Offer an ‘apologetic of love,’ speakers say at Southern Seminary’s Driven By Truth conference
Secularization requires that Christians articulate their worldview in defense of the truth, evangelical leaders said at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s inaugural Driven By Truth conference, March 18-19.
“A conference like this is important, because from this generation forward no Christian will have a non-apologetic moment, and we must learn how to live faithfully in the world,” Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told the 200 conference attendees.
Preaching from John 18:33-38, Mohler said faithful Christians must not take for granted the notion of truth because providing an answer will become more important as the culture becomes increasingly secularized.
Mohler said every worldview must answer four questions: Why is there something instead of nothing? What has gone wrong? Is there any hope or a remedy for the wrong? How does the story end?
“Christians seeking to be faithful cannot avoid understanding that we are going to have to deal with, in every single moment, the perpetual responsibility of being clear about what Christianity is, and there is no way to do that without being clear about what truth is,” Mohler said.
After demonstrating the need for Christians to understand what truth is, Mohler outlined 16 characteristics of truth, the most important of which is love.
“The most important apologetic that we can offer the world is an apologetic of love. That means that if we are really sharing the truth, we are doing so out of a love for the human being to whom we are speaking,” Mohler said. “If our apologetic is rooted in anything other than love it will destroy our credibility, because no one is shouted, shamed, humiliated, embarrassed into the Kingdom of Christ.”
Mohler was joined at the conference by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary; and Greg Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York City.
Moore, formerly Southern’s dean of the School of Theology, explained how a proper worldview is rooted in a Christian ethic. Speaking on Matthew 25:31-46, Moore said Christians may often find themselves in situations where what is right is not easy to discern. During these times, he said, Christians must strive to live ethical lives even if it does not make sense in the eyes of the world, like loving those who are ignored and overlooked by society.
“The faith that attaches to Christ is not looking at itself, but it is looking at Christ. Then Christians recognize Jesus in the most vulnerable around them,” Moore said. “We often fall, because we are being shepherded. Sometimes we lack confidence and are afraid, but we are not leading this train. We are being driven by truth.”
In their sessions, DeWitt and Thornbury focused on the gospel’s role in apologetics and the Christian life. DeWitt preached from Colossians 2:1-10, showing how to answer plausible arguments against the gospel. People who have non-Christian worldviews are not stupid, DeWitt said, but are enslaved and blinded by Satan.
“The best remedy for radical secularism is not reading a lot of books, but a better understanding of the gospel. At the end of the day, the gospel is the only thing that can defeat secularism or radical Islam,” said DeWitt, who recently published an apologetics book Christ or Chaos. “There are a lot of plausible arguments and indeed there is much deceptive philosophy, but the gospel will not bow to a single one of them and it will not be intimidated.”
Thornbury, who served as Mohler’s first research assistant (1994-1998), warned conference attendees not to miss opportunities for gospel witness when engaging the culture. Describing the friendship of Lutheran pastor Oskar Pfister and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Thornbury said Pfister squandered opportunities for witness when he refuted Freud’s beliefs but never called him to repentance and faith.
“There is a whole generation who traded apologetics for cultural engagement. However our problem is not engaging culture, but figuring out how to disentangle ourselves from it,” Thornbury said. “We cannot engage the culture without getting to the gospel. If you miss getting to ‘Repent for the kingdom of God is now,’ you may have run the risk yourself of having the form of godliness but denying the power thereof.”
Attendees of the inaugural conference, who came from as far as Montana and New Mexico, said the conference speakers and breakout sessions offered a wealth of advice on how to engage the culture with the Christian worldview.
The title of the conference, which comes from the seminary’s motto, and its worldview theme intrigued college student Josh Warner, who said he registered for the conference after taking an apologetics course at Grace College in Winona, Indiana.
“Albert Mohler’s talk was filled with a lot of solid truths that I can take and supplement my own studies with,” said Warner, noting that Mohler’s session further prepared him “to continue that discussion with friends and people” he interacted with on a regular basis.
The breakout sessions, which featured Southern Seminary and Boyce College professors, helped Jon Turnbaugh, a youth minister at First Baptist Church in Palmyra, Missouri, think more carefully about cultural engagement. Turnbaugh attended Boyce College professor Bryan Baise’s breakout session, “The Gospel and University: Developing Students to Engage the Idols of Contemporary Culture.” He said Baise’s advice that Christians listen carefully to unbelievers will would help Turnbaugh “understand them, because at the end of the day they still have value; they are still a creature created in the image of God.”
Audio and video of the conference will soon be available online at sbts.edu/resources.