I recently (June 4–5) attended the 2015 Bingham Colloquium at McMaster Divinity College (MDC), Hamilton, ON, Canada.
MDC has (usually) annually sponsored the Bingham colloquium since 1995, held in honour of a prominent Baptist pastor and gathering biblical scholars and theologians from around the world to present their individual perspective on a selected topic. The format of the colloquium includes presentations, panel discussions, and question-and-answer sessions that are intended to enhance the theoretical but also the practical knowledge of scholars, pastors, and lay people on the selected topic. The MDC Press has published many of the papers presented in these colloquia in its McMaster New Testament Studies series (I have provided a list of these publications below, and those who wish to know more can contact me; those wishing to purchase can do so through Wipf & Stock publishers at wipfandstock.com).
This year’s Bingham Colloquium marked its 21st anniversary. One of the highlights of the colloquium was the four plenary lectures and multiple breakout sessions that talked about the important topic—Is the gospel good news? The 14 presenters in the colloquium tackled this question from various biblical and theological perspectives, and about 50 attendees participated in the discussion that was reflected upon the relevance of the gospel to our contemporary world. Another highlight of the colloquium was the celebration of a ten-year reunion of MDC’s PhD graduates. MDC’s alumni have been serving the gospel in various parts of the globe (including Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Europe, and of course Canada and the USA), and many of them came to attend the colloquium. Some of them were also invited to present their papers. I am a recent PhD graduate from MDC and am happy and proud to be part of this group of alumni.
The colloquium commenced with a special banquet on June 4 and with a special message from W. Ross Hastings (Regent College) entitled “‘The Word Became Flesh’: Christian Theology and Science as Coinherent, not Conflicted.” Hastings presented various comparative models of theology and science and offered a new model—his “coinherence model”—that he argued to be analogous to the reality of the Holy Trinity.
The next plenary session was held on the following day with Stanley E. Porter (McMaster Divinity College) speaking about the topic “The Good News of the Gospels: Good News as Form and Content.” Porter examined the cognate noun and verb forms of the term “gospel” within the Synoptic Gospels. He emphasized the content of the good news as the proclamation of the message of Jesus, and proposed that we need to reassess whether the gospel as the apostolic preaching (content) is also at the same time a type of literature, a Gospel (form).
The third plenary session on “The Gospel as God’s Gift: Good News from Ephesians” was delivered by Lynn H. Cohick (Wheaton College). Cohick explored Paul’s understanding of the gospel in Eph 2:8–10 from two different angles—the New Perspective on Paul and the benefaction system of the Greco-Roman world. She argued that Paul presents Christ as God’s gift because he wants us to think of salvation in terms of both forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ.
The colloquium concluded with a reality call and a challenging talk from Lee Beach (McMaster Divinity College). Beach spoke on “Can I Get a Witness? Offering the Good News to a Post-Everything Culture,” and challenged the participants with these questions: how can the gospel interface with our (ir)religious contemporary North American society, and how can we do evangelism in our post-Christian, postmodern, and post-religious culture?
There were also a number of parallel sessions on such topics as “The Gospel According to Nathan” (Paul Evans), “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (Ronald Peters), “The Gospel as Good News for the Poor” (Beth Stovell), “The Signs and Wonders of Salvation” (Mark Boda), “When Did the Good News Become the Gospel?” (Francis Pang), “Is the Gospel Good News for Women? (Cynthia Westfall), “Was the Kingdom of God Good News to the People?” (Hughson Ong), “In the Making and the Unmasking” on spiritual formation (Matthew Forrest Lowe), “The Gospel and the Spirit of Pentecost” (Steven Studebaker), and “Wy Should We Need the Gospel?” (Jae Hyun Lee).
So Is the gospel good news? I guess the answer still largely depends on whom you ask. A yes or no answer simply cannot suffice as an overall answer to the question. Despite the various insights I gathered and lessons I learned from the outstanding speakers in the colloquium, I still think that the recipient of the gospel is the one who really determines whether it is indeed good news for them. As Paul says, Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν (“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are saved”; 1 Cor 1:18).
I look forward to next year’s Bingham Colloquium, which will deal with the theme Linguistics and the Bible. If you plan to travel to (or happen to pass by) Hamilton, ON, Canada in June 2016, it might be worthwhile to check out this colloquium, which is usually held in the first week of the month of June.
Previous Bingham Colloquia
- 1995 – Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament
- 1996 – The Road from Damascus: The Impact of Paul’s Conversion on His Life, Thought and Ministry
- 1997 – Life in the Face of Death: The Resurrection Message of the New Testament
- 1998 – The Challenge of Jesus’ Parables
- 1999 – Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament
- 2000 – Models of Ministry: Community Formation in the New Testament, the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and the Church Today
- 2001 – Contours of Christology in the New Testament
- 2002 – Reading the Gospels Today
- 2003 – Hearing the Old Testament through the New: The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament
- 2004 – The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments
- 2005 – Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology
- 2006 – Christian Mission: Old Testament Foundations and New Testament Developments
- 2007 – Empire in the New Testament
- 2008 – The Church: Then & Now
- 2010 – Rediscovering Worship: Past, Present & Future
- 2012 – The Bible and Social Justice
- 2013 – Rejection: God’s Refugees
- 2014 – Romans
— Hughson T. Ong