KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–With popular spiritual movements like the Madonna-endorsed Kabbalah, which has its roots in Jewish mysticism, and books like the bestselling “Da Vinci Code,” which rekindles attacks on the Bible and the historic Christian faith, the question becomes: How should evangelical Christians respond and defend the faith?
Both the Kabbalah and the Da Vinci Code were among the new religious movements, cults and religions discussed at the “Clash of Cultures: Christianity in the Marketplace of Religion” conference Feb. 24-26 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
The conference, cosponsored by Midwestern and Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, attracted more than 160 students and Kansas City-area residents and 20-plus apologists from across the nation to address a broad range of religions and spiritual movements impacting the Christian faith in America.
“It is encouraging to see believers who are serious about their Christian faith and willing to attend a conference designed to train them to better defend their faith,” said L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr., one of the conference organizers. “Those who attended expressed their appreciation, as laypeople, for providing resources to give a solid defense of the faith and challenge other belief systems and cultures.”
Through five plenary sessions and more than 35 workshops, conference attendees were briefed on Islam, Hinduism and Mormonism as well as religious movements and influences such as astrology and channeling, the Nation of Islam and black liberal theology, and postmodern influences on the church.
Midwestern President R. Philip Roberts, an expert on interfaith evangelism and one of the conference’s presenters, said the conference highlights the need for Christians to be equipped to combat America’s increasingly pluralistic society.
“The information presented in this conference is vital for effective evangelism in such a pluralistic culture as ours,” Roberts said. “We are thankful for all who participated and made it such a success.”
Plenary sessions included noted philosopher and author J.P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, who spoke on the impact of postmodernism and naturalism on the church, culture and educational systems.
Mormon expert Bill McKeever, founder of the Mormonism Research Ministry, spoke on the need for Christians to get engaged in sharing and defending their faith and not merely sit on the sidelines, in a message titled, “Grandpa, What Did You Do in the War?”
Jerry L. Buckner, pastor of San Francisco-area Tiburon Christian Fellowship and an adjunct professor at Golden Gate Theological Seminary, explained the history of black liberal theology and suggested ways to reach out to the black community.
Elwood Chipchase, president of Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary in Kansas City, spoke on the relationship between pastors and apologists and how they can work together for the good of the church.
Midwestern Seminary has hosted numerous workshops and conferences to assist Christian believers in defending their faith and ministering to followers of other religions or religious movements — from New Age practitioners and followers of Islam and Mormonism. An upcoming spring workshop will focus on issues raised by the Da Vinci Code book on March 21-22 at the Kansas City campus.