I’ve lived in California for more than fifteen years now, working as a professional theologian and flying off every year to academic conferences here and there.
But mostly there: we west coast theologians have to head east to tap into any significant academic theological culture. Much as I enjoy travelling, I have often wondered why there are no important, annual theological events on this side of the Mississippi. We’ve got plenty of real estate out here, plenty of population density, even plenty of theologians. Never mind Washington state and Texas and Colorado, just here in southern California we’ve got dozens of theologians. And come to think of it, the great city of Los Angeles is open to Latin America and perched on the Pacific Rim, where even more theologians are plying their trade… so where’s the academic theology in Los Angeles?
These thoughts were running through my mind last year when I crossed paths with Oliver Crisp, newly arrived in the Los Angeles area to take up his post at Fuller, and also wondering at the lack of theological conviviality. We spent a few minutes cursing the darkness together, and then decided to light a candle. We took our idea to Zondervan Academic, and they were instantly ready to run with it. It seemed they’d been waiting for us!
So today, after much planning, we are announcing the first annual Los Angeles Theology Conference, scheduled for January 17-18, 2013.
The LATC will be an annual scholarly gathering of academic theologians, with a slate of major plenary speakers brought in each year to focus on a particular classic Christian doctrine. In addition to these plenary speakers, there is an open call for papers that will draw significant theologians to participate in breakout sessions. Publishers and exhibitors will be on site (you know, like a real, live theology conference!). The proceedings will be published by Zondervan, so I suppose we’re also announcing the launch of a new book series.
This year’s theme is Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Theology. In future years you can expect core doctrines like Trinity, atonement, and pneumatology to be the topic: nothing surprising or fancy or interdisciplinary in the mix, just high-level constructive theological reflection on major doctrines, annually from now on.
Our plenary speakers this year are George Hunsinger, Peter Leithart, Katherine Sonderegger, Alan Torrance, and Oliver Crisp (though he’s the co-organizer, we couldn’t help noticing that he had written one or two things on this subject, and his absence would have been conspicuous). Click on through to the LATheology.com website to see the titles of their presentations. It should be obvious that these speakers will be setting a high standard of critical reflection on the doctrine of the person and work of Christ. The plenary speakers will also interact with each other in a closing panel discussion that will be live-streamed. We’re not expecting any fights, but our speakers do come to this doctrine from a range of different theological backgrounds and denominations, so it should be a lively exchange about agreements as well as disagreements.