Tag Archives: Scholarship

Free Will Baptists and the Evangelical Theological Society

W. Jackson Watts

In past posts on this blog I have highlighted the increased involvement of Free Will Baptists with the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). According to their website, ETS is a professional academic society of biblical and theological scholars, pastors, and students. As part of the society’s work in fostering Christian scholarship, they hold regular meetings (both regionally and a national one), and they also produce a quarterly journal known as JETS.

ETS dates back to 1949, and so they have been in existence long enough to exert a fair amount of influence on the shape of evangelical scholarship, both in America and abroad. In many ways ETS is very conservative due to its massive numbers of members who are Southern Baptist and Presbyterian (PCA), for example. On the other hand, the organization has a fairly “big-tent” approach to evangelical identity. I happen to be a full member in the society, and each year the statement I must sign to continue with my membership is limited to two affirmations. First, “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.” Second, “God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.”

Beyond these affirmations, there is quite a breadth of views represented among the society’s members. However, as the organization is an academic society and not a church or denomination, this is to be expected.

I think that the Free Will Baptist presence in ETS is notable for several reasons. First, for papers to be accepted onto the program they usually have to clear some hurdles in the review process that typically ensures they are of a certain quality. Like anything else, the range of papers presented across a program with hundreds of papers includes some which are more or less convincing, more or less cogent, more or less academic. Still, simply to be on the program is a positive sign as we assess the state of Free Will Baptist scholarship.

Second, the annual ETS meeting usually gives some indication of trends in the broader Protestant and evangelical world. To be a participant in the meeting gives one access to the discussions that are shaping not just the academy, but also the church. Being plugged into these discussions, and trying to influence them in one direction or another, is a way to promote and preserve theological integrity. As one of the Theological Commission’s stated purposes is “to alert our people of theological trends that could threaten our theological integrity as a denomination,” being a participant in ETS helps us be keenly aware of those trends, at least as they arise from academic circles.

Third, participating in ETS allows our scholars, whether they be younger graduate students, pastors, or professors, to meet and network with people doing meaningful, Christian scholarship in other parts of the country and the world. We all know that we learn best in the context of community. Similarly, such relationships are vital for the cultivation of our own ability to think, write, and minister well.

One fact that should encourage many of our readers is how often a person will attend the presentation of one of our Free Will Baptist presenters, and during the Q&A time or after the session we learn of people interested in Classical (or Reformed) Arminianism. Or we encounter people from other denominations who affirm our view of apostasy, and are looking for dialogue partners in better articulating that theology. I can think of a number of occasions when I have either witnessed or personally experienced this. Such interactions not only give credibility to Free Will Baptist identity and theology, but they remind us of the progress we are making. They also remind us of the work we have ahead of us in raising up the next generation of leaders who will preach, teach, publish, and persuade.

Part two of this post will appear next week.

Symposium Recap – Matthew Bracey on Faith and Scholarship

by W. Jackson Watts

Matthew Bracey’s Symposium paper really scratched a personal itch of mine, which is the relationship between faith and scholarship. Specifically, my good friend helped the audience think about this as a mutually-reinforcing enterprise to which all Christians are called.

Though he outlines several definitions of faith, and a few of scholarship, Bracey essentially means a committed appropriation of Christianity, applied to everyday life, church ministry, and the academy. He distinguishes between lay Christian scholars (all disciples) and professional Christian scholars (in the church and other professions).

Regardless of what type of scholar or student one may be, all scholarship is predicated on our pursuit of God’s glory, the knowability of truth, and a Total Personality (thinking-feeling-acting) understanding of personhood. From these we can faithfully express a vibrant intellectual life. Continue reading Symposium Recap – Matthew Bracey on Faith and Scholarship

Free Will Baptists and Evangelical Scholarship

by Theological Commission

Two years ago a post appeared on this blog that noted the relationship between Free Will Baptists and evangelical scholarship. This was specifically in reference to there being four presenters at the National Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society who serve Free Will Baptist churches and/or entities. This year’s meeting took place two weeks ago in Providence, Rhode Island. The theme was the Heritage of the Reformation, and as usual the meeting featured a range of interesting presentations, panel discussions, plenary addresses, and more.

This year five Free Will Baptists presented or moderated across five different sections of the program. The following are the presenters and their paper titles:

Dr. Matthew McAffee (Provost and Professor at Welch College): “Ugaritic Ditanu and  Greek Titans: An Appraisal of Etymological and Narrative Connections.”

Rev. Jesse Owens (Church Planter, Adjunct Professor; Doctoral Candidate) – “English General Baptists: the Arminian Anti-rationalists.”

Dr. Matt Pinson (President of Welch College; Commission Chairman) – “Are Predestination and Election Corporate or Individual? Toward a Reformed Arminian Account.”

Rev. W. Jackson Watts (Pastor, Commission member; Doctoral candidate) – “Cultural Analysis and the Dynamics of Leading Change in the Church.”

Dr. Jeff Cockrell, professor at Welch College, moderated a New Testament section on the Gospel of Mark, and Mr. Matthew Bracey, Vice Provost and Professor at Welch also attended.

Audio recordings of these presentations can be found and purchased at Word Mp3. Readers may also note that a few of these papers are adapted from presentations given at the 2017 Theological Symposium. For more information on ETS or these specific presentations, you may leave us a question on the blog’s comment thread.

 

Free Will Baptists and ETS

by Theological Commission

The relationship between Free Will Baptists and the evangelical academy is an interesting one to consider. Though space does not permit such an exploration here, theologians and Bible scholars like Robert Picirilli and Leroy Forlines have made profound contributions to our body of scholarly literature that lends a credible voice to the Free Will Baptist community in mainstream evangelical scholarship. Thus, recent years have shown an increased presence of Free Will Baptist scholars in scholarly journals and events. Among these is the Evangelical Theological Society, as well as its quarterly journal.

Continue reading Free Will Baptists and ETS

Wisdom from Carl Trueman

by Matt Pinson

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Carl Trueman when we were on a panel together at Southern Seminary. While I disagree with some of what he says (politically as well as his Orthodox Presbyterian/Calvinist distinctives), when it comes to the need for a renaissance of confessional Protestant faith and practice in the contemporary world, I love to read what he writes.

I recently came across an article he wrote for Themelios about fifteen years ago, an excerpt from which I have cut and pasted below. What he said in this article reminded me a lot of some things he said in two other books I read by him a few years ago: the little book The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and the longer volume, The Creedal Imperative. Young (and old) evangelical scholars of all denominational traditions need to pay heed to what Trueman is contending for in these books and in this article.

Below is the excerpt from Trueman’s article “The Importance of Being Earnest: Approaching Theological Study” (Themelios 26 [2000], pp. 45-46).

“I am not saying that we should not be aware of and interact with the best contemporary scholarship, the most thoughtful liberal theology, and the most sophisticated challenges to orthodoxy. My own historical heroes, Augustine, Aquinas, John Owen, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield and W.G.T. Shedd, to name but six, did all of these things; none of them felt the need to cut themselves off from the scholarly world; but they did not pursue orthodox theology for its own sake. They did so because they thought that such theology was faithful to the biblical text and was therefore of overwhelming importance both for themselves and for others. Don’t be fooled by those evangelicals who today spend their time praising the insights of liberals and non-evangelicals while trashing or mocking our evangelical forefathers for their intellectual peccadilloes. Make no mistake, God will be the ultimate judge of this contemporary evangelical tendency to turn a blind eye to great blasphemies in liberal theologians who happen to say the odd useful or orthodox thing, while excoriating evangelicals of the past for their mistakes. Too many gnats are strained out, while too many huge elephants are being swallowed whole. Our forefathers were not idiots; neither were they uncouth louts who responded with knee-jerk abuse and anger to any who disagreed with them; but neither were they prepared to play happy families with those whose theology was fundamentally opposed to the gospel. The issues at stake, issues after all, of eternal consequence, were, are, and always will be just too important to be reduced to intellectual parlour games or restricted by the protocols of academic diplomacy. Yes, interact with liberals in an informed and thoughtful manner – the church needs men and women for such a task; but please do not buy into the contemporary culture of evangelical academic protocol which leads only to a useless blurring of what is good with what is bad. Making unconditional peace with heresy should never be mistaken for a proper integration of faith and learning.”