September 29, 2012 I attended a great conference in Dallas called Contending with Christianity’s Critics. It was at Watermark Community Church in Dallas (click for Watermark church website). It was a great conference. It makes me think about the fact that as Christians we have been given so much but the unbelieving world has no idea what they are lacking. Too often Christians have to pursue studying apologetics outside their own church because it is not taught inside the church. Apologetics is thought of as answers to the challenges from nonchristian scholars and atheists. But, usually the skeptics are not really looking for answers, the Christians are. Christians are looking for answers because they’ve heard the skeptics and aren’t sure what to think about what they’ve heard. Christians are sometimes a little rattled by challenging questions from nonchristian scholars. Questions from friends or even kids can be just as challenging also. It is a bit disturbing some of the ideas we hear from our culture today, often proposed deliberately to make people question Christianity. The nonchristian skeptics do need the answers, but it seems to take a miracle to get them to look for the answers or be open enough to seriously consider them. There aren’t many nonchristian skeptics who go to apologetics conferences, though there may be a few. It is the Christians who go to them. It was said that there were over 3,000 attenders at the Contending with Christianity’s Critics conference in Dallas. It was great to see such a turn-out. The email I got before the conference said they were sold out. So, we Christians need to find ways to pass on reasons for our faith to nonchristians around us who do not go to where the answers are.
Today people have become so skeptical of there being any truth people can rely on. But there seems to be a resurgence of interest in apologetics. There is a whole new slate of individuals who are great speakers on apologetics. At the Dallas conference here is a list of the speakers and their topics.
- Todd Wagner, “The Importance of Apologetics for Every Believer and Every Church”
- Greg Koukl, “Bad Arguments Against Religion”
- Dan Wallace, “How Badly Did the Early Scribes Corrupt the New Testament?”
- Frank Turek, “If God Exists, Why Does He Allow Evil?”
- John Stonestreet, “Defense and Offense: The Call to Care for Culture”
- Ravi Zacharias, “The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists”
- William Lane Craig, “Richard Dawkins on Arguments for God’s Existence”
I’ll just point out some highlights. Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Church, was good in pointing out that love is more important than knowing answers. It should lead back to the gospel and to what people really need.
Greg Koukl, from the ministry Stand to Reason , had a lot of good points that could be of practical help in talking to nonchristians. I like the way he described how faith works. Evidence gives us knowledge (such as knowledge about planes for instance). Then based on the knowledge you act in trust (such as getting on a plane). So Biblical faith is not a “blind” leap, but a step taken with knowledge of what you are doing. Another good thing from Koukl was what if someone says “Christians are stupid.” What do you say to that? How about this? “Ok, so let’s grant for the sake of the argument that Christians are indeed stupid (they certainly can be).” Now, so what? That doesn’t deal with anything. The question is, is Christianity true? The truth of Christianity does not really depend on how good or how smart Christians are.
Dan Wallace is an expert on textual criticism and New Testament manuscripts. He showed some reasons why we can have confidence in the New Testament. One thing I didn’t realize was about when the King James Bible was written compared to what we have today. Some skeptics will try to claim that because of all the variant manuscripts and copying errors in the Greek New Testament, we can’t know what the original really said. But consider this. In 1611 the number of Greek manuscripts the translators had to go on was only seven manuscripts! Today, we have over 5800! So this means you can figure out where the copying mistakes were and know real well what the text should really say. He also talked about the famous “number of the beast” in Revelation, about the antichrist. Wallace says there are some Greek manuscripts that say the number is 616 instead of 666. He said he has personally examined some of these manuscripts and he is not sure which number it should be. He kind of left this as a mystery. There are a few things like that about the New Testament manuscripts. But they don’t create serious problems.
Frank Turek spoke about answering atheism. He is from crossexamined.org and ImpactApologetics.com . He dealt with a number of things but what I thought was especially good was about the question, “Why doesn’t God take away evil?” If God took away all evil, that would mean humans would not have free will. We’d be like robots, which God does not want. So God gives people time to respond to him and then eventually he will put an end to all evil. But our sin has to be dealt with first.
John Stonestreet is from the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. See Breakpoint.org or colsoncenter.org. I had not heard Stonestreet before. He reminded me a lot of Chuck Colson and Francis Scheaffer. He addressed the loss of values in our culture and how the truth is sort of drowned out by many other things. I like something he said, “Christianity is a way of being human in God’s world.”
Ravi Zacharias and William Lane Craig were some of the “big guns” of the conference. Both were top notch. It was a privilege hearing Ravi Zacharias in person. He described our society as without shame, without reason, and without meaning. His talk was much deeper than just this but this stood out to me. William Lane Craig did his presentation with an empty chair for atheist Richard Dawkins, similar to Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention. Dawkins would not really have sound answers to the arguments for God’s existence. Dr. Craig is very knowledgable about philosophers ideas on the subject of God’s existence. No wonder Dawkins hasn’t debated Dr. Craig.
I’d recommend these speakers, though I would not agree completely with William Lane Craig about the Big Bang or Genesis. Young age creationism is usually left out of apologetics conferences. I think this should not be. But I am glad these men are out there. They are doing a lot of good.