Learn apologetics

If you are interested in Christian apologetics–that is, the defense of the Christian faith–I urge you to attend the summer program of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism, and Human Rights, which will be held in Strasbourg, France, July 5-16.

You will study under the great John Warwick Montgomery, a giant in the field.

Also teaching this summer will be Craig Parton (author of The Defense Never Rests), my friend and co-director of the Cranach Institute Angus Menuge, Concordia Theological Seminary professor Adam Francisco, and Australian theologian Ross Clifford.

Here are the topics for this summer:

The Apologetic Task Today
Philosophical Apologetics
Scientific Apologetics and Medical Issues
Historical Apologetics
Legal Apologetics & Human Rights
Literary and Cultural Apologetics
The Apologetics of C.S. Lewis
Cults, Sects, and the World’s Religions
Biblical Authority Today

The cost is $2,995, which includes lodging at the University of Strasbourg, most meals, and extras, such as a tour led by Dr. Montgomery of the Alsace region in northeastern France, close to the German border.   This includes visits to the local vineyards and wine-making operations, a viewing of the Grunewald Crucifixion and Resurrection, and sampling of some amazing French cuisine.

I taught there last summer, lecturing on Literary and Cultural Apologetics, and I can say that a good time was had by all.  I love Strasbourg, the historic center of French Protestantism.  The university goes back to Johann Sturm’s original Reformation academy. Calvin taught there; the Huguenot Cross is still worn; and lots of Lutheran churches can still be found.

The teaching is high-level, but accessible to a wide range of backgrounds.  Last summer there were college students, laymen, and lots of pastors.  There was a high school student, married couples, folks of all ages.

And if you can’t go, this would make a great gift from a congregation to its pastor.

Go here for more information.

Good news and bad news

Joe Carter reflects on the meaning and practice of “evangelism”:

The term derives from the Greek word evangel: good news. How odd then that so much evangelism appears to be about selling Jesus and hoping that you can convince the unsaved heathen to buy into salvation. Good news doesn’t have to be sold. Bad news has to be sold, but not good news.

via Selling Jesus Like a Chevy | First Things.

What difference might this distinction make in the way Christians and churches, as they say, do evangelism?

Tolerance embraces proselytizing

Michael Gerson makes some excellent points about the Brit Hume controversy, particularly that religious freedom and religious toleration require accepting people’s rights to try to make converts:

The American idea of religious liberty does not forbid proselytization; it presupposes it. Free, autonomous individuals not only have the right to hold whatever beliefs they wish, they also have the right to change those beliefs and to persuade others to change as well. Just as there is no political liberty without the right to change one's convictions and publicly argue for them, there is no religious liberty without the possibility of conversion and persuasion.

Proselytization, admittedly, is fraught with complications. We object to the practice when an unequal power relationship is involved — a boss pressuring an employee. We are offended by brainwashing. Coercion and trickery violate the whole idea of free religious choice based on open discussion.

But none of this was present in Hume's appeal to Woods. A semi-retired broadcaster holds no unfair advantage over a multimillionaire athlete. Hume was engaged in persuasion.

“Persuasion, by contrast,” argues political and social ethics professor Jean Bethke Elshtain, “begins with the presupposition that you are a moral agent, a being whose dignity no one is permitted to deny or to strip from you, and, from that stance of mutual respect, one offers arguments, or invites your participation, your sharing, in a community.”

The root of the anger against Hume is his religious exclusivity — the belief, in Shuster's words, that “my faith is the right one.” For this reason, according to Shales, Hume has “dissed about half a billion Buddhists on the planet.”

But this supposed defense of other religious traditions betrays an unfamiliarity with religion itself. Religious faiths — Christian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian — generally make claims about the nature of reality that conflict with the claims of other faiths. Attacking Christian religious exclusivity is to attack nearly every vital religious tradition. It is not a scandal to believers that others hold differing beliefs. It is only a scandal to those offended by all belief. Though I am not a Buddhist or a Muslim, I am not “dissed” when a Muslim or a Buddhist advocates his views in public.

Hume’s critics hold a strange view of pluralism. For religion to be tolerated, it must be privatized — not, apparently, just in governmental settings but also on television networks. We must have not only a secular state but also a secular public discourse. And so tolerance, conveniently, is defined as shutting up people with whom secularists disagree. Many commentators have been offering Woods advice in his travails. But religious advice, apparently and uniquely, should be forbidden. In a discussion of sex, morality and betrayed vows, wouldn't religious issues naturally arise? How is our public discourse improved by narrowing it — removing references to the most essential element in countless lives?

True tolerance consists in engaging deep disagreements respectfully — through persuasion — not in banning certain categories of argument and belief from public debate.

via Michael Gerson – Brit Hume’s Tiger Woods remarks shine light on true intolerance – washingtonpost.com.

Brit Hume evangelizes Tiger Wood

On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume had a message for Tiger Woods:

Whether he can recover as a person depends on "his faith. He's said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redeption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, "Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Hume, of course, is getting criticized, not only for evangelizing on air but for dissing Buddhism. Still, I salute him. A private TV network airing private opinions should have room for this, isn’t it?


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