The Bible Faculty Summit is an annual gathering of professors in the biblical and theological disciplines. These individuals represent the colleges and seminaries of mainstream or normal fundamentalism. This year’s meeting hosted faculty from ten institutions, plus several independent scholars who hold research degrees.
The Bible Faculty Summit has been held every year since 1995, with the exception of 2013. It was started at the instigation of Bob Jones III, then president of Bob Jones University, and David Doran, chancellor of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. These two individuals saw a need for a venue that would provide for intellectual exchange among fundamentalist schools.
The summit meets on a different campus every year. It has been hosted three times each by Bob Jones University, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, twice by Maranatha Baptist Bible College (now University), and four times by Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary. Through the years it has also met at Clearwater Christian College, Piedmont Baptist College, Northland Baptist Bible College, Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania, and Pillsbury Baptist Bible College.
Several of the schools that once participated in the faculty summit have subsequently closed. Consequently, the number of participants is smaller than it once was. So is the number of potential meeting sites. This places an extra burden on host institutions, both administratively and financially. Different schools have volunteered from year to year with the host institution doing all of the planning for the event. At last year’s meeting, however, a permanent committee was formed to provide assistance in coordination and communication. There has also been some discussion of finding outside funding for the event—approximately $10,000 each year.
Most of the attendees already participate in a variety of learned societies. Many hold membership in the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society for Biblical Literature. Some are involved with the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the American Society of Church History, and the American Academy of Religion. A few belong to more esoteric organizations. Through these societies, fundamentalist professors remain in contact with their disciplines. The meetings of the Bible Faculty Summit are structured much like the meetings of the learned societies. They offer an opportunity for fundamentalist scholars to share information and perspective with others who share their fundamentalist convictions. Consequently, they provide something that cannot be found through any other academic venue.
Additionally, the Bible Faculty Summit brings together professors from the whole range of biblical and theological disciplines. Its attendees include both Old and New Testament exegetes, systematic and biblical theologians, church historians, homileticians, missiologists, biblical counselors, and others. Attendees are exposed to their colleagues’ work from all of these areas.
This year’s meeting was held on Wednesday and Thursday, August 5-6. The host institution was Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis. Each day began at 8:00 with a devotional study. Subsequently, papers were presented in six sessions through the rest of the day and evening. Plenty of break time was planned during the day, allowing professors from the various schools opportunity for personal interaction.
The topics of the papers were quite varied. Tim Miller of Detroit Seminary compared C. S. Lewis’s understanding of Mere Christianity to Richard Baxter’s. Ryan Martin, an independent scholar, presented a paper dealing with the ethics of using marijuana. Paul Himes, a teacher from Baptist College of Ministry, encouraged the attendees to consider the ramifications of patriotic Christianity. His father, John Himes, read a paper on translation theory. Ph.D. student Eric White read a presentation on ritual impurity in Leviticus 12.
These are only samples of the topics that were discussed. The others were just as varied. The mix of scholars in the room allowed for critique from across the biblical disciplines, one of the most valuable features of the gathering.
The faculty summit also offers a deeper dimension. The institutions that are involved certainly are not carbon copies of each other. Every school has its own unique features and perspectives, and each is facing its own challenges. There are even significant theological differences between the participants. While they are all fundamentalists, they are Baptists, Presbyterians, and Wesleyans, Calvinists and Arminians, dispensationalists and covenant theologians. This mix creates a unique opportunity: it gives the professors an off-the-record venue to share their challenges and concerns with their peers in other schools. Everybody leaves with a pretty good idea of what is happening in the sister institutions. One result of these conversations is that these teachers care deeply and pray intelligently for one another.
At the present moment, mainstream, normal fundamentalism is unraveling. The Bible Faculty Summit is a kind of knot that helps to tie the remnants of the movement together. It is a place for encouraging commitment to core ideas, for sharing concerns between institutions, for fostering and strengthening personal relationships, for challenging one another in the life of the mind, and for encouraging each other in the pursuit of the biblical and theological disciplines. For these reasons, it is an event that deserves to be perpetuated for years to come.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
In One Fraternal Bond of Love
James Montgomery (1771–1854)
In one fraternal bond of love,
One fellowship of mind,
The saints below and saints above
Their bliss and glory find.
Here, in their house of pilgrimage,
Thy statutes are their song;
There, through one bright, eternal age,
Thy praises they prolong.
Lord, may our union form a part
Of that thrice happy whole,
Derive its pulse from Thee, the heart,
Its life from Thee, the soul.