The Kantzer Lectures are a biennial lecture series featuring distinguished evangelical theologians. These lectures are named after former TEDS dean and theological visionary, Kenneth Kantzer. Previous years have covered a range of topics, such as modern theology, election, and liturgy.
Theology is often miscategorized as the archaic study of irrelevant religious questions. However, when pursued properly, theology is intensely practical, even essential. Church leaders are already flooded with information about God and the Bible. Theology, instead of offering even more knowledge, can provide wisdom and interpretation. Buffeted on all sides by contentious cultural voices, the church must now, as much as ever, ground itself in discernment, not just information. The Kantzer Lectures provide a platform for concrete theological thinking, featuring prominent theologians who are committed to the promotion of practical understanding.
History of the Kantzer Lectures
The Kantzer Lectures in Revealed Theology are intended to be the evangelical equivalent of the celebrated Gifford Lectures in natural theology. The Gifford Lectures were established in 1885 by a generous provision in Scottish Lord Adam Gifford’s will, which requested a yearly lecture program based on the topic of natural theology. These lectures were to discuss the existence and evidence of God without any reference to revelation. Lord Gifford stipulated that lecturers treat this subject “as a strictly natural science … of infinite Being, without reference to or reliance upon any supposed special, exceptional, or so-called miraculous revelation.” Since their inception, the Gifford Lectures have potently reflected the most significant intellectual trends of the twentieth century.
The Kantzer Lectures begin where the Gifford Lectures leave off: with a sustained focus on the knowledge of God located in God’s Word, on the self-presentation of the triune God in the history of redemption, and on the person and historical significance of Jesus Christ. Unlike the Gifford Lectures, we don’t reject revelation, but embrace it as an essential element in this conversation.
Kenneth S. Kantzer
Kenneth S. Kantzer (1917-2002) played a significant role in North American evangelicalism’s rise to prominence. Dr. Kantzer served as professor of biblical and systematic theology at Wheaton College for seventeen years, as Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for fifteen more, as president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and as editor-in-chief of Christianity Today. Kantzer also acted as the first Director of Trinity’s PhD program in Theological Studies. In each of these roles, he was motivated by a heartfelt desire to help theology be of service to the church. According to Kantzer, “Scripture was given to the church, and theology is a necessary work of the church, by the church, in the church, and for the church.”
Dr. Kantzer’s most important legacy was not a monetary bequest but a divinity school. Kantzer helped grow Trinity Evangelical Divinity School from a small denominational seminary into a major evangelical Christian graduate school of national and international reputation. It was his vision to combine centrist evangelical theological convictions with a commitment to academic excellence. His own devotion to academic excellence was noteworthy, having completed his PhD at Harvard University where he wrote a dissertation focused on the knowledge of God in the theology of John Calvin. His main concern was to help evangelicals major on the majors rather than the minors. In this sense, he was the epitome of the “catholic evangelical.” (“The role of church tradition,” he once wrote, “is like that of an elder brother in the faith.”) When faced with detractors, he was a model of graciousness, criticizing only after listening charitably. (“Differences are not necessarily contradictions.”) He was one of the first evangelicals, for example, to go to Basel and learn from Karl Barth. However, despite his many passions and interests, his greatest impact stemmed from his work at Trinity. It is therefore fitting that the lectures that bear his name be located at the institution into which he poured not only the best years of his life, but also his passion, energy, and wisdom.
Douglas Sweeney is the Chair of TEDS’ Church History Department, Professor of Church History, and Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center. His areas of expertise include Jonathan Edwards, the history of theology, and American church history. Dr. Sweeney has written numerous books and articles, including The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement (Baker Academic, 2005) and Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word (InverVarsity Press, 2009).
Kevin Vanhoozer is TEDS’ Research Professor of Systematic Theology. Widely published, some of his more prominent books include Is There a Meaning in this Text? The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Zondervan, 1998), The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Westminster John Knox, 2005; Christianity Today Best Theology Book of the Year, 2006), and Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker, 2005).