Reflections from ETS 2014: Rejuvenation and Renovation

ETS is the Evangelical Theological Society. This year the annual meeting was in San Diego, CA. The weather was delightful, the meeting much more so.

I go to ETS to get mentally rejuvenated -- hear papers on cutting edge research, see the latest books from conservative publishers, meet scholars whose names and works I've read, reconnect with friends from scholarly community. 

I also go to ETS to be humbled. Being a prof at a small school makes it relatively easy to lose sight of how much I don't know. 

Wow, my ignorance is profound! It's good for me, and it's good for my students that I be reminded of how much there is to know, and how little of it that I know.

The most humbling aspect of this year's conference came during breakfast with Dad. He was commenting on Christ's condescension, his kenosis (self-emptying / self-humbling; Phil. 2:5-8). I felt almost physically punched as I contemplated the Omniscient One, the Source and Sustainer of all reality and thus of all truth, becoming ... what? a scholar, with academic recognition and lots of publications? a sage whose profound wisdom was sought out by the elite of his day? Hardly. No, not a scholar, not a sage. A servant. A menial laborer most of whose earthly life was lived in obscurity.

He was so unremarkable a person that when he came home to Nazareth and preached his Isa. 61 sermon (Luke 4), they were incredulous and then offended. “Who does he think he is?! He's just the son of Joseph. We know his mother, brothers, and sisters. He's nothing special! Certainly not the Lord's ‘Anointed!’”

ETS is a place where desire for academic prestige and recognition can be awakened and fostered. It's not that the "have's" flout it. It's just that the "have's" have it and the "have not's" don't. If you get my drift.

Jesus calls us to follow him in self-sacrificial obedience, daily cross-bearing, lowly service in the place of his choosing. All that we are is by God's grace. A truism. Yet, it is equally true that all God has not chosen for us flows from His goodness and grace. 

Like James and John, who set their eyes on things far beyond them (Mark 10:35-40), Jesus would say to us, "Be satisfied with my goodness and wisdom in where I place you and where I don't." 

I would reply, by His grace, "Thank you, Jesus. Not what I wish to be, or where I wish to go ... the Lord shall choose for me, 'tis better far I know. Continue Your work of renovation!"


Amitava Dutta said…
It is such a good reminder of what we are going through right now that he is in control. Thank you for sharing your experiences. When a man of your caliber humbles himself it goes to show that Christ's love goes beyond any knowledge.
Mark Cravens said…
Dr. Phil, thanks for posting these remarks and your experience at ETS. Most of all, thanks for sharing your heart and calling all of us to consider the One who humbled Himself on our behalf.
Mark Cravens said…
Thank you for sharing your experience at ETS and your thoughts upon the Christ's condescension. Your remarks brought a feeling of deep gratitude in my heart as I read your comments regarding our incomparable Christ.

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