Evangelical Theological Society’s Annual Meeting Focuses on the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit theme of the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting provided a venue for application of Scripture’s teaching on the Holy Spirit to a variety of disciplines.

According to a count by Baptist Press, a quarter of the presentations (some 190 of 750) were offered by scholars with ties to Southern Baptist churches, Southern Baptist Convention entities and colleges that partner with Baptist state conventions.

The 2,700 participants at the Nov. 13-15 meeting in Denver marked the second highest ETS attendance ever, the society told Baptist Press.

Among Southern Baptists involved in ETS leadership, David Dockery, president of Trinity International University, completed his one-year term as president. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. was elected vice president in Denver, and Southern Seminary professor Gregg Allison was reelected secretary.

Professors from all six SBC seminaries presented papers at ETS, with many focusing on the meeting’s Holy Spirit theme.

Spirit’s deity established

Michael Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality at Southern, presented one of the conference’s three plenary addresses. His focus was fourth-century discussions of the Holy Spirit, which eventuated in the Council of Constantinople’s famous confession of the Spirit’s deity.

While experience and political realities played a role in patristic theologians’ views on the Holy Spirit, Haykin wrote in a manuscript of his presentation, “even a casual perusal of” fourth-century writings on the Spirit “reveals the utter centrality of Scripture in their argumentation.”

Basil of Caesarea (330-379), a chief proponent of the Holy Spirit’s deity, drew on a variety of biblical passages, Haykin wrote. Among them:

— Matthew 28:19 “ranks the Spirit together with the Father and the Son.”

— 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 ascribes the term “Lord” to the Holy Spirit, “indisputable proof of the excellence of the Spirit’s glory.”

— 1 Corinthians 12:3 teaches “knowledge of God does not come through an intermediary like an angel, but is given by God.” Because the Holy Spirit gives knowledge of God, He “must therefore be divine.”

For fourth-century theologians, Haykin wrote, “the Holy Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, must be confessed as ‘the Lord, the Life-giver.'”

Edwards a Baptist?

Chris Chun, associate professor of church history at Gateway Seminary, presented a paper speculating that renowned New England theologian Jonathan Edwards may have had Baptist leanings — though he publicly maintained his belief in infant baptism. Edwards (1703-58) was a leader in the First Great Awakening and often is viewed as one of America’s greatest theologians.

“The descriptor ‘Proto-Baptist,’ even at the risk of being indicted for making Edwards into my own image, made sense to me because he was not fully Baptist,” Chun wrote. “Nevertheless, the case can be put forth that he had all the necessary pieces to make the journey.”

Edwards rejected a practice of New England Congregationalists known as the half-way covenant, by which non-believers presented their children for infant baptism and took the Lord’s Supper. “Edwards’s rejection of this scheme, I think,” Chun wrote, “closely resembles a concept known as the ‘believer’s church,’ a hallmark of Baptist ecclesiology.”

Why didn’t Edwards, then, embrace Baptist views on baptism? He may have regarded baptism as too “small” an issue to think about; he may have taken infant baptism “for granted”; and he may have been afraid to associate with Baptists because they were “an unpopular minority movement in Rhode Island,” Chun wrote.

Still, Edwards’ affirmation of infant baptism “at least should have an asterisk next to it,” Chun wrote.

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Source: Baptist Press