Oxford Brookes University Mission – Day 4

That’s better. It felt like we got somewhere. Numbers were down on the previous day, which was a little disappointing but to be expected. This was Wednesday and we were competing against sports’ fixtures. But word may also have got round about the historicity talk! This time the audience engagement was considerably better. Perhaps the innovation of a phone number to text questions helped. I certainly think the quality of the talk helped. It was a whole load more engaging. The topic was ‘Outdated: Has Science Killed Christianity?’ I tried to argue that the approach of the New Atheists is to abuse scientific method rather than use it to investigate the evidence for Jesus. And so they hijack in the service of naturalism and ask it to justify an ideology that it simply can’t support.

It generated a fair few questions. One of them was brilliant. And, as you might expect, I fluffed it! The question said something like ‘does creation point in the direction of a creator, or not?’ And I ended up rattling on about the presuppositions which we bring to the debate whether we’re Christian or not. That’s not wrong. And it may have been helpful. But I failed to talk at all about God’s general revelation, which was an oversight! What I should have said was something along the lines that the Bible says that creation speaks of God’s existence and his invisible power and divine nature (Romans 1:18-20). But we suppress the evidence. And the reason that we do that is because we’re predisposed to keeping God at arms’ length. And so although God is ‘speaking’ to us in creation, we do not have ears to hear. But wonderfully God provides another word for us to listen to in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. He’s less easy to ignore.

I did wonder whether I was the best person to be giving this talk. I’m not a scientist. I was an engineer. Once. But there are reasons why I got out of engineering. And they had to do with not being much good at it and not being remotely interested in it. But an engineering degree from Warwick University is not to be sniffed at. But it raises the question of whether I should have been doing the talk at all. I’ve had guys in our congregation say that people like me (non-experts) shouldn’t do talks where a specialist is needed. They’re not entirely wrong. If you had the choice between Professor John Lennox and me, it’s a no-brainer. But there’s only one of him. He’s large brained, clear thinking and engaging. That combination is rare. Specialists in a subject can be unbelievably dull. I really don’t have anyone in mind. It’s just the kind of sweeping generalisation that I’m in the mood for making. And so I want to speak up for the specialist communicators, the run of the mill pastors who are used to understanding stuff and explaining it. We may not be experts in the field of apologetics but at least we can be understood and engaging. We’ll need to work hard at understanding the arguments. And to do that we’ll usually try and climb on the shoulders of experts like John Lennox, especially but also other apologists. But when we do,  perhaps being able to speak apologetically is a speciality! My own view is that you want people who want to win people to Christ not simply people who want to win the argument. Evangelists have to be better than experts because they’ll head for the gospel rather than simply their learning.  But I’ve seen John Lennox do both. And it was electric. But apparently he wasn’t available!

One thought on “Oxford Brookes University Mission – Day 4

  1. Gill bland February 28, 2013 / 6:11 pm

    It’s great to hear about your experience of mission week. Not that it’s good to hear of struggles, but it is comforting to know that even pastors find these things hard sometimes. I would say, from someone who has never been bothered by the science issue (arty type) but has been asked about it, sometimes it’s really good to hear a talk on the subject that is not as scientifically high flying; I imagine that the majority of those who raise the issue are looking for an ‘out’ rather than have deep scientific knowledge. That said, I have heard prof Lennox talk and he is incredible at holding science and the Bible together in a mind blowing way. We had a talk from our women’s worker (a science teacher called Anja) at our church weekend and she helpfully looked some of the motivations an presuppositions behind people’s questions as well as tackling the nitty gritty. We also have Andrew Sach giving a similar talk at Euston Church soon and he is also excellent.

    Hope the rest of the week goes well. At least two of my best friends became Christians at uni outreach events.

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