2017 EFCA Theology Conference focuses on Reformation legacy
Trinity CommunicationsFebruary 07, 2017
More than 300 pastors and scholars attended the Evangelical Free Church of America’s 2017 Theology Conference Feb. 1–3 on the campus of Trinity International University.
The presentations featured speakers invited to campus from a variety of evangelical institutions as well as Trinity faculty. The conference theme, “Reformation 500: Theology and Legacy – God’s Gospel and the EFCA,” was timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which will be celebrated among Protestants throughout the calendar year.
Among the highlights of the conference were seven teaching sessions focused on the Reformation, a financial workshop, and a presentation about whether or not Scripture speaks to the age of the universe.
The creation presentation featured C. John (Jack) Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary and a scholar-in-residence this year at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), along with R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Their discussion, titled “Does Scripture speak about the age of the universe?” was part of the Creation Project, a three-year program at TEDS. The Templeton Religion Trust funds the project.
Both Mohler and Collins agreed that the question before them was not a matter of first-order theological orthodoxy, even if it does raise questions about other issues that lean into essentials of the faith.
Mohler argued an “old earth” interpretation opens the door for potentially dangerous theological compromises, and is not in keeping with the consensus of the historic church.
Collins countered that Scripture does not fully answer the age question, and is therefore irrelevant when interpreting the creation account.
After putting forth initial arguments, Trinity College Professor of Philosophy Chris Firestone moderated a panel discussion between Collins and Mohler.
“We thank our two participants today for an irenic, illuminating, informative and edifying conversation,” Trinity President David S. Dockery said after the program concluded. “We acknowledge that the differences expressed today were neither matters of evangelical identity nor tests of fellowship.”
Mohler also presented one of the teaching sessions on Thursday. The title for his address, “Faith Alone Justifies, yet the Faith which Justifies is not Alone,” is a quote from John Calvin.
“Justification by faith alone is the ultimate subversion of religion,” Mohler said. “It tears down every edifice of human pride, human ambition, and every claim of human righteousness. And therefore, it’s even awkward for us.”
Two other visiting scholars also led teaching sessions. Stephen J. Wellum, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, presented “Solus Christus as Central to the Reformation Solas,” and Kenneth N. Young, professor of systematic theology and Christian ministries at the University of Northwestern (Minn.), presented “The Reformation, Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms.”
Among the TEDS faculty leading teaching sessions were Research Professor of New Testament D. A. Carson (“The Heart of the Reformation: Justification”), Assistant Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology David J. Luy (“The Heidelberg Disputation: The Theology of the Cross Versus The Theology of Glory”), Research Professor of Systematic Theology Kevin J. Vanhoozer (“The Reformation, Sola Scriptura and Tradition”), and Professor of Church History Scott M. Manetsch.
Manetsch spoke on “The Extent of the Reformation’s Reform: Word, Church, Ministry and Worship.” In examining various works of art, Manetsch noted that only one in 10 Europeans could read at that time.
“Protestant art served as a clarion call to arms,” Manetsch said, “to a vision of what the Church could be, of what the church should be.”
The conference opened with a financial workshop aimed at helping pastors. Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, discussed issues of trust, accountability, and integrity in his first presentation. A second session brought updates on current issues such as IRS tax laws, religious liberties and a “view from Washington.”
Conference participants also heard from Dockery and EFCA President Kevin Kompelien, who spoke to a dinner gathering about the importance of the relationship between Trinity and the EFCA. Both leaders have been working closely in recent months to forge a stronger partnership.