Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Sydney Atheists Visit Me on My First Night
08/16/2009 - James WhiteI would generally never schedule an event the same day as a trans-Pacific flight, but this time around I was to speak on "Why Otherwise Sane People Say They Actually Know Jesus" at St. John's Ashfield Anglican Church twelve hours after landing. Though I was feeling "OK," those who have traveled large distances know how you often feel "just half a bubble off," a little slow on the uptake, or as I describe it, "fuzzy brained." So I was just praying I'd be clear in my speech and hopefully encourage some of the brethren. Duncan Lockard, one of the two young university contacts who, along with David Ould, have arranged my time here in Sydney (Gerard O'Brien being the other), gave me a ride to the church. We talked with Andrew Katay, the senior minister before the service. Originally some discussion had taken place about taking some questions after my presentation, but that idea had been dropped, and I was just to give the evening sermon as a regular part of the normal service. So I was ready to do that when immediately before the start (I'd say within sixty seconds) Andrew informed me that a group from the Sydney Atheists were in attendance and that they wanted to ask questions.
So, during the opening music I re-arranged my presentation as best I could to shift it from "edification of believers only" to "that plus lay a foundation for talking to members of the Sydney Atheists who are in attendance." This is where being fuzzy brained does not help, as re-arranging sermon texts and points during music immediately before you speak is generally to be left to those who are clear of mind, to be sure. But, I made the switch, and once I opened it up for questions, the first, and last, came from the atheists down toward the front. The first was on how the Bible had been used (or abused) in the past to support various beliefs that we today reject, to which I responded, as I did in my debate with Tim Staples more than thirteen years ago, that the abuse of a sufficient source is not an argument against the sufficiency, or in this case, the inspiration, of said source. I emphasized the need for consistent exegesis based upon sola scriptura and tota scriptura. Then at the end another of the atheists, who was wearing an 'A-Theist' t-shirt, but who had been listening closely, asked about what I had said about man suppressing the knowledge of God (Romans 1:18-20). "What does this spiritual element look like, and how is it that even the most open minded skeptic can look at the same data you look at, and not see the evidence of God?" I focused upon the contradiction of the phrase "open minded skeptic," reminding him of the example I had used earlier of pots and dishes claiming they have no maker. I emphasized that if we are, in fact, the creations of God, the very idea of "open minded skeptic" is incoherent. I then discussed the fact that the spiritual element of man cannot be separated out from the rest of man's created nature. Why do some never see? I pointed out that regeneration is a gift of God's free grace, and that it cannot be demanded of God. I had to be rather brief, but it definitely made for an interesting evening.
I am uncertain how news of my visit made it to the Sydney Atheists, but after the service I was certainly encouraged to visit with a number of Australian brethren who all said the same thing: they listen to the Dividing Line and find it very edifying.
So in just a few hours I will be at Sydney University for the debate with Abdullah Kunde. I don't feel overly fuzzy brained this morning, so Lord willing a good nights rest will allow me to think clearly when the interaction begins.