Another apologetics conference over and done. But not quite done, which is really something many of the speakers emphasized this weekend. If this is just a form of entertainment, and it doesn't change how we think, or behave, then what's the point of going year after year?
I have noticed a bit of a shift in recent years, and I think it happens with any organization or entity. If you don't change, you become stagnant. In the 6 years that Apologetics Canada has put on these conferences, the first few years had some pretty heavy-hitters as the plenary speakers - William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Gary Habermas, Craig Hazen, Sean McDowell and Nancy Pearcey to name a few. J. Warner Wallace, a homicide detective in LA as been a perennial favourite and is often one of the keynote speakers. There are always a few other speakers, usually from the US, that haven't been as well known to me: Mary Poplin, Abdu Murray, Clay Jones, Margaret Manning, John Coe, Timothy Muehlhof and Natasha Crain - dynamic, authentic, powerful, thoughtful presenters.
While the heavy hitters have tended to be higher on the academic side of things, their presentations were generally accessible to those without that background, of which I am definitely one. The shift that I've noticed, and welcomed, is that the academic side has been tempered somewhat by the relational aspects of engaging with people who aren't from a faith background, or who used to have one but no longer do. The content has been more practical than theoretical.
What really stood out to me this year was a reminder again of the power of the gospel, of loving people and of prayer. As one speaker put it, "do you really believe the Gospel has the power to change people?" Before you write that off as a "duh, of course" answer, stop for a moment. Do we really believe that and if so, do we actually live like we do? This question came from a speaker that I probably don't have much in common with in terms of theology on other issues, but that didn't negate the power of this question or of some of his points. (And I hope I'm gracious enough to still acknowledge valid points from someone who has polar opposite views than me in some areas).
Rosaria Butterfield is a name that was mentioned a few weeks ago, in a sermon I think. It's quite an unusual name so it sort of sticks in one's memory. Well, her name came up again yesterday as an example of what God's in the business of doing, and how He uses us in that work. If you're not a reader of books, but you're intrigued by this title, or maybe her name(!), check out an interview with Rosaria about her journey here:
So far, this weekend hasn't felt like entertainment. It's probably been one of the most challenging conferences yet.