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Smiley headlines conference honoring Olbricht

Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley
Dr. Thomas H. Olbricht won’t be present but the 35th annual Christian Scholars’ Conference beginning Wednesday at Abilene Christian University still bears his name and reflects his enthusiasm for biblical research.
Dr. Tom Olbricht
Dr. Tom Olbricht
“Tom is the academic renaissance man, with a Ph.D. in rhetoric, an M.Div. from Harvard and substantive scholarship in Restoration history,” said conference director Dr. David Fleer (M.Div. ’81), professor of Bible and communication, and special assistant to the president at Lipscomb University. “His inclusive and collaborative spirit embodies the best amongst us, and sets a high standard for our future.”
The June 3-5 event is attracting nearly 400 faculty, staff, administrators and students from 87 colleges, universities and seminaries who gather annually to hear from leading authors and researchers who study Christianity. This year’s attendees represent such universities as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Duke, Penn State, Loyola Chicago, Emory, Baylor, SMU, Rice and Vanderbilt, as well as Abilene’s three church-related institutions.
The conference is headlined by several top speakers, including best-selling author and PBS late-night talk show host Tavis Smiley who is presenting “Poverty: The Greatest Threat to American Democracy?” Other featured lecturers and plenary speakers include:

  • Dr. Robert Lewis Wilken of St. Paul Center of Biblical Theology and the University of Virginia on “The Vocation of the Christian Scholar: Love of Learning and the Desire for God”
  • Dr. Choon-Leong Seow of Princeton Seminary on “The Book of Job in its Cultural Milieu”
  • Dr. Philip Jenkins of Baylor University on “Families, Populations, and the Reshaping of Global Faith”
  • Dr. Christian Wiman of Yale Divinity School on “Hammer is the Prayer: Radical Doubt, Realistic Faith”
  • Dr. Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College on “The Quest for a Moral Presidency: Jimmy Carter, Progressive Evangelicalism, and the Religious Right”

Olbricht, distinguished professor emeritus of religion at Pepperdine University, now lives in Maine and is recovering from a health issue. He served ACU in several roles from 1970-85, including dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, chair of graduate Bible, professor of Bible, and founding director of the ACU Press. He also was editor of Restoration Quarterly. With Olbricht as director, ACU hosted the Christian Scholars’ Conference during its early years but now it rotates from one Christian university campus to another each June.
Three major lectures and plenary presentations are named after scholars with roots on ACU’s theology faculty: Dr. Everett Ferguson (’53), Dr. John T. Willis (’55), and the late Dr. Frank Pack and his wife, Della, a former instructor of English.
Thursday night’s activity includes a live episode of “Tokens” downtown at the Paramount Theatre. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. performance are $15 and available at the door. The variety program is broadcast nationally on NPR each week from Nashville, Tenn., hosted by Dr. Lee C. Camp and featuring top musicians and scholars. The eclectic mix of participants has drawn the praise of critics who rave about it.
Wiman is the featured guest this week and the show includes performances by Buddy Greene, Odessa Settles, Brother Preacher, Abilene’s Revolution Strings, and the Most Outstanding Horeb Mountain Boys.
“ ‘Tokens’ is part great music, part university lecture, part cultural analysis, and part good conversation, featuring Nashville’s finest musicians and songwriters, provocative interviews with best-selling authors, all mixed up with enough humor and satire to keep things ever lively,” according to its website.
See the full conference schedule here.