Why I Attended the Bible Faculty Summit

Last week I attended the Bible Faculty Summit, held this year at Appalachian Bible College. I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship, the papers, and the hospitality shown by the school (and particularly the faculty liaison, John Rinehart).

It was something of a grueling trip across the country, however, and my wife had to hold down a very busy fort during my absence. Why did I go?

Because of a comment made to me after it was over by a PhD student in attendance. He said (and this is a paraphrase): “I’ve been out of classes for a year or so, and even though I’m still in the program, life and church ministry and work have been atrophied some of the academic biblical studies impulse I used to feel. The Summit reinvigorated my love for and interest in academic study of Scripture.”

That’s it. That’s why I help organize this event, and why I always attend—and have twisted the arms of several other younger guys to make sure they didn’t miss it.

The particular slice of the church served by the BFS desperately needs this event, even if it doesn’t know it does. The continued existence of it is a testimony not merely, I think, to relational ties that bind people with similar upbringings but to the validity of a certain set of values and ideas that need institutional support and articulation. When this little meeting dies, a signal testimony to the validity and necessity of those values dies with it.

But a great thing about the BFS is that the papers are on a wide variety of constructive topics; in none of my four Summits have I heard people beating drums. If anything, my own paper came the closest to engaging merely parochial concerns: I made an explicit “political” appeal to the attendees to change their approach to combating the doctrinal cancer of King James Onlyism. But it isn’t a secret, not a conspiracy. Anyone who wants to know can listen to the paper here. (Or they can read about it here when my book comes out in a few months.)

I also go because my papers help me and help my work. I discovered long ago as a student and then as a writer that it’s good for me to have deadlines. Whenever I’m way too busy to write something, a deadline somehow makes that something magically appear. A hard deadline involving reading that something to a group makes it magically appear on time. All the papers I have written for the Summit (or anything else) have helped me tremendously in my work at BJU Press and now at Faithlife, and all I did was write about what interested me at the time: Stanley Fish, the impossibility of true secularism, and ἀρσενοκοίτης in BDAG. This year I wrote about New Tools for Teaching Textual Criticism to Laypeople. Not as academic as the other topics I’ve done, but just as fun. And having to present to a group of smart people put pressure on me to dig below the surface.

I enjoyed other papers at the Summit, too:

  • I organized a little “debate” between Scott Aniol and Brian Collins on Christianity and culture which was stimulating and excellent and gracious and boy-do-I-wish-I-had-recorded-it-that-was-a-major-mistake-sorry-folks.
  • Kyle Dunham shared with us some of his work on intertextuality between Ecclesiastes and Deuteronomy, work which complements his commentary for Lexham’s Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series. He’s good; he does his homework.
  • C.J. Harris told us the story of the first Genevan/Huguenot foreign mission in the Reformation era. I was sad to hear it was something of a flop, but glad to know this story of which I was hitherto completely ignorant.
  • Mark Sidwell gave another church history paper on another aspect of the Reformation of which I was completely unaware: Katherine Zell, the wife of a pastor and a feisty writer and Bible teacher in her own right. Very interesting.
  • Troy Manning discussed literacy in biblical times. I wish we had more solid information on that issue, but it was still profitable. I found it particularly stimulating to hear his critiques of the orality movement.

I’ll just stop there having given the papers that first occurred to me, but the others did solid work, too. If you are a PhD or PhD student within that little slice of the church I inhabit—you know who you are—then you should come next year around the first week of August (date and location TBD, but SC is a leading possibility =).

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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