on Monday, April 11, 2022

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College hosted this year’s Southwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological and the Evangelical Philosophical Societies, April 1-2. With 29 NOBTS-associated presenters, the seminary was well-represented academically.  

“As Christians, we are called to think seriously about God, about Scripture, and about ourselves,” said Charlie Ray III, assistant professor of New Testament and Greek and the event’s program chair. “Conferences like these provide the opportunity to engage in scholarship in such a way that we can sharpen one another for the sake of becoming more faithful servants of God.”

Representing NOBTS were eight faculty members, three Ph.D. graduates, 16 current Ph.D. students, one administrator and two adjunct faculty members. The NOBTS presenters spoke on topics related to theology, biblical studies, philosophy, ethics, ministry and worship.

Keynote speaker for the event was Klyne Snodgrass, professor emeritus of New Testament Studies at North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago. Snodgrass is the author of many highly acclaimed books including “You Need a Better Gospel: Reclaiming the Good News of Participation with Christ” and “Who God Says You Are: A Christian Understanding of Identity.” 

The conference theme of the two-day event was Who am I? Christian Reflections on the Universal Struggle for Identity, a topic Ray said was timely.

“In a day when society tells us that we get to define our own identity, it’s important to be reminded that it is God who gives us our identity, and we are called to help others see themselves in light of what God says,” Ray said.


Here are highlights from three of the presentations.

Adam Harwood, professor of theology, proposed a “doctrine as diamonds” model for judging the weight of doctrinal questions, a model fashioned somewhat after the rubric used to judge a diamond’s cut, carat, color and clarity.

Some doctrines are of “first-order” importance such as Jesus’ humanity and divinity, Harwood noted. “Second-order” doctrines are essential to church life but not the gospel, and “third-order” doctrines are non-essential to either, he explained.

Harwood’s model considers a doctrine’s historical weight by looking at the attention it garnered from pivotal councils and historians; its frequency and clarity in scripture; and the doctrine’s pastoral relevance as it resonates with biblically-literate and healthy congregations.

"If the ‘doctrine as diamonds’ model is employed with humility and the examiner considers biblical, historical, and local-church beliefs and practices rather than cultural or isolated beliefs or practices, then perhaps unnecessary theological disputes can be minimized, and necessary theological discussions can be identified and advanced,” Harwood said.  

Cory Barnes, associate professor of Old Testament, pointed to Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15 as a starting point for a biblical theology of the Sabbath that urges God’s people to memorialize His creative and saving work by modeling God’s character.

“If we are to practice sabbath as members of the kingdom ruled by the Son of Man, then we must recognize that his lordly role over sabbath leads us not to the cold legalism of the Pharisees nor the ignorance of the fourth commandment so prevalent among our churches,” Barnes told listeners. “Jesus rules over the Sabbath the Old Testament reveals to us, which shapes us to the identity of our creator and deliverer.”

Joe Waller, a current Ph.D. student in theology, considered 19th century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s writings regarding Abraham’s offering up of his son Isaac to show that Kierkegaard believed Abraham acted out of faith and love for God.

“Abraham’s test of faith, after Kierkegaard, is no longer simply a victory of obedience but a weighty challenge to human ethics, one which demands serious thought in light of the prevailing ethical standards of Kierkegaard’s day,” Waller said. “Kierkegaard shows that the individual’s relationship to God may at times be called outside of the realm of the ethical and that obedience to such calls requires a movement of faith. True faith, however, will be grounded in love and justified by love.”

Other faculty presenters included Archie England, Jeff Audirsch, Jessica McMillan, Dennis Cole, Robert Stewart, and Steve Lemke.

The Ph.D. student presenters represented a wide range of majors including theology, biblical interpretation, Old Testament, New Testament, and counseling.