Ready to give an answer

by Rebecca Brittingham

More than 1,000 people squeezed into a lecture hall at the University of California Los Angeles last year to hear two professors discuss the validity of Christianity. Believers are scarce on the secular campus, but a group of students anxious to present a logical, intellectual defense of their faith are engaging nonbelievers in discussions about religion and philosophy. In a place where sidewalk evangelism likely would fall on deaf ears, the UCLA Christians are using apologetics to reach a hostile audience.

Last year’s symposium, hosted by The Veritas Forum, generated so much buzz on campus that organizers had to turn away about 200 students because they ran out of seats in the auditorium. Even the Alliance of Skeptics and Secularists, the only agnostic organization on campus, enthusiastically promoted the event. Audrey Chen, the UCLA Veritas Forum chapter director, said the event showed the entire campus that Christians are not afraid to have rational discussions about their faith: “It shows how Christianity is something to engage.”

Organizations that emphasize apologetics, like The Veritas Forum and Ratio Christi, are gaining popularity on both secular and Christian campuses where young believers are hungry to take a more intellectual approach to their faith and learn how to appeal to skeptics who say thinkers cannot be Christians. Other groups, like Summit Ministries, Stand to Reason and Worldview Academy, offer training curriculum, retreats and camps for students who don’t have access to apologetics training on campus.

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James Henderson, biblical studies professor at Regent University, attributes a renewed interest in apologetics to a previously lackadaisical attitude toward faith and the desire among young Christians to give an effective answer to questions about their faith. Henderson believes that many evangelical churches have “aligned themselves with a culture of American pragmatism,” and now feel it is time to take back what they think has been stolen by the post-modern world, he said.

Today, many people are looking for truth in a culture where good answers are hard to find, Henderson said. Young Christians understand that and want to be prepared to share their Christian worldview.

“When people ask, we want to give answers,” Henderson said.

A group of students, faculty and ministers, led by Kelly Monroe Kullberg, started The Veritas Forum at Harvard University in 1992 in response to a spiritual void on campus. The group’s members believed that many universities, including Harvard, failed to address important questions. They wanted to use apologetics – a systematic defense of Christianity – to frame a discussion about universal questions about life, death and ultimate meaning…

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