Imagine yourself in one hotel with over 3000 academicians. Scary. Every November, I join these elite to network, hear papers, present papers, and workout (a nice early morning diversion from the brainfield). At any given moment, some thirty papers are being presented by theologs in various rooms, salons, as well as the grand ballroom. Speakers typically have 30 minutes to present their research and ideas, followed by a ten minute Q&A, and then ten minutes to get to the next presentation. This goes on all day, and it is designed to basically fry your brain (unless you use the conference as a cover and lounge in your room for three days—or mainly meet with colleagues to lament the fact the pastor’s sermon obviously missed the clear exegetical outline right there in the text).
Each year, I play the odds that there will be a couple of papers worth the trip—getting up at 3:00 am for the early flight, riding a one hour MAX ride to the airport with the seven other poor souls, boarding a plane after being practically strip searched, hearing those wonderful words, “Folks we have full flight today” facing at least three screaming babies, flying 6 hours on one bag of pretzels and a cranberry juice, working through the masses to find a train to the hotel, and finally walking the streets to find a decent restaurant before going to bed.
But it is more than worth the effort, given that there are life changing presentations to engage with. Every year, I peruse the offerings and determine the top ten (or twelve or fourteen, but who’s counting?). Here are this year’s—in no particular order:
- Reinvigorating the Erotic? The Etiology of Sexual Desire and the Authority of Beauty (who says theologians are stiff, lifeless bores? This should be one hot conference)
- A Misguided Debate: Interpretation Is Neither Literal Nor Figurative (this could really open up Scripture, solving so many theological debates)
- The Third Person Pronoun in Verbless Nominal Clauses: Separating Pronoun or Copula (these are the sort of papers that cause me to question my decision not to major in linguistics)
- Tranhumanism as Eschatology (instead I majored in systematic theology, but I have no idea what this is about)
- Personality in Marriage: A Christian Appraisal of the Suffocation Marriage Model (a little unsure what this is about, but my wife will probably explain it)
- Spatial Extension as a Necessary Condition for Being a Physical Object (this gives new meaning to “he likes his space”)
- Live as Though You Have No Wife (I Cor. 7:29) What Was Paul Thinking? (given all my recent travels, getting a book to publisher, and trying to pastor and teach, I know what Paul was thinking)
- The Theological Meaning of the Targumic Memra, Shekinah, and Yeqara and Their Use in the New Testament (whenever my church board even questions the importance of this conference, papers like this assure them of their investment)
- Biblical King Og and the Ugaritic Deity Rapi’u: Sorting out Two Figures in Light of the Rephaim and the Toponyms Ashtaroth and Edrei (again, I can confidently say to my board, “I rest my case”)
- Is Real Transformation Possible? John 1:51 and Jesus’ Provocative Answer (good God, what is this about? Wait, this was my paper)
- What Does (and Does Not) the Piel Stem Mean? An Analysis of Every Piel Occurrence and Corresponding Qal in the Bible (Hebrew students fantasize over such papers. If only I could have been there)
- Can These Dry Bones Live? Reflections on a Journey of Hip Hop Theological Engagement (who knew Ezekiel could be so hip? I am definitely re-reading chapters 37-38)
- God’s Love Language In Scripture, or Why Speed Dating Doesn’t Work with God (honestly, I am not sure where this is going, but I wish I did)
- God Loves Sex: Hope and Warnings from the Song of Songs (these are the papers that cause one to wish he had brought his spouse)
I am on my way back refreshed and renewed. If only the conference could be monthly.