text ought to say something to us. But it can’t and it won’t, not because of its own inability or desire, but because we’ve asked the judge for adolescent emancipation from it.

The historical-critical method asks us to deny the supernatural inspiration of the Bible and therefore to deny its textual and Christological unity. What else are we left with after that but fumbling in the dark?


[1] Craig Bartholomew, “Uncharted Waters: Philosophy, Theology, and the Crisis in Biblical Interpretation,” pages 1 – 39 in Renewing Biblical Interpretation (SHS 1; eds., Craig Bartholomew, Colin Greene, and Karl Möller; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 4. I cannot recommend this essay more highly.

[2] Gerhard Meier, Biblical Hermeneutics (trans., Robert W. Yarbrough; Wheaton: Crossway, 1994), 249.