Apologetics experts from across the nation took the stage at Defend ‘19, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s (NOBTS) weeklong apologetics conference, Jan. 7-11.
Faculty member Robert Stewart of New Orleans Seminary moderates the week-long Defend apologetics conference at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Christians have always needed to be able to state what they believe clearly and to defend their faith when asked to give a reason for the hope that they have in Christ,” said Robert Stewart, Defend director. “But today in our postmodern, post-Christian, post-truth culture it is especially important that we be winsome ambassadors for Christ who share the truth in love in the power of God’s Spirit.”
Plenary speakers included Frank Turek, coauthor of I Don’t have Enough Faith to be an Atheist and Chris Brooks, pastor and radio host of “Equipped with Chris Brooks.”
Turek, president of CrossExamined.org, told the 350 attendees that the truth of the Christian faith centers on four questions: Does truth exist? Does God exist? Are miracles possible? Is the New Testament true? If the answer is “yes” to each question, then the Christian faith must be true, he stated.
Regarding the existence of truth, Turek said, “If there is no truth, then Christianity can’t be true. Of course, if there is no truth, atheism can’t be true, either.”
Going further, Turek noted that people more often reject God for emotional reasons than for lack of evidence.
“Most people are not looking for the truth, they’re running from it,” he said. “But the only way to find happiness is straight through truth. Jesus is truth.”
Turek set forth cosmological, teleological (fine-tuning) and moral arguments to show that God exists, adding that only the good and perfect God of the Bible can be the basis for the human sense of morality.
Regarding miracles, Turek used the analogy of the seal produced by a king’s signatory ring to say that miracles show the biblical message is authentic, noting “miracles confirm the message.”
“Not believing in a miracle because you haven’t seen one is a bad reason,” Turek said. Citing as examples justice, love and the immaterial laws of logic, he added, “There are a lot of things you believe in that you haven’t seen.”
In his second plenary session, Turek pointed to evidence supporting the New Testament, including early sources, eyewitness details, stories considered embarrassing that indicated the stories are true, and the presence of undesigned coincidences between the Gospels that undergird and confirm the Gospel accounts.
Chris Brooks, senior pastor of Evangel Ministries in Detroit and author of Urban Apologetics, in his plenary session addressed the need for Christians to speak to secular culture and bridge the “cultural divide.”
“This is a skill Christians need to consider seriously and strive to master if we’re going to be effective,” Brooks said.
Emphasizing the need for believers to be “salt and light” in culture, Brooks presented a four-part plan of action for approaching those of different worldviews.
Brooks said believers must listen to others to learn what they believe; understand that others believe they are right when they act; look for points of agreement while understanding that agreement is not condoning; and then find the best path forward to communicate.
“We need to be Christians, not anti-atheists. We need to be Christians, not anti-secularists,” he said.
To extend grace and speak truth to the culture, Brooks said God will use people “who will think critically and live compassionately.”
Plenary speakers included NOBTS visiting professor and leading resurrection scholar Gary Habermas; Abdu Murray, a former Muslim serving with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; Lisa Fields, founder and president of the Jude 3 Project; James Walker, Watchman Fellowship president; Robert Bowman Jr., coauthor of Faith Has Its Reasons; David Calhoun of Gonzaga University; Richard Howe, Southern Evangelical Seminary; Neil Shenvi, quantum chemist; and Mark Rathel, Baptist College of Florida.
Breakout sessions were led by plenary speakers and three dozen professors, ministers and scholars. Attendees included collegians from schools nationwide as well as church groups and youth.
In honor of the initiation of the Will Jackson Defend the Faith Scholarship Fund, a plaque was presented to the Jackson family during the opening evening session. William Jackson III, a NOBTS master of arts in Christian apologetics graduate (May 2018), died Nov. 14, 2018, at the age of 29.
Noting the reason for founding a scholarship in Jackson’s memory, Stewart said Jackson was “the model of what we want all our apologetics graduates to be: a leader in his church who lovingly shared his faith and backed his talk up with reasons and evidence.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)