Ready Answers Apologetics Conference 2018 Review

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Can we trust the Bible?  Is it scientifically accurate when properly understood?  Is it historically reliable given what we know from archaeology?

These were the important questions we considered at the first-ever Ready Answers Apologetics Conference.  Bethel Bible Chapel and Island Bible Chapel partnered together to bring Ready Answers to fruition.  The goal was to bring to small-town Northern Ontario the kind of apologetics conference that we would normally have to drive up to eight hours to experience.  Our mission was to equip saints and educate skeptics by providing answers that demonstrate the reliability of Scripture and a defense of Christianity.

In October 2018, we over 230 people excitedly gathered at Bethel Bible Chapel in Sault Ste. Marie to hear from five experts who believe the Bible can be trusted.  I have reflected on the amazing teaching at Ready Answers 2018 and would like to share some highlights from each of the speakers.

SATURDAY SESSIONS

SESSION ONE:  Can We Trust Science?

PRESENTER: Dr. Kirk Durston (Ph.D. Biophysics, University of Guelph) – Apologist with Power2Change

SUMMARY:  Dr. Durston looked at the three different types of science:

  • Experimental science (can be proven experimentally – generally trustworthy)
  • Inference science (experiment/evidence + a leap – can be problematic)
  • Science fantasy (made up/not testable – not trustworthy)

Using many examples from the modern world of science, Kirk came to several conclusions:

  • 21st Century science (“modern science”) does not hold the moral high ground when it comes to truth. In reality, it has become a mix of good science, bad science, creative story-telling, science fiction, scientism (atheism dressed up as science), citation-bias, huge media announcements followed by quiet retractions, massaging the data, exaggeration for funding purposes, and outright fraud.
  • God has created nature and the laws of nature, which make science possible. The scientific method (rather than science in general) is our tool to understand nature.  God and good science are mutually enriching.
  • At some point, a Christian must put their faith in the Bible as the Word of God, as trustworthy … more trustworthy than a narrative science/scientism might construct in its extrapolation and interpretation of the past, of life, and other miracles.

As a scientist who is involved in active research, as well as someone who stays current with the latest findings in secular science journals, I found Kirk to be a credible voice in this field.  The way he distinguished between good science (which follows the scientific method) and bad science (ie. scientism) was insightful and helpful.

 

SESSION TWO:  Noah’s Flood: Where Scripture Meets Geology.

PRESENTER: Dr. Marcus Ross (Ph.D. in Environmental Science -Geosciences, University of Rhode Island) – Professor of Geology at Liberty University

SUMMARY:  If there is one geological claim made in the Bible that ranks as the most controversial, it is likely the account of a global flood in the days of Noah.  Marcus looked at both the biblical text and the geological evidence to demonstrate that there is scientific evidence that tells the story of a global flood in the geological record.  He pointed out a number of interesting things:

  • The Hebrew term for the flood is mabbul, which is unique to this event in all of scripture In the Greek translation of the Old Testament and in the New Testament this term is These terms indicate events involving water, but different from the words normally translated “floods.” This implies a world-destructive event, not a local flood.
  • The Flood was essentially a geologic/tectonic event. It is tectonic movements that will answer the questions of where did the water come from and where did it go.
  • The world, after the judgment of the flood is different. Because of the flood the continents are no longer in the same place, new mountain ranges exist, and geological disasters are now common.

As a paleontologist and university geology professor, Dr. Marcus Ross is well-versed in the geological record and presented the scientific evidence for Noah’s flood convincingly.  I appreciated his reminder at the end of his presentation that, while we are continually reminded of the judgement of God on humanity, he has promised, “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth…I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth…Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:11, 13, 15b)

 

SESSION THREE:  The Historical Reliability of Scripture

PRESENTER: Gary Byers (M.A., Baltimore Hebrew University) – Archaeologist with Associates for Biblical Research (biblearchaeology.org).

SUMMARY:  Using the city of Ai in Joshua 7 and 8, Gary demonstrated that, despite claims to the contrary, the Bible is a historically reliable document.  The previous identification of et-Tell as Ai led many scholars to conclude the Bible was inaccurate or mistaken in it’s description of Joshua’s conquest of the city as they was no evidence of destruction in the Late Bronze Age.  The Associates for Biblical Research excavated at nearby Khirbet el-Maqatir for over a decade and have concluded it is the site of the city of Ai from Joshua 7 and 8.  Gary analyzed the following scientific evidence to demonstrate this identification:

  • Linguistic data
  • Geographical data
  • Topographical data
  • Archaeological data
  • Chronological data

Gary’s presentation included photos of the city gate socket stones from the gate that was on the northern wall of the city, as the Bible describes.  He showed pictures of the burn layer from Joshua’s conquest and even a photo of an infant burial jar (confirming that there were women at Ai, just as the Bible describes).  Arguably the most important discovery at Khirbet el-Maqatir was a 15th century BC scarab of Amenhotep II, which dates the destruction of the city to the time of Joshua.  It was named the #1 find in biblical archaeology in 2013 by Christianity Today magazine.  In all, Gary Byers demonstrated that even in minute details the Bible is historically reliable and has been confirmed by archaeology time and time again.  I deeply appreciated Gary’s final points: “Archaeology helps us Trust the Bible for the Past (History). If we can Trust the Bible for the Past (History), then we can also Trust it for the Future (Eternity). If we can Trust the Bible for the Past (History) and the Future (Eternity)…then we can then we can also Trust it for the Present…Learning how to Live One Day at a Time.”

 

SESSION FOUR:  The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

PRESENTER: Logan Gates (M.Th, University of Oxford) – Apologist with RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries), Canada.

SUMMARY:  Logan packed a ton of information in a short seminar, but did so in a way that didn’t make it seem like you were “drinking from a fire hydrant.”  He began with an overview of what we know about Jesus from sources outside of the Gospels.  From the writings of Josephus (ca. 93 AD), Pliny the Younger (ca. 98-117 AD), and Tacitus (ca. 115-117 AD), he summarized the information we can know:

  • The existence of Jesus and other biblical figures like Tiberius and Pontius Pilate
  • The execution of Jesus by the Roman authorities
  • The sudden growth of the Christian movement
  • The persecution of Christians
  • Jesus was worshipped as God at an early date

During the second half of his talk, Logan differentiated between oral tradition (ie. from a community/grows over time) and oral testimony (ie. direct eyewitness evidence).  He argued that the New Testament Gospels aught to be seen as testimony, in keeping with the aim of ancient historians.  For example, Lucian of Samosata wrote: “As to the facts themselves, [the historian] should not assemble them at random, but only after much laborious and painstaking investigation. He should for preference be an eyewitness, but if not, listen to those who tell the more impartial story…” (Hist. Conscr. 47).  He then demonstrated that the Gospels bear the marks of early eyewitness testimony, not later oral tradition.  These include:

  • Mention of known places in the first century (60+ each), compared to Gospel of Thomas (1), Gospel of Philip (3)
  • Geographic knowledge – “down to Jericho” from Jerusalem, green grass around Galilee
  • Tax collectors in border towns, Jericho and Capernaum
  • Jewish priestly practice: tearing of clothes, carrying of clubs
  • Ongoing Jewish debate over tithing of dill and cumin
  • “Sea of Galilee” – a regional (Jewish) expression – Luke just calls it a “lake”
  • Accurate use known first-century names

In the end Logan made a compelling case for the historical reliability of the New Testament gospels.  He finished with a reminder that Luke carefully researched and wrote his histories so “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4).

 

SESSION FIVE:  Why People De-Convert and What The Church Can Do About It

PRESENTER: Dr. John Marriott (Ph.D. Intercultural Studies, The Cook School of Intercultural Studies). – adjunct Philosophy Professor at Biola University.

SUMMARY:  Of all of the speakers at Ready Answers, John is the one I know the best.  We served together many times at Camp Aush-Bik-Koong as teens and have kept in touch ever since.  John recently finished his Ph.D, with a dissertation on why people “de-convert” from Christianity.  It seemed like this topic would be a good fit at an apologetics conference, and I know John is an excellent speaker, so we invited him to join us.

John began his presentation by looking at the troubling statistics of people who leave the church and abandon their faith.  He shared four reasons people often give for why they turn away from Christianity:

  • Problems with the Bible (perceived errors, contradictions, and immoral practices)
  • Science (no need for God now that science explains everything)
  • No good evidence (failing arguments)
  • Disappointment (with God and other Christians)

He then looked at three approaches in the church that actually prepare young people to walk away from Christianity.

  • Being “Over-Prepared” – requiring the people hold to a wide set of beliefs and/or practices (far more than basic orthodox Christian doctrines) or risk being viewed as unsaved. This can lead to a “house of cards” type faith where, when one belief is questioned, the entire faith system crumbles.
  • Being “Under-Prepared” – not preparing our children well enough (with surface/simplistic teaching) to counter the impact of our secular culture. The result is that young people feel embarrassed about their faith and do not have the depth of teaching to answer tough questions about their reasons for belief.
  • Being “Ill-Prepared” (inauthentic) – this occurs when young people see Christians living hypocritical and judgemental lives. The result can be that they see Christianity as just another system that oppresses people who are different.

John finished his talk by giving three prescriptions for hope:

  • Focus on the essentials of Christianity (ie. the gospel of Jesus Christ as the way to salvation and orthodox/historic creedal beliefs)
  • Interdisciplinary teaching and humble apologetics (what we were trying to accomplish with the Ready Answers Apologetics Conference!)
  • Live authentically (sharing struggles and seeking forgiveness) as well as living out the gospel (doing good to others, loving others, and sacrificing for the gospel)
20181013_173918
From Left to Right: Bryan Windle, Logan Gates, Marcus Ross, Gary Byers, Kirk Durston, John Marriott, Len Peake

Ready Answers 2018 was an amazing experience with quality teaching from five experts.  Can we trust the Bible?  The clear answer from this weekend was a resounding, “YES!”

If you’d like to watch, stream, or download any of the sessions from the Ready Answers conference as well as get a pdf of the powerpoints each speaker used with their presentations click here: https://readyanswers.wordpress.com/2018-audio-video/

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