My 2018 ETS Conference Experience

So, in Denver, Colorado, there was held the 70th Annual Evangelical Theological Society Conference (or ETS Conference for short). This is the first ETS conference I have ever attended. I was able to attend this conference thanks to the unbelievable generosity of my friend David Parrish who paid for all of my expenses except for several books I bought at the conference, and a couple of Soveneirs I got at the Denver airport on our way back. In this article, I would like to tell you about my experience in chronological order to the best that my memory serves me.

The Trip To Colorado

So, when I was discussing flight plans with David Parrish over Messenger, I chose a flight out of Atlanta to Denver at around 9:00am. My plan was to be driven down to Atlanta from South Carolina and board the flight in Atlanta. We have an airport in Greenville of course, but they almost always take you to switch flights in either Charlotte NC’s airport or Atlanta GA’s airport. So, whenever my family has flown in the past (which was only once when I was 4 years old), we just took a 2-hour drive to one of these airports. After all, we’re going to end up there and have to take a plane from there anyway. However, my mother informed me that I did not take enough into account when deciding which flight to register. I only took into account the amount of time it would take to get to the airport, and not the amount of time it would take to get through the TSA security, finding my gate, and for any hiccups that might or might not occur along the way, such as getting lost due to GPS satellite signal loss or heavy traffic. So, by my mother’s estimate, we would be best to leave at 1:00 in the morning, which neither of us were happy about.

I know my own body, and I know that my sleep cycle is like the fine-tuning of the universe. If I sleep too little, I feel bad. If I sleep too much, I feel bad. If I go to bed and get up at wonky times, regardless of how much sleep I get during that period, I will most likely feel bad. My Acadian Rhythm is extremely sensitive. I was okay with feeling like crap on November 12th because nothing was really going on that day. The ETS Conference didn’t start until the 13th, so if my body felt like it was full of lead on the 12th, well, I figured, I would just lounge about the Hotel Room. My big concern was feeling good on November 13th. Even though I would get a full hour of sleep the following night, most often if my sleep is mucked up, it takes two good night’s sleep in a row for me to go back to feeling like normal. This fear was something I prayed about every day for the few weeks leading up to my departure.

My mother drove me down to the Atlanta Airport. Props to her by the way. She’s such a good mom. She always puts herself out for me whenever I want or need her to, and I know that this was physically taxing on her as it was for me. She was able to get an escort pass at the ticketing place so that she could help me find my way around. I am extremely directionally challenged. I don’t know why. I have both severe ADHD and mild Asperger’s Syndrome. I suspect that they play a big role in that. But whatever the reason, I cannot find my behind with a roadmap. If it’s a place I’m familiar with (like my home town), I do just fine, but it’s a new place that I’ve never been to before, I’m completely lost. So, I’m glad that she was able to get an escort pass so that she could help me find my way to the gate.

I had to wait for hours in the Airport before I was even able to board. I was not only extremely bored, but exhausted as well. I could have passed the time looking at things on Facebook and Pinterest on my phone, but I felt so tired physically and mentally that I didn’t even feel like doing that. My Mom and I saw a priest sitting in one of the seats in front of us at the gate and I joked “It’s a good thing that a priest is here. He can administer last rights to me if I die of boredom.” I also quipped “This must be what the passage of time feels like at the event horizon of a black hole.” Eventually, the time arrived for me to board my flight.

The Flight

I was super excited about flying because the only other time in my life that I had ever flown was when I was 4 years old when my parents, my sister, and I went to Seattle Washington for a Cri Du Chat conference.1 I got on the flight. It took about two and a half hours to reach Denver, Colorado.

The above photo is a picture of the clouds from above. I thought that was so cool because I only ever see the clouds from the ground, but that day, I was able to see them from above. It was a beautiful sight and two scripture passages came to my mind as I gazed out that window.

The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim His handiwork. Day to day they pour forth speech and night after night they reveal knowledge. There are no words. Their voice is not heard. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth and their words to the end of the world.” – Psalm 19:1-4

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” – Psalm 139:7-10

When the psalmist penned these words, he never would have imagined the experience that I was having. He only saw the heavens declare God’s glory from the ground. And when he contemplated about going up to the heavens and God’s presence being even there, surely he thought that a man being able to ascend into the sky was something only of a fantasy; a theoretical concept that would never be actualized. The psalmist thought surely that if he could ascend to the heavens, God would be there. Just as we might say something like “Even if I were a billion light years from Earth, God would be there to hear and answer my prayers” but we don’t ever expect to actually travel a billion lightyears from Earth. Maybe our descendants in the 25th or 30th centuries might, but we never will. I just thought about how the advancement of science has allowed us to experience God in a way that our ancestors could not. I also thought about how this was a testament to the extraordinary nature of human beings. To think that unintelligent apes could evolve into creatures who would transcend the realms that nature ascribed to them is a testament to God’s image in us. We are primates, but we are far more than primates. We are spiritual animals. We are primates who bear God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and being image bearers we are to have dominion over the created order (see Genesis 1:28). In The Lost World Of Adam and Eve, Professor John Walton explains that to be made “In God’s Image” meant to be God’s representative. Humans represent God on Earth in a similar way in which statues of deities represented those deities in the temples in which those deities were worshipped. Humans are God’s “statues” so to speak, in His “Cosmic Temple” (i.e the universe, which took 7 days to inaugurate, as was customary of the inauguration of any temple in the ancient near east).2 And as I point out in my article “The Image Of God, Mental Faculties, And The Sanctity Of Life”, to be a representative of God entails certain prerequisites; rationality, libertarian free will, and knowledge of right and wrong.

To ascend to the skies is a testament that we rational divine representatives have indeed fulfilled our calling to have dominion over the created order. The opportunity to fly was an opportunity to worship the God who made the skies and who endowed our species with the ability to ascend to them.

Arrival At Denver Airport

When I got off the plane, I had a lot of trouble finding David. I talked to him on the phone and he walked me through the process of making it to the exit of the airport. It took a while for me to find my way. David didn’t know just how bad my direction issue is. Since he went to the end of the airport, he couldn’t go back past security to find me and lead me out. To be honest, it was quite scary. I was feeling a bit like a lost child at the mall. But, fortunately, I was able to hook up with him. David Parrish and I took a shuttle bus to a rental car place, we got a rental car, and then went off to the Raddison hotel.

At The Raddison Hotel

We went into the hotel and checked in. I noticed a piano behind us and called David’s attention to it. I said “Hey, look! A piano!”. “Do you play?” he asked. I responded, “I can perfectly replicate the sound of a cat walking across the keys”.

I was able to take a 4-hour nap, which refreshed me.

Dinner on November 12th 

I didn’t feel like going out for dinner, so I had a couple of PB&Js. Guess what happened next? Tim Stratton of FreeThinking Ministries  texted David to ask him if we wanted to have dinner with him and Jon Cantey. Wanting to hang with these fellow apologists whom I knew for a long while on Facebook but never met face to face, I went along even though I had just eaten. I planned to get something not very filling so I could fit it into my stomach.

When we went to the restaurant, David and I were in for a pleasant surprise. We not only met Tim and Jon there but also Professor Clay Jones! Clay Jones is a professor of theology at the Talbot School Of Theology at Biola University. He has authored a book on the problem of evil that I really want to read. I ordered Caesar Salad and ate it. Professor Jones and Tim Stratton did most of the talking while David, Jon, and I sat back and listened. This isn’t a complaint, because it was like receiving a free lecture pre-conference! Jones talked about the biblical evidence for libertarian free will such as 1 Corinthians 10:13, God’s warning to Cain in Genesis 4, God’s telling Saul that had he not disobeyed, He would have established his kingdom forever in 1 Samuel 13:13, among others. By the way, I have talked about some of these biblical pieces of evidence for libertarian free will in my paper “The Case For Mere Molinism”. Jones also said that he strongly suspects that for many Christians who adhere to divine determinism, there is an emotionally appealing factor about it for them. If God causally determines all things down to the most minute detail, then when we sin, it isn’t really our fault. God decreed it to happen from eternity past. If you’re a real spiritual failure, it can be somewhat comforting to realize that you could not have done otherwise. Of course, this flies directly in the face of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says that no one has to sin because God is faithful and will provide “the way of escape” so that we can endure the temptation, not falling into sin. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that you can either (A) Give into temptation or (Non-A) take the way of escape.

If Determinist Christians want to argue that we could have indeed chosen not to sin when tempted, then they’re advocating for the principle of alternative possibilities which doesn’t exist in a deterministic system. It doesn’t even exist on compatibilism since on compatibilism, you can only choose one course of action. That course of action is what you (1) desired most strongly, or (2) was what your nature determined. If the determinist wants to be consistent, he has to say that whenever he sinned, it was inevitable. It was what God decreed, or what they desired most strongly, or what their nature determined, or all of the above. But to say that is to say that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is false. But to say 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true is to say that libertarian free will exists, since this verse clearly represents an inherent feature of LFW; the genuine power to choose between A and Non-A.

Now, I have heard some determinists say that 1 Cor 10:13 only applies to Christians. Since Christians have been given a regenerate nature, they have the ability to choose not to sin. Okay, but then they are just saying that only Christians possess LFW, which seems like special pleading. If Christians possess LFW, on what grounds do you deny that non-Christians possess it? Perhaps God provides them a “way of escape” (prevenient grace to come to salvation?). In any case, we can grant that 1 Cor 10:13 only applies to regenerate Christians and not non-Christians. Whether non-Christians possess LFW can be demonstrated by other biblical texts, such as Genesis 4, Deuteronomy 30:10-19, Joshua 24:14-15, and 1 Samuel 13:13.

After I ate my Caesar Salad, I took some pictures of us. See below.

Tim Stratton (left) and Evan Minton (right).
From Left To Right: Jon Cantey, Evan Minton, Tim Stratton, and Clay Jones





November 13th – The First Day Of The Conference 

Below are the talks I attended on the first day of the conference.

Click To Enlarge

I went to Kirk MacGregor’s talk on defending Luis De Molina’s doctrine of Supercomprehension first. Before his talk started, I had my picture taken with him. I’ve been Facebook friends with MacGregor for a couple of years now and he recognized me when I approached him.

Kirk MacGregor (left) and Evan Minton (right)
Kirk MacGregor reading his paper
“In Defense Of Molina’s Doctrine
Of Supercomprehension” 

Kirk MacGregor is one of the most brilliant Christian Philosophers I know. In my opinion, he’s in the same category as William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, J.P Moreland, Luis De Molina himself. If you hadn’t read his book “Luis De Molina: The Life and Theology Of The Founder Of Middle Knowledge”, click the link right now, buy it, and read it. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t.

Raul (left) and Evan (right). 

After MacGregor read his paper, I met Raul Jaramillo. I had been Facebook friends with him for a long time. We met in the group “Molinism – Official Page”.   I also met Randy Everist at this conference. This was also right after MacGregor’s talk. Randy and I have been Facebook friends for several years also. Randy Everist has a blog called “Possible Worlds” and this blog was instrumental in my becoming a Molinist. When Randy first approached me, I was in the middle of taking Ibuprofen (I suffer from chronic headaches), so I had to take a quick gulp of water before I could say anything. He was like “Evan! Good to see you.” and I was like “Mmmmm mmm mmm mmm.” lol

Evan Minton (left) and Randy Everist (right)

After I had attended all of the morning sessions, I went to the Exhibit Hall; the place to buy books. I bought several books which I will show in a photograph below, but while I was browsing, I turned a corner and saw that BioLogos had a table set up. This is where I encountered Jim Stump. Stump is one of the regular bloggers for BioLogos.org. Not only am I friends with Stump on Facebook, but the Cerebral Faith and BioLogos Twitter accounts follow each other. Stump instantly recognized me, and we got to talking. He asked me what I had planned for Cerebral Faith in the near future and I told him that I had three articles planned for the near future; a blog post about my experience at the ETS Conference (i.e this one), “Addressing Calvinist Responses To 2 Peter 3:9” and “The Soteriological Case For Molinism”. The latter two will be published shortly. I also told him that I planned on starting a Cerebral Faith podcast sometime after the New Year. Surprise, guys!

Evan Minton (left) and Jim Stump (right)

After the first day of the conference was over, David and I headed back to The Raddison Hotel. I took a picture of the books I bought at the conference.

November 14th – The Second Day Of The Conference


Click To Enlarge


The above picture shows the sessions I attended on the second day of The Evangelical Theological Society Conference. Below are photos taken from this day.

Tim Stratton (left), Evan Minton (middle), Randy Everist (right)
Paul Copan (left) and Evan Minton (right)

Books that I bought on the second day of
the conference.

After the conference was over for the second day, David and I headed to Benihanas for dinner where we met up with Jake Brown, a friend of ours from Facebook. I didn’t know before this, but Jake actually lives in Denver! He has a really interesting testimony too. He went from being a Wiccan to an Atheist to finally becoming a Christian. When I wore my God’s Not Dead T-shirt on the third day of the conference, he told me that he remembered when the movie first came out and how he ridiculed it as garbage and ridiculous propaganda. I was like “That movie came out in 2014! You must have become a Christian really recently!”

I had never been to a Benihana’s before. The chefs there make your food right in front of you. They don’t merely make the food in front of you though. They put on a performance! It was quite the experience! I had a 5-course meal and a show!

November 15th – The Final Day Of The Conference

These are the sessions I attended on the third and final day of the conference.

Click To Enlarge

On the final day of the conference, not much was really going on in the morning. David and I went to Michael Horton’s plenary session and attended the corporate worship service. The ETS and EPS Business meeting sounded boring to us, so we decided to go do some other stuff for the time being. We went to Target because David had to use the restroom really badly. Afterward, we decided to look around. David wanted to browse the gaming section. I went with him. I saw The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D for the Nintendo 3DS. This game had been out since The Nintendo 3DS first came out several years ago, so it had been out for a long time. It was 19 dollars. I bought the game and then we proceeded to head out.

We went to Pizza Hut and had lunch. After that, we went back to the Sheraton; the place where the ETS Conference was being held. We attended the rest of the sessions. When the conference was over, we had an encounter with Douglas Groothuis who said that he was giving at talk at The Evangelical Philosophical Society conference taking place later that evening and for the next 2 days. David and Jake wanted to attend it, but I was exhausted. We went to Chik-Fil-A for dinner and then went to the place where the EPS Conference was being held. I was so exhausted that David called an Uber for me so I could go back to the hotel.

Jake Brown (left), Douglas Groothuis (middle), and Evan Minton (right)

I got to explain what apologetics is to my Uber driver. Back at the hotel, I did most of my packing despite being exhausted, but I didn’t finish packing until the next morning.

November 16th 

Tyson James had invited us to a breakfast with William Lane Craig. Craig was going to give a talk and so was Tim Stratton, but David and I couldn’t stay because we had to return our rental car and get to the airport. We had a good breakfast.

Kirk MacGregor and Tim Stratton talking.

David Parrish having Craig sign his books

Conclusion

It’s been a wonderful trip. I learned so much and realized how much I still have yet to learn. I got to spend time and see so many of my good friends and Christian brothers whom I previously only knew from Facebook theology and apologetics groups. I got several books and some Colorado souvenirs. Thanks again to David Parrish who paid for all of my expenses except for the books and souvenirs I bought. This trip would not be possible without his generosity.

It was a long wait for my flight. David’s flight to Chicago left at 1:00pm so I sat at his gate and hung out with him until he left. I saw him off and then found my gate.

My Colorado Souvenirs: Colin Colorado the teddy bear,
and a coffee cup. 🙂

———————————————–
Notes 

1: “Cri du chat syndrome, also known as chromosome 5p deletion syndrome, 5p− syndrome or Lejeune’s syndrome, is a rare genetic disorder due to chromosome deletion on chromosome 5. Its name is a French term referring to the characteristic cat-like cry of affected children. It was first described by Jérôme Lejeune in 1963. The condition affects an estimated 1 in 50,000 live births across all ethnicities and is more common in females by a 4:3 ratio.” – Wikipedia.

2: See Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (Kindle Location 1331-1356). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Liked it? Take a second to support Evan Minton on Patreon!

Leave a Reply