Alex McFarland’s annual Truth for a New Generation (TFNG) apologetics conference recently drew hundreds to the facilities of Life Community Church in Greensboro. The event called on Christians to address changing cultural issues.
The conference opened March 23 with Abraham Hamilton III, general counsel and chief policy analyst for the American Family Association (AFA). He also hosts a daily radio program, “The Hamilton Corner” on the AFA network.
Hamilton began with the question, “How many of you have heard that Christianity is a white man’s religion?”
As an African-American, Hamilton said he is sometimes criticized for being a Christian. Wrongly believing the Christian faith is a white man’s religion, some say he is not true to his heritage and should turn away from his faith in Christ.
Beginning with the New Testament, he set out to disprove that idea.
He said Acts 2:41-47 describes the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God was poured out on 120 believers.
“Those who comprised the church in that day were people from modern day Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Lybia, Tunisia, Algeria – and it included Arabs and Romans,” Hamilton said.
Four of those are African countries, he noted. “At the birthday of the church, there were Africans there from the beginning.”
Hamilton said, “The point of this conversation is not to Africanize Christianity, but to enable you and I to stand against the forces that could potentially hinder the advancement of the gospel in our day.”
Acts 8 tells the story of an Ethiopian eunuch that Phillip baptized. Hamilton said this African eunuch’s story shows “a continual outflowing of the Lord getting the gospel to all people in the first century. This Ethiopian … became one of the principal founders of the Christian church in Ethiopia, according to Eusebius and other church historians.”
In Acts 11, believers were scattered because of the persecution of Stephen. The scripture lists men of Cypress and Cyrene. “Cyrene is a Roman province in Libya – that’s Africa,” Hamilton explained. “So the Bible is telling you, … some of the first people to ever proclaim the gospel to people other than Jews included Africans.”
At Antioch the disciples of Christ were first called Christians, according to Acts 13:1. “It was the largest and earliest gentile church with apostolic oversight. … It included African evangelists.
“Some of the leadership of the church at Antioch are identified including Barnabas and Simeon, who is called Niger. That refers to his skin color. He’s black.”
The early church historian Tertullian was one of the first to pen Christian literature in Latin, the language of the Roman empire. Tertullian was an African theologian, and a dedicated apologist who “defended Christianity against pagans and heretics. … He was the first to use the word ‘trinity’ to describe the godhead,” said Hamilton.
Another early church patriarch, Athanasius, was mocked by his enemies as “the black dwarf.” This bishop of Alexandria, defended the divinity of Jesus against the prevailing Orthodox church of his day.
Augustine was born in the North African country of Algeria, “He singlehandedly, through his writings, shaped the entirety of Western Christian tradition through the Middle Ages. His book, City of God literally shaped Western political philosophy,” Hamilton stated.
Popular Christian author and apologist Josh McDowell’s message addressed the need to understand current social changes.
“Culturally, we have gone through a total epistemological shift,” he said. The word epistemological means “the source and nature of truth.”
It deals with what truth is and where it comes from. “We’ve had a total shift in what truth is and even where it comes from.”
Two very different cultures are at play in relationships – the adult culture and the youth culture. “Even in Christian homes there are two cultures,” he said. “The problem is, the parents don’t know it, but the kids do.”
McDowell believes the differences grow out of two different understandings of truth. To the adult culture, truth is objective, external and discovered.
“But the youth culture would say, ‘That’s ridiculous.
All moral truth is created. It is personal opinion,” he added. “This generation has no reference point for truth.”
He said, for the first time in history, we may be living in an age when feelings trump science, history, facts and truth.
“The same-sex debate has nothing to do with science, facts or biology. It has to do with how you feel,” he explained. This is the shift away from objective truth.
Dictionaries add new words every year. In 2016 Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” as its international word of the year, reflecting what it called a “highly-charged” political year. McDowell said Oxford’s definition reads, “Relating to or denoting circumstances which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion, that appeals to emotions or personal belief.”
“We are now living in a totally post-truth culture,” he said, which eventually shapes all conversations, even the fake news culture in media.
Conference organizer Alex McFarland challenged believers to think critically so they can evaluate the issues and learn to think for themselves. He said Christians must pray for government leaders according to 1 Timothy 2:1-3 to “endeavor for a culture most conducive for the spread of the gospel.”
“The backbone of this country, only hope for this country are those two blessed entities initiated by God Himself – the family and the church,” he added.
Believers cannot hand off to others the personal responsibility to live faithfully for Christ. McFarland said, “It is now necessary that each of us live at the height of our times.”
God is calling today’s followers of Christ to “Stand up for what is true, prioritize your life, jettison some cargo, reorder your priorities so that Christ is number one.” Often in debates with atheists, McFarland said the influence of individual Christians is challenged and even mocked. The question is raised, “Does the voice of one Christian matter in the face of media giants and the powerful influence of Hollywood and television?”
“Absolutely,” he affirmed. Biblical truth will remain standing in the end. Truth will never fail, he said.
Another conference speaker was former actress and pop culture expert, Tina Marie Griffin. Her message reviewed how pop culture and media is glamorizing harmful behaviors without showing the consequences and how these messages are eroding the foundational development of today’s youth. She discussed current TV shows, movies, video games, magazines and music, focusing on how wise media choices impacts relationships and self-worth.
J. Warner Wallace, a cold-case homicide detective and best-selling author, spoke to conference attendees from his experience as detective. He was a conscientious and vocal atheist until the age of 35, when he took a serious look at the evidence for the Christian worldview and determined that Christianity was demonstrably true.
Wallace earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (since renamed Gateway Seminary).
His Cold-Case Christianity website, blog and podcast are platforms for evidence supporting Christianity.
Lauren Green, chief religion correspondent for the Fox News Channel, recalled the political and religious turmoil in Jesus’ day, and the way religious leaders used political leaders to do their dirty work – like crucifying Jesus. Pilate was a powerful man politically, but confused when faced with the meaning of truth.
“Truth complicates things because we like to live in gray areas,” Green said. Jesus was saying, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” To follow Jesus is to follow the one who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
“The truth can be known,” she continued. “In fact you can have a relationship with the truth. That’s what Christianity is.”
Other popular speakers included former Muslim Kamal Saleem, apologist Juan Valdes and Fox News contributor Todd Starnes.