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Ware becomes first SBTS faculty member to serve as president of ETS
November 19, 2008
By Jeff Robinson
Bruce Ware, professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary, took the reins as president of ETS this week at the organization's annual meeting in Rhode Island. Ware is the first member of the Southern Seminary faculty to serve as ETS president. Photo: John Freidah
PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Bruce Ware this week became the first faculty member from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to serve as president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS).
Ware was elected vice president of ETS by a unanimous vote of fellow scholars at the 58th annual ETS meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2006. After one year of serving as vice president and one year as president-elect, Ware began his term as president during the 60th annual meeting of ETS this week at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.
“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to serve in a role of leadership in such a wonderful organization as ETS,” said Ware, who has served as professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary since 1998.
“The Lord has blessed it and I believe continues to do so. I am very delighted to have Southern’s profile made a bit more noticeable through this and that’s a tremendous thing.”
Ware joined ETS in 1984 during his first year of teaching at Bethel Seminary and in the years since he has labored on the front lines of upholding biblical truth within evangelicalism. In 2000 he authored “God’s Lesser Glory,” a work defending the historic orthodox doctrine of God in the face of attacks by open theism — a position which argues, among other things, that God does not know perfectly what will happen in the future.
In 2004, Ware wrote a companion volume entitled “God’s Greater Glory” in which he positively asserted the classical doctrine of God from Scripture and church history. Earlier in this decade, ETS roiled in controversy over open theism and in 2003 in Atlanta, members narrowly voted to retain the membership of two of open theism’s most prominent scholars: Clark Pinnock and John Sanders.
While ETS is not currently embroiled in conflict, Ware said the vote on Pinnock and Sanders served as a sobering reminder of the need for accountability among evangelical scholars. To join ETS, members must sign off on a brief doctrinal statement that affirms the inerrancy of Scripture and the Trinity.
“ETS went on record in a very clear way that we will watch carefully these movements that appear to be at odds with inerrancy and will call them on it,” Ware said. “I think it was a helpful warning that everything will not be tolerated. On the other hand, we tolerate a lot and I think that is the point of the organization: to tolerate any viable position that can argue from an inerrant Bible. ETS is intentionally a big tent.”
Ware has also been active in the gender debate and has staunchly argued in favor of the complementary roles of men and women in the church and home as set forth in Scripture.
In his 2005 book, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Relationships, Roles, and Relevance,” Ware demonstrated the significance of the roles played by each person of the Godhead in redemption as a model for gender roles in the home and church over against egalitarian arguments to the contrary.
Upon Ware’s election as vice president in 2006, an election that would ultimately propel him to the ETS presidency, Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president of academic administration at Southern Seminary, said Ware is an ideal leader who brings a pastor’s heart and a scholar’s mind to ETS.
“Bruce Ware’s election by the Evangelical Theological Society is a recognition by his peers of his status as one of the preeminent theologians of the contemporary era. Dr. Ware has served the church with insight but also with courage,” Moore said.
“When faced with error, such as the move toward the so-called ‘openness of God’ on the part of some evangelical theologians, Dr. Ware stood in the role of Athanasius, warning us of the danger of that path. Bruce Ware will bring to the leadership of the ETS the kind of vision and conviction he has shown throughout his entire ministry.”
Ware is part of a large contingent of faculty members and Ph.D. students who will present scholarly papers at the annual meeting. Peter Gentry, professor of Old Testament interpretation, will deliver one of four plenary addresses.
“If Southern does not have the most representatives, it is clearly in the top two or three with both faculty and doctoral students represented in reading papers,” Ware said. “I am just so pleased that one of the plenary speakers—those are addresses to the entire ETS gathering of roughly 1,500— is Dr. Gentry. It’s a great honor to Southern also to have Peter be in that position.”