Lipscomb University believes that what grounds us is also what grows us. The 2018 Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference is set to accomplish both. June 6 to 8, the Lipscomb University campus will burst with academics, Christians and scholars as they participate in this years’ theme, “Discovery: The Challenge of Emergent Truth.”
The 2018 conference is touted to be the most significant yet, with a robust group of plenary speakers confirmed to present. The plenaries include 2017-2018 U.S. Poet Laureate and 2011 Pulitzer winner Tracy K. Smith; Tobias Wolff, PEN/Faulkner Award and Academy Award winner; Molefi Kete Asante, professor and chair of the department of African American studies at Temple University; and Cilliers Breytenbach, professor for the literature, history and religion of Early Christianity at the Humboldt Universitat zu Berlin.
David Fleer, advisory board chair of the conference and professor in the College of Bible & Ministry at Lipscomb University, shared his thoughts on the conference and plenaries. “I’ve always felt like there is no conference like it. The people that make presentations are scholars, but the scholarship is accessible,” said Fleer.
“The sessions are peer-reviewed and 90-minutes long spanning the disciplines. The plenaries are speaking from an inspirational perspective crossing the disciplines. The power and inspiration of these plenaries when combined with the relevance of the theme make this year the most impressive yet.”
The Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference began in 1981 at Abilene Christian University. Since its start, the conference has grown over the past 37 years to become an academic, interdisciplinary conference with three unique qualities.
The conference meets or exceeds the highest level of academic scholarship per discipline for the national conference, Fleer said. Its interdisciplinary nature does not serve solely as an umbrella under which the university falls; rather it facilitates interaction and discussion amongst the academic disciplines. Perhaps most significant is the conference’s Christian foundation. As Fleer emphasized, “We are people of faith.”
Fleer recommends for those who wish to gain the most from this unique experience to complete some homework. “This is the best cast of plenary speakers in our history,” he said. “To prepare to hear Professor Smith, I highly recommend her recent memoir ‘Ordinary Light,’ before you read her Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poetry, ‘Life on Mars.’”
“If you are not familiar with Tobias Wolff’s work, I suggest reading both of his memoirs, ‘The Boys Life,’ and ‘In Pharaoh’s Army,’ before engaging his celebrated collections of short stories, ‘Our Story Begins.’”
Fleer highlighted the contributions of Molefi Asante. “Perhaps the best place to start with Dr. Asante’s substantive oeuvre is his work, ‘Facing South to Africa,’ which asserts the singular importance of African people viewing themselves as subjects of their own narratives,” he said.
“For Breytenbach’s plenary, I will be engaging ‘Narrating the Death of Jesus in Mark: Utterances of the Main Character, Jesus,’” said Fleer.
“There is no conference like it because,” Fleer explained, “the conference’s most dynamic quality is the invigorating dialogue with plenary speakers and their presentations through the scores of sessions that attract serious thinkers from across the country.”
“The ‘dynamic’ is the thoughtful, faithful, civil and scholarly examination of everything from immigration to matters related to the intersection of the cross and crescent, all under this years’ theme, ‘Discovery: The Challenge of Emergent Truth.’”