My Time at Central States SBL- Part 1: Key Takeaways

This past weekend I attended and volunteered at the Society of Biblical Literature Central States Meeting- an academic meeting of Bible scholars in the Central US to present and dialogue about their research. I volunteered for my New Testament professor and advisor who coordinates the meeting.
Essentially, professors and graduate students read their in-progress research papers. Then other scholars participate in Q&A about the research which helps the researcher improve their paper before publication. Additionally there were several meals and a keynote speech that gave more opportunity for scholars to discuss and fellowship. I mostly observed, but it was very interesting to hear some of the dialogue going on. I will note the conference was not just for Evangelical Christians. The meeting was open to all bible scholars part of the Society of Biblical Literature. This means there was a diversity of people there- from Charismatics, Methodists, Lutherans and Baptists to Liberals, Atheists and more. Here I will talk about some of my takeaways from the conference. Read part 2 to learn about some of the research highlights:
Key Takeaways:

  • This was my first academic conference I have ever attended and I actually enjoyed the conference more than I had expected. Hopefully, I can return next year. I mostly sat in on Old Testament sessions, but listened to some of the New Testament as well. 
  •  Many of the research papers were very interesting. Some had new ideas I had never heard before and others reiterated concepts in a new fashion. What was even more interesting than the papers themselves was the Q&A surrounding the research. That is where certain points of papers were praised, elaborated upon, critiqued and challenged. 
  •  John Walton, a very prominent Old Testament scholar on ancient near eastern backgrounds was the keynote speaker. It was very interesting to get to see him in person and hear direct discussion with him regarding his ideas. Some of his ideas regarding Creation, Adam and Eve and the Flood are very controversial among other Evangelicals (he is one himself). It was very intriguing to hear some of the debate discussed in person. I do not have a nuanced enough understanding of some of the issues to have a direct opinion on them.
  •  I was amazed of the cooperation between conservatives and liberals, believers and non-believers and every other group. This was a great reminder that one can be highly intellectual and reasoned, but still be very faith-centered. Even those who do not believe in God’s work still take a great interest in the fabric of his word. Just by hearing much of the research, you may not be able to tell if it was coming from a believer or non-believer. The research seems to be relatively the same, but the point of contention is how does someone respond/ what does someone do their ideas on the Bible is what can make a life changing difference
  • Research is intended for academia. Unfortunately, scholarly content doesn’t always make its way down to the Church. The Church at large is not as engaged with Scripture as it should be. We must not forget that we owe scholars of the Bible for many of our ideas/interpretation and we must continue to rely on them. Pray for God to raise up people who love him and his Word to contribute to biblical scholasticism. 
  •  Research can be very practical- it's all about what's done with the ideas. While research is the origin of the researcher, really it is uncovering what God has already placed, hence “re-search”; searching for what is already there again. If we leave all the deep study of the Bible to scholars, however, we will personally miss out on the opportunity of God’s blessing through the Word. We have to be able to study it ourselves, because it is God’s wonderful tool that allows us to live obediently, without lacking (2 Tim 3:16-17). You can be a Christian and not read the Word, attend Church or Pray, but you will miss out on the real blessing and fulfillment in life that God is abundantly offering.


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