Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Field Trip to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting part six

For those keeping score, I sum up the whole ETS meeting in my last section of this post.  Also, one sermon we had not uploaded on the Word of Truth conference site is now there, one by Bobby Mitchell on Hebrews 12:14-17.


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.

Walter Kaiser

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.

Genesis 5:29

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.

Plenary Sessions

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.

General Observations

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.


Don Johnson said...

Philip Brown has an infrequently updated blog here:

I have corresponded with him some. He seems like a good guy, from a group of fundamentalist holiness people. He has some interesting papers available. I'd love to see his take on 1 Cor 11.

I might have more to say later, just read the first bit of this one and wanted to mention Phil's blog.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson said...

Ok, read it all now after a bit of family time. Here's your money quote:

Fundamentalists who move to evangelicalism do so in part because fundamentalism is too small for them to make it big.


Of course they couch it in spiritual terms like "Gospel-centered" or "Cross Centered" or "Desiring God".

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

PSFerguson said...


An extremely incisive analysis. I also appreciated your balance. It is good to acknowledge the excellent work done by many evangelicals in their writings such as Carson and MacArthur. But that does not cover up the glaring failure at the heart of such a movement.

You hit the nail right on the head about the financial necessity that underpins the whole evangelical idea. I would add to the money point the craving to be recognised and not to be regarded as a "Fundamentalist obscurantist." Ironically, it is the same reason that the anti-KJV wing of Fundamentalism are trying to distance themselves from those who believe the Bible was perfectly preserved in every age.

I am cynical of Bauder's motives here. I am sure he is not that naive as to imagine that his listeners have somehow missed those passages on separation that run through the whole of Scripture. The vast majority of Evangelicals like Dever, Piper, MacArthur etc are like Jonah - they understand the call of God perfectly but they just don't want to do it! Going outside the camp and bearing His reproach is a step too far. It is just about acceptable to mocked on CNN by the militant atheists but it is too much to be derided by mainstream Christianity as Creationist Fundies who believe that drinking beer and smoking a cigar is not an acceptable way of living a holy life.

Larry said...

1. Seems like a bit of continuationism going on here with the revelation of why fundamentalists are going to evangelicalism. :) ... Seriously, apart from revelation from God (which would require continuationism) or a statement by a person (which I am not aware of) how would you possibly know why fundamentalists are going to evangelicalism (if in fact they are)?

2. To a more serious point, you say you disagree with theological triage, which I understand to be the rankings of doctrines with respect to fellowship. You would say that all doctrines are equally important for fellowship, I think. Correct me if I am wrong.

Having said that, do you believe that someone who disagrees with you on the what exactly eternality/timelessness of God means should be treated by you the same way as some one who disagrees with you on the exclusivity of Jesus?

3. To PSFerguson (or Kent or anyone), you say that the vast majority of evangelicals understand the call of God perfectly but just don't want to do it. Is there any possibility in your mind that they simply differ on how the call of God applies to various situations in contemporary life?

Or to put it differently, if I believe that I should separate from Kent (for example) over some faulty doctrinal positions (because I don't do triage) and you disagree with me on that, are you one who understands God's call and just doesn't want to? Or do you simply disagree on the application of it?

BTW, I agree with your assessment of Dr. Kaiser. I had a class with him a year or so ago, and he was an incredibly warm and personal man, and funny (though often in a corny sort of way). I had him sign one of his books for me. He asked what he should write. I said, "Put 'to my favorite Old Testament scholar' or something like that." So he did. We laughed about it. I said, 'I didn't mean for you to actually do it, but since you did, you better put my name in there so people know who you are talking about." So he added "To Larry."

So my copy of the Promise Plan reads "To Larry, to my favorite Old Testament Scholar, Walter Kaiser."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Larry,

Funny on the continuationism. OK. They are going to evangelicalism, unless they would argue that they are paleoevangelicals or something like that ;-D. Some of those who have made the move were there and then there are others. You would seem to be in the know at least as much as me to recognize that. I said "in part" moving from one to another. Do I know that they move from fundamentalism to evangelicalism in part to make it big? I've got some evidence of that, but "make it big" would not be the exact words used. They use influence and significance. You have more students, higher salaries, more academic credibility, better publishing opportunities and sales, etc. You will be hard pressed, even unlikely, to make a name in scholarship and stay in fundamentalism.

For #2, I don't believe that scripture teaches ranking doctrines for fellowship. I haven't had anyone show me where that's at in the Bible. The only arguments I get are hypothetical or philosophical ones like the question you asked me. And our church would separate over what our church believes are divisions in doctrine. Separation is separation. One messed up doctrine might send someone to hell and the other might only harm his Christian life, but we would separate over both of them although the former would be more serious for the adherent. I'm not sure about the timelessness meaning thing, but the previous statement would probably answer the question.

On #3, I'll let Paul answer that.

Kaiser was corny. But corny in a funny way. He had good comic timing to his corniness. He's had years to develop numbers of those types of expressions. Thanks for the story.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I think Bauder wants to change people's minds about fundamentalism, and he does believe in fundamentalism. If he just broke down the passages and how they applied, it would persuade the only ones that could be persuaded. Maybe he's saving that for his book. He says he's going to write one on this subject.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Don,

Glad you enjoyed reading about ETS here. I would figure we might be very similar in our observations.

Steve Davis said...

Hi Don:

I've been reading Kent's blog since I wasn't able to attend ETS and the "money quote" caught my eye partly because I think it's cynical, a lame and cheap shot that can be asserted but not proven.

There are probably some Fundamentalists who went to Evangelicalism to make it big but I haven't met any. Have you, or do you know of any? But I have met Fundamentalists who could've made it big (relatively speaking) in Fundamentalism but who left it for other reasons knowing that the little bit of bigness they had before might never be found in their new and bigger home (and not really caring).

Steve Davis

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Steve,

You ask yourself, like Carl Trueman has, why is there evangelicalism? It's not in the Bible. And when you go, you see the seminaries and the publishers. None of that exists without the money. That's what fuels it. You take away the money and it's gone. It's not just in evangelicalism. It is in fundamentalism too, but to a far, far lesser extent. Fundamentalism, which I'm not a part of either, isn't able to market like evangelicalism. You've got your Pensacola and BJU with their school curriculum, funding a lot of what they do, but those are of a different nature than what you see at the ETS. They are somewhat comparable, but they can't compete with what the compromise of evangelicals allows in that way.

I think what I'm saying is right on. Evangelicalism is these parachurch structures that hold together the coalition. And they feed of off what they can do for each other, which revolves around money.

I understand the big fish in the small pond idea. There are many that just don't believe in separation, which is why I said "in part." So I believe you on that.

Thanks for dropping by.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Steve

You said: the "money quote" caught my eye partly because I think it's cynical, a lame and cheap shot that can be asserted but not proven.

What can I say? I am cynical, lame, and a cheap shot artist. I appreciate the art in others when I see it.

You also said: There are probably some Fundamentalists who went to Evangelicalism to make it big but I haven't met any. Have you, or do you know of any?

Well, Billy Graham comes to mind. Eugene Merrill. Sean Lucas. Steve Davis. (kidding, although you've made it 'big' with me!) Seriously, though, there are quite a few.

I take 'making it big' to be the desire for influence, which is expressed in different ways, or the desire to be part of that which is big, as opposed to that which is little, irrelevant, not in the main stream.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry said...

To #1, I just don't see the value of speculating on why some have supposedly left fundamentalism (if indeed they have). People leave (if they leave) for different reasons. Let them state it if they wish.

To #2, the question of eternality relates to, among other things, God's knowledge. Does eternal mean timeless? Is God's knowledge timeless, meaning that everything is eternally present to him? Does God's knowledge know future things (to us) as future (to him)? Or are they present to him even if they are future to us? If so, in what sense is Christ's return future? If not, then does his knowledge change when future becomes present becomes past? Or is God's eternality simply a reference to his uncaused existence?

There is debate over these issues because Scripture is not clear, and this is the biblical basis for theological triage ... Not everything in Scripture is equally clear. And the application of things is not equal. We do not, for purposes of church discipline, treat someone who speeds the same way that we treat someone who is habitually drunk, even though they are both in violation of something clear in Scripture.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Larry,

I was thinking of 1 Timothy 6:3-5, from such withdraw thyself. We can judge things like this. People should take it into consideration. I purposefully did not put names into the evaluation, so it would provoke analysis. I would agree with Trueman (even though we're not in fellowship) that evangelicalism is a detriment.

Regarding the triage idea. Mohler borrows the word from medicine---getting to the most needy patient, ranking the severity of the condition. I believe a church decides whether it is doctrine and whether it is scriptural. Some issues are non-scriptural and others are not doctrinal or practical. A church decides whether to separate. 1 Tim 3:15, 1 Cor 5-6, etc.

I don't see a ranking doctrines teaching in Scripture. I believe the triage of Mohler is different than what you are describing with your example. Bauder starts with the boundary and moves to the core, but the boundary being fellowship. Mohler ranks in tiers, starting with top level doctrines moving down to less important, having nothing to do with clarity. These systems are adding to Scripture and they impede true biblical separation and unity.

Brian said...

Have come here from Don Johnson's link and have appreciated your thoughts on the goings on at ETS. One thing that you have hit upon that has been nagging my mind as well is the "levels of doctrines" or "triage" that some have espoused. Indeed, where is this mentioned in the Bible? As you note, there are differing levels of impact based upon the false teaching but that is not ultimately the issue. It is that somewhere man determines what is more important when it comes to the Scriptures. Since man is fallible that makes our efforts at "levels" or "triage" suspect no matter who we are or how much of the alphabet soup of degrees we have after our name.
Thanks again for your insights.

Kent Brandenburg said...


In the end, it is neither unity nor separation, but a view of "unity" seems to drive the doctrine ranking, which fits well with the tolerance movement. Unity becomes preeminent, and doctrine itself must bow to tolerance and unity. So unity is dumbed down and separation isn't practiced.


Anonymous said...

"Fundamentalists who move to evangelicalism do so in part because fundamentalism is too small for them to make it big.


Actually, the right "b" word is "Baloney."

They leave because they disagree with fundamentalism. As Steve said, most lose at least some of their "biggness" in the process.

Even if one concedes the point about Billy Graham, it can't apply to guys like Sean Lucas.

The PCA probably isn't any bigger a pond than independent fundamentalism. It's just a different -- and more correct pond.

And, like Steve Davis suggests, quite a few guys leave significant contacts, years of "seniority", and the perqs of insider status in a network, to make the change.

Like I say, the "money quote" is pure boloney.