Thursday morning, November 17, I came in to the city a little early, because I thought the session I chose might be crowded. The night before I found that out when I couldn't get into a session with three big named evangelical professors. I didn't mention that I had considered attending a different session than the one with Blomberg, Kaiser, and Grudem, one under the category of 1 Corinthians. I was interested mainly in the first session, "Chrysostom & Epiphanius: Long Hair the Prohibited Covering in 1 Corinthians 11:4, 7," a paper by A. Philip Brown II from God's Bible School and College. I decided I didn't have to go to that session, when I arrived and a stack of the papers were sitting there for the taking, so I took one. I sat and read it at the beginning of a very dry paper read in a Systematic Theology: Sovereignty and Election category, entitled, "God and Gratuitous Evil." I knew of Brown because of his paper on Deuteronomy 22:5. Brown is a Bob Jones University graduate, who probably considers himself a fundamentalist and a separatist. I did not conclude whether I agreed with Brown's 1 Corinthians 11 position or not, but it was a decent argument.
So I sat in the Marriott's room Yerba Buena 3 about 8:15am, and there were only 4 people who had already arrived. One was an older gentleman, whom I guessed must be the man doing the first session on Genesis 22. I sat in the back row close to an outlet, so I could recharge my cellphone. The category for this room was Expository Preaching and Hermeneutics. The first up was Abraham Kuruvilla from Dallas Theological Seminary, with "Preaching Genesis 22: What the Author is 'Doing' with What He is 'Saying'." Kuruvilla was Indian (from India), so the older man sitting right next to me was Walter Kaiser, which I didn't know until he walked to the front for the second session.
The session on Genesis 22 was excellent and a tremendous model for how to deal with an Old Testament narrative. What made it unique for this session, however, was his take on the atonement picture in Genesis 22. He showed from the context of the book and the exegesis of the text how making the atonement major or prominent misses the point, which is the testing of Abraham's faith and his fear of God. Several in the room grilled him afterwards and he gave good answers.
Next was Walter Kaiser. I have read three of Kaiser's books and he's been a help through the years in my understanding of the Old Testament. Walter Kaiser is a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He's also a big, big-voiced, jovial grandpa type. The room was 40% full before he spoke, and it was not only full, but people were sitting on the floor in the aisle and packing out and into the hallway to hear him, when he spoke. Evangelicals do have their celebrities. But when he taught, it was no wonder.
Kaiser's session was called, "Genesis 15:1-6---Christ Is the Same Object of Faith in the Old Testament." He did a masterful job showing that Abraham believed in Jesus, arguing against the other positions, which in essence support universalism. Kaiser is definitely an exclusivist. An argument for inclusivism moves from chronology to proximity. If someone is saved in the Old Testament other than through Jesus, than someone could be saved today in Sri Lanka in some other way besides Jesus. Kaiser is thorough, knowledgeable, and very funny---lots of laughs.
The book exhibit room had many Kaiser books, especially in Old Testament Theology. Listening to him in person, one could see why. Before he spoke, it looked like three Jewish men came into the room to hear him. It seems he might be popular with Jewish scholars, perhaps read by some orthodox in the Jewish community. I'm not sure. Sometimes these scholars aren't matched in their ability to speak or teach---not the case with Walter Kaiser. His wife was sitting in the far back corner, same row as mine. He had said before the session that she has gone with him 35 years in a row to the ETS meeting. She was back there crocheting while he spoke, looking around somewhat bemused with the great affinity others held for her man.
The last session in the room was David Klingler from Dallas Theological Seminary with "Genesis 5:29: Lamech's Expectation of One Who Will Bring Rest." He was relatively young and was fighting a cold. He was arguing for Genesis 5:29 as a Messianic reference that would provide a tie between Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 12:1, 2. I thought he succeeded at proving that point. It isn't something I had ever heard of or learned, but I was persuaded that indeed Genesis 5:29 is another reference to Jesus in Genesis.
There were two plenary sessions in the afternoon in the giant meeting room. I sat in the furthest seat back in the auditorium, knowing that I wanted to get out of there fast for the Mohler-Bauder session I've already written about. The first plenary session on Thursday afternoon was Timothy C. Tennent from Asbury Theological Seminary and "Post-Modernity, the Paradigm and the Pre-Eminence of Christ." His session held mild interest for me, especially since it was about something I had not heard of. It's not the kind of thing we talk about in churches.
Tennent said that the long-time taxonomy for the uniqueness of Christ to salvation has been pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism. This taxonomy, he said, was established by Alan Race. I later googled that and found Race referenced all over on this particular subject. It gave new meaning to throwing down the Race card. Anyway, Tennent was mainly using his time to argue for modifying that taxonomy in this post-modern age to a four pronged taxonomy, rather than three, this the new paradigm of which he spoke. It was during Tennent's speech that the room spontaneously erupted into applause the only time of the three plenary sessions, and it was when Tennent said (I wrote down these words): "...end to the minimalistic approaches to become a Christian." He ended with four recommendations and one of them was for ecumenicity and catholicity. That seemed to clash with his big applause line, but I guess that doesn't figure with evangelicals. To me, it was a little zombie-like to clap happily for a more thorough gospel, when the cause for a more superficial one is ecumenicity.
Darrell L. Bock
Bock is a well known man in evangelicalism, long a professor at Dallas. His session was "On Entitlement, Grace, Salvation and Jesus the Only Way: A Look at Key New Testament Texts and the Theological Assumptions behind the Gospel." Wow. That's a mouthful. But it really was only Bock arguing from the New Testament for the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. The big title must be an evangelical scholarship thing. It was solid. It was thorough. He was reading. He was reading very quickly, trying to get in a longer paper in a shorter period of time. It was good. But it wasn't anything spectacular. It's something that is a given for us, something that we ordinarily don't even consider, that is, arguing for exclusivity among ourselves. But it is something important in evangelicalism to prove to themselves, it seems. It was of interest to me to see if there was something new there. There wasn't. But what he said would come in handy when out evangelizing the lost as argument for Christ alone for salvation---if the lost care to respect biblical proof. It was interesting to hear Bock in person this once.
I wouldn't travel far to go to an ETS meeting, but if it's in your area, it would be worth the visit. Next year is Milwaukee. If I had it do to over again, I would have this pamphlet published and set up a book table in the exhibit hall with it. Plan early so that you get an early registration and pay the least amount. You can get good deals on new books, sometimes cheaper than what you'll later be able to buy them used. I bought three---a 2 Kings commentary (I'm in a series there now), a John commentary (it will be the next gospel I preach [it was also the first]), and then the DVD and study book for Tim Keller's The Reason for God. We've watched the first two discussions as a family and it is good for talking about such things together. I plan on going through the whole study in depth when my son gets home for Christmas. Maybe I'll review it sometime here at the blog.
What makes evangelicalism tick? After being at an ETS meeting, I believe it is mainly money. Yes, money. Money is the biggest reason for evangelicalism. No one needs evangelicalism. We need the church. We need the Bible. We need teachers in churches. We don't need evangelicalism. This is a point that Carl Trueman made very strongly, to which Albert Mohler made essentially this argument: if we didn't need it, then why are you here? That's not a good argument. But people do "need it," and it was a consideration about which Kevin Bauder said something in his talk that reminded me of what it was. He said that he couldn't hire most of the great evangelical scholars at his seminary because his seminary couldn't pay them enough money.
I need a whole other paragraph for the point about money. Evangelicals write books, but they wouldn't be writing all of them without an audience. They need an audience. No audience, no money for books. They wouldn't be making money for their books. Money isn't everything, but it is big. They need seminaries to buy their books, so they need big seminaries. And publishers need evangelicalism, so they help keep it going too. And the thing is to make it broad and big, so that there is more money. It is a big, big tent, so that everyone can keep getting paid. If they made it more strict, more biblical, then the money would shrink up, as would the professorships and the big publishers where they could make their money. Evangelicalism is perfectly free enterprise, capitalistic, and American---in the worst possible sense.
The next reason for evangelicalism is pride and promotion. If you have only your church, then you don't have the big-shotism available. You can't make a name for yourself without something bigger for self-promotion. Let me give your answer before you give it---I have a blog, so I'm being a big shot too. Fair enough. But this isn't really a self-promoting blog. I don't itch other people for audience. I don't operate that way. People come here based on reading what I write. For the most part, very few would want someone knowing that they do read here. They would take a hit in fundamentalism and evangelicalism if they associated here. I'm not talking about separation. I'm talking about self-promotion. If you want the self-promoting blog like that, look at the evangelical blogs and see how they roll (Bob Hayton's blog is a good example---I would link, but I don't want to risk growing his audience).
Evangelicalism exists for the promotion of its characters. It really is like a giant drama with actors who play their parts. Evangelicalism is the stage on which the performance is held. Without evangelicalism, the show wouldn't go on. And in so many ways, it is an imitation of the world and what it does with its publishers and schools.
Fundamentalists who move to evangelicalism do so in part because fundamentalism is too small for them to make it big. Fundamentalism is not the big time. You don't order fundamentalist books in Christian Book Distributor. Fundamentalism doesn't have the equivalent of The Kiln at which you can do a residence. There are very few "research professors in...." in fundamentalism. There are none outside of fundamentalism and evangelicalism in the unaffiliated world (one that fundamentalists and evangelicals barely know exists). In evangelicalism, you can make a living being D. A. Carson's research assistant, which is also an avenue for a great many other "opportunities."
Evangelicalism doesn't write about separation at all. Evangelicalism doesn't preach separation. These guys are scholars, so it isn't that they don't see separation in the Bible. When you sit in on what they do, you see that they have a great capacity to know what the Bible says. They can get into the Hebrew and Greek like no one else. However, they don't separate. You see, separation would shrivel the money and the promotion. They wouldn't have the great opportunities for salary and employment without it. In the long run, I don't believe evangelicalism helps Christianity. It doesn't help the church. It is bringing the church and genuine Christianity down.
So why the good words about evangelicalism? Because love rejoices in the truth. When I heard truth, I recognized it. What could go wrong? Not much. They were teaching stuff that is rather non-controversial in evangelicalism. They keep it that way. The boat does not get rocked much. I was hoping Kevin Bauder would rock it more, but I guess if he had been the type of person who would do that, he woudn't have been there in the first place. And it was very apparent that he. did. not. want. to do that.
I didn't attend what would be the most controversial sessions. The ones run by women would have fit that bill the most. And I wasn't there to see those. I wasn't going for a very serious investigation of the ETS. I was there to get something that could help me and to make a lunar landing on planet evangelicalism. You will find much helpful there. But that doesn't mean that we need evangelicalism either to be helpful or to get help. We could do that by reducing everything to what we read in the Bible. Evangelicalism would be gone, but what's best about it would still exist.