“Surprised By Joy”: Joy In The Christian Life And In Christian Scholarship -- By: David M. Howard, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 47:1 (Mar 2004)
Article: “Surprised By Joy”: Joy In The Christian Life And In Christian Scholarship
Author: David M. Howard, Jr.


“Surprised By Joy”:
Joy In The Christian Life
And In Christian Scholarship

David M. Howard, Jr.

[David M. Howard, Jr., professor of Old Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary, 3949 Bethel Drive, St. Paul, MN 55112, delivered this presidential address at the 55th annual meeting of the ETS on November 20, 2003 in Atlanta, GA.]

Fellow members of the ETS and friends: I stand before you tonight for the first time unfettered by the constraints of speaking officially, whether as a study-group chair, the Society’s program chair, as moderator of a business meeting, or as a spokesman for the Executive Committee. I stand before you tonight to speak on my own behalf and, I hope, also on the Lord’s behalf.

I think back to my first ETS meeting in 1981 in Toronto. I attended this same banquet, and I watched and listened with awe to the presidential address by Kenneth Barker that year, on “False Dichotomies Between the Testaments.”1 I had absolutely no thought that I would ever be standing before the Society in the same capacity. It is a high honor that you have bestowed on me, and I am humbled and grateful.

Despite the high honor, however, when I have thought about this night over the past year, usually it has been with a sense of great dread. This is because of the membership challenge concerning open theism and inerrancy that lay before us, which we finally brought to a conclusion last night.2 I did not know how that evening would turn out, but God did. My sense is that, for most of us, a certain justice was achieved, and the Society has come through this challenge the better for it.

So, by his grace, I stand before you this night, not with the dread of this past year, but with great joy. I rejoice in the opportunity we enjoy tonight: to fellowship together and to be reminded of the need for joy in our lives. I rejoice in the 55-year history of the ETS and the 26 years I have been a member. I rejoice in the growth of the Society, especially in recent years.3 I rejoice in the spirit in which most things have taken place over the years, including the difficult events of this past year.

I want to speak to you tonight about the joy that is incumbent upon all of us as Christians and as scholars. But, beyond the speaking, I want us to

participate in a sensory experience. I mean that we should use every sense and every faculty possible as we consider joy. I want us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (

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