Three Things I Learned at ETS/EPS

Since I started working for Stand to Reason, I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) annual meeting. This meeting runs alongside the Evangelical Philosophical Society’s (EPS) annual meeting. These meetings are in a different city each year and take place in a giant conference center with hundreds of attendees. During ETS/EPS, theologians, philosophers, and apologists all gather to hear academic papers on a host of topics.

ETS/EPS is one of the highlights of my year. For me, it provides an opportunity to learn from intellectual giants, build relationships with likeminded Christians, and encourage—and be encouraged by—saints who are on the front lines.

I always leave ETS/EPS feeling energized for another year of ministry. As a result, it has come to play a significant part in my spiritual endurance and growth.

As I reflected on this year’s meeting, three takeaways came to mind.

First, we have a deep bench.

There are a lot of smart people proclaiming and defending the gospel. However, if you only listened to the media and Hollywood, you might get the impression that Christians are a bunch of buffoons—in addition to being intolerant bigots. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Christianity has a rich intellectual tradition. And many contemporary Christian scholars are carrying on that tradition. These include Wayne Grudem, William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, Michael Heiser, Michael Licona, N.T. Wright, J.P. Moreland, and Gary Habermas.

But there are many more than this “starting lineup.” We have a deep bench of experienced philosophers and theologians most people have never heard of. They aren’t well known. They don’t have best-selling books. But they are producing critical contributions to their respective fields of study.

Furthermore, it was encouraging to see so many young Christian apologists at the meeting. These are young men and women who are hungry to learn from Christian scholars with the hope of disseminating this information to a wider audience.

Second, we have a common faith.

There were many different views represented at ETS/EPS. There were creationists and evolutionists, Calvinists and Arminians, annihilationists and traditionalists, just to name a few. Yet, despite all of our tertiary differences, we are united in Christ.

As I talked with brothers and sisters I disagreed with, Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus entered my mind:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:4–6)

When we disagree with someone—even a fellow Christian—we can unintentionally think of him or her as the enemy. This thinking breeds disunity in the body of Christ. ETS/EPS is a yearly reminder that even in the midst of meaningful disagreement, we share a common faith.

Third, we have a lot to learn.

ETS/EPS is an academic meeting where I learn a lot. By the end of each day, I am intellectually exhausted. Probably the most important thing I learn is that I have a lot to learn.

Attending ETS/EPS is a humbling experience. In some cases, it has helped strengthen my convictions. However, it has also helped weaken some of my convictions by identifying areas of misplaced confidence.

Our goal as apologists is truth. This requires the humility to admit where we’ve been wrong.

So, what did I learn at ETS/EPS? We have Christian scholars doing incredible work in important academic fields. This work aids apologists as they serve on the front lines. We have Christian unity. Although we may differ on many tertiary beliefs, there are fundamental convictions that unite us. And—above all—we need Christian humility.

Tim Barnett

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