“Challenging believers to think and thinkers to believe.” That’s the desired goal of Apologetics Canada www.apologeticscanada.com and it was on prominent display at the organization’s second annual conference, called Think and Live, held March 9-10 in Surrey, British Columbia.
As Christians, we’re commanded by the Lord Jesus to love God with all our mind. In fact, the Lord says it constitutes part of the greatest commandment in the Scriptures. (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34) J.P. Moreland, the opening speaker at the conference, clearly outlined the implications of this command, what it means and why it’s so important. Moreland challenged his audience to engage in a richer life of the mind, to understand why they believe what they believe, and to be ready to make a defence of the hope that is in them. (1 Peter 3:15)
Leading off the second day, MaryJo Sharp presented “An Open Dialogue with an Atheist.” She drew a vivid contrast between good and bad ways to engage in discussion with unbelievers. The bottom line, she affirmed, was to love our opponents, to respect their views and to be honest with them. After all, our goal isn’t to win an argument but to faithfully represent Christ and lead others to Him, relying on the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.
Next, Paul Copan sought to answer the accusation made by prominent contemporary atheists that God is a moral monster. Copan touched on the problem of the existence of evil and suffering in the world, grappling specifically with the violent history of Israel’s dealings with surrounding nations in the Old Testament. He argued that a resolution to this particular question begins by properly interpreting the relevant Old Testament passages in their context.
After a number of stimulating breakout sessions on topics ranging from science and the Bible to the existence of the soul, the final presentation was called “God’s Crime Scene” by Jim Warner Wallace, a Los Angeles homicide detective who came to faith through examining the evidence for the gospel’s claims. With wit and energy, Wallace illustrated the nature and cumulative weight of the overwhelming evidence supporting the truth and trustworthiness of the Scriptures.
With the aggressive attacks on God and religion by the so-called “new atheists,” it’s more incumbent than ever upon Christians to have a robust, vibrant understanding of our faith, and to be able to defend it with gentleness and conviction. Apparently, there’s a thirst among believers for this very thing, a fact borne out by the over 800 conference attendees, many of them young people.
Interview with Andy Steiger, director of Apologetics Canada
By Focus on the Family staff
In preparation for the Think and Live conference, we caught up with Andy Steiger, the director of Apologetics Canada. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Andy now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has a B.A. in Biblical Studies and a Masters degree in Apologetics from Biola University. He and his wife Nancy have two boys, Tristian and William, and have travelled and served in over 30 countries. Andy founded Apologetics Canada on September 1, 2010.
Focus Insights: Andy, last year, you held the first Apologetics Canada Conference in BC. The speakers were excellent, and the turnout was remarkable. Did you expect to have that many people out to your very first conference?
Andy Steiger: When we first started Apologetics Canada, we talked about doing a conference. Some people strongly recommended against it, suggesting no one would give up a weekend for apologetics and worldviewComprehensive philosophy or set of beliefs about the nature and meaning of life, the universe and reality.. So we didn’t do it; we shelved it. But then I met some leaders from Ethos, a young adults ministry in Coquitlam, who thought it was a great idea and committed to helping accomplish it.
Everyone, included me, was shocked when Canadians and Americans poured in from all over BC, Alberta, Washington and Oregon, filling up the church with some 600 people, mostly young adults. We weren’t prepared for it, and ran out of just about everything – including toilet paper! The church just wasn’t big enough for those kinds of numbers. Since then, Apologetics Canada has exploded. In fact, we haven’t been able to keep up.
FI: Tell us about this year’s conference.
AS: This year’s conference was at Peace Portal Alliance Church. The church seats nearly double the capacity of last year’s venue and has the facilities to handle the crowds. We prepared for around 1,000 people this year, and the speakers were some of the best and brightest from all over the US and Canada.
Our goal was to engage the heart and sharpen the mind in a culturally relevant way. We want to help people love God with all their heart, soul and mind. We worked diligently to bring in speakers that can help do just that. We think it’s a mistake to engage only the mind or only the heart; we are seeking to connect the two.
It’s also an event you can feel confident bringing a non-Christian friend to. Our slogan at Apologetics.com, our American counterpart, is “Challenging believers to think and thinkers to believe.” Interestingly, last year we heard from a number of non-Christians who loved the conference.
FI: Give us some background about how the Lord led you into apologetics and specifically to start up Apologetics Canada.
AS: I was a youth/college pastor in the Vancouver area for 10 years, and then I went to Biola University to complete a Masters degree in Apologetics. My wife and I wanted to be missionaries in Southeast Asia. However, while at Biola, I was alarmed to learn how many Christian students heading off to university in the US and Canada were abandoning their faith – between 50 and 90 percent.
I began to realize that if the church doesn’t address this issue, and soon, we are going to lose an entire generation! While I was at Biola, I also served with Apologetics.com as a radio host and saw firsthand the ministry they had among young adults and university students.
God was calling me into the mission field, but not as I expected. He was showing me a mission field in Canada where so little was being done in the area of apologetics. Our first year in ministry, I had the privilege of leading over 30 students to faith in Jesus and saw many more recommit their lives to Christ. God has blessed this ministry in ways that continue to humble me, and I pray more is done here.
There is a need for apologetics resources. Canada has a massive void in the area of Christian worldview and apologetics teaching! Our conference and ministry isn’t exploding because we’re so amazing; there’s just so little competition and such a tremendous need.
In fact, to help meet this need we filmed a resource called the Thinking Series. This DVD series is designed to be an introduction to apologetics and shares the gospel through five of the most asked questions on university campuses. Each session is 20 minutes and builds on the previous one. As a whole, they communicate the gospel in a culturally relevant and thought-provoking way.
The sessions, like the conference, are not designed to be an in-depth analysis but the beginning of a journey. Our goal is to get people thinking. We know that not everyone will or can come to the conference. However, they might listen to the series on their commute or watch it with a friend.
I’m convinced that when the church thoughtfully addresses the questions people and culture are struggling with in the love and winsomeness of Jesus Christ, lives will be healed and culture will be impacted.
These articles are reprinted, with permission, from Focus Insights (www.focusinsights.org). Focus Insights is an initiative of Focus on the Family Canada that explores the intersection of faith, family and culture.