Monday, May 27, 2013

The 2013 Christian Scholars' Conference

Next week in Nashville, Tennessee, Lipscomb University is hosting the annual meeting of The Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars' Conference. This will be my fourth time to attend in the last five years, and it never disappoints (as I've written previously).

This year's theme is "Crises in Ethics: Theology, Business, Law and the Liberal and Fine Arts," and the plenary speakers include Charles Mathewes, John Dean, and David Miller. Further, the annual meeting of the Church of Christ Theology Students will feature an address by Yale's own John Hare. Finally, there will be two performances of the controversial David Mamet play Oleanna, and a one-night-only performance by my personal favorite, TOKENS, led as always by the inimitable Lee Camp.

I have a packed schedule in terms of my own responsibilities this year.

First, I will be delivering a paper in a session on Thursday afternoon dedicated to "Ethical Teaching in the Petrine Epistles." The paper is titled "Patiently Awaiting the Death and Resurrection of the Universe: Eschatological Memory and Ecological Ethics in 2 Peter 3:1-13." It should be fun—we'll see what the text folks make of a theologian reading the Bible! Here's the abstract:
This paper considers the (in)famous passage of the earth's “burning up” in 2 Peter 3:1-13. It proceeds in three steps. First, an exegetical reading that situates the image of God’s coming judgment in relation to the flood—which purified, not annihilated. Second, a theological explication that connects divine judgment to the wider scriptural notion of longed-for divine justice as well as the christological shape of God’s eschatological liberation-through-judgment. Third, a proposal regarding the content of the church’s witness in a world of unabated ecological destruction, finding in this text a resource rather than a hindrance for faithful care of creation.
Second, I will be moderating a session on Friday afternoon titled "Faith in Public: A Conversation Between John Hare and Charles Mathewes on Religious Commitment, Christian Ethics, and Political Engagement." This should be a blast; I basically get to facilitate two brilliant theological-ethical minds discussing Christians and politics. In other words, a nice way to spend an afternoon. Here's the abstract:
This conversation between Professors Hare and Mathewes will focus on the often volatile intersection of “religion” and “politics.” Specifically, the session will reflect on issues relating to public political engagement on the part of Christians in the American context. Some of these include: the role of religious commitments in political advocacy; the relationship between ecclesial communities and public policy; the contribution(s) which formal Christian ethics has to make in this realm; potential limits on Christian political engagement; abiding disagreement among Christians on matters of principle or strategy; the current state of politicized Christianity and hopes and fears for its future.
Finally, I will have the pleasure of introducing John Hare to the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Church of Christ Theology Students (previous guest scholars include Bruce Marshall, David Bentley Hart, and Gregory Sterling). His address it titled "Three Arguments for the Dependence of Morality Upon Religion," to which Lauren Smelser White, a PhD student in theological studies at Vanderbilt, will offer a response. Here's the abstract:
This paper gives three arguments for the dependence of morality upon religion, "the argument from Providence," "the argument from Grace," and "the argument from Justification." The first argument is that morality becomes rationally unstable if we do not have a way to assure ourselves, through belief in God, that morality and happiness are consistent. The second argument is that we are born preferring ourselves to the demands of morality, and reversing this priority needs assistance from outside ourselves. The third argument is that we need some answer to the question "Why should I be moral?". The religious answer to this question is that God calls us to it.
There are about a thousand other things happening during the conference, not least of which is the sheer proliferation of brilliant scholars presenting original research or responding to others'. Just a few include—and many of these are friends—Joe Gordon, Spencer Bogle (whose theological Padawan I am), David Mahfood, Mark Lackowski, (Yoderian master) John Nugent, Matt Tapie, (force of nature) Richard Beck, Shaun Casey, Joel Brown, James Thompson, Carl Holladay, (the one and only) Jimmy McCarty, Branson Parler, Ron Clark, Richard Hughes, (renowned shortform man of letters) Chris Dowdy, Vic McCracken, (all-around superwoman) Jennifer Thweatt-Bates, Trevor Thompson, Gregory Sterling, John Willis, John Senior, Vadim Kochetkov, Joe Kauslick, Jarrod Longbons, Leonard Allen, Royce Money, Carson Reed, Stuart Love, Thomas Olbricht, Rodney Ashlock, Larry James, M. Eugene Boring, David Scobey, (the delightful) Tracy Shilcutt, Ken Cukrowski, Mark Powell, John Mark Hicks, Eric Magnusson, Mark Cullum, Paul DeHart, Ron Highfield, Mark Wiebe, Lauren Smelser White, Justin Barringer, Randy Harris, John Barton, Steven Kraftchick, and more.

That's a lot of good people. See you there.


  1. Brad, you and I need to do a session sometime on a/theism, its possibilities and its problems.

  2. Remembering how Jesus was ignored by the big talking apologists/boosters of the ecclesiastical establishment of his time and place - they even conspired to have him brutally murdered or made off scene - I wonder what would happen to all of these scholars if Jesus or some other radiantly alive saint happened to walk into the auditorium when the opening/welcoming address was being made.
    Assuming of course he or she could get past the security.

  3. Richard,

    Yes, please. Tell me when and where and I'll be there.

  4. Brad,

    Will any of it be recorded or telecast?


  5. Kara,

    Not to my knowledge. Sorry!