Unbelievable 2014

12 Jul

Intro from Justin Brierley and the president of BIOLA University, Barry Corey.


Opening address – Oz Guiness (OCCA)
“Can we really change the world? Or is this just a cliche?”
Oz poses the question, were the victors of WW2 really that Christian, one asked after the war by people responding to Churchill’s speech before the Battle of Britain.
Can God and His message change the world? Yes!
The Gospel is the first truly global religion. Most diverse religion. Bible the most translated book in the world. In some areas the quickest growing religion. The most persecuted faith in the world.
Evangelism is outstripping discipleship, let alone discipleship that can deal with the modern world.
We need to explore the transforming power of the Gospel.
We are in the world but not of it. We must remember that, as Paul said, we are not conformed but transformed. The problem is that these are very easy to say but not so easy to do.
We need to remember to engage with the world. This is the whole point of apologetics. W do not declare the Christian faith in an abstract form that the world cannot understand. We need to engage with an understanding of what the world is saying and thinking.
We need to explore the spreading nature of the gospel. We need to recognise that there is nothing wrong with leaders. That includes recognising the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom spreads in ways very different from the world.
Oz points out that Europe has been evangelised twice and poses the question posed by T S Eliot and others “Can the Western Church be warmed again?”


Seminar 1 – Craig Hazen (BIOLA)
“How do we know the tomb was empty?”
Craig shares his experience of being dropped in to a “Barbecue a Christian” event (1 hour Q&A followed by BBQ wings). His experience about these Q&A sessions is that the questions seem to have become more stupid. There are a small finite number of questions that can be asked and very few people who ever ask any difficult questions. Our aim must be to answer with gentleness and respect.

Christianity doesn’t really fit into the model understanding of what a religion is. 1 thing that sets Christianity apart is that it is testable, you can offer up evidence for and against.
1 Cor 15:12-19 hangs Christianity by a single thread, that of the resurrection. Why would Paul do this? Because Paul had met the risen Jesus and was convinced that this thread as actually pretty robust.
There are 12 known historical facts concerning the resurrection. These are facts that are agreed by almost all the most devout Christian AND the most ardent atheist (www.garyhabermas.com).


1 – Jesus died by crucifixion. Crucifixion had built in observable evidence for when the person had died, that they no longer raise themselves to breath.
2 – Jesus was buried. There are specifics that can be argued, like how and where, but Jesus’ burial is accepted.
3 – Jesus’ disciples lost hope after Jesus died.
4 – The tomb as empty. Evidence appears in all reputable historic sources.
5 – Disciples REALLY believed they saw the risen Jesus.
6 – The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers, including going to their deaths for doing so.
7 – The message of the resurrection was the central message of the early Church. The could have focussed on so many other things, but they focussed on Jesus’ resurrection.
8 – It was proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried. You don’t go to somewhere where it is easy for people to disprove a false teaching and proclaim it.
9 – Because of all of this preaching about resurrection the Church was born and grew.
10 – Sunday became the primary day of worship. Christianity was born amongst Jewish people, who celebrated on a Saturday. It is not an easy cultural thing to give up.
11 – James, Jesus’ brother, was a skeptic and yet converted when he believed he saw the risen Jesus.
12 – Paul also converted after he met the resurrected Jesus, despite being. Christian killer beforehand.

We then go through the chart that deals with the various theories that people have used to try and explain Jesus’ resurrection.


And here is the final piece of the handout that we received from the seminar.



Seminar 2 – Clay Jones (BIOLA University)
“Where is God when disaster strikes?”
We are surrounded by evil. There is moral evil, like gossip, child molestation etc, and natural evils, like earthquakes, floods etc.
4 things to think through:
1 – Understand why do we suffer for Adam’s sin?
2 – Understand humaniy’s depravity
3 – Understand the value free will
4 – Understand the value of eternal life

1 – Why do Emma suffer for Adam’s sin?
Everything started off perfect. Then the Devil comes in and suggests that God is holding Adam and Eve back. Adam and Eve ate the fruit and we now have death in the world.
Adam and Eve are our historical parents. We inherited our soul and our consciousness from Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve can only reproduce themselves, they cannot create anything better than themselves, so they reproduce fallen beings like themselves.
“The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing.”
Our understanding of “You will surely die” is that it means that they will die naturally at a ripe old age in their sleep. But that isn’t what God said. God said they will die, with no specifics of how.
The reason we struggle with being tied to Adam and Eve is that we have a culture of individualism. But we are linked with Adam and Eve and everyone else.
Without Christ humanity’s seed deserves to die. In Christ, being born again, means that we have an organic link with Jesus.
The lesson from this is this – Hate sin!
2 – Understand humanity’s depravity
Both Calvin and Arminius believed that humanity is terribly depraved and sinful.
The Holocaust saw 6 million Jews murdered. about 6 million Slavs and disabled people were also killed. Auschwitz was able to kill 4000+ per day. There were 10,005 concentration camps in existence.
The question after all of this is – Is this inhuman?
The answer is no, because it was mans that came up with it and acted it out.
In the Soviet Union the Ukrainian genocide of 1926 killed between 5 and 7 million people by starvation. Is this inhuman? No, humans did this.
The Japanese empire undertook “The Rape of Nan King”. Was this inhuman?
A Chinese emperor buried thousands of scholars alive.
In Rwanda 800,000 were killed out of a population of 8 million, a decimation.
Turkey killed 1.2 million Armenians.
The USA have killed 55 million babies through abortion.
Studies by historians say that it is the average member of the population that commits genocide. Iceman, the man who ran Auschwitz, was considered to be a normal person. An Auschwitz survivor commented that humans are victim, perpetrator and spectator at the same time.
To deny that humans can be born incapable of committing genocide is to suggest that some can be born innately better than others.
Paul says in Romans that no one does good, “not one”. Good acts do not make good people.
Why do people who break some laws obey others? It is out of self-interest. 1 John says if we hate our brother then we are a murderer. If we hate our brother, why don’t we murder them? Because it is not in our best interest. It is a cost-benefit analysis. When people decide to break the rules it is because they think they can get around the cost.
Is this a dangerous message? Yes, but it’s one that Jesus told.
Struggling with sin is a good thing, it is a sign that you are born again. If we don’t struggle with it we have a problem.
Studying human sinfulness shows how sinful humans can be, shows how patient God is, justifies God’s judgement, it unsettles our worldliness, it increases our desire for Jesus’ return.
When we realise there are no good people we realise that the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Becomes meaningless.
3 – The value of free will
E.g Hurricane Katrina – a city built below sea level with sea defences that were known would not stand up to a serious storm.
Forcing us to obey God’s rules does not make worshippers.
God gives us enough information that those who want to believe will have their beliefs justified, but not too much that those who don’t want to believe are compelled to believe.
The process of life is learning that sin is stupid, so that we won’t rebel against God in eternity.
4 – The value of eternity
Eternity dwarfs our sufferings into insignificance.
We were built to rule (Genesis 1) and are called to rule with Christ (2 Tim 2:12). Life is preparing us for this.


After the lunch break we all gather again in the main hall and listen to Peter Kerridge, head of Premier Radio. He says that he hopes that events like this encourage us to take our Christian faith into our everyday lives. He also shares about how he hopes the new Premier website will help the Church to communicate well in the internet age.


Seminar 3 – William Lane Craig, Jeff Zweerink and Craig Hazen (as moderator)
“Is atheism winning the battle for science?”
WLC says that he is really encouraged by the conversation that is happening between theology and science.
CH asks how we respond to people who find out we are religious and respond by saying that they don’t need it to get through life, but good for us if we do.
JZ says that a belief should be based on where e evidence points, so his belief is not just because he was taught to believe.
WLC looks at the way the world has looked at where the attitude “That’s good for you” comes from. That religion and faith are not matters of truth but matters of emotion. So when we make assertions about God we must remember that we are not talking about matters of taste or sentiment but of fact and should be stated as such.
CH asks whether our use of the term “faith” hinders how we talk about it.
WLC says that he rejects the way that atheists talk about faith, as belief in something blindly regardless of the evidence.
JZ comments that the true understanding of faith, as shown through the gospels, is nothing like this. But sometimes the Church can misrepresent this faith and make it out to be how atheists represent it to be.
They talk about the relationship between science and theology, particularly the way that many think that they are at war with one another, when actually, whilst there is an overlap, they also deal with different aspects of life.
WLC talks about scientism, the belief that science explains, it can explain everything. He comments that it finds itself wanting, as it is a belief in something that cannot be proven to be possible, something that they argue against when they argue against God.
CH asks what Hawking, Dawkins et al are on about when they write about creation. JZ comments that they are very prone to declaring that philosophy is dead or pointless and yet go on to philosophise throughout their books about how the universe came into being.
CH poses the question in the title: are atheists winning the argument for science?
JZ says that he believes that all the discoveries over the last 100 years point towards fitting within a theistic/Christian world views, rather than an atheistic one.
WLC points out that science has a “self-correcting mechanism that, when it goes off track, kicks it back on track because science cannot deny the facts that are out there.
We then go into a Q&A element


We finish with a panel discussion.
The first question tackled is “how far can you take reason towards belief?” Tim McGrew comments that you can go all the way on reason and evidence. Ruth Jackson says that faith, as it should be described, is not the blind faith that Dawkins suggests it is.
The final question asks about apologetics in the Church and how to bring it into churches today.
David Robertson says that it should exist in the church, or else the church is dead. He prefers to call it evangelism. He and others point out that any time we speak about our faith we should always point to the Cross, the resurrection and the message of the gospel, and we should be aggressive in doing so as so few people, even those in churches, truly know it.


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