I have been at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, this past week. The meeting ran from Wednesday, November 16 to Friday, November 18. As with any conference of this magnitude there were good sessions and papers and some not so good. Among the former that I considered outstanding, and which I heard, were the following:
- Nicholas Perrin’s brilliant presentation on the Gospel of Thomas, “Thomas, the Fifth Gospel?”, that convincingly argued for a late second-century dating of the Gospel and a Syrian provenance;
- Daniel Williams, “Theological Hermeneutics of Tradition before Nicaea,” in which Dr Williams from Baylor University examined the patristic understanding of the relationship between Scripture and tradition;
- Brian Vickers’s well-argued examination of the doctrine of imputation in Romans 5: “Made Righteous: The Fundamental Language of Redemption in Romans 5:19”;
- Paul Hartog from Faith Baptist Theological Seminary who spoke on “Polycarp, Scripture and Ephesians”—an excellent study of Polycarp’s reference to Ephesians as Scripture;
- John A. Nixon’s paper on “Athanasius’ Understanding of the Relationship between Theology and Scripture”—this was a very fine study of the utterly vital role that Scripture played in the formulation of Athanasian theology; at its conclusion it would have been very difficult not to have recognized that Athanasius was a bibliocentric theologian;
- Timothy Larsen’s detailed examination of the way in which David Bebbington’s 1989 magisterial study of the history of British Evangelicalism was received during the 1990s: “The Reception Given Bebbington’s Evangelicalism in Modern Britain Since Its Publication”;
- And Thomas Kidd’s “ ‘Prayer for a Saving Issue’: Evangelical Developments in New England Before the Great Awakening”, in which Kidd, a historian from Baylor University, convincingly showed the presence of Evangelical-style sermons and thinking in New England long before the Northampton revival that Dr Bebbington dates as the start of Evangelicalism in the world of Transatlantic Anglophones.
Of course, in addition to listening to papers there were the joys of fellowship and discussion and the books being sold! Next year the conference is in Washington, DC, and the topic is “Christians in the Public Square.” It really is a must for anyone who loves Evangelicalism and wants to deepen his or her grasp of its history and contemporary expressions.