I got back from the ETS conference late last night. It was a long day (flight 1: Milwaukee to Toronto; flight 2: Toronto to Winnipeg; flight 3: Winnipeg to Edmonton). But it was a very good conference. I heard some fascinating papers (and some forgettable ones). The two most interesting papers that I heard were delivered by William Lane Craig and Meghan Sullivan. Craig’s paper was focused on the problem of reconciling God’s role as creator with the existence of abstract objects. Sullivan’s paper (Sullivan is a philosopher at Notre Dame) focused on the problem of semantic drift and semantic pollution that occurs with terms over time (assuming a causal theory of reference). For example, she points out that “Madagascar” used to refer to a section of the mainland of the African continent. Eventually it was extended to the island. And finally it came to refer only to the island. This gives rise to a concern that theological terms like “God” can also “drift” over time to such an extent that a belief community might eventually be using the same language but with completely different referents from an earlier time. It is a fascinating problem and one well worthy of close study.
I picked up several books at the conference and will probably blog about them in the weeks to come, among them William Webb’s Corporal Punishment in the Bible (IVP Academic, 2011), Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible (Brazos, 2011) and David T. Lamb’s God Behaving Badly (IVP, 2011). But the most promising purchase of all may be Craig Keener’s two volume, 1100 page tome on miracles from New Testament times to today, simply titled Miracles (Baker, 2011). The work is being lauded as the greatest treatment of miracles ever (yes, ever), and encompasses biblical exegesis, history, philosophy and apologetics in one magisterial treatment of the topic. As Richard Baukham succinctly observes in his blurb: “So who’s afraid of Hume now?”
Interestingly, since I have a literary agent as my legal representative I can’t freely meet with editors about book proposals like most authors. However, I did have a good general discussion with one of my editors from Baker and was heartened to hear of their interest in my latest proposal (sent through my agent) on God and coincidence. The editor also mentioned that Baker would be interested if I were to write an academic monograph. I haven’t published an academic monograph since my 2009 book Theology in Search of Foundations, and that comment got me to thinking that I’d like to take up another project like that. Unfortunately it will be awhile before I can get to it since I have to finish my book on God and conincidence and a two volume work of church history devotionals for Zondervan (with my friend Kelly Kapic) before I can start any new projects. However, I did come to realize that I miss doing academic work. Trade paperbacks are enormously satisfying to write, but I do miss academic writing. And I know the project I’m going to take on: a multidisciplinary study on killing. (After that I’d love to return to my trade paperback book on ghosts.)
To sum up, ETS did what I hoped it would do: renew friendships and recharge my batteries for the academy. Now back to the real world of marking papers, washing dishes and picking up dog poop in the backyard.