Dr. Michael Grisanti will never forget his first Evangelical Theological Society conference thirty-five years ago.
“1986 was quite an introduction to ETS,” Dr. Grisanti said, “watching Wayne Grudem debate Catherine Kroeger from the University of Minnesota.”
Grudem and Kroeger were two of six plenary speakers that year in Atlanta, each addressing the conference’s topic: “Manhood and Womanhood in Biblical and Theological Perspectives.” Other than Grudem, the other five speakers were all committed evangelical feminists. They did not see a unique leadership role for men in either the home or the church. Grudem, on the other hand, believed in a complementarian view of men and women’s roles, and defended the New Testament’s teaching that a husband is the head of the home and men are tasked with leadership of the church.
At the conference, Grudem and many other committed complementarians began discussing the formation of an organization that would uphold the biblical vision of men and women’s roles in the home and church. From there, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was formed. Watching that 1986 debate, and the creation of CBMW, Dr. Grisanti saw the vital importance of being present at ETS, of bringing biblically committed scholarship to the most pressing issues of the day in the evangelical church.
“Being at ETS each year, I get to engage with the larger evangelical world,” Dr. Grisanti said. “TMS has something important to say. We have a vital, biblically-grounded perspective on scholarship, and ETS is a place to contribute to the most pressing conversations evangelicals are having.”
Over the past 35 years, Dr. Grisanti has become a key part of that conversation, particularly in Old Testament studies. He’s presented several papers over the years, addressing issues of authorship, dating, interpretation, and ethics in the Old Testament. And since 2007, he’s chaired the Old Testament Narrative Literature Committee. In that role, Dr. Grisanti organizes meetings, creates the committee’s schedule of events, and helps select the topic papers must address at ETS.
“With my work in this committee, I’m trying to help people be aware of good ways to handle God’s Word, either respond to liberal criticism or make people aware of helpful areas of interpretation,” Dr. Grisanti said. “This year, there were great papers on how Samuel draws from Judges and Kings and shows the power and authority and credibility of God’s Word.”
At the 2021 ETS conference, Dr. Grisanti moderated eight sessions on Old Testament narrative. In one of those sessions, Paul Twiss, a former student and now professor of Bible Exposition at TMS, read a paper titled “An Overlooked Aspect of Judah’s Speech” from Genesis 44:18-34. Dr. Twiss was one of several TMS faculty and alumni presenting at ETS.
With that kind of engagement, Dr. Grisanti notes, TMS is “demonstrating to the evangelical world, and to current students, that we are part of current scholarship.”
Also for Dr. Grisanti, the time at ETS is an opportunity to demonstrate to alumni—Master’s Men—that their alma mater is also invested in their lives and ministry.
“Just a few years after I joined the faculty at TMS, I started organizing an alumni gathering at ETS,” Dr. Grisanti said. That alumni gathering is still going strong, with over 30 men gathering one evening during the 2021 ETS conference.”
“I want our alumni to know that TMS loves them. And we think about them. Simply being at ETS can help with that,” Dr. Grisanti said. “Besides moderating and attending numerous sessions, and participating in the alumni meeting, I’ll fill up my calendar with breakfast and lunch appointments with our alumni. We’ll talk theology, pastoral ministry, and family. It’s fun to see our guys come from nearby as well as far away. They love TMS and are committed to the school.”
After 35 years at ETS, nearly 25 of them as a professor at TMS, the list of TMS alumni Dr. Grisanti’s influenced is already long and will continue to grow in the coming years, as will his contribution to Old Testament scholarship and the yearly gathering it represents.
“AT ETS, I’m learning about interpretive issues that are around the corner, that our students are going to encounter,” Dr. Grisanti said. “Having a seat at the table equips me for my teaching responsibilities. It also helps me write and think critically. It truly does help me grow as a scholar, a professor, and a Christian.”