Later this month, well-known creationist ministry Answers in Genesis is holding a week-long World Religions Conference.
The conference page boasts twelve speakers, and advertises the event as follows:
The number of people practicing religions other than Christianity grows every year in the United States. They are our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and classmates. How do we reach these precious people with the good news of the gospel?
Join us for the World Religions Conference to learn what other religions believe, how they differ from biblical Christianity, and how you can effectively share the gospel with these lost souls.
There’s just one problem. I clicked through to each speaker’s bio, and researched their backgrounds further as necessary, and none of them are experts on world religion. They are, almost universally, Christian pastors trained in evangelical or fundamentalist theological seminaries, without any apparent focus in any religion other than Christianity, or scientists with no training in religion.
Based on my perusal, only three of the twelve speakers have any connection at all with world religions. One speaker used to be an astrologer before converting to evangelical Christianity. Reading between the lines, one speaker appears to be a convert from atheism. Finally, one speaker is an American missionary based in Hong Kong, and wrote an article on Buddhism for Answers in Genesis’ magazine. Even here, these speakers’ connection with world religions is in personal experience rather than professional training.
In looking these individuals up, though, I found something even weirder:
These two books are part of a three-volume series titled “World Religions and Cults” sold on the Answers in Genesis website. All three volumes are edited by Bodie Hodge and Roger Patterson. I thought that was odd when it popped up, because I had just looked at Bodie Hodge’s biography: Hodge has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He would seem an odd choice to edit a book on world religions. Curious, I looked Patterson up. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology. What.
Of course, these volumes are collections of articles written primarily by individuals other than Hodge and Patterson. But even if every one of these individual authors were qualified to write on the religion or sect assigned to them (which is doubtful), having an engineer and a biologist edit a collection of essays on world religions defeats the purpose of having editors. Editors are supposed to act as quality control, ensuring that individual contributions are accurate and effective. How can individuals with backgrounds in engineer and biology perform this function when the essays in these volumes are about world religions, something they have no expertise in?
Of course, the underlying issue—for both the conference and these volumes—is that evangelicals value faith over expertise. Whether an individual has academic training in a subject is less important than whether they view the subject through the lens of evangelical theology. That is what those evangelicals who attend Answers in Genesis’ World Religions Conference are paying for—not accurate, scholarly information about world religions, but rather a devotional evangelical perspective on world religions. And in this, they will certainly get their money’s worth.
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