Thursday, 10 July 2008

Why attend academic conferences?

"Why are five of the teaching staff of PTC spending a week drinking coffee in Auckland in between listening to other academics talk about all sorts of obscure topics?"  That is a good question and I'll give you my answer, though the others might have further reasons. In no particular order here are some reasons for attending a conference like SBL.

Presenting at a conference pushes you to explain and defend your work to a group who know the field well but may not be sympathetic with your own approach.

Listening to papers is a chance to hear what other people are doing in your own field and in other fields. I've enjoyed sitting in some of Biblical studies sections and being reminded of the questions and methods they deal with.

Meeting people is a chance to put faces to names and get an idea of who stands behind material you have read. More than that it is a chance to connect with people who might help you in all sorts of ways. For instance I've met a publishing rep. who will help us get access to books for review for Crucible and a few people I intend to stay in touch with to keep talking about theology.

It is good to be exposed to the worlds of academic biblical and theological studies and to realise that some people are doing careful faithful work and others are really operating from a secular assumptions and have little devotion to the Christ of scriptures. To some extent it strips any glamour from the 'academic' world, though also reveals some wonderful gems.

There are chances for valuable personal ministry. It has been great to talk to brothers and sisters who have encouraged me and helped me see further ways of serving the Lord as a teacher, it has also been great to have some conversations in which I hope I was the encourager.

This is not a world I'd like to live in all my life, but I'm glad a few of us have come for the week.

Another session calls so off I go!

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