F. Furman Kearley Conference for Biblical Scholarship
Drs. Randall C. Bailey and G. Scott Gleaves
The F. Furman Kearley Conference for Biblical Scholarship promotes scholarly research in biblical studies among scholars within the fellowship of the churches of Christ by offering a forum where scholarly research can be shared, reviewed, and encouraged.
Areas of research are general biblical studies, biblical text, ANE, Greco-Roman studies, missions, family, archaeology, homiletics, apologetics, religious history, Christian ministry, and book reviews.
They Kearley conference is a forum whereby scholars and scholarly brethren may come together and discuss the above issues. As Peter exhorted, we should always be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1Pet 3:15 ESV).
The Kearley conference provides a way to do just this. One of the issues with which the church struggles is, “How shall we be ‘set for the defense of the gospel’ if we do not know exactly what is taught. The religious world is filled with doctrines that run a gamut of issues. Just the terminology is depressing: “liberal vs. conservative,” “evangelical vs. critical,” “progressive vs. non-progressive,” etc. None of this helps very much, for we have found that people may fit into one category in some issues and into an entirely different category in others.
The teaching of Jesus is plain. In discussing the relationship of brothers to each other he his commands illustrate that, if they are followed, the offended and the offender should “meet in the middle” as they are going to discusses their differences (Matt 5:23-24; 18:15). When this principle is not practiced God’s people hear all kinds of reports, which is basically gossip, regarding the teachings found in the scholarly world. Much can be understood from reading after such scholars, but often a face-to-face works better. So why not apply this principle, in so far as we are able, to scholarly issues?
Therefore, a forum was needed whereby godly people could come together, explore issues, seek for truth, and discuss what is sometimes passed over in a lectureship. This is because the Kearley conference is not our lectureship. As our much beloved Dean Emeritus Cecil May recently stated,
The Kearley Conference, unlike our lectureship, it is not directed at preachers in general, though preachers are welcome and will benefit from participating. Local churches and their preachers work with the world in general, including those in religious error, to bring them to Christ and to truth. There is also a world of “scholars” that populate the secular universities and the formerly religious and mistakenly religious universities. Many of these scholars may be “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth,” but their theories and teachings drift down from the seminaries and universities into the consciousness and belief systems of the broader populace. While there is a need for preachers to reach the general populace, there is also a need for men with the knowledge of ancient languages and research methodologies who can be on the cutting edge of scholarship and engage such men, and those they influence, with the unadulterated gospel of Christ. People are needed who can engage such men “on their own turf” and help bring them to Jesus who is the Truth. Some scholars conferences seem to some of us to allow egregious, anti-biblical error to be presented without serious reflections and refutation. So the Kearley Conference on Biblical Scholarship was begun (Cecil May Jr., private communication, used by permission).
This is the point. Those of us who engage in graduate academic Bible often see these issues filtering down and recognize that we need to study to be prepared to defend the truth and to explore these issues with our students in order to help them carry on the task of sharing, preaching, and defending the truth.
The Kearley conference provides such a forum in a controlled environment. Scholars, even of different persuasions, share their views within a cordial peer group. Discussion panels, Q&A sessions, and peer reviews are key components of the conference. This environment allows graduate and doctoral students to explore, critique, and even challenge views held by others.
Lets remember that “truth is not relative, that it needs to be searched after,” and that discussions in this kind of environment will foster respect and appreciation. As we seek the truth, we may in our efforts correct some who are in error and encourage others who are searching for the truth. We can do this if we practice 2 Timothy 1:7— “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (ESV).