The “Foolishness” of Faith

Purdue debate 2013
Debate: Is Faith in God Reasonable?

Sparks flew as Duke philosophy professor and renowned atheist Dr. Alex Rosenberg debated Dr. William Lane Craig at Purdue University on February 1, 2013. Emotionally noting that he is the child of Holocaust survivors, Dr. Rosenberg objected to the notion that a God who is both benevolent and omnipotent could allow such evil and suffering.

Craig had a response ready: “The problem here is that we are assuming that God’s purpose is just to make us happy in this life, but on the Christian view that’s false,” he explained. “The purpose of life is not worldly happiness as such, but rather the knowledge of God. There may be many evils that occur in this lifetime that are utterly pointless with respect to producing worldly happiness, but they may not be pointless with respect to producing the knowledge of God and salvation and eternal life.”

The Purdue audience of 4200 was joined via live video-streaming by 9600 more, from all 50 U.S. states and 60 countries around the world. Craig was awarded the victory in the debate by the live and virtual audiences, as well as the formal debate panel judging the event.

“The result wasn’t even close,” author (and former atheist himself) Lee Strobel told The Christian Post after the event. “Alex Rosenberg had only shallow and unconvincing responses to Craig’s eight affirmative points, and Craig was able to effectively defuse the argument from pain and suffering that Rosenberg raised.”

“Debates like this illustrate why so many atheists like myself have turned to Christ,” notes Strobel.

You can start a conversation with an atheist friend yourself by viewing the debate together at tinyurl.com/debatepurdue.

Debate: Is Faith in God Reasonable?

We’ve written before about the annual Symposium that Christian professors and laypeople in West Lafayette, Indiana host at Purdue University. This year’s event features a debate between renowned Christian apologist William Lane Craig and Alex Rosenberg, an atheist and professor of philosophy at Duke University.

The debate will take place Friday February 1, 2013, 7:00-9:30 pm, in Elliot Hall of Music at Purdue University. Most of us can’t make it to Indiana for the event, but…

You can watch this debate live online! Faculty Commons’ director at Purdue, Corey Miller, explains the possibilities here.

What a great opportunity to gather friends, seekers, students to view a debate on the greatest question of life. For information on how to access the live webcast, contact Corey through the Symposium website here.

The Gospel Shines in Unexpected Places


“The university is a fantastic place for the gospel to shine, partly because it is so unexpected.”

Dr. Michael Atchison directs the rigorous VMD-PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania. Students spend eight years studying under his guidance. He always ends his periodic advising sessions for them with the question, “How can I be praying for you?”

Initially surprised, the students request clarification and come up with something vague. “But after multiple advising sessions,” Dr. Atchison tells us, “they begin to come with real prayer requests.  In addition, they know that faith issues are on the table if they desire to discuss them.”

“The Gospel is the answer to essentially all problems we face,” he reminds us. “An academic answer to a difficult life issue may be what the university has to offer, but followers of Christ have the entire package.

“When students crash and burn, they feel extraordinarily weak and vulnerable. Affirming that their identity is not based on their performance, but instead on the fact that they are made in the image of God is surprisingly helpful.”

Wouldn’t you love for the college students in your life to have a professor like Dr. Atchison?

Read more of his wisdom at MyMinistryMinute.com, Faculty Commons’ weekly devotional that’s written by Christian professors for other Christian professors.

Thanksgiving Mystery

A Chinese graduate student pointed to the unfamiliar foods on her plate and asked me, “Which one of these is the stuffing?” Twenty-two Chinese students from SMU were gathered in a professor’s home to sample our traditional Thanksgiving dishes and hear the story of this quintessential American holiday.

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This ministry to Chinese graduate students, launched by a professor in her living room over ten years ago, was christened Guanxi (which means “connection” in Chinese) when it was adopted by our church in Dallas.

A team of volunteers provides weekly “English Corner” classes to help the students master this new language and learn American customs. I match the students with American friendship partners recruited from our church.

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Because they are raised in an officially atheist country, most Chinese students are curious to learn more about Christianity during their time in the U.S. At our Thanksgiving and Easter group parties, we teach them about the God to Whom we are thankful, and the Savior whose sacrifice paid for the sins of the whole world–including theirs.

We already have cause for thanksgiving this season. One of the students who arrived in the U.S. just a few months ago is now a believer in Jesus!

Rejoice with us, and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Hurricane Sandy Relief

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Are you, like us, moved by the vivid photos of the devastation in the Northeast from Hurricane Sandy?

Would you like to provide tangible help to those who are most in need?

Cru’s Here’s Life Inner City ministry has already built a network of 100 partner ministries in New York City. These groups are ready to distribute urgently needed food to families whose neighborhoods have been wiped out by the storm.

Just $36.71 will provide a Box of Love in Jesus’ name, with more than enough food to feed an inner-city family of six.

Click here to join us in showing Jesus’ loving care to needy storm victims.

Fall Fun with Chinese Student Friends

Carving pumpkins is a novel activity for Chinese students. But they plunged into the fray with relish and produced some remarkably detailed creations that put most American efforts to shame.

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Our Guanxi Ministry to Chinese grad students at Southern Methodist University hosted a fall picnic for our new Chinese friends this past Saturday. In addition to carving pumpkins, we introduced them to caramel apples and football. Nearly 30 students attended, taking a welcome break from their rigorous study schedules on a beautiful fall day.

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Most of the students have only been in the US since August. Guanxi hosts a weekly gathering called “English Corner” in which we teach American customs, a story from the Bible, and help the students practice their conversational English. They took turns describing their pumpkin creations to the group.

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Please pray for our next gathering on November 18th. We will meet at an SMU professor’s home near campus for a Thanksgiving feast. The students always enjoy trying our traditional American Thanksgiving foods. And we will have an opportunity to tell them about the origins of the holiday, including the God to whom we are thankful.

Water of Life in Haiti

Can you imagine having to walk two miles every day just to retrieve five gallons of clean water for your family to use? That is what the 50,000-100,000 residents of Onaville, a tent city northeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti had to do.
But not anymore.
It’s been more than two years since an earthquake leveled large swaths of Haiti. Tens of thousands of people still live in tent cities like Onaville, waiting for safe, permanent housing. Dr. Marc Compere, mechanical engineering professor at Embry-Riddle University in Florida, has led teams of ME students to Haiti for the last three summers to install solar-powered water purification systems for people who live in Haiti’s tent cities.
We wrote about Marc’s first trip to Haiti in 2010. This year Marc and his international team of ten students installed a sustainable, long-term clean water solution in Onaville.
Dr. Marc Compere (in gold shirt) and his team of mechanical engineering students
Onaville’s system is powered by six solar panels which charge eight deep-cycle batteries. The batteries run an ultraviolet disinfection system that purifies the well water pumped out of the ground by a diesel-powered generator.
“We were glad to hear the clean water system will start a micro business,” Marc told us. “It is common to pay a small amount for water in Haiti; perhaps 5¢ for a 5 gallon bucket. This is how to give a ‘hand up’ and not a ‘hand out’. The micro business will offset generator diesel costs and provide income for two trained purifier operators.”
After four days of hard work in the hot sun, Marc’s team produced their first gallons of purified water. “People started showing up out of nowhere with buckets,” he remembers. “We filled probably 80 five gallon buckets after 9:30pm. They carried water away like it was gold.”
Undergrad student Kyle Fennesy points out that “clean water = life. Life expectancy, quality of life, health, education, and work are so closely held upon the foundation of clean drinking water.”
The next step was to train Haitians to maintain and operate the system themselves. “One assignment in the summer school class at Embry-Riddle was a quick-start and users manual for the system,” Marc explains. “Kyle got an A in the course and is shown here using that assignment to train the Haitians who will maintain and operate the system once we leave.”
Although Marc’s commitment to humanitarian work is motivated and empowered by his faith in Christ, most of the students on this trip are not believers in Jesus. Yet the spiritual aspects of providing life-giving clean water for this community were not lost on them.
Grad student Yung Wong wrote:
“I learned that there are much deeper positive consequences of providing clean water than just better health. A term that was used several times during the trip was empowerment. Our ability to provide clean water empowers, or enables, the people in Onaville to not only feel better by drinking clean water but also allows them to get additional job opportunities, focus on domestic duties, or get an education. These lead to better futures and will hopefully lead the people in Onaville out of poverty.
Pastor Massillon, in charge of the system we brought, gave a speech before turning on the faucet to provide the people with clean water. His comparison of what our team did to what Moses did for the Israelites was very impactful on me even though I am not religious. He sees our system as giving new life to the people who are living in desert-like conditions that were not of their choosing. They no longer need to walk two miles to get clean water and can spend more time building towards a better future for themselves, their families, and their community.”

Professors and Chick-fil-A

What does the Chick-fil-A controversy have to do with college professors?
Quite a lot, as it turns out. The roots of this controversy lie on a mid-western college campus nearly a century ago.
We’ve written before about the global secular elite, a highly-educated group who believe that religion is harmful and actively promote a secular (God-less) agenda. “They are very influential,” explains sociologist Peter Berger, “as they control the institutions that provide the ‘official’ definitions of reality, notably the educational system, the media of mass communication, and the higher reaches of the legal system. They are remarkably similar all over the world today.”
You see them on TV all the time—they are the “experts” who offer authoritative opinions on news and talk shows. They also hold powerful positions in our federal government, where they appear to be attempting, says Georgetown University’s Thomas Farr, “to edge traditional religious ideas out of the public sphere, both domestically and in foreign policy.”
Why?
Because, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat explains, the “Western leadership class regards Western monotheism’s ideas about human sexuality—all that chastity, monogamy, male-female business—as similarly incompatible with basic modern freedoms.” Meaning sexual freedoms.
Farr, who tracks religious freedom issues worldwide, concurs. They object to “traditional religion-based arguments,” he says, because those arguments “stand in the way of sexual liberation and its fruits—such as the rights to abortion, sodomy, pornography, no-fault divorce, and same-sex marriage.”
This is the reason for the attempt to intimidate Chick-fil-A’s Christian president, Dan Cathy, into silence about his commitment to the Biblical definition of marriage. In the minds of the secular elite, both freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion must be sacrificed on the altar of the sexual revolution.
How did we get here? What is the origin of the sexual revolution? It did not, as most think, begin in the 1960’s. The sexual revolution began over 75 years ago—in the mind of a professor, on a university campus.
The first sex education class was taught at Indiana University in 1938. Entomologist Alfred Kinsey began his career studying the variation in wing size, abdomen length, etc. of one species of wasp. Then he applied his research techniques to the variation of sexual experience within the human species.
Professor Kinsey assumed that no particular sexual activity was right or wrong, but simply a natural variation like a wasp’s wing size or abdomen length. His work launched the sexual revolution in American society, because it completely separated religiously-informed morality from sex.
It is professors who continue to advance the sexual revolution. Princeton’s Peter Singer is, according to The New Yorker, “the most influential philosopher alive.” As do most of his academic colleagues, he supports gay marriage, but he doesn’t stop there.
“Singer believes that any kind of ‘fully consensual’ sexual behavior involving two people or 200 is ethically fine,” Marvin Olasky wrote in World Magazine in 2004. This would include a host of sexual practices (including necrophilia and bestiality) that are prohibited by God in the Bible because they are so harmful to both individuals and society as a whole.
This is why Faculty Commons takes the gospel to university campuses. Because the professors who run these places are so influential. It may take 75 years, but eventually their ideas change the world in which we live and raise our children.

Evangelizing England circa 635 AD

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Our Northumbrian hosts took us on a visit to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. This intriguing locale is only accessible at low tide. It is famous as the center of Christianity for the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.

When Saxon invaders ran out the (by then) Christian Romans in the fifth century, the Christian faith was, for a time, mostly lost in the British Isles. Then St. Patrick evangelized the Irish, and the Irish monk St. Aidan in turn reintroduced both the Christian faith and literate Western civilization to Britain, establishing the monastery on Holy Island.
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The history of this Northumbrian conversion to faith was preserved in 731 AD by Venerable Bede, who is buried in Durham Cathedral. The beautiful illuminated manuscripts of the gospels that were produced by the monks at Lindisfarne Abbey are on view in the British Library in London. True works of art, they are intricate and colorful designs painted on parchment and embellished with gold leaf that still sparkles 13 centuries later.

In AD 793, Holy Island’s residents were brutally slaughtered by invading Vikings from Scandinavia. Some of the monks were killed. Some were taken as slaves back to Scandinavia. Eventually, the monks completely abandoned Holy Island for the mainland, taking the precious Lindisfarne Gospels with them.
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The ultimate victory, however, belonged to the British Christians. An intriguing letter is on display in the current parish church on Holy Island. Written by the Christian church in Norway upon the occasion of the 1200th anniversary of the invasion, the Vikings’ descendants apologize for the brutality of their ancestors and thank the monks who were enslaved for taking the Gospel of Jesus to the Norwegian home of their conquerors!
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Faithful Christians continue the effort to re-evangelize England today. Our hosts the Redfearns are among them. We had dinner a few days later with a couple who serve on the staff of CRU’s British division, Agape UK. Phil and Ceri Keates minister to both students and faculty at British universities.

The following week, while in London, we met a British Christian professor, Dr. Susan Halliday. She chairs a group of Christian faculty in the UK who are very interested in collaborating with Faculty Commons to spread the good news of Jesus among academics in both the UK and the rest of Europe.

Please pray with us for these friends, who (like St. Aidan many years before) serve as lights for Christ in the spiritual darkness of post-Christian Europe. May their lights be beacons of hope for the love, forgiveness, and healing that Jesus offers to all who seek Him.

TexMex in Italy

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CRU’s Bologna Summer Project students have been going on campus at the University of Bologna daily, meeting Italian students and talking with them about Jesus. They have built some deep friendships and had many great discussions with these friends about connecting with God.

But what happens when the summer project students go home at the end of June? Our full-time staff here need to meet the Italian students and connect them with other Christians, who are here longer term, for regular spiritual conversations and/or Bible study.

Since this is Italy, the best way to do this is to throw a party. To make it even more intriguing, we served TexMex cuisine and taught the Italians how to do country-western-style line dancing.

We spent hours prepping the food and setting up the room for the party. True to form, Daryl ended up assisting with the A/V arrangements.
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Jamie decorated and arranged the glasses in the shape of a cowboy hat.
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The rest of us set up tables and chairs and arranged the buffet.
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It was worth the effort. We had a great turnout, and lots of great conversation over the dinner tables.
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Here’s Jamie with a new Italian friend. She didn’t speak much English, and Jamie’s second language is French, not Italian, but they managed to communicate anyway.
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Daryl and I got to know (in the red shirt) Fabricio, a Brazilian PhD student,
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and (on left) Elena, a physical therapist who has traveled in the US.
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Madison (from the University of North Texas) and Italian Filipe prep the music tracks for the line dancing instruction.
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Italians sure know how to have fun! They absolutely loved the line dancing.
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Jamie enjoyed the line dancing, too.
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Tired but happy, we wandered home under Bologna’s famous porticos at midnight with tasty gelatos in hand.
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