ETS 2022: A Review

Cory Thompson

The National Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) held its annual meeting on November 15-17, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. The theme was Holiness. The meeting consists of presentations, panel discussions, and plenary addresses from noted scholars, aspiring scholars, and academics across the evangelical landscape. The papers presented coincide with research from commentaries, books, or journal articles that are being written, research from Ph.D. dissertations, or research in general. Apart from plenary addresses, all presentations are subject to immediate peer review. The panel discussions are specifically arranged for such. In the panel discussions, a presenter makes their presentation and a respondent on the panel critically engages the topic. For instance, John Piper presented “Receiving Christ as Treasure: The Affectional Element of Saving Faith.” He argued that affections such as “love for Christ, or delight in his glory, or satisfaction in his perfection, or treasuring his worth” are realities in faith itself.[1] Respondents to Piper were Guy Waters and J.V. Fesko. Fesko pointedly responded to Piper’s definition of faith as a departure from Sola Fide. Denny Burk summarized this in his blog post, “What Happened at the Rocky Mountain ETS.

Free Will Baptists were ably represented at ETS. I am grateful and encouraged to see these brothers engaging in scholarship and representing Free Will Baptists well. The following Free Will Baptists made presentations and/or moderated sessions:

Welch College Provost and Professor Dr. Matthew McAffee presented a paper entitled, “Psalm 29 and the Ugaritic Baal Cycle: An Exploration in Intertextuality.” He moderated an Old Testament Backgrounds session on studies in exilic and post-exilic periods and was part of a panel discussion regarding the forthcoming book he coauthored from B&H Academic, Going Deeper with Biblical Hebrew: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Jesse Owens, Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Welch Divinity School, presented “Is Religious Liberty Accidental to Early Baptist Theology?” and moderated a session on Trinitarian studies.

Mr. Christopher Talbot, Program Coordinator of Youth and Family Ministry at Welch College, presented “Francis Schaeffer and Destructionist Spirituality,” and moderated a Practical Theology session.

Mr. Matthew Bracey, Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture at Welch College, presented “Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Apologetic for Christian West,” and moderated a Christian Ethics session.

Dr. W. Jackson Watts, Commission Member and Pastor of Grace Free Will Baptist Church in Arnold, Missouri, presented a paper entitled, “Beyond Transformation: Reforming Cultural Engagement with an Eye Toward Grammar and Holiness.”

Joshua Hunter, an M.Div. student at Welch Divinity School, presented “Disclosing the Divine Name: Analyzing Exodus 3 in Light of Ancient Near Easter Secret Names.”

Dr. J. Matthew Pinson, Commission Chairman and President of Welch College, was slated to present a paper on “The Early General Baptist View of Holiness” and moderate a Church History session Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the meeting due to illness.

Just a note on some presentations that stood out. Old Testament scholar John Oswalt gave an impassioned address entitled, “Holiness: The Goal of Life.” From my standpoint, the address appeared to be a pushback against more recent understanding of holiness as just God’s uniqueness or separateness or even Peter Gentry’s definition, God coming to meet man and devotion.[2] For Oswalt, “qualitative other” is the biblical meaning of holiness. God is other and separate, but his character is also holy. God’s holiness involves a quality of behavior and he calls his people to display his holy character.

A presentation title that caught my eye came from a presenter I was unfamiliar with, but it proved to be fruitful: “Purge the Evil from Among You: A Biblical Theology of Excommunication,” by Dr. Charlie Ray III, Assistant Professor of NT and Greek at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Ray argued that sins requiring capital punishment in the OT are analogous to the types of sins that warrant excommunication in the NT church.

For me, the ETS meeting in Denver was an opportunity to stay abreast of current biblical and theological trends, reconnect with former professors and friends from seminary, and meet and engage with various scholars.


[1] John Piper, What is Saving Faith? Reflections on Receiving Christ as a Treasure (Wheaton: Crossway: 2022), 15. All the ETS attendees received this book with their registration.

[2] See Peter Gentry, “The Meaning of ‘Holy in the Old Testament,” Bibliotheca Sacra 170 (Oct-Dec 2013): 400-17.

1 Comment

  1. This list of FWB contributors at ETS is so encouraging. It’s just the kind of work and investment that the denomination needs from its academic and doctrinal leaders.

Leave a Reply