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PEP Talk Podcast With Alasdair Macleod

For those involved in church leadership, getting evangelism and outreach into the natural life of the church family can sometimes be a challenge. In today’s PEP Talk we hear from Inverness pastor Alasdair Macleod, speaking about the extension of discipleship and preaching into the culture of outreach in his congregation.

Listen on Spotify – Listen on Apple Podcasts – Listen on Google Podcasts

Our Guest

Alasdair Macleod has been the lead pastor at Culduthel Christian Centre in his hometown of Inverness since 2014. He was a fellow student with Andy Bannister at London School of Theology and spent several years pastoring churches around the London area. He has completed training in Christian Counselling and more recently an MLitt in Biblical Studies from St Andrews University. He spends his free time mainly supporting the interests of his teenage children but when there is opportunity Alasdair enjoys 5-a-side football, cycling and golf.

About PEP Talk

The Persuasive Evangelism Podcast aims to equip listeners to share their faith more effectively in a sceptical world. Each episode, Andy Bannister (Solas) and Kristi Mair (Oak Hill College) chat to a guest who has a great story, a useful resource, or some other expertise that helps equip you to talk persuasively, winsomely, and engagingly with your friends, colleagues and neighbours about Jesus.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Argument from Rationality

 

Many atheists are committed to explaining every aspect of life in purely material terms. Thus when it comes to the mind and thought, they seek to reduce this most profound of human experiences to the interaction of chemicals and the firing of synapses. The human brain becomes, quite literally, a “meat computer”.

For example, biologist Susan Blakemore, a committed atheist, writes:

If you think that we humans have some special faculty of creativity or consciousness or sentience then I disagree … We are meme machines … and without any consciousness, free will, or other spooky power that might enable to leap outside the system.[1]

Whilst American philosopher Daniel Dennett, is equally forthright in his commitment to atheistic materialism.

There is only one sort of stuff, namely matter—the physical stuff of physics, chemistry, and physiology—and the mind is somehow nothing but a physical phenomenon. In short, the mind is the brain … we can (in principle!) account for every mental phenomenon using the same basic principles, laws, and raw materials that suffice to explain radioactivity, continental drift, photosynthesis, reproduction, nutrition, and growth.[2]

Did you grasp quite what Dennett said there? All that you are—your hopes and dreams, your beliefs and your values and above all, your thinking and your reasoning—are nothing more than the movement of atoms jostling together, chemicals fizzing, neurons buzzing. Physics can explain your beliefs with the same ease as it can explain earthquakes or plant growth.

But isn’t there a major problem here? Not least of which is that continental drift and photosynthesis are not rational. I don’t know about you, but I have never once thought to enquire of a newly grown leaf’s view of politics or seek the advice of continental plates on the finer points of Shakespearian sonnets. If Dennett is right, something follows: those things are not rational, therefore neither are we.

But let’s stick with Dennett’s line of thought for a moment—because he is grappling with a difficult puzzle for an atheist. What precisely is a thought, if materialism is true? Presumably a thought has to be a material process, but how does that work exactly? In particular, one of the key things about a thought is that thoughts have an “aboutness” quality to them—indeed, a thought, arguably, is the only thing in the known universe that is about something other than itself. How do we account for that with materialism?

The simple answer is that we can’t. If atheistic materialism is true, our brains evolved, evolution selecting over millions of generations not for truth, but for adaptability. Anything that helps us survive, is selected for, that which doesn’t, gets weeded out.

To illustrate the problem here, a little thought experiment.[3] Consider Sid and Eric, two of our ancient cavemen ancestors. One day, Sid and Eric look up and see, pacing toward them, a hungry-looking sabre toothed tiger. Immediately, they both break into a run, escape and live to survive, and enjoy whatever cavemen do during retirement. However, there is a difference between them. Sid runs away from the tiger because he believes it wishes to eat him. Eric runs away because he loves sabre-toothed tigers, and furthermore believes that the best way to make a tiger really happy is to give it a healthy sprint across the Serengeti. One set of beliefs is true, one is false, but evolution doesn’t care what Sid or Eric believe—merely that they each pump their little legs as fast as their cardiovascular systems can support.

In short, evolution selects for adaptive behaviour. It does not select for truth. Listen to atheist Patricia Churchland:

Boiled down to the essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in…. feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing … Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.[4]

In short, on naturalism you have absolutely no good reason to trust your thoughts. None whatsoever. There is no good reason to assume that they deliver truth. As atheist Thomas Nagel writes:

An evolutionary explanation of our theorizing faculty would provide absolutely no confirmation of its ability to get at the truth. [5]

So what about Christianity? Why do Christians believe that we trust our thoughts, our thinking, and our beliefs? Quite simply because the Christian story is very different to the naturalist story. As Christians, we believe that we are created in the image of a God who is rational and who has created us with the ability to reason, to think, to discern. In the Christian story, we are not merely survival-directed creatures who have evolved by the blind forces of natural selection, but truth-directed beings created in the image of a God who is Truth.

But crucially, God has not merely made us image bearers, but has placed us into a rational, ordered world in which things like science are even possible. It is because of who we are and whose image we bear that we can trust the veracity of our observations and deductions, and trust that we can know truth.

By contrast, when atheists reject God and reduce of all human experience to physical processes, they often end up with a form of determinism—everything in the world, including all of human experience, is simply physically determined by the movement of atoms and particles. This is a view of the world that has some profound and terrible consequences.

The first consequence is that if determinism is true, there can be no such thing as freedom, at least no genuine freedom. You may think that you have freely chosen to be an atheist, or to be a Christian, but actually you had no choice in the matter. You don’t choose your beliefs because they are true or false; you choose them because of the deterministic movements of atoms and particles.

The second consequence is that the determinism which atheistic materialism implies destroys any possibility of real thinking. This is because thinking requires freedom—it requires you to come to a conclusion not because of a chain of chemical processes, but because you believe the conclusion to be true: logically and rationally. It’s fascinating, isn’t it, that every human society has been concerned with the pursuit of truth—pursuing truth seems to be profoundly and deeply part of what being human means. If this doesn’t make sense on atheism, I would suggest that it’s a strong clue that atheism isn’t true. Thinking and rationality point to the fact that the deepest reality in the universe is not just atoms and particles.

In all of this discussion, I’m reminded as we draw to a close of something that the philosopher Mary Midgeley once wrote. Midgeley was an atheist, but a thoughtful and reflective one, willing to recognise many of the difficulties of atheism—and what atheists risked losing when they threw God away. Midgeley remarked: “It is all very well to eliminate God from the intelligible universe but eliminating ourselves from it blocks all sorts of enquiries.[6] Because when we reject God, who is the ground of our being, we undercut precious aspects of our own humanity. In contrast, the Christian faith offers a coherent account of our humanity, notably our capacity for rationality: one of the most precious gifts that the creator God has given us and one of the many means through which we can come to know him. As Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul and mind”.


Dr Andy Bannister is the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, and the author of The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist.

Further Reading:

Moderate level:  “Am I Just My Brain?” by Sharon Dirckx (available here)

More advanced level: “Where the Conflict Really Lies” by Alvin Plantinga. (available here)

 

[1]        Susan Blackmore, ‘Copy That: A Response’. The New York Times, 3 September 2010 (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/03/copy-that-a-response/) (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/03/copy-that-a-response/, accessed 27 July 2011).

[2]        Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained (Boston, MA: Little and Brown, 1991) 33.

[3]        Borrowed and adapted from Alvin Plantinga, ‘An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism’, Be Thinking Website, https://www.bethinking.org/atheism/an-evolutionary-argument-against-naturalism, accessed 20 November 2019.

[4]        Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007) 548.

[5]        Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (New York: PublicAffairs, 2011) 79.

[6]        Mary Midgley, ‘Against Humanism’, New Humanist, 25 October 2010 (http://rationalist.org.uk/2419/ against-humanism).

Online Evangelism in Derby

Rev Neil Barber writes:

At St Giles’ Church in Derby we have a regular outreach event we call “Reasonable Faith”.  We like tackling the questions unbelievers often ask and Christians may ask too, helping people grasp some of the best in Christian ‘apologetics’, that is reasons for the faith we have.  When all our church activities went on-line during the pandemic, we made a quick decision to include these evenings as a part of our gatherings despite the challenges of making them accessible to visitors and enquirers.

We live in a parish where 38% of the population is from an Asian background. Our building is opposite one mosque and next-door-but-three to another one! So, I contacted Andy Bannister out of the blue, he didn’t know me from Adam, but I’d seen a lot of him on the internet and read some of his stuff on Islam.  I asked if he’d be willing to give a 20 minute talk via Zoom one Sunday evening. We specifically wanted an event that our Muslim friends would want to come to, so we asked Andy to address the subject: Why does a Muslim need the Jesus of the Bible?  How does the true Jesus relate to Islam?

Andy jumped at the chance and in no time at all there he was talking to 70 people including a good number of friends including two 2 Muslims. We’re very much learning how to hold out the word of life to them.

Andy was interviewed and then he gave his talk.  We held our breath as we invited questions through the Zoom ‘chat’.  We needn’t have worried.  The questions came thick and fast – it was exciting!  They were wide-ranging and uncompromising and Andy wasn’t phased by any of them.  His expert insight and gracious manner was very evident and, to those whose hearts were open, he spoke clearly of the gospel of grace.  Andy did a great job at engaging when it’s easy to be fearful and he gave our church a taste for what it might look like to love our Muslim neighbours while telling the truth.  We’re hoping to have Andy back to help some more in future.

Andy Bannister recalls:

It was great to be invited by St Giles Church to participate in their ‘Reasonable Faith’ evening. My talk was about “Jesus in Islam and Christianity”.  Most Christians are unaware that The Qur’an mentions Jesus over ninety times, and includes reports of his virgin birth, affirms his miracles and describes him using some highly elevated titles. The Islamic view of Jesus is problematic however – because his role doesn’t seem to fit his titles. He is variously described as ‘A Word from Allah’, ‘A Spirit from Allah’, and even “The Messiah”; but then doesn’t seem to be given a role which is accordance with these.

I argued that these titles were borrowed from the New Testament gospels, and the only way to really grasp the significance of them is to investigate what they mean there in their original setting.

Of course one of the biggest stumbling blocks to Muslims is that Christians worship Jesus. Jesus is worshipped throughout the New Testament, Christians pray to Him, they call on His name and believe He is the Son of God. All of this is of course, very difficult for Muslims to comprehend.

I argued that Jesus was either the most useless religious figure in history, who didn’t want to be worshipped but failed to communicate that to his followers or he really should be worshipped! So I looked at 5 pieces of evidence that show that Jesus really did make those exalted claims.  Firstly the titles Jesus used for himself which include “Lord of the Sabbath” and “The Son of Man” from Daniel 7. Then he forgave people’s sins, told people to pray in his name and then placed his words alongside scripture. Old Testament prophets would say, ‘Thus says The Lord’; but Jesus said, ‘truly I say to you’! It’s no wonder then when Jesus was questioned about His identity by Caiaphas, the High Priest, Caiaphas tore his robes and cried, “Blasphemy!” at Jesus’ answers.

It’s clear that Jesus identified Himself with God and was telling the truth, or was a liar, or was a lunatic. C.S. Lewis’ famous ‘Trilemma’ comes into sharp focus when you read the words of Jesus.

The vicar, Neil Barber has invited us to go back to Derby and do some more work with them in the future. It’s really good to see a local church who (as unlocking from Covid-19 begins), have their eyes firmly on evangelism. The temptation for churches is to become introspective, and worry more about facilitating their own programmes than about reaching the lost. St Giles’ are setting us all a great example by being intentionally missional.


St Giles Church in Derby is online here

Jesus in Christianity and Islam; Outreach in Derby

We were recently approached by St Giles Church, Derby, a parish church in England. They have been running regular “Reasonable Faith” events, looking at some of the biggest questions of life, faith and meaning, from a Christian perspective. In recent months they have done evenings on science, suffering, and the resurrection – for example.

They wanted to do something on Islam, because they have lots of Muslim friends and neighbours, and their church building is right opposite a mosque there in the South of the City. Apparently they found me and Solas, by doing a Google search on Christians with an interest in Islam – they found the Solas website and got in touch!

On the night we had 60 people the Zoom conference – because it took place before the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted. However, despite that we had a full evening together, with  talk from me – followed by a Q&A with some perceptive, genuine and heartfelt questions.

My talk was about “Jesus in Islam and Christianity”.  Most Christians are unaware that The Qur’an mentions Jesus over ninety times, and includes reports of his virgin birth, affirms his miracles and describes him using some highly elevated titles. The Islamic view of Jesus is problematic however – because his role doesn’t seem to fit his titles. He is variously described as ‘A word from Allah’, ‘A Spirit from Allah’, and even “The Messiah”; but then doesn’t seem to be given a role which is accordance with these.

I argued that these titles were borrowed from the New Testament gospels, and the only way to really grasp the significance of the is to investigate what they mean there in their original setting.

Of course on of the biggest stumbling blocks to Muslims is that Christians worship Jesus. Jesus is worshipped throughout the New Testament, Christians pray to Him, they call on His name and believe He is the Son of God. All of this is of course, very difficult for Muslims to comprehend.

I argued that Jesus was either the most useless religious figure in history, who didn’t want to be worshipped but failed to communicate that to his followers or he really should be worshipped! So I looked at 5 pieces of evidence that show that Jesus really did make those exalted claims.  Firstly the titles Jesus uses for himself which include “Lord of the Sabbath” and “The Son of Man” from Daniel 7. Then he forgave people’s sins, told people to pray in his name and then placed his words alongside scripture. Old Testament prophets would say, ‘thus says The Lord’; but Jesus said, ‘truly I saw to you’! It’s no wonder then when Jesus was questioned about His identity by Ciaphas, the High Priest, Ciaphas tore his robes and cried, “Blasphemy!” at Jesus’ answers. This means that Jesus was was telling the truth, or was a liar, or was a lunatic.

After my talk we did about half an hour of Q&A. It was clear from the nature of the questions that there were a few people there who weren’t Christians, including some asking questions from a Muslim perspective – so it was great to welcome them and engage with them.

Neil Barber, the vicar at St Giles was encouraged especially by the engagement in the Q&A  He’s invited us to go back to Derby and do some more work with them in the future. It’s really good to see a local church who (as unlocking from Covid-19 begins), have their eyes firmly on evangelism. The temptation for churches is to become introspective, and worry more about facilitating our own programmes than the lost. St Giles’ are setting us all a great example by being intentionally missional.

 

Why Do You Christians Force Your Beliefs On Others?

Is it wrong to seek to persuade other people that Christianity is true? In this Short Answers film, Solas Director Andy Bannister tackles a number of myths about why Christians love to tell others about Jesus. And as he does, he discovers, with the help an atheist historian, just what an incredible impact Christianity has had on so many things that all of us care deeply about—and with the help of another atheist, why it is vital that Christians share their faith.

For further reading: https://www.solas-cpc.org/a-beginners-guide-to-the-moral-force-of-the-cross-the-social-legacy-of-christian-mission/

Penn Jillette “A Gift of a Bible” video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6md638smQd8

Share

Please share this video widely with friends or family and for more Short Answers videos, visit solas-cpc.org/shortanswers/, subscribe to our YouTube channel or visit us on Twitter Instagram or Facebook.

Support

Short Answers is a viewer-supported video series: if you enjoy them, please help us continue to make them by donating to Solas. Visit our Donate page and choose “Digital Media Fund” under the Campaign/Appeal button.

Book: A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry

“To honestly and sympathetically deal with the best case that any form of unbelief can make and then show the desperate need that still remains and how it can only be met by the true God and His redeeming son – this is the excellent way.” – Ralph Winter

To read Luc Ferry’s “Brief History of Thought” is to pursue Winter’s “excellent way”. For this reader, it is to arrive at the end of Ferry’s excellent survey of over 3 millennia of philosophy feeling great respect for the author in his honest wrestling with the great questions, but simultaneously having become even more convinced of the “desperate need that still remains and how it can only be met by the true God and His redeeming son…”. Ferry’s book ends up bolstering Christian faith by demonstrating that the alternatives, including his own, don’t work.

Ferry’s starting point is the challenge to religion and philosophy of the peril of inevitable death. He rejects religion in favour of the great philosophies which can “be defined as doctrines of salvation (without the help of a God)”. However, in his advocacy of a “transcendent humanism” that rejects any appeal to a transcendent God, Ferry makes two related errors. First, he pits faith against reason: philosophy in contrast to theology, incites us “to turn aside from faith, to exercise reason…”. To Ferry, faith is an anti-rational way of knowing. Yet this is not a definition of “faith” that any competent Christian theologian would accept.

The second and related error is revealed in Ferry’s statement that philosophy “unlike the great religions, promises to help us to ‘save’ ourselves, to conquer our fears, not through an Other, a God, but through our own strength and the use of our reason.” This is a remarkable (and representative) expression of faith in human strength and unaided reason and unmasks the unstated assumption that philosophy does not depend on faith commitments. It would be a good critical reading task for the young Christian to read Ferry’s account and observe his unstated beliefs woven through the book. Of course, it risks a cheap shot to ask how that particular project of dependence on “our own strength and the use of our reason” is turning out. The history of the 20th century has a great deal to say on the matter.

There is so much that is good in Ferry’s journey from early Greek philosophy to his concluding challenge of doing philosophy post-Nietzsche, and there are necessary corrections to common misunderstandings. Nowhere is this more true than in his detailed and sympathetic outline of Nietzsche’s thought, which alone is worth the price of the book. Attention to Ferry at this point may prevent Christians from the failure of love that is the misrepresentation of those with whom they disagree. Similarly Ferry’s critique of materialism is trenchant and convincing, noting “our logical incapacity to put aside the notion…that there is within us something in excess of nature or history”.

His personal investment in the project is what makes the book so engaging, but ultimately for the Christian reader, so bitter sweet. Ferry wraps up the whole book with the assertion that “amongst the available doctrines of salvation, nothing can compete with Christianity…”. Though he does not believe it, he is attracted to Christian faith, confessing that “were it to be true I would certainly be a taker.” It took 263 pages to get to this truth question. Ferry, like so many, does not seriously consider Christianity’s truth claims; he simply does not believe.

This is a pity, not least because Christianity also has the capacity to address Ferry’s argument that a good philosophy should enable us to live in and for the present. Christian theology actually doesn’t do what he accuses religions of doing – robbing us of the present through nostalgia on the one hand and excessive hope on the other. Rather, in Christ, the past is dealt with by the Cross and future hope inaugurated by faith becomes the basis for redeemed living now. By reconciling past, present and future, Christian faith offers the only way to what Ferry calls “the only life available to us”, his definition of the good life – a life lived fully in the present.


Mark Stirling is the Director of The Chalmers Institute in St Andrews. The Chalmers Institute exists for the renewal of Church leadership in Europe by developing Biblically mature leaders who will equip God’s people for lives of discipleship and evangelism.

Luc Ferry’s A Brief History of Thought is available from online bookshops such as here.

PEP Talk Podcast With Ruth Jackson

What are the issues and challenges around young people and faith? Whether we’re thinking about peer-to-peer evangelism, parents passing faith to their children, or the impact of growing up in a digital environment, both the opportunities and the pitfalls are immense. Here to offer her insight is Ruth Jackson, speaking with Andy Bannister and stand-in co-host Gavin Matthews.

Listen on Spotify – Listen on Apple Podcasts – Listen on Google Podcasts

Our Guest

Ruth Jackson is a producer and youth specialist for Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? programme and podcast, which brings Christians and non-Christians together for dialogue. She was previously editor of Premier Youth and Children’s Work magazine. Ruth studied theology at Oxford University before working at the BBC’s flagship children’s television show Blue Peter. She moved to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, where she helped set up the youth apologetics strand Reboot.  Ruth is a volunteer youth worker, preacher and worship leader at her local church in Feltham, where she lives with her musician husband Will and puppy Taylor.

About PEP Talk

The Persuasive Evangelism Podcast aims to equip listeners to share their faith more effectively in a sceptical world. Each episode, Andy Bannister (Solas) and Kristi Mair (Oak Hill College) chat to a guest who has a great story, a useful resource, or some other expertise that helps equip you to talk persuasively, winsomely, and engagingly with your friends, colleagues and neighbours about Jesus.

A Beginner’s Guide to The Argument From Goodness

Chilli Rating: 🌶 🌶 🌶

Plainly, humans believe in good and evil. Things like grace, honesty, and fidelity are deeply valued, while things like rape and the torture of infants are condemned. All of us harbour moral intuitions and we all feel the prick of conscience. Perhaps we don’t always agree about just which things are good or evil in a given situation, but there does appear to be universal acknowledgement that some things really are good, and some things really are evil. In other words, humans just are profoundly moral.

Why is this? Where does the phenomenon of morality come from? And why does it seem to be hard-wired into us?

The argument from ‘good’, or the moral argument, claims that the best explanation for morality is the existence of God. Usually the argument takes the following form:

  1. Objective moral facts are real.
  2. God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral facts.
  3. Therefore, God (probably) exists.

To see how persuasive this argument is let’s take it step by step.

Are there objective moral facts?

It seems obvious that humans operate with an implicit commitment to moral facts being real. They shape our understanding of meaning and purpose: we value human dignity and pursue the good life. They also undergird our justice systems: we hunger for justice. But are they objectively real? Are they real outside of our human imagination?

Some philosophers deny that morality is real at all. Such moral nihilists believe that the whole idea of their being norms about good and evil, and right and wrong is an illusion. On this view, any moral obligations we feel are entirely imagined. For these moral sceptics there simply are no ‘oughts.’ Like all radical scepticism, this view is possible, but is deeply dissatisfying as a worldview.

Others agree that morality is a real phenomenon but disagree that it is objective. Instead, they think   that it is grounded simply in the human experience. Usually these thinkers explain morality in terms of human flourishing. Subjectivism, however, suffers from serious problems. First among them is that virtually no one thinks or talks or lives like it is the case. We don’t, in fact, believe things like ‘rape appears wrong’, or ‘rape is bad because it hinders the human species prospering’ (indeed you could easily make an evolutionary case that for rape benefitting the survival of the fittest!). Instead we intrinsically believe (and think and feel and say) that rape just is wrong.

Another problem is that there’s too many features of morality that subjectivism struggles to explain. So, sometimes we deeply value actions that run counter to the human prospering model. Here’s an example: in 1997 the Australian Navy travelled 2500km into stormy seas to rescue a single stranded British sailor. The operation risked the lives of many to save one – and at a cost $6million dollars. This makes little sense in sheer evolutionary or utilitarian terms; it only makes good sense if every single human life carries profound objective value.

While it is possible in theory for morality to be imagined, the phenomenon doesn’t in fact operate that way. Instead, it is entirely reasonable to think that the best explanation for our intrinsic morality is that objective moral facts are real.

Is God the best explanation?

Next, the moral argument says that God is the best explanation for objective morality. I say best because there are other possibilities.

One explanation offered by some is that morality is a basic reality that needs no supernatural explanation. This view thinks that, like the laws of physics, the universe just is supported by moral laws (and no one knows why). They think that this is a better explanation than theism because theism also rests on an unexplained basic reality – that God is just good (and no one knows why) – and theism is a more complicated explanation than naturalism. This view has significant problems. One is that there seem no obvious reasons for this sort of law to just exist in a foundationally impersonal universe. Moral laws don’t seem to be the same type of law as, say, the mechanical laws of physics. Another is that it’s hard to see how a naturalistic morality can be binding or normative: perhaps we can describe a naturally good life, but on just what authority can we demand the pursuit of it, or censure the abuse of it?

It is also possible to hold to a supernatural case that doesn’t involve God. In theory at least, the universe could have been created moral by super aliens or a multitude of moral gods.

While other explanations are possible, God is the best explanation. Indeed, the Christian conception of God, in particular, is uniquely suited to explain moral facts because morality is essentially personal and social and normative. It describes the intrinsic value of persons as well as the rights and obligations we have toward one another. Among the possible basic moral realities, only the Christian God displays these essential features. Only the Trinitarian God is essentially personal and essentially social and essentially loving.  Also, because the Trinitarian God ‘owns’ His creation, only He has the authority to command good and punish evil. In short, the Trinitarian God best explains the nature and normativity of moral facts.

Does morality prove God’s existence?

The last step in the moral argument claims that God is probably real. This conclusion follows logically, but its force depends upon how convinced its hearers are by the first two premises. Neither the claim that moral facts are objectively real, nor God as the best explanation are indisputably or uncontroversially true, so the moral argument is not inescapable. Despite this, it is eminently reasonable, and very many thoughtful people have found it elegantly and intuitively persuasive. While (perhaps) it lacks the power to coerce belief in God, it remains among the most powerful tools in the case for reasonable Christian faith. It is for this reason it underpinned C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity and remains powerfully defended by philosophers like William Lane Craig, C. Stephen Evans, Robert Adams and recently by Baggert and Walls in God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning.


Richard Shumack is a philosopher of religion and a part-time Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity. He is also Director of the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology, and part of the Understanding and Answering Islam team for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He teaches critical thinking and speaks regularly on the ethics of religious belief, worldview, Islamic philosophy, and (sometimes) sport. He is the author of The Wisdom of Islam and the Foolishness of Christianity.

Further Resources:

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-1/s1-moral-argument/moral-argument-part-1/ (Introductory)

Baggett & Walls, God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning1st Edition, Oxford University Press, 2016.  (Advanced)

 

Report from the Road – Northern Ireland 2020

After months of very limited activities due to the lockdown, it was wonderful to be back on the road again in this autumn. Andy Bannister and Gavin Matthews from the Dundee office joined Gareth Black in Belfast for a series of meetings, some filming and networking events too.

Social distancing in church!

Evangelism Training was high on the agenda for our time in Ulster. Crown Jesus Ministries is a dynamic evangelistic mission in East Belfast, and Glenabbey Church is Gareth Black’s home fellowship. Both of these groups gave us a fantastic welcome and we ran similar events for them both. Gareth kicked proceedings off with some thoughts on “Spiritual Climate Change”, looking at the rapid secularisation of Northern Ireland and the ways in which that creates challenges and opportunities for gospel work. Andy Bannister then presented a version of his talk on the use of questions in evangelism, “How to talk about Jesus without looking like an idiot” – which is our introduction to conversational evangelism, and really the starting point for much of what we do. These events were not identical though, because the second half of the night, (after Gavin interviewed Andy about the work of Solas), was given over to Q&A – and the respective audiences took the conversation in quite different directions.

It was so refreshing to meet people in person, and not just via screens! We were careful to follow all the Covid-restrictions as we travelled – which wasn’t easy, because they are different in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In fact some of the regulations actually changed as we were queuing for the ferry and required some last-minute changes of plan! Some of the regulations have tightened again since we got back, so we were really very grateful to have been able to use this window of opportunity while it was there. It was also really good to catch up with Michael and Rebecca Ots who were over too as Michael was speaking for the CU at Queen’s University.

Being in Northern Ireland was also a great opportunity to speak to others engaged in Christian mission in the public square. We have good friends at Stranmillis EP church, who would like us to bring the Confident Christianity conference to Belfast. It was really good to meet them in a coffee shop and work out what we could do together in different unlocking scenarios. The gospel of Jesus does not change, but the context in which we are proclaiming and explaining it does! It was also good to speak to the team from the EA in Northern Ireland who are doing great work in the public square, and equipping the churches for their role as Christ’s ambassadors.

We also had the opportunity to meet with the guys from CBMC, who are sharing the love of Christ and the hope of his gospel in the business community. We are actively looking at ways we can work with them in evangelism and apologetics in the coming year. The also made this short film with Andy and Gareth at the end of our meeting.

Solas has made regular trips to Northern Ireland over many years, but now having Gareth there on the ground, means that we are equipped to serve the churches there far better than we ever could before. Andy, Gareth and Gavin do a lot of the speaking and writing for Solas, and yet rarely meet together as a team in person. It was also really good for us to be together and plan out some future ideas for the Solas website, plan the next series of Short Answers videos, and record four new episodes with local videographer Michael Bradshaw, which will be coming soon.

Although working within the health and hygiene regulations added significant costs and inconvenience to our trip, being allowed out again to engage in ministry was hugely encouraging.  There are opportunities for us to travel, and to do evangelism training events for churches and ministries – and to do coffee shop and restaurant style outreach events. We are ready to go, and excited to be able to get going with this important work to which we feel called. We will always work within the relevant guidelines (and will reek of hand-sanitiser!), but please do contact us if we can serve you in evangelism, outreach or evangelism training. We are keen to do as much as is practicable within the guidelines.

 

 

How Can I Know the Presence of God in Dark Times?

All of us will face suffering at some point in our lives; all of us will go through difficult times. In this Short Answers video, Dr. Andy Bannister shows how Christianity offers the most powerful resources not only to answer the question of suffering (we have covered that in other films), but for living through and coping with suffering. Whether you’re experiencing suffering yourself, or seeking to help somebody who is, Andy shows why the hope, peace, and comfort that Jesus offers can be life transforming.

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What does Christianity have to do with Freedom of Speech?

FREE SPEECH in 2020

Free speech is eroding in the UK. Speakers with a wide variety of views deemed politically incorrect are ‘no-platformed’ in university campuses and public venues across the country. The government proposes to bring social media under Ofcom’s state regulation, with tighter speech restrictions than are legally required.[1] Youtube is ahead of Ofcom, censoring, for example, videos deviating from mainstream Covid information.[2] In Scotland, the Hate Crime and Public Order Bill (SP Bill 67) was introduced to Parliament on 23 April 2020. It would, under certain circumstances, criminalize possession of texts considered hateful. Furthermore, despite feedback from faith groups, the Bill opens the door to prosecution of individuals whose disagreement with the recent cultural narrative concerning transgenderism is labeled hateful.[3]

Freedom of speech is the issue of our times because on it hinges society’s ability to think and debate every other issue. But how did we get to where we are, and is there a distinctively Christian response to the vexed question of free speech and its limits?

What do we mean when we say, ‘Free Speech?’

Researchers Hallberg and Virkkunen write: ‘The principle of freedom of speech means the right to express, publish and receive information, opinions and other communication without interference from any source.’[4]

Free speech has a rich history. Christian thinkers have advocated for it from at least the sixteenth century. John Wycliffe and reformers such as Martin Luther and William Tyndale insisted on their right to speak. Dutch theologian Dirck Coornhert (1522-90) advocated religious toleration, and with it freedom of speech and of the press.[5] Politically, Sweden was the first nation to break legal ground in favour of freedom of speech and information in 1766.[6] Since then, national and international laws have recognized freedom of speech as a human right.[7] The UN Declaration of Human Rights states, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’[8]

Despite being enshrined in international law, six billion of the earth’s inhabitants know little of that freedom in practice.[9] Closer to home, recent legal and societal limitations on speech are chilling free speech in the West.

Limits on Speech

Speech has traditionally only been limited where it is directly linked to physical violence. However, in the West today, three further limits are being placed upon it: (i) speech laws, (ii) institutional regulations and (iii) social expectations.

  • Speech Laws

Since 9/11, the UK, Australia, and USA have implemented laws to regulate ‘hate speech regarded as harmful in the saying of it and seditious speech directed at undermining democratic and constitutional authority.’[10] The rationale is that to protect citizens’ freedoms, greater security is needed – security itself being the supreme freedom. Therefore, in order to ensure the freedom to be secure, other liberties take second tier.

Another outcome of 9/11 has been the creation of laws to protect against specific discrimination. The UK Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 addressed Islamophobia.[11] Building on this, in 2008, sexual orientation gained legal protection from ‘hate speech’.[12]

While these laws are well intended and provide legitimate protections, there is now a potential clash of freedoms. A recent conference on ‘equality’ took for granted that ‘[the] manifestation of religion can be subject to “proportionate restriction”. This is particularly relevant in relation to the rights of LGBT persons not to face discrimination.’[13]

Dealing with hate and speech crime is keeping law enforcement personnel busy. Reported religion hate crimes increased in England and Wales almost threefold from 2011/12 to 2015/16, reaching over 4,000 charges.[14] An October 2014 Freedom of Information request showed that ‘12,000 people were prosecuted for offensive speech on social media between 2008 and 2013.’[15] Speech crime reporting is on the rise, and there is no sign of this trend abating.

While these laws represent significant changes, they are in fact only legislative indicators of a rapid and sweeping societal transformation underway concerning how people view speech.

Institutional and Societal Speech Rules

In 2020, Westerners live under heightened social pressure to watch what they say. For example, in June Stu Peters was suspended from Manx Radio for questioning the idea of ‘white privilege’.[16] Societal speech rules are also being institutionalized in settings such as schools and universities, as well as social media. For example, following complaints over freedom of speech, Wellesley College (USA) explained that it simultaneously maintains free speech but also considers it appropriate to ‘[shut] down speech’ with respect to any subject which they label a ‘phobia’ or ‘hate speech’.[17] In England, a school suspended a teacher for accidentally calling a transgendered boy a girl; ‘misgendering’ is not illegal, but neither is it necessarily allowed.[18]

Various defences have been offered to support the subjugation of free speech to other rights.

Some who seek to regulate public speech affirm freedom of speech but see it as subordinate to the value of ‘non-discrimination’. According to one spokesperson, ‘freedom of speech’ is a cover for discrimination.[19] Advocates argue that sometimes ‘speech is violence’ and therefore can be curtailed.[20]

This is problematic in three ways. Firstly, it can be used to shut down dialogue without allowing an opportunity to evaluate the reasonableness of the other’s opinion. Secondly, protecting people from ideas which make them uncomfortable does not develop clearer thinkers or stronger individuals.[21] Then thirdly, we must assert that while words can influence, the listener remains a free agent whose actions are their responsibility. It is an error to conflate the moral responsibility of one’s words into the legal responsibility for another’s actions.

It has also been argued that the purpose of free speech is to ‘actually challenge, rather than reiterate, the status quo’, and therefore free speech is misused when employed to defend traditional viewpoints.[22] However, this argument is in fact an attempt to use free speech to suppress free speech, and assumes, without proving, an intellectual high ground over traditional viewpoints.

The cumulative effect of laws, institutional standards and societal pressure shapes free speech today. The effects are widespread.

Frequently, when we label certain words ‘hate speech’ we silence the voices who speak them. Many people ‘self-censor’ their speech. George Orwell describes this phenomenon: ‘Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban.”[23]

This week as I write, virtual silence from much, though not all, of the government and law enforcement is the response to the fact that huge Black Lives Matter protests are breaking Covid-19 social-distancing laws and arguably endangering many vulnerable lives, black, Asian, and white. People fear being unfairly labeled racist.[24] On university campuses unofficial speech bans are enforced through taking ‘offense’. As a result, many campuses are noted for their speech restrictions and ‘trigger warnings’.[25] Roger Scruton, warns that this same trend marked the twentieth century totalitarian movements in Russia and Germany.[26] Jordan Peterson concurs: ‘I’ve studied authoritarianism for a very long time – for 40 years – and they’re started by people’s attempts to control the ideological and linguistic territory.”[27]

Theological Perspective on Free Speech

What if we examine these challenges to free speech theologically? While the Bible does not speak directly about ‘free speech’, it provides a theological lens through which to examine today’s debates.

God himself embodies truth. We were made for God; therefore, central to our existence must be a pursuit of truth in the whole of life.[28] God exemplifies free speech despite the risk of offense: the entire Bible is his message to a rebellious humanity which finds its claims deeply offensive.[29] God created humans in his image and gave us, unique among earthly creatures, the God-like capabilities of rational thought and speech and the freedom to employ them.[30] Honoring the image of God in fellow humans must include honoring these capabilities and the corresponding freedom. Since Adam’s fall, humans’ thinking is marred by sin, and our ability to rightly use power is corrupted.[31] The freedom for members of society to name and confront what they believe to be wrong, to debate issues, and to speak truth to power is an essential counterweight to human depravity and an indispensible tool in the pursuit of truth and justice.[32]

The entire story of Scripture is an exercise in free speech. The historical books and the gospels do not gloss over the shadow side of Biblical characters and events, but lay the stories out frankly and unadorned. Prophets called out the evils of those in political and priestly office. Scripture is giving us principles which undergird the importance of free speech and a free press, by which history is recorded accurately and government is held accountable. The current trend towards limiting and proscribing speech raises questions whether those in power are in fact seeking to rewrite history and to exercise power without accountability.

Jesus himself did not allow anyone to dictate his message but spoke according to his convictions. Christ urged people to go beyond accepted norms and think for themselves. He was neither liberal nor conservative: he called people back to the ancient Scriptures while challenging the status quo. Furthermore, he allowed any question from any person, and he never removed an apostle from his office for failures in speech. By taking this approach, he gave people the opportunity to confess their need or discover their ignorance and consequently to learn from him.

John Warwick Montgomery highlights this principle:

‘The answer to obnoxious viewpoints must not be that of a paternalistic society endeavouring to wall off its citizenry from falsehood through criminal penalties. To do so smacks of the very totalitarianism one desperately wants to eliminate…. The distance between stupidity and political incorrectness is hardly a bright line, and society needs to protect the right to be wrong and insensitive; otherwise, truth can be imprisoned as easily as falsehood.’[33]

It is noteworthy that regardless of the content of others’ speech, Jesus’ response to words was words. The only corrective action Jesus took was in response to the actions of others who set up shop in the temple precincts.

David French said, ‘Absent virtue, liberty can lead to disorder. In the face of that disorder, however, we shouldn’t restrict liberty; we should rebuild virtue.’[34] The gospel both provides a rationale for free speech and supplies the moral resources to promote virtuous speech through its ethic of love. Furthermore, it provides the grace which makes possible what today’s society rarely considers when speech rules are broken: forgiveness and restoration.

What is driving the rise in speech regulation in the West? Since our post-Enlightenment society denies any revelatory word from God, it derives its knowledge from human reason. The Enlightenment project has led most people to believe that self-definition, personal autonomy and happiness are ultimate values. This is our vision of ‘the good life’. In the absence of absolute realities, how I feel and what I want become my identity. So you disagreeing with who I say I am (e.g. transgender) is more than a disagreement; it is an assault on my person and on society’s highest value. We desire a society where people live at peace, but many culture shapers reject the peace of respectful tolerance; we require the peace of enforced ‘non-discrimination’. It seems that speech laws are an attempt to solve conflict in such a society.

Moreover, when post-9/11 lawmakers determined that speech could now be equal in criminality to action, the immediate results included terrorism related prosecution with respect to speech. However, these laws, first designed to combat terrorism, bled into other areas of criminal law.[35] Could it be that as post-9/11 society became conditioned to the possibility that speech itself can be a threat, that belief was readily transferred over into the realm of everyday communication, disagreement, and debate? It appears to have been appropriated (intentionally or not) by those seeking to control speech for other reasons. Today, a fool’s rude comment or a sincere disagreement with another’s moral choice can be interpreted by the hearer as a reportable ‘hate incident’ or a fireable offence.

In this climate, the church must adopt a posture of truth, love, and willingness to suffer. This article highlights the need to speak truth and to defend free speech. Because we serve the God of truth, this is not a mere option nor a right, but a Christian duty. At every level of society and for its good, Christians have a responsibility to promote the free exchange of ideas without repercussion. Furthermore, all of the church’s truth-telling must conform to the shape of Biblical love. That love, exemplified by Christ, was costly. At times it is the cost itself which commends the message. The head of the church was crucified, in part, because he chose to speak the truth. In so doing, he conquered. The religious authorities of Jerusalem tried to silence the apostles, but the apostles responded, ‘we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.’[36] Early church history indicates they each suffered for this stand. O’Donovan describes how the boldness of this young church impacted the Empire: ‘But, confronted with the community empowered by God’s speech, force could extinguish speech only at the cost of investing it with the dignity of martyrdom. It proved impossible in the event for Roman society to refuse an answer to the word that was addressed to it with this seriousness.’[37] May the church today exercise free speech with genuine fruitfulness by seeing speech not primarily as a right to assert but a duty to discharge in the cause of Christ-shaped love for the good of the world.


David Mitchell is a Canadian who is pastor of Connect Church in Fife, Scotland. He is currently researching a Masters degree in leadership in the New Testament .

 

 

[1] Jeffrey Howard, “Free Speech in the UK: it’s the business of parliament, not Ofcom, to judge what is ok to publish”, 26 Feb 2020 [accessed 7 Jun 2020], https://theconversation.com/free-speech-in-the-uk-its-the-business-of-parliament-not-ofcom-to-judge-what-is-ok-to-publish-132219#:~:text=The%20UK%20government%20recently%20announced,them%20if%20they%20don’t.

[2] Toby Young, “No sacred cows: Why is YouTube so afraid of free speech?”, The Spectator, 6 June 2020

[3] SP Bill 67: https://beta.parliament.scot/-/media/files/legislation/bills/current-bills/hate-crime-and-public-order-scotland-bill/introduced/bill-as-introduced-hate-crime-and-public-order-bill.pdf; Policy Memorandum: https://beta.parliament.scot/-/media/files/legislation/bills/current-bills/hate-crime-and-public-order-scotland-bill/introduced/policy-memorandum-hate-crime-and-public-order-scotland-bill.pdf

[4] Pekka Hallberg and Janne Virkkunen, Freedom of Speech and Information in Global Perspective, 1

[5] Malcolm Yarnell, “The Development Of Religious Liberty”, 133

[6] Hallberg and Virkkunen, 10

[7] ‘On the international level this human right is enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and, of course, in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)…’. Hallberg and Virkkunen, 4

[8] United Nations, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” n.p. [Cited 26 Feb 2018]. Online: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

[9] Ibid, 3

[10] Ibid, 151

[11] UK Government, “Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006”. [Cited 26 Feb 2018]. Online: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/1/pdfs/ukpga_20060001_en.pdf, 3

[12] UK Government, “Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008” [Cited 26 Feb 2018], n.p. Online: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/4/part/5/crossheading/hatred-on-the-grounds-of-sexual-orientation

[13] Equality Coalition et. al, “Briefing Note: Defining public duties to tackle incitement to hatred whilst respecting free expression” [Cited 26 Feb 2018]. Online: https://www.qub.ac.uk/home/media/Media,772866,en.pdf, 9

[14] Hannah Corcoran and Kevin Smith, “Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2015/16” [Cited 26 Feb 2018]. Online: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/559319/hate-crime-1516-hosb1116.pdf, 4

[15] Ibid.

[16] BBC, Stu Peters: Manx Radio host suspended over Black Lives Matter comments, 5 Jun 2020, [Cited 7 Jun 2020] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-52936980

[17] The Wellesley News, “Free Speech is Not Violated at Wellesley”, n.p. [Cited 27 Feb 2018.] Online: http://thewellesleynews.com/2017/04/12/free-speech-is-not-violated-at-wellesley/

[18] Jonathan Petre, “I called a trans boy a girl by mistake”, n.p. [Cited 27 Feb 2018] Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5073511/Teacher-suspended-praising-pupil-using-wrong-gender.html

[19] The Rainbow Centre, a Wilfrid Laurier University campus group, cited by Aaron Hutchins, “What really happened at Wilfrid Laurier University”, n.p. [Cited 26 Feb 2018]. Online: http://www.macleans.ca/lindsay-shepherd-wilfrid-laurier/

[20] David French, ” Anti-Free-Speech Radicals Never Give Up”, n.p. [Cited 26 Feb 2018]. Online: https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/06/free-speech-violations-supreme-court-patent-trademark-office-slants-southern-poverty-law-center-double-standard/ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/opinion/sunday/when-is-speech-violence.html

[21] Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, “The coddling of the American mind”, n.p. [Cited 26 Feb 2018], Online: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

[22] Jordan Peterson cited in Dave Beatty,”McMaster debate with controversial professor Jordan Peterson disrupted by activists”, n.p. [Cited 26 Feb 2018.] Online: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/mcmaster-debate-with-controversial-professor-jordan-peterson-disrupted-by-activists-1.4031843

[23]George Orwell, “The Freedom of the Press”, n.p. [Cited 26 Feb 2018]. Online: http://orwell.ru/library/novels/Animal_Farm/english/efp_go

[24] John Rentoul, “Boris Johnson banned protest and no one noticed, not even him“, [Cited 7 Jun 2020] Online: https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/editors-letters/protest-george-floyd-demostration-ban-boris-johnson-priti-patel-police-coronavirus-a9552446.html

[25] Josh Dehaas, “Half of Canadian Universities fail at free speech”, n.p. [Cited 27 Fe 2018.] Online: http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/half-of-canadian-universities-fail-at-free-speech-report

[26] Ibid, 12

[27] Jessica Murphy, “Toronto professor Jordan Peterson takes on gender-neutral pronouns”, n.p. [Cited 27 Feb 2018] Online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-37875695

[28] 1 Jn. 1:5, 7; Jn. 14:6

[29] E.g. Isa. 65:2

[30] Gen. 1:26-28

[31] Eph. 4:17-18

[32] Prov. 25:12; 27:17; 1 Kg. 20-21.  Cf. Howard Taylor, Human Rights, 81

[33] John Warwick Montgomery, “A Note from Our Editor: ‘Hate Speech’ “, n.p. [Accessed 26 Feb 2018]. Online: https://www.galaxie.com/article/gjct11-2-01?highlight=%22freedom%20of%20speech%22

[34] David French, ” When Speech Inspires Violence, Protect Liberty While Restoring Virtue”, n.p. [Cited 26 Feb 2018] Online: https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/06/steve-scalise-shooting-political-violence-no-excuse-restricting-political-speech-free-speech/

[35] Katharine Gelber, Free Speech after 9/11, 151.  [Cited 28 Feb 2018] Online: http://www.oxfordscholarship.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198777793.001.0001/acprof-9780198777793

[36] Acts 4:20

[37] Oliver O’Donovan, The Desire of Nations, 269

Alpha Scotland online Q&A

When the Coronavirus was perhaps at its peak, Alpha Scotland put on an online Q&A webinar to respond to people’s questions. Our old friend Dez Johnson from Alpha chaired the event, and brought together a panel of six guests from a variety of churches and missions from around the country. Solas’s Andy Bannister (who Dez introduced as “The Dundee Tornado”!), was joined by Lynne Paterson from TearFUNDF, Ian Birch and Lina Toth from the Scottish Baptist College, Charlie Maasz from Glasgow City Mission and Brodie McGregor from Queen Park Baptist.

Questions came on a whole range of topics from suffering, to church to the presence or absence of God, and how Jesus relates to a world like ours in which things like pandemics occur. Someone asked if God caused the virus, or was responsible for it, or is it the result of the work of evil. Others asked more practical questions about how we should respond to the crisis.

Andy Bannister said, “It was a privilege to work our friends at Alpha again, we love them and the work that they do. It was also really heartening to see that people in our society are really asking big, searching questions. We are often told that in our secular world, that people are no longer concerned with questions of God, ultimate destiny, meaning and truth – but what we find again and again is that when given the opportunity, many people are longing to have a place in which to ask just these sorts of things. These online Q&A’s have been really helpful for some people too. There are many people who wouldn’t come to a church meeting, let alone stick up a hand and ask their question in front of others. Yet they have important questions, which they are willing to put into an online forum. It’s important that we meet them there, where they are wiling to engage.”

Dez Johnson, who leads Alpha’a work in Scotland said, “It was truly special to be a part of a group of people wrestling with relevant and current questions. I especially appreciated Andy very balanced and informative response to the specific question around “Why is God letting Covid happen?”


The webinar was recorded and can be played back here
Dez’s remarkable story is a on our website here:
Alpha’s online courses are here