As Coptic Orthodox Christians in the UK, it is not uncommon for us to feel as strangers in this world. Awakening us to the great need and hunger this world has for Christ. For this reason, the Diocese, joined by those from as far as Scotland; took on a beginner’s role in Christian apologetics. With speakers of various ages preparing discussions based on apologetic books they had previously read, we hosted our very first Christian apologetics conference.
The packed weekend began with an introduction to apologetics and evangelism, the differences and similarities between them followed by a Biblical example of how to do it right. Elijah’s your man: bold, wise and discerning.
Before calling it a night we endeavoured to discuss evolution and creation (a nice easy topic before bed). This discussion definitely got people vocalising their opinion on the long debated issue. With the evidence presented, the only conclusions we could possibly draw were that God is in charge and that believing in a creator does not deny the obvious evolution we witness around us.
After resting the night, we had a gentle start, looking at the ‘Columbo tactic’ in apologising. A mere questioning strategy, to get people thinking. When someone makes a claim that ‘it’s irrational to believe in God’, instead of getting fired up, why not just ask why? What do you find irrational? Often we will find that these claims have no foundation and our simple questioning can push them to search for themselves into the matter. The key is to practice what we preach, to act with love.
With this method in place, we took on answering some questions commonly raised by those questioning the faith. Evil: how can an all good God allow evil? First we must answer: what is evil? Is evil not the mere absence of goodness? This absence of goodness has come through our free will, from our choosing evil (or rather, not choosing good); just as darkness is the absence of light.
So why would God allow free will then? Because otherwise our love for him would not be real, love is a choice.
This brought us on to hell; many people reject the idea of hell because they don’t believe it fits with the all loving Creator and His abundant mercy. What we find however, is that this is often a mentality imputed by our culture. In a culture which satisfies the self, of course we will ere at the idea of an unpleasant hell. Yet in a culture where huge injustice occurs daily, they would find it hard to accept that there is no hell. The truth is that what we accept does not matter. The truth is we cannot pick and choose with God’s word. We must look at what the all loving God says: the same One who wrote about His mercy, wrote about His justice ( a hell). But it is in our hands whether or not we choose it.
We concluded with defending Orthodoxy, which made me appreciate how grateful I am to have been entrusted with the whole truth. Being raised in a church which has handed down the teachings of Christ Himself, from generation to generation.
Being the first of its kind, this conference was a great success, opening our minds and encouraging healthy discussions and debates. Realising the great need around us, this was a brilliant way to encourage us to take up an active role in apologetics and evangelism. It highlighted the need for us to know our faith well in order to defend it for God’s glory and not our own. In so doing we can attempt to help others to the faith and partake of His eternal joy.