Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reflections on EDC 2009

Rutherford House has a brief report and some photographs from the 2009 Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference (on the Doctrine of the Church) on its website. Since I'm in one of the photos, I can prove I was there!

For me, this was another enjoyable EDC. Where else can you get speakers of real calibre from such diverse Reformed backgrounds as Henri Blocher, Bruce McCormack, Michael Horton and John Franke, all sharing a platform to speak and debate? That's why EDC is so important. It's dogmatic theology with listening, discussion and reflection. Sure, you don't agree with everything, but this kind of forum is priceless as a setting contributing to reflective theological process in the Reformed church.

Highlights for me were:
  • Prof Bruce McCormack's paper, Credo sanctam ecclesiam: the Holiness of the Church after Barth. The paper was in part a defense of Protestant ecclesiology against fashionable communion ecclesiologies, but for me it was the presentation of the holiness of the church in mission, a reflection of God's own holiness, that spoke to me. I found the paper moving and edifying. That's not always the case at EDC!
  • Prof Henri Blocher's paper on Sacraments. This paper surveyed movements in both Protestant and Roman Catholic views of the sacraments and Prof Blocher's argument was rooted in Calvin's view of the sacraments. Calvin is usually seen as closer to Luther than to Zwingli - Prof Blocher has his doubts! One useful part of the paper was on the paradox of the sign as a sign: it is self-effacing; it fulfils its role when it is not noticed.
  • Prof Michael Horton's paper on Apostolicity. Prof Horton is a good speaker and his paper was challenging: the problem of losing the reached while reaching the lost; the need to feed the sheep, not set them aside as self-feeders; the church for believers and unbelievers (Calvin: 'we are partly unbelievers until we die'); worship as the missionary event.
  • Prof John Franke's paper on Catholicity. Prof Franke worries some people! He worries me! But, I like his challenging approach and I really appreciated this paper. He viewed his journey to Scotland as the Presbyterian equivalent of a trip to Mecca! Good man! His presentation of the reality of the explosion of Christian communities that do not identify with orthodox Protestantism in any way was particularly striking. The tension between Unity and Pluriformity, or diversity were key themes. I continue to have concerns about how Prof Franke's view of things deals with unorthodoxy; lines should be drawn, but (where) would he draw them?

As usual, the Plenary Session with all speakers interacting between themselves and with the floor was also one of the highlights.

There's my twopenneth...