Evidence Conference 2015 Lectures/Workshops

 A Moral God and the Moral Life: The Case for a Life with Moral Foundations

Why be good, when our culture shouts ‘Be happy”? Partly because people who seek happiness as a goal in life see it slip through their fingers. Partly because the Christian tradition offers a different path. This path is illuminated by God’s nature as a Trinity. It leads to sustaining virtue, deeper meaning, and eternal hope. And it speaks to the deepest of our human desires  . . .  desires that are felt, it turns out, even by those who madly search for that next burst of happiness.

Dr David Clark will explore this Vision for the Good Life, combining a discussion of the Moral Argument for God with a consideration of the importance of moral character. The Christian worldview, rooted in the being of the Triune God, provides intellectual grounding for the importance of virtuous character and the relational and emotional stability that fosters its growth. By contrast, xecular viewpoints do not provide either an intellectual or a relational account of why morality matters.

Ethics and the Search for Moral Knowledge: Making Sense of Today’s Moral Confusion

Dr Smith will confront present-day moral confusion by refuting the currently fashionable notion that morality is an area in which there are no objective standards and no real knowledge.  Moral confusion results when people buy into this notion, often with little serious thought.  And this falsehood is proclaimed on every hand nowadays:  media figures continually say or imply that moral judgements are simply matters of “opinion” from the limited and “biased” perspective of particular individuals.  Since every person is indeed a “particular individual”, the skeptical view of morality actually makes out valid moral judgements to be impossible.  Yet, while some modern thinkers philosophically reject the very notion of moral judgement, they find it impossible to actually live out that worldview — consistently to live as if they themselves have no right to moral judgements or to moral indignation.  This critique of contemporary false notions of morality is the topic of  Smith’s recent book, In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the FactValue Dichotomy (IVP, 2014).  

Smith’s book and his lecture at Evidence 2015 arise out of a long-standing project to deal with this fundamental confusion in contemporary society.  Smith is keenly interested in addressing issues today about our abilities to have moral knowledge, including the “fact-value split” and the view that science alone gives us knowledge, while religion and ethics are merely matters of arbitrary, subjecive choice.  Smith also addresses postmodern and naturalistic thought, especially as these have influenced the church.  Currently, Smith is working on a project to call the church (particularly in the USA) to repentance from the ways it has been “naturalized” and thus is not really living in fulness of the Spirit and Truth.

The Morality of the Victim’s Card: Sources and Consequences of Agnostic Moralism

Dr Boeckel will address the popular phenomenon of playing the “victim’s card” in contemporary debates and discourse.  Ironically, while a moral system centred around respect for “victims” would seem to provide a safeguard against social injustices, the moral system of “victimolatry” is actually incapable of distinguishing between genuine victims and those who merely want to “game the system”  —  those who want to “play the trump card” for their own advantage.  This irony is the result of a moral system that is humanist in the worst sense of the term — a philosophy that has no frame of reference outside the human person, human society, and the angry claims and counter-claims of contemporary “moral” debate.  By contrast, Christian morality offers a transcendent frame of reference:  1) moral standards given and revealed by a morally excellent Being (by the God of the Bible), and 2) a wise moral Judge (God) who is ontologically superior to human beings and cannot be drawn into human moral conflicts and competitions.  For these reasons, Christians think of morality primarily as a high standard that demands discipline and self-denial.  By contrast, those operating within the moral system of “victimolatry” tend to think of modern “morality” as a contest, as a court to which they can appeal for themselves and against others, even if it is only the informal court of public opinion.  Unfortunately, such appeals to modernist moralism are often characterized by self-justification and self-indulgence rather than self-denial.

The sad and confused state of present-day moral and legal debate is a result of post-Christian arguments and attitudes that trace their origin to the European “Enlightenment” of the 18th century.  Returning to these origins, Dr Boeckel explains how this tradition is at the heart of much contemporary moral confusion, even for those unfamiliar with the original thinkers.  As in similar cases, knowledge of the past is a good antidote to repeating its stupidities.

Moral Confusion and Spiritual Warfare:  Notes for the Battle That is Raging

There is an invisible war-taking place in our Universe. It is an ongoing battle happening in the unseen realm, but it is manifested in the physical realm. The Apostle Paul writes in the Epistle to the Ephesians, “We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual host of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph.6:12).” This truth alone validates the reality of what is happening in the Universe and throughout the Church.

This warfare is described in three ways:

1  Warfare with the world
2  Warfare with demonic influence
3  Warfare with the flesh and the spirit

This workshop will equip the servant of the Lord for battle in three areas of life; come and discover how you can be victorious in the fight.

Megatrends:  What in the World is Going On?

Megatrends are often defined as “the great forces in societal development that will very likely affect the future in all areas in the next 10-15 years.”  In other words, megatrends are our knowledge about the probable future.  They are forces that define our present and future worlds.  If Christians are going to be conversant and relevant in what seems like a cacophony of swirling cultural change, it is ever more important to be aware of the big trends in society.

In this interesting and unique presentation, Pastor Jän will explore the leading trends that may have a significant impact on the church.  1 Chronicles 12:32 says of the tribe of Issachar that they were, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”  Like the tribe of Issachar, this session is intended to assist Christians in sorting through the typical information-overload in order to respond effectively to our times.

The Verdict of Reason: Why Gay Marriage Can’t Be the Real Thing and Should Not Be Recognized in Law

In the 20th century, thanks to Freud and others,  a new view of human nature swept through the intelligentsia and and popular culture. Many now held that traditional morality, especially with respect to sex, was a mere collection of arbitrary rules and cultural prejudices, at best, or a system of oppression that must be overturned. Same-sex “marriage” is a result of this view of human nature as a blank slate, sexual scruples as irrational, all lifestyles and family structures as equally legitimate, and marriage as a mere social convention.

But sociobiology, a.k.a. evolutionary psychology, is now emerging as a basis for understanding human sexuality. It confirms both Christian tradition and “natural law,” while refuting much of the facile relativism that is so popular currently. Sociobiology makes it clear why female virginity is highly valued across cultures and why humanity creates institutions—especially marriage—designed to ensure male parental investment. Sociobiology also elucidates many dark sides of human sexuality, to which faithful monogamous marriage, one of the great gifts of Christianity to the world, is the antidote. Dr Nathan Smith will explain the rational argument that heterosexual marriage alone is “real” marriage and should be acknowledged as such.  He will explain how Christians can use these “sociobiological” arguments in dialogue with skeptics without buying into the full-blown Darwinian ideology.

Confusion vs Apathy: God’s Perspective on the Injustice of Human Trafficking

Using insights from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Andrea will engage the conversation of God’s directive for us in this life, showing how genuine faith must translate into action to achieve God’s original intent.  Jesus opens with the Beatitudes and concludes with a call to action for living in His Kingdom on Earth.  Andrea will examine where we measure as a culture and individuals in what God has called us to do as it relates to injustice, examining the connection between this call to action and Jesus’ offer of “abundant life”.

Stewardship of the Mind: A Christian Argument for Fostering Intellectual Virtue

Today’s culture of instant gratification has led to an attitude of shallow or absent reflection.   With an alarming number of college student leaving the faith for intellectual reasons, it is time to respond.  Scripture teaches that we are stewards of everything that God has given us.  One of the highest blessings for human beings is our intellect.  And that intellect should not be left stagnant; we must learn to think well.  Further, we must disciple our brothers and sisters in Christ and teach them how to be better stewards of their mind. To further Christ’s kingdom we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2 Eph. 4:23).  In our culture wars, our minds are important weapons that help us to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5).  If we want to stop the exodus of young adults from the Christian faith for intellectual reasons, we must rise up to meet the intellectual task.

Moral Confusion Among Church-Going Youth: An Undercover Investigation

According to statistics, up to 70% of church-going youth leave the church after high school or by the time they are 22-years-old. One of the reasons for this is that many of them do not know how to answer the hard questions that people have, especially in today’s society where many people believe that morality is relative and that “right & wrong” are subjective, based on personal opinion or preference. Tony Gurule has gone, and continues to go, “undercover” among many church-going youth to discover their ability —  or inability — to defend why they believe what they believe. Unfortunately, it is usually the latter. Many church-going youth cannot articulate their faith or make a case for God, the Bible, or objective morality. Even among church-going youth, moral confusion abounds.

How did we ever get to where we are? Many people believe that taking the Bible and prayer out of schools is to blame, but the issue goes much deeper than that. Being aware of the problems is the first step to helping reverse the trend. Tony Gurule will share his findings and what factors have contributed to the present-state of many church-going youth. He will also share how his ministry work is helping to reverse this unfortunate trend among church-going youth around the nation, including right here in the Central Valley of California.