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!

SCRIPTURE AND DOCTRINE SEMINAR

11/17/2017
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
Discussion

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

SCRIPTURE AND HERMENEUTICS SEMINAR

11/18/2017
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

Discussion

SCRIPTURE AND CHURCH SEMINAR

11/19/2017
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

Discussion

Thoughts on “The Future of Protestantism”

On Tuesday night I attended a conversation on “The Future of Protestantism,” which consisted of 10-15 minute presentations from Peter Leithart, Fred Sanders, and Carl Trueman, a discussion between the three presenters moderated by Peter Escalante, and Q&A from the audience. Biola University and their Torrey Honors Institute added to their track record from the first LA Theology Conference as superb hosts, and it was nice to see Rusty Reno of First Things (also a sponsor of the event) attend and briefly interact with the presenters at the end.

Some thoughts:

  1. I thoroughly enjoy reading Peter Leithart, namely because he is one of the best typological and intertextual readers of Scripture of which I’m aware. I also resonated with much of what he said regarding Protestantism, both in his original article at First Things and in his presentation and response last night.¬† Namely, I appreciated so much his calls to abandon the tribalism endemic to much of Western Christianity, and especially American Christianity, and to return liturgically, doctrinally, and historically to a more robust faith. I don’t want to pass over these things quickly, because they are important calls that I think the church needs to hear. But I think there are a number of issues with his proposal which were only exacerbated and made clearer as the night progressed, and I sensed that Sanders and Trueman wanted the same things as Leithart but had a much more precise vision for it.
  2. First, I’m worried as a Baptist where I fit into Leithart’s vision. The only comment he made about Baptists was a dismissive one in which he called us to let go of a primary distinctive (congregationalism). The larger problem here is that, in Leithart’s proposal and especially in his further comments last night, he appears to be the one who decides which ecclesial bodies need to give up which doctrinal distinctives in order to overcome tribalism. Although he eschewed a top down approach to ecumenism, one can’t help but wonder if that’s inherent to his proposal.
  3. Second, it seems to me that Leithart’s proposal relies heavily on an unsupported typological reading of Western history. It’s one thing to say that God reunited Judah and Israel in Christ, and another to say that we should therefore expect God to reunite Protestants and Catholics. I’m not comfortable with taking what I see as a legitimate typological pattern in Scripture and then, without any support other than our own reading of subsequent church history and our current situation, apply that reading to a prophetic call to action.
  4. Third, and related, Leithart mentioned his “eschatological vision” a number of times. He never said it explicitly, but it seems obvious to me that his goal is one born partly out of his postmillennialism. If one is a postmillennialist, then I suppose Leithart’s expectations are warranted. But I’m not convinced that the NT gives us much warrant for that type of eschatological outlook, especially given Jesus’ warnings at the end of each gospel about people¬†falling away, Paul’s continued fight against false teachers, and the cyclical nature of the structure of Revelation. There is an already/not yet tension inherent to the NT’s structure, and Leithart only seems to pass over that tension and focus too heavily on the “already”.
  5. Fourth, and finally, I don’t see how Leithart’s vision takes into account the very clear instructions of at least Paul and John to cast out those who depart from sound doctrine. In other words, there is a warrant for church discipline not only on the basis of behavior but also on the basis of belief. I’m thinking specifically of Galatians 1, where Paul anathematizes those who preach a soteriology contrary to Scripture; 1 Timothy 1, where Paul says that Hymenaeus and Alexander have been handed over to Satan in order to be taught “not to blaspheme”; and 1 John 4, where John instructs the church to discern the spirits primarily through judging their beliefs about the incarnation. Leithart, in my opinion, did not take this into consideration at all in his proposal. He did state a number of times that we should be honest about our doctrinal differences and attempt to convince one another, but, in the case of both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, there are fundamental soteriological doctrinal differences that I think warrant consideration of the verses listed above.

Sanders and Trueman ably brought up many of these critiques, although I’m not sure I heard much on eschatology or doctrinal discipline. Nevertheless I was convinced that they possessed a more rigorous and precise understanding of how to articulate and implement many of the most important aspects of Leithart’s vision without ignoring some of its evident problems. In the end I’m grateful that these three men had the courage to tackle this difficult topic and to have been able to attend in person. My hope is that the conversation continues well into the future.

 

Americanism

This quote from Peter Leithart (Between Babel and Beast, xiii) cuts deep:

Remember who you are, and to whom you belong. Remember that you belong to Jesus first and last; remember that the church, not America, is the body of Christ and the political hope of the future; remember that no matter how much it may have served the city of God, America is in itself part of the city of man; remember that the Eucharist is our sacrificial feast.

 

LA Theology Conference

This week I learned from a few of my colleagues about a new theology conference in Los Angeles, called (you guessed it) the “LA Theology Conference.” The lineup looks to be excellent, with plenary addresses from Oliver Crisp, Peter Leithart, Alan Torrance, George Hunsinger, and Katherine Sonderegger. There will also be three breakout sessions consisting of accepted papers from other scholars that submit by the October 12 deadline.

I’m pretty excited about this, especially if it turns out to be an annual event. Even with ETS/SBL having a Western setting for their meeting every once in awhile, it gets expensive traveling from Southern California to the meeting places of conferences that generally take place back East. To have something like this in my own backyard will be great.