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1,100 students attend Southeastern apologetics conference

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Following a large turnout of 1,100 high school and college students that exceeded expectations, organizers of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s first “20/20” apologetics and worldview conference say that it will not be the last.

The conference, held Feb. 4-5 and entitled “20/20 Collegiate Conference: Seeing Things Clearly in a World That’s Blurred,” took place on the seminary’s Wake Forest, N.C., campus. The goal: teaching students how to view life through the lens of Scripture. It featured such speakers as Gary Habermas, professor of apologetics and philosophy at Liberty University; and Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary. Popular Christian recording artist Caedmon’s Call led in worship.

Akin said the church is losing its battle to have its worldview shaped by Scripture rather than culture. This battle for the mind is of paramount importance, he said.

“I believe that in the church, we do a good job of loving God with our heart,” Akin said, “but not a very good job of loving God with our mind. As we enter the 21st century, Christians need to be armed for battle with their heart and mind. You and I need to be able to tell people both what we believe and also why we believe.”

Habermas’ lectures dealt with two topics at the core of present-day Christian apologetics — the defense of Christ’s resurrection and the explanation behind pain and suffering. Habermas called the pain and suffering argument “the No. 1 objection to Christianity.” He exhorted students to handle the pain and suffering they may encounter in life by renewing their minds in accordance with God’s Word.

“What’s happening to you may not change now,” he said, “but what you tell yourself about what’s happening to you can change immediately. Emotional pain is not caused by what happens to you. It is caused by what you tell yourself about what happens to you.”

In addition to lectures delivered by both Habermas and Akin, the conference featured elective seminars for students dealing with the most pressing issues in Christianity today.

Akin called the conference a “wonderful success.”

“To see almost 1,100 young men and women with a passion to worship, love and serve the true and living God with both their heart and mind was an awesome sight,” he said. “I am encouraged as I think about the future and the impact these young champions for Christ will have. Young people need to be challenged. We need to raise the bar. They are capable of so much more than we usually think. This weekend was proof of that.”

Bruce Ashford, the conference organizer, agreed. Ashford serves as Southeastern’s assistant professor of philosophy and history of ideas.

“We are thankful that the conference went as well as it did,” Ashford said. “We had the opportunity to foster faith in these students, to help them to learn to think ‘Christianly’ through the various issues they encounter in a college setting. Many Baptist students have been taught how to glorify God in their morals but not how to glorify him in their intellectual lives. This conference was intended to remedy that deficiency.”

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill junior Daniel Bare said the conference filled a need.

“Once you get to college,” Bare said, “apologetics becomes a lot more useful and a lot more pertinent because there are people around who are questioning what you believe and why you believe it, and they have a lot of scientific arguments, a lot of pretty well-thought-out arguments.

“So this (conference) is a really important event to get people to start thinking about apologetics and why they really believe what they believe. It helps them to get some sound reasoning behind their faith rather than, ‘I grew up in church. I always went to church. That’s just how it’s always been.’ This conference allows you to actually get some substance behind it.”

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  • Kyle Smith