This past week (during October 2009) I attended the 61st annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, held in New Orleans, Louisiana. The ETS, which is exactly what its name suggests, now has over 4,200 members, most being teachers in Christian colleges, universities or seminaries, the rest of us serving in other venues also prepared by God. I joined the ETS nearly 40 years ago, have had three articles published in its Journal, and served one year as a regional officer. Although I keep up with the state of evangelical theological scholarship through the Society’s 224-page quarterly Journal, I had not attended an annual meeting for at least 15-20 years.
The best part of an ETS meeting is the people, which is also the worst part, to tell the honest truth. Most ETS members are humble, open-minded folk who manifest a good attitude and demonstrate the Berean spirit (Acts 17:11-12). Among those, I cherished visits this year with my dear friend Ron Highfield (Pepperdine University), 35-year acquaintances Aida and William Spencer (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Gerry Breshears (Western Seminary), Hebrews commentary endorsers George Guthrie (Union University) and Jonathan Watt (Geneva College), and new friends Robert Clouse (Indiana State University) and Philip and Nancy Payne (Edmonds, Washington), as well as my gracious friend and Two Views of Hell co-author, Robert Peterson (Covenant Seminary), among many others.
Then there are the other kind of scholarly academicians, who will go unnamed here, but whose names will remain in my mind as examples of what Christian scholars and teachers should not be. When I sought potential endorsers for my Hebrews commentary last year before it was published, only one person was rude in his refusal. Seeing him on the program this week, I attended his first session in hopes of meeting him afterward and perhaps even gaining a friend. However, his presentation and his presiding during questions afterward left no doubt that he saw himself as the final authority in his field, and that he had little time for anyone who held a different opinion. His session ended, and I left the lecture room without a word.
The greatest among you is the one who serves, said Jesus. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up, Paul wrote. God has told us what matters most to him. It turns out to be the way we think about ourselves and others, and, based on those attitudes, how we treat and relate to other people. And that, let us forever remember, dear gracEmail family, is not simply a matter of degrees.