Southern Seminary’s ‘growing influence’ in ETS seen at recent meeting
New Testament scholar Thomas R. Schreiner's presidency of the Evangelical Theological Society is the latest example of the “growing influence” of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the scholarly organization, seminary leaders say.
During the 2014 ETS annual meeting held Nov. 19-21 in San Diego, California, Schreiner completed a one-year term as president, but will continue to serve on the organization’s executive committee along with Southern Seminary theologian Gregg R. Allison, who is currently serving a seven-year term as secretary/treasurer of the group. In 2009, Bruce A. Ware served as president, marking the first time a Southern Seminary faculty member led the organization.
The recent ETS officers, together with the growing participation of Southern faculty and graduate students in presentation of papers at the annual meeting, is a matter of “institutional pride,” President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said at a Nov. 19 panel discussion held during the ETS meeting.
Noting that there was a time when Southern Baptists shunned participation in ETS — and identity as evangelicals — Mohler said, “In the truest sense, our greatest hope is that the Southern Baptist Convention would be the most evangelical denomination and that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary would be the most evangelical seminary.”
That evangelical identity points to Southern Seminary’s “unique responsibility” to provide leadership of ETS, Mohler said.
Mohler praised Schreiner’s presidential address, “Some Reflections on Sola Fide,” and Allison’s plenary address, “Holy God and Holy People: Pneumatology and Ecclesiology in Intersection.” Together with the presentations by Schreiner and Allison, Southern Seminary faculty and graduate students participated in 47 paper presentations and panel discussions during the ETS 66th annual meeting, whose theme was ecclesiology.
Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, told Southern Seminary’s news staff it was a “great privilege and honor” to serve as ETS president. He said Southern’s growing leadership of ETS is part of its faculty’s duty with other evangelicals to “serve faithfully in order to uphold the teachings of the scriptures. We don’t position ourselves as better than or separate from other evangelicals. We serve joyfully along with them in contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).”
Ware, former president and longtime participate in ETS, said it is “thrilling” to see Southern Seminary’s “growing influence” with the scholarly group. Ware is T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology at Southern.
With Schreiner’s presidency the second in five years for Southern's faculty, Ware said, “This not only signals how Southern Seminary is viewed by members of the ETS, but perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates that the direction ETS is going aligns closely with the biblically faithful direction of Southern Seminary.”
Southern’s participation at ETS is a means to influence evangelical scholarship, Ware said. “It is a particular joy for me to see just how many of our faculty and students are actively reading papers. Clearly, Southern has become one of the most strongly represented seminaries at ETS.”
Ware said Southern’s participation in ETS is a “great blessing to the broader evangelical movement, and one place this is seen is its impact within and upon ETS itself.”
Allison, an ETS member for more than 20 years, said the value of the organization is both in it denominational diversity and the range of scholarly disciplines represented.
The denominational diversity "reminds us that Southern Baptists, while a pronounced presence in ETS, are part of much larger family of evangelicals, and it is important for us to know, respect, listen to, love, edify, collaborate with, and disagree with our brothers and sisters in the faith," said Allison, who is a book review editor for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.
Southern Seminary’s leadership of and participation in ETS is also seen in the fact that the organization has been located on the school’s Louisville campus since 2009, said ETS executive director Michael Thigpen.
“Having our offices on the campus of a major seminary is a great benefit to our staff,” said Thigpen, describing the relationship as both beneficial to the organization and to the Southern community.
Thigpen called it a “great privilege to be at Southern” and said, “Dr. Mohler, the administration, and the faculty have been gracious hosts to us.”
Southern Seminary professors Robert L. Plummer, chairman of the New Testament Department, and Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, were elected to the ETS membership committee during the 2014 annual meeting. Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce, also currently serves on the membership committee.
During the Southern Seminary ETS panel, Mohler discussed the meaning and mission of Christian scholarship with Schreiner; Allison, professor of Christian theology; Michael A.G. Haykin, professor church history and biblical spirituality; and Jonathan T. Pennington, associate professor of New Testament Interpretation and director of Research Doctoral Studies.
Mohler said Christian scholars must remember “we are here for some time and we need to make that time as meaningful as possible with stewardship in Christian scholarship,” adding that the impact of teachers — “for good or for ill” — continues in the lives of those who teach and their students for generations.
“It just reminds us of the fact that we are not self-made, not one of us. And the glory of Christian teaching is that by God’s grace it continues long after we are gone,” Mohler said. “That reminds us of what’s at stake.”