Wheaton Theology Conference 2014: Some Highlights

A couple weeks ago (April 3-4) Wheaton had a theology conference titled The Spirit of God: Christian Renewal in the Community of Faith. It was my first time at Wheaton, and I enjoyed seeing the blog boss' alma mater. Also, I got to meet Travis' "co-conspirator" David Congdon, and though the conversation was brief it was great, and it was great to meet him.

My main reason for going was to meet Michael Welker, who presented near the end of the conference. I've been described as a "fan boy" of his work, so you probably aren't shocked to hear me say that he did a great job. It seems almost a certainty that he will be a major part of my dissertation, so meeting and having lunch with him was surreal and a thrill. I've written about Welker on the blog previously: here's a good place to start.

I would say that overall the conference was positive, though as is probably always the case, there were highs and lows as far as the presentations were concerned. Since I want to write about Welker's doctrine of the Holy Spirit here at some point, I'm skipping his presentation for now. Instead, here are a few themes, highlights, etc from the conference:

  • As the link above makes clear, the conference was about Pentecostalism in part, and more than one Pentecostal thinker presented. Dr. Douglas Petersen's presentation focused on how the word and stories can enable social justice, and he shared several moving examples from the lives of children.
  • Dr. Oliver Crisp's presentation, "Towards a Reformed Pneumatology," was interesting, primarily due to the Q & A afterward. More than one questioner wanted to discuss the viability of certain gifts of the spirit and "cessationism." It was interesting that these questions were directed to Dr. Crisp because he made it clear that he was trying to make some room for those types of gifts (and in doing so he was not completely walking in step with his own tradition). While I would not describe the Q & A exchanges as aggressive or unproductive, these exchanges did sort of hint at some tensions. I don't know enough about these tensions, so please feel free to fill me in by commenting below.
  • Finally, I want to mention the presentation of President Estrelda Alexander. In addition to being a compelling speaker, she offered some ways to understand her tradition, African American Pentecostalism, that were quite helpful to me, as someone who was ignorant of it. Perhaps the most interesting notion was "tarrying," an essential part of the church service where the women who lead the church help determine whether someone is really speaking in tongues through discernment. This seems to correct an impression many have of Pentecostalism (at least with respect to the African American branch) as having no concern for order or accountability.

Those are only a few highlights, but hopefully they provide a bit of the flavor of the conference.

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