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Last weekend I had the privilege of visiting Bath University Christian Union at their House Party just outside of Cardiff, Wales. We had a fantastic time, with talks from Simon Edwards and myself, engaging with apologetics and evangelism training before their Mission Week

Jonathan Sherwin at Bath University Christian Union House Party 2012

Apologetics Training

Christian university students are often faced with tough questions about their faith. These questions may come from friends but also they may be questions that they face personally. Apologetics is what we call the discipline of tackling these questions, of removing the obstacles that prevent people from coming to faith and at the same time strengthening the faith of the believer.

Simon Edwards and myself – both graduates of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics – were given the opportunity to address some of the tricky questions through a variety of talks, including:

  • Jesus and Science: Where does the tension really exist in this debate?
  • The Cross: The central message of Christianity
  • Jesus in a Broken World: Dealing the the challenge of suffering

Q&A

In addition to the main talks we had a couple of seminars, one of which was given to a general question time. There were many, many good questions that just go to show what people are really thinking. Questions on Hell, Homosexuality and the Bible, Biblical Ethics (Old Testament, Canaanites etc.), Free Will, Suffering and many more were a representative sample of the many questions students face all the time.

People have questions and dealing with them sensitively and with understanding goes a long way towards helping them see Jesus as the true hope for this world.

Uncover

The other seminar was spent highlighting the fantastic Bible Study resource, Uncover. This resource, from Rebecca Manley Pippert is a great tool for engaging unbelievers and new believers in Bible Study. Woven together through media, great content, and packaged in an accessible way, Uncover is proving as useful as it is easy to use.

Leading a demo Bible study with the students from Bath, we saw just how easy it is, through asking questions, to dig into the text in a rich way. The ease of which Uncover can be used saw many students getting excited to pick it up and start using it with their friends.

I left the weekend encouraged and excited to see a group of students praying and planning to see Jesus proclaimed as Lord in their university and the wider city of Bath. I look forward to hearing the stories that come out of this year!

Train Your Mind

March 30, 2011 — Leave a comment

Discipline. It is the one area of life where there simply are not any shortcuts to victory. And as with our bodies, regular training of our mind is crucial if we are to get the best out of what we have been given.

How and what we think affects how we act. Ideas have consequences. What we believe informs what we will do so it is crucial that we spend time thinking, shaping our ideas, forming and, when necessary, destroying beliefs.

We live in a culture where instantaneous is only just on time. We demand instant results, instant decisions and instant action. Our statements are barely conceived before they are tweeted, sent by text, emailed or spoken aloud. Our minds are playing catch up with our mouths. Some celebrities fall foul of this, many of the rest of us get away with it.

Rational thinking has been relegated, replaced with the seemingly fresh ideas of spontaneity and living by impulse. This attitude has left a charged atmosphere where deep thinking is associated with snobbery and feeling has surpassed reason. Os Guinness describes this as “anti-intellectualism”.

“Anti-intellectualism is a disposition to discount the importance of truth and the life of the mind.” (Fit Bodies, Fat Minds).

The worrying thing is that it could now be said that it is becoming fashionable to be anti-intellectual. So, it turns out, if you want to be a counter-cultural Christian, start thinking. Guinness goes on to say,

“Anti-intellectualism is quite simply a sin. Evangelicals must address it as such, beyond all excuses, evasions, or rationalizations of false piety.”

The Buddy System

Back to discipline. My local gym have posters up highlighting the benefits of training with a friend. And aside from the fact that if I bring a friend they make a new member (and I receive a smoothie maker – ooo) they are right. It is easier to train in companionship with others.
So what does this have to do with training our minds? Quite simple: get a buddy, form a group, centre it around a topic and get on with it.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. It could be deciding to spend a year studying a theme and going through a few books together. Get together periodically, have a drink and talk through the ideas. Bounce thoughts off of each other. Give yourself and the group freedom  and permission to really think.

Wrestle with passages of the Bible. Look at a period of history. Examine contemporary culture. Look at the arts, the music, films, poems, popular art of today and yesterday. Think it through on your own and think it through with friends. Not only does the accountability help, different brains with different ideas will challenge you. They will test the robustness of your ideas and provide inspiration for new thoughts.

The Goal

Our minds are a great tool given to us. We can ignore them, we can use them selfishly, or we can use them in worship to God. Thinking well enables us to love better, as John Piper explains in talking about his book on this subject:

We have a responsibility to look after both our minds and our bodies to use both well.

The Royal Marines physical trainers use the phrase mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body). I like that.

Further Reading

  • Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t think And What To do About It. Os Guinness. (UK|US)
  • Think. John Piper. (UK|US)
  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Mark Noll. (UK|US)
  • The Closing of the American Mind. Allan Bloom. (UK|US)