Southwestern hosts ETS annual meeting
Southwestern Seminary hosted the annual meeting of the Southwest Region of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 31-April 1. The meeting’s primary feature was a discussion of progressive dispensationalism and progressive covenantalism. The plenary speakers were Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost at Southwestern, and Stephen Wellum, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary and editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.
Each had the opportunity to present a lecture on his respective theological viewpoint and then participate in a Q&A panel discussion with those attending the meeting. Both speakers affirmed that there is much agreement between them on major doctrinal issues, despite holding to different “theological systems.”
“We all have to emphasize the Christocentric nature of the story of the Bible that culminates in Christ. The whole thing centers in Him,” Blaising said. “I appreciate this is one concern that progressive covenantalism has tried to emphasize. I appreciate the progressive unfolding—so we share that term in common—and that there is a progression in the biblical storyline.”
Wellum added, “We’re fellow Christians, believers in Christ—those who hold to a high view of Scripture. That’s what we unite on and work hard toward. We want to see the Gospel go to the ends of the earth.”
The differences, Wellum continued, stem from how they reach their conclusions regarding biblical theology. “Much comes to how you understand the entire storyline,” Wellum explained. “So really, even though there’s agreement at many, many points, I still think there’s disagreement in terms of the plotline, with the unfolding of the narrative of Scripture from creation to consummation. … It’s how one puts those pieces together.”
Following their presentations, the two speakers fielded questions from the audience concerning what they deemed to be hermeneutical weaknesses of each other’s positions, how to interpret passages like Ezekiel 40-48 from their respective viewpoints, and how they personally arrived at the point of holding to their different systems. After this discussion, Steven James, assistant vice president for academic administration at Southwestern, noted the importance of continuing to think on such matters.
“One good question to ask is, ‘What is the application?’” James said. “We all agree that we need to understand the overall narrative of Scripture; that there is unity of the narrative; there is a story that is cohesive, coherent, consistent and continuous. What is that? That’s what we’re trying to do. And we will be better ministers and better stewards of the administrations that we’ve been given if we will understand it better.”
In addition to plenary lectures, the meeting featured 70 paper presentations on topics in such areas as theology, philosophy, biblical studies, worship studies, archaeology, ethics and counseling. Twenty-eight of these presentations were given by Southwestern professors, alumni, and current Ph.D. students.