Fall Theology Conference with Iain Provan (October 15, 2016)

The Canadian Evangelical Theological Association (CETA) has two theology conferences each year. One occurs at the end of May/early June, in conjunction with the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences of Canada. The other (which was inaugurated in 2012) is held in the Fall (usually in October), in conjunction with a local theological seminary or college.

The Fall 2016 CETA theology conference will be co-sponsored with the Associated Canadian Theological Schools (ACTS seminaries), a consortium of theological schools located on the campus of Trinity Western University, in Langley, BC.

The date for the Fall conference is Saturday, October 15, 2016, and the keynote speaker is Iain Provan, Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies at Regent College, in Vancouver, BC. Dr. Provan’s book Seriously Dangerous Religion: What the Old Testament Really Says and Why It Matters (Baylor, 2014) won the 2016 R.B.Y. Scott Book Award at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies.

You may access the conference website here.

Click here for online registration. Early bird rates are in effect before September 20.

Advertisements

The Times They Are a Changing (Institutions on the Move)

In a strange coincidence, I received notification today that two of the graduate schools I have studied at (and taught at) are selling their buildings. Both have been trying to sell their buildings for a while, and both have now found buyers.

I received both notifications by email today, with links that pointed to online postings from the day before.

Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

First, I heard the news about Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (Rochester, NY).

I attended Colgate Rochester in the eighties as an M.A. student, while serving as Protestant Chaplain at the University of Rochester, and then I moved back to Rochester in the nineties for a tenure track faculty position in Old Testament.

It was as a student at Colgate Rochester that I was first introduced to the writings of Walter Brueggemann, whose vision of the relevance the the Old Testament has shaped my understanding of Scripture. And Brueggemann sent me a nice note of congratulation when I started teaching there.

I lived in the dorms for my first semester as a student at Colgate and then again for a semester when I began teaching (before my family had moved to Rochester).

But for a long time the beautiful buildings on the “Hill” have been underused, ever since the other theological partner schools that shared the campus (Bexley Hall and St. Bernard’s) moved to other locations, and the largely residential student population shifted to primarily commuting students.

So with all those empty buildings, including dorms and the large cafeteria, it makes sense that the Divinity School plans to move to a smaller facility in the city, sometime over the next two years. It would be a significant cost savings, while allowing them to invest the funds from the sale in the future of the institution.

Institute for Christian Studies

Later in the day I heard the news about the Institute for Christian Studies (Toronto).

I attended the ICS in the late seventies for my first graduate courses, before I transferred to the University of Guelph for my M.A. in philosophy. While studying at the ICS and during my time in Guelph I worked for the ICS teaching non-credit worldview courses on university campuses in southern Ontario.

It was at the ICS that I received an in-depth exposure to thinking about a Christian worldview, through the institution’s intellectual heritage that could be traced back to the life and thought of Abraham Kuyper.

During my studies at ICS my wife and I lived in a small apartment on the top floor (with roof access), which came with the position of being in charge of janitorial work for the entire building.

I later returned to the ICS in the nineties for my PhD, and taught many adjunct courses in Biblical Studies and Worldview Studies in the Master’s programs. At this point we didn’t live in Toronto, but I commuted to the ICS from St. Catharines a couple days per week.

It was during this time that I was introduced to the work of N. T. Wright, who spoke at the ICS on a number of occasions. Wright’s serious historical and theological interpretation of the New Testament has impacted my vision of the text, including its rootnedness in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism.

Between the two times I attended the ICS, the school moved from the fourth floor of the building (where I first had classes) to the second floor, and then to the first floor, having sold the greater share of the five-story building they owned in downtown Toronto to investors.

But now, with the investors going out of business, and the option to buy back the entire building being too much at this time (given the price of real estate in Toronto), it makes sense to sell the entire building (including their own share), while continuing to rent one floor. Just as with Colgate Rochester, this would allow them to invest the funds from the sale in the future of the institution.

A Future Orientation

What do these two similar stories tell us about the state of Christian higher education today? What do they tell us about what is really important?

Yes, institutions need buildings with adequate space and facilities to pursue their mission. But these two stories point to the very real need to cut costs and become leaner and more efficient for the sake of the mission.

I have all sorts of fond memories of these two buildings (the beautiful stone towers of CRCDS and the old fourth floor of ICS). But it simply won’t do to focus nostalgically on the past. To be effective and faithful, institutions need to be aware of what serves the mission. So while being deeply grounded in tradition (never forgetting the past), faithful institutions need to be oriented to the present and to anticipate the future.

I am a grateful recipient of the formative intellectual traditions I inherited from both these graduate schools. And I am fully supportive of these ways in which each is preparing to meet future challenges.

It’s Been a Crazy Semester for Papers, Talks, and Blogging

This has been an extremely busy semester.

I’ve been working hard on preparing various talks and lectures, and also a number of essays for publication (not to mention teaching four courses). So I’ve fallen behind in my original goal (made nearly two years ago, when I began this blog) to post something new about once per week.

I’m afraid this will be the case until the end of the semester, when I hope to complete most of this writing.

So, in the meantime, I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve been doing, and also post some of the pieces I’ve been working on.

Holistic Eschatology

Near the end of summer I wrote a short meditation on holistic eschatology for an online newsletter for United Methodist theological students, called The Catalyst. Then in September I expanded this piece into a longer talk for the Asian-American IVCF group at Cornell University (co-sponsored with Chesterton House). Both pieces were called “To Love What God Loves: Understanding the Cosmic Scope of Redemption.”

Imago Dei and Evolution

In October I gave a lecture at Regent College (Vancouver, BC) on humanity as imago Dei in a symposium on what it means to be human in light of hominin evolution (this was part of a series of four events on evolution in relation to the imago Dei and the fall for Evangelicals and Catholics, held in different regions of Canada, organized by Paul Allen of Concordia University, Montreal). My lecture (which had three respondents) will be revised for publication (probably next year) in a volume of essays edited by Allen. An audio of the lecture is being made available by Regent College.

Creation and Fall in Genesis 2-3

Roberts Wesleyan College (where I’ve been teaching since 2002; at the seminary since 2011) is having their 150th anniversary next year, and will be producing an anthology of essays in honor of B. T. Roberts, the founder of the College. My contribution to this volume is a close reading of the Garden of Eden story in Genesis 2-3 for what it teaches us about God’s original intent for work and male-female relationships, including how these ideals are distorted by sin. I presented a short version of this paper in October at the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association conference at Tyndale College and Seminary in Toronto. The published volume should be available by Fall 2016.

Evolution and the Fall

I’ve also been working on another essay on Genesis 3, exploring how the account of the fall might be related to what we know about human evolution and the origin of evil. I gave an lecture on this topic at Roberts Wesleyan College in October 2014 and then again at a conference organized by the Colossian Forum in Chicago in March of this year. This essay will be published in 2016 by Eerdmans in an anthology entitled Re-Imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall, edited by James K. A. Smith and William Cavanaugh.

This past week I presented four papers at conferences that were being held in association with the large American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) meetings in Atlanta.

Eschatology Session at the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS)

I presented an invited paper for a special session on my eschatology book at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (November 19). My paper, entitled “A New Heaven and a New Earth: For God So Loved the World,” was followed by an appreciative but critical response to the book by Greg Beale of Westminster Theological Seminary, and then by an immensely practical paper by Victor Cortez of Food for the Hungry, on “Landing the Biblical Theological Plane” of eschatology, in which he vividly showed what difference a holistic vision of the future makes for transforming people’s lives in Latin America and the Caribbean. The papers were followed by a panel discussion on the topic.

Paper on Psalm 51 for the Institute for Biblical Research (IBR)

I then presented a paper on Psalm 51 as a critique of David’s inadequate repentance, in one of the research groups of the IBR at their annual meeting (November 20). This was a precis of a longer essay I wrote for a volume sponsored by IBR called Explorations in Interdisciplinary Reading: Theological, Exegetical, and Reception-Historical Perspectives, ed. Robbie Castleman, Darian Lockett, and Stephen Presley (to be published by Pickwick Publications in 2016). A draft of the essay is available on the IBR website.

Paper on Bob Marley for the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)

The following day (November 21) I was scheduled to give a paper on the reggae band Third World for the Islands, Islanders, and Scriptures program unit of the SBL. But due to elder care family issues, I wasn’t able to get this done. The organizers therefore allowed me to present a short version of a previous paper I had written on Bob Marley and the Wailers (complete with music clips).

Paper on Genesis 22 for the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)

The next day (November 22), in the Genesis program unit of the SBL, I presented a paper on the Aqedah (the “binding” of Isaac) in Genesis 22. I explored a reading of the text that did not automatically take Abraham’s silent attempt to sacrifice his son as exemplary, given the normative example of lament or protest prayer in the Bible. This paper was part of my initial work on reading Genesis 22 and the book of Job in light of biblical lament prayer, which will be the topic of my research for a new book during my upcoming sabbatical (in 2016-17).

Given all the above, I haven’t got a lot of blogging done recently. Hopefully, this post will somewhat make up for that.

Future Posts

Once I finish editing the final two of the above essays, I hope to be able to turn more wholeheartedly to blogging in the new year. In fact, I’ve just been appointed a Theological Fellow for BioLogos, so you can expect a variety of posts on the Bible and evolution (among other topics) during 2016.