Every two years, Stephen Golding organises a superb day in June at Christ’s Hospital on Christian Apologetics. This year, the day (Tuesday 7th June) featured Bishop John Pritchard on ‘Why Christianity Makes Sense’ as well as David Illman, an American seminarian, currently based at the Round Church, Cambridge and Jim Paul from the ‘Abri’ movement.
Bishop John emphasised that schools were indeed the ‘front line’ for apologetics. In schools was the opportunity to offer Christianity as interesting, accessible, and connecting with young people. Bishop John explored issues of religious language, claiming that most of it was inaccessible to the under-35s. He categorised personal feelings and experiences of – amongst others - incompleteness, ‘messiness’, yearning for the absolute, being ‘fully alive’, responses to the arts, suffering, brokenness and transcendence all as offering platforms for apologetic conversations. He adduced quotations from an impressively wide range of ’secular’ individuals who admitted to many of the feelings and experiences Bishop John had mentioned. He then delineated the context of Christian apologetics as currently embracing the actuality and contextualising of suffering, science and religion, perceptions of the Church, the categorisation of knowledge, a sense of wonder and the shattering effect of a personal encounter with Christ.
In Bishop John’s second talk, he answered his own question ‘Why does Christianity make sense?’ by enumerating the belief of some 2.3 billion Christians worldwide, its focus on a person not a theory, its affirmation of the value of every human being, the simplicity but subtlety of the Trinity, its realism about evil, its bias towards the disadvantaged, its affirmation of the wonder of material creation, its active rather than passive focus, its radical assessment of life and death, power and powerlessness, its trans-cultural locations and its ultimate ‘core value’ of love, however painful that might be.
Bishop John’s two presentations were memorable, wide-ranging, erudite and personally powerful. Some of his observations can be found in his newest book ‘Something More’ which is mentioned again below.
David Illman gave an intellectual underpinning of Christian apologetics and Jim Paul spoke about the philosophy and work of ‘L’Abri’. He emphasised in particular, love in diversity, love and forgiveness, the sense of self, doubts, mysteries and certainties.
This outstanding day was immensely nourishing to all who participated in it and we are most grateful to Stephen Golding for organising and hosting it.