For the fifth time, theologians from Southern California and across the world gathered in the West Coast for the annual ‘Los Angeles Theology Conference’ co-hosted by Zondervan, Biola University, and Fuller Theological Seminary. This year, the conference took place at Biola University from January 12 to 13. The two institutions take turns hosting the conference each year.
The conference has explored various theological topics over the years and have featured speakers from different theological backgrounds. Some topics that have been discussed include Christology in 2013, the Trinity in 2014, and the atonement in 2015, and speakers included George Hunsinger from Princeton Theological Seminary, Katherine Sonderegger from Virginia Theological Seminary, Thomas McCall from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Michael Horton from Westminster Seminary in California.
This year’s conference focused on the theme of “the task of dogmatics,” and featured Kevin Vanhoozer from Trinity, Michael Allen from Reformed Theological Seminary, Henri Blocher from Faculte Libre de Theologie Evangelique, Katherine Sonderegger, and Scott Swain from Reformed Theological Seminary as plenary speakers. Ten others were also featured as breakout session speakers.
“These are high level academic practitioners, doing cutting-edge systematic theology,” said Fred Sanders of Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute, who is also one of the main organizers of the event. He added that despite the differences across denominational lines, “we have a lot of common causes and interests,” including, “Is theology done well?”
Sanders said that another aspect of the conference that makes it enriching is the fact that the theologians come from “different contexts of formation.”
“If you think about a Baptist and a Presbyterian theologian, not only are there fights you can pick — let’s talk about water baptism, and immediately you’ve got a fight. In addition to that, there’s a rich Baptist theological formation that someone from, let’s say, Gateway Seminary, they come from a Baptist theological formation that makes them who they are, their connections, the books they habitually read, the way they habitually argue. That’s all there. And then we bring the Presbyterians in. Same thing — they’ve got their own cultural formation.”
“It’s the richness of that dialogue and the different resources that makes this conference so enriching,” said Sanders.
Another benefit that the conference has brought about, Sanders added, is that it provides a space through which the theological community in Southern California can meet.
“It’s nice that, in our fifth year, I know people who have come all five years,” he explained. “There’s a bit of a Southern California theological community that has formed here.”
Over the past five years, and this year’s conference included, the gatherings have consistently seen some 150 in attendance, and a total of 75 theologians have spoken and submitted papers at one or more conferences. A book with the papers submitted at each year’s conference is also published every year, several months after the conference is concluded. The conference takes place in January each year, and the book from that conference is published by October the same year.