Last weekend, I attended the Apologetics Canada Conference (put on by Apologetics.com and other partner ministries) in Coquitlam, B.C. Canada (kind of a ‘suburb’ of Vancouver; hope that doesn’t offend anyone 🙂 ). I was excited to listen to some great lectures by some top folks in the apologetics world. I was especially excited to finally meet one of my heroes of apologetics, Greg Koukl. Yes, I do now have an autographed copy of “Tactics” which I need to read soon (though I’ve heard a lot about it already). My unsigned copy will probably now be passed around to many brothers and sisters in Christ.
It was an excellent conference, however, what stuck me most about it, were several things I had not anticipated. First, there was the turnout! From my understanding, the organizers had been hoping and praying to get a couple hundred people. God answered, maybe a bit too much. The facility had a capacity of 600, and I heard they sold out and were turning people away to keep the fire marshal happy. Amazing!
Second, the diversity of people there. There were youth to elderly and in-between, whole families, men AND women! (If this doesn’t strike you as odd, you maybe haven’t been around apologetics too long 😉 ). I’m hoping this is a signal of great change in this field. I recently ‘retweeted’ a similar Twitter sentiment from fellow apologist Mary Jo Sharp, “I am overwhelmed at how great the response to apologetics has been at the SBTC women’s conferences this year.” As I said in response to my previous post on the conference, this WARMS MY HEART!
Third, the atmosphere! People were genuinely excited. You could just feel it in the air. The worship team, Ethos (1)Kudos to the Ethos team and many thanks. I’ve been around and have played with a number of talented worship bands over the years, and you folks were top notch!, contributed to this atmosphere, turning it from what some might imagine to be a ‘dry conference’ to an excellent time of worship in all that took place! The organizers included several times of worship throughout, which was an excellent idea. Note: Friday night, I felt the song selection was a bit off (2)Worship leaders need to always be measuring the music against metrics of both theological depth and worshiper participation. The latter seemed to be having some issues Friday night., but Saturday, was just excellent all day!
In summary, I was overwhelmed by the conference in a very good way which was extremely encouraging as I push forward in the ministry of TilledSoil.org. Thank you!
Some notes about the conference content:
Greg Koukl started the conference on Friday night. He spoke about the topic of New Atheism. He highlighted how the new atheists really see religion as dangerous, hence their tone. These people tend to be rhetorically powerful in their presentation.
They also tend to shot-gun objections, hoping to win by sheer number (again, a rhetorical approach). I’ve run into this quite a bit in my discussions with atheists, especially on-line. They just keep tossing out objections, and hardly stick to anything that is being discussed.
He then said that their challenges could be boiled down to their saying that reason, science, and morality are on their side. He then walked through each of these, showing how this is not the case.
He also pointed out how when you read the New Atheists works, try to get rid of the ‘trash-talk’ (ex: Christians are dumb; God is a crutch; . . . therefore you are wrong) and ‘silly-logic’ (ex: God made the universe, so then who made God?) aspects of their work. Once you do, you should be down to a few issues to address, rather than a whole bunch (which seem overwhelming).
On Saturday, Dr. Craig Hazen spoke on the Resurrection of Christ. Christianity, in many ways, is a testable religion. In fact, the main tenant of Christianity is testable (1 Cor. 15). The big way to defend the resurrection is actually quite simple. Jesus was alive at point A, dead at point B, and alive again at point C. There is really no serious disagreement on A or B. He distributed an excellent flow-chart to look at all the possibilities of C, and where they fall apart. (I guess Gary Habarmas was the architect of the method.)
Of all the options, the only ones that reasonably account for the historical data (on which most everyone agrees, btw), is either that a) Jesus was an alien (think StarTrek transporters and stuff), or b) Jesus resurrected. We’ll certainly be doing a more full exposition on Christ’s resurrection in a future blog.
Dr. John Mark Reynolds then spoke on ‘The War of Worldviews.’ (my notes are more sketchy here, but I’ll toss out a couple points) He said there are a couple kinds of atheists: ‘religious’ non-believers who don’t have to think about this stuff, because Dawkins said religious people are stupid; and more classical atheists who come from a line of atheism which began in wishing there was no god(s). He said the beginnings of atheism came from humanity being the play-things of Zeus (or other gods). In other words, anything was better than becoming that, even ceasing to exist. The science tie with atheism is a much more recent thing.
One thing he noted that was very important, is that in some circles, Christians are just as guilty as the atheists in their misbehavior in discussion.
He listed some of the main reasons he is a Christian:1) we have to ask whether we live in a cosmos or a chaos? 2) how does one account for beauty? (even the bottom of the ocean, which few see, is beautiful). Why does beauty help in math, logic, and science? (Why Ockham’s Razor?) He notes that the selection of helio-centrism over geo-centrism wasn’t initially made on the basis of empirical science, but beauty. 3) The problem of ‘is’ to ‘ought.’ Basically the argument from morality. The problem of evil is a huge problem without God.
There were a number of great breakout sessions on a number of topics in the afternoon.
The concluding keynote was given by Dr. Steven Collins, who is the Dean of the College of Archeology at Trinity Southwest University in New Mexico and director of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project, which is basically looking at the city of Sodom and others in the area.
I especially enjoyed this lecture because it was something quite new to me. It is also interesting because so few seem to believe in the historicity of the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) these days.
He said that the location of the city on most Biblical maps is not only in the wrong place, but usually even has a question mark by it. He says this is because of the work of William Albright, and that since, scholars have not paid attention to all the Biblical witness in Genesis 13:1-12.
The detail of this lecture was incredible. I’ll just try to give a few of the important points. First, how this ends up will have an impact on dating of the Genesis events, ie: bronze age or late iron age. Sodom has more Biblical geographical indicators to its location than Jerusalem or Ai. Sodom was bigger than Jerusalem by a factor of 10. Sodom occupations are early to middle bronze age. Sodom is located on the best agricultural land in the region, yet was uninhabited for 5-7 centuries after it’s destruction. Bronze age layer is sitting in over 1 meter of ash with sulfur smell. So, 2500 years of continuous occupation, then nothing for 5-7 centuries? Sodom is over square kilometer in size.
Then he talked about the destruction layer. I think most of that is unpublished, and was found just this last year. Bodies ripped and torn apart, of all ages, yet it happened very quickly. Bricks and rocks show extreme heat. Zircons turned into to bubbles at over 2000 degrees.
He also notes that the Arc of the Covenant would have probably been sitting where the Sodom temple was located (good one, God!), before the Israelites crossed the Jordan, and that it was probably the Israelites who began to resettle the area. Most other cultures would have been too afraid to after it’s destruction (hence uninhabited for so long).
NOTE: Sodom – Apologists have to be quite careful about this kind of thing until the work is published, the findings are reviewed, etc. However, I would tend to side with Dr. Collins’ theories, as the general history of archeological evidence seems to keep confirming the Bible as time goes on, rather than the skeptics and liberal Bible scholars. It’s a wait and see situation before I’d put too much weight on this.
|⇡1||Kudos to the Ethos team and many thanks. I’ve been around and have played with a number of talented worship bands over the years, and you folks were top notch!|
|⇡2||Worship leaders need to always be measuring the music against metrics of both theological depth and worshiper participation. The latter seemed to be having some issues Friday night.|