7 Highlights from the 2016 Los Angeles Theology Conference

The fourth annual Los Angeles Theology Conference (LATC) was held this past week on the campus of Fuller Theological Seminary. The brainchild of Drs. Oliver Crisp and Fred Sanders, the LATC is “an annual gathering devoted to the exploration of major doctrines of systematic theology. ”

The theme for this year’s conference was “The Voice of God in the Text of Scripture,” with presenters seeking to address “the question of how divine revelation is found in the words of the Bible.”

Following are seven highlights from this year’s LATC (in no particular order).


The Weather

It’s sunny in L.A. – even in January. For a Pacific Northwest resident like myself, perpetually suffering from vitamin D deficiency, a couple of days in California were just what the doctor ordered. Yes, El Nino did impact the weather this year, causing temperatures to be just a bit cooler than usual. Still, the sun was out.

The People

Theologian-types are prone to locking themselves up in their studies for months on end. Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to emerge from this seclusion, and interact with other human beings. The LATC provides a good excuse to do so. The people at the conference are warm and friendly. Plus, they have read all of the same obscure books as you, so you will actually have something to talk about.

The Food

Quite honestly, I ate too well and too much at the conference this year. There are just so many delightful places to eat within walking distance of Fuller Seminary’s lovely Pasadena campus.

The Plenary Papers

The diversity among the five plenary presenters, both in terms of their theological commitments and specializations, contributed to an electric atmosphere. Following are but a sampling of the stimulating things that this year’s plenary speakers had to say:[1]

Daniel Treier: “God communicates for the sake of communion that evokes genuine human freedom and corresponding growth in communal wisdom.”

Stephen Fowl: “Engagement with God’s word is not an end in itself; we listen to God’s voice to cultivate love and longing as we proceed to our true home in God.”

Amy Plantinga Pauw: “The sages of wisdom literature commend lifelong attention to the voice of God in the experiences of everyday life.”

John Goldingay: “God is not a major preoccupation in current preaching – even if this is what Scripture is primarily about . . . Scripture is more about what God is doing, rather than our practical questions about how to live.”

William Abraham: “Inspiration brings up the question: ‘what action verbs are you attributing to God?’ . . . there is a lack of care with action predicates when it comes to Scripture.”

The Breakout Sessions

In between the plenary papers, there were nine additional papers given over three breakout sessions. These sessions were intimate, and provided a wonderful context for lively interaction.

During the sessions that I attended, I heard the following ideas given voice: (1) a potential solution to interpretive diversity among Protestants would be the establishment of a magisterium, (2) Scripture and preaching ought to be classified as sacraments, and (3) the moment of understanding Scripture is at once the moment of response to it.

While some of these notions are more worthy of additional consideration than others (I’ll leave it up to you which), the point is the same: these sessions certainly got the mental juices flowing.

The Panel Discussion

This, quite frankly, was the highlight of the conference. It was a no-holds-barred contest, featuring today’s most thrilling theological minds operating at the peak of their intellectual game. But who won the match? The answer is the same every year: the conference attendees did.

The Anticipation

Ok – another year down. So then, what is there for a theologian to look forward to?

Well, only the formidable roster of plenary speakers assembled for LATC 2017: John Webster, Kevin Vanhoozer, Katherine Sonderegger, Henri Blocher, Michael Allen, and Scott Swain.

Combine this lineup with the selected theme of “Dogmatics,” and I would recommend clearing your calendar for next year’s conference now.

Let the anticipation begin . . .






[1] These are from my notes, and not directly from the papers. My hope is that these correctly reflect the sense of what was said, even if a word or two is out of order.

About Tim Harmon

Timothy G. Harmon is Assistant Director of the Th.M. Program at Western Seminary, and lead pastor at Northeast Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate of Western Seminary (M.A.B.T.S. and Th.M.), and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in systematic theology.