Evangelical Theological Society — Day One

After a horrific day of travel, I am now officially at the ETS conference in Milwaukee. (Horrible travel day included a canceled flight after we were already boarded, two hours in line to be rebooked, being rerouted through Denver, another delayed flight, and horrible customer service at security. I arrived in Milwaukee a full 6 hours after I was originally scheduled to arrive).

First on the agenda was Kevin Vanhoozer’s paper on the relationship between biblical studies and theology, specifically the need and importance for a theological interpretation of Scripture. The room that the presentation was to take place was teeny-tiny (maybe 50 seats), so they moved to a larger room (200 seats) and even that room wasn’t big enough as several people were left with standing room only at the back. What I appreciated about Dr. Vanhoozer’s presentation (besides the topic), was that it was conversational and affable in tone. (Trust me, this is a big deal because often times paper presentations can be the most wooden and boring things to listen to.) Vanhoozer suggested that the danger in “pure” biblical studies is that it becomes “magic”, that is, a way to exert power and control to ensure the results the scholar wants, in this case discovering the “true” meaning of the passage in the original context. Because the Bible is not merely human and historical, but also points to the Divine discourse that God had and continues to have with his people, theological interpretation opens the way for us to participate in the Story of scripture.

Unfortunately, Dr. Vanhoozer’s presentation ran overtime, so I was unable to get to my second session. Instead, I went and checked out the exhibitors (translation: BOOKS! CHEAP BOOKS) I am a little ticked at IVP though, they won’t ship books to Canada, and Canadian ETS attendees who order books have to order through David C. Cook, but David C. Cook won’t give the 40% ETS discount. Grrr. Argh!

The next session I attended was a paper on the shift in Basil the Great’s understanding of the Ascetical Life. The presenter, Jason Scully, compared Basil’s “Epistle 2″ to his “Longer rule” and argued that Basil moves from being preoccupied with the soul’s intellectual purity (emphasis on purging bad habits), to being focused on the need for loving actions (emphasis on fostering good habits and pursuing virtues).

The last paper of the morning was by doctoral student Susan Rieske. Her paper looked at the language of “delight” that is used to describe God’s attitude towards Israel’s destruction and ruin if she breaks the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:63). She proposed three ways to interpret this “delight”: as a term of volition or determination; as a rhetorical device meant to get Israel’s attention; and as pointing God delighting in his overarching purposes for Israel (over and above judgement).

So far, it’s been a great experience. Yay for brainy Christians who serve God through scholarship!