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Provisional text in English
I work with Canadian Baptist Ministries as the director of International Partnerships. I also teach at Tyndale College and Seminary. Prior to living in Toronto, my family and I lived in the city of Paris, France where I was a pastor and an evangelist, a church planter, and a professor. I suppose that when the organizers of the Third Lausanne Congress wanted someone to lead a team on secularization, they thought perhaps 20 years of missionary work in Paris might lend something to the debate. The title of this session contains the theme in a couple of strong nouns, truth and secularity; a couple of poignant adjectives, evangelical and pluralistic; and this apparent dichotomy, dogma and diversity. Our desire this afternoon as leaders of this multiplex is to help you, the physical attendees here in Cape Town at the Lausanne 3 Conference and other friends who are participants through the virtual means of the Internet and who are following our discussions, to consider the challenges that we face in affirming and integrating our faith into a very complex world. A world marked by growing spirituality, but a world where in many places, although certainly not all, the resistance to exclusive truth claims exists. There is no one way. Or the relatively of religious convictions. Its fine for you to believe that you want, but just keep it to yourself. And certainly the exclusion of religion from the public forum, dont try to force your religious beliefs on others. Today youre going to hear four Christian leaders interact on the theme of Christian witness within a secular and pluralistic world. Two come from Western Europe, the greenhouse of values, ideas and philosophies which have shaped secularity. They are Robert Calvert, pastor of Scotts International Church in Rotterdam, Netherlands and a regent of the Bakke Graduate University. And by the way, Robert is the colleague who posted on the Lausanne website a very extensive paper with which many of you dialogued and for which we are grateful. Stefan Gustavsson will be our second presenter. Stefan is the general secretary of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance and the director of Credo Academy, an institute for the promotion of Christian Apologetics. Our other two invitees this afternoon are Paul Augustine. Paul is the pastor of Union Chapel in Vishakhapatnam, India. Hes also a professor in communications and in care that was personal. And finally, Nabiel Kosta, the executive director of the Lebanese Society for educational and social development, as well as a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance. Youre going to hear different understandings of the process of secularization and the result which we call secularity. Some people view it positively. Authors such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Harvey Cox talked about it as adult Christianity. Others view it negatively, the loss of religious meaning. In the Anglophone world, the term secularization usually refers to the process of rationalist thought, the fruit of the enlightenment and medurnity. In the Francophone world, we use the term (speaking in another language). We also have the English word laity, which you can hear in that word. But it connotes who the many concentric fears of our life find the autonomy. As well, they place human kind at the very center of the world thank you human life at the center of the world, freed up from the ideologies and the rules which religion had previously offered. You know, our point of view, where we stand, will condition our attitude towards the topic of secularity. An American pastor in Grand Rapids, Michigan will undoubtedly have a different and likely more antagonistic view of secularity than, say, a Turkish evangelist in the city of Ismer. For the one, secularity is a real threat; for the other, its an open door. We have different positions and different attitudes towards secularity largely because of our different contexts and cultures. We have intentionally designed this multiplex in order to express the fact there isnt just one model of secularization and there isnt just one attitude with which we can embrace or resist it. We want to assist you, as Richard pointed out, to comprehend, to contemptualize, to commit yourself to Christian witness in a world of increasing secularity. So were going to begin with a short group discussion, a short group exercise to get our minds working on this subject.Im going to show you a series of images on the screens, and for those of you who are here in this room at the table, Im going to ask you to just interact with what you see on the screen. If youre following this via the Internet, we trust the images will come through and you can perhaps share your comments with people in the same room. Id like to put a picture up for you, it could be a picture, it could be a photograph, sculptures, it could be signage. Id like one person at your table to very quickly share a reaction with the other people at your table. Just a quick thought, something that comes to your mind at the sight of this image. Let me say the lens with which we are looking through the question of the images is through the lens of secularity. Ill show the images rather quickly, allowing enough time for just one person to share a comment, an observation, or some insight on the image. Please be quick in your reaction, one person per image. Are you ready to go? Turn towards your table. The first image is from Hans Holby and its called The Ambassadors, a painting that was done in 1533. Were going to move on to the second image. Look in the very top left corner of this painting, and peering behind the curtain is a crucifix. Move on. Moving on to our third image from Latin America. On the left of your screen you have the very earliest conceptualization of the urban layout of the city of Brazilia, the capital of Brazil. On the right a picture of Brazilias cathedral. Our fourth image, from the city of Rotterdam, by the RussianFrench sculpture Zadkine, the destroyed city done after the second world war in front of the Maritime Museum. Again from Latin America, a photograph taken several years ago. Oh, Im sorry. Thats the next one. I jumped ahead to that one. When the Protesian Indians protested on the site of the first cross erected in Brazil. If youve joined us just recently, were asking that around your tables one person comment or make an observation on the images that youre seeing on the screen. And our final image from the city where I worked for 20 years, during a manifestation of Muslim women in Paris, France, a picture that perhaps requires some censoring. What does this picture tell you about living and serving and witnessing for Christ in a pluralistic world? So I trust that these images have helped Gain your interest for our discussion on dogma and diversity and how evangelical truth can lead up to secularity in a secular world. A warm welcome to all of you who are attending our multiplex this afternoon. We will be hearing from four different speakers. First will be Robert Calvert from Rotterdam; secondly we will be listening to Paul Augustine, a pastor in Vishakhapatnam, India; we will be listening to Stefan Gustavsson from Sweden; and our fourth presenter will be Nabiel Kosta from Beirut, Lebanon. After the four brothers have shared their experiences and understanding of Christian witness in a pluralistic and a secular world, were going to have a little panel discussion among ourselves and we invite you to listen in and glean from our experiences. We begin with Robert. Brothers and sisters, good afternoon. I also say to those who are listening in and watching in from global centers from around the world, Christian greetings, but I dont know what time it is when youre watching in. I wonder, you know, why weve chosen 2 white European teachers to discuss secularity. I came to the conclusion that Lausanne 3 needed someone to hold accountable the effects of the enlightenment. I want to thank you sincerely for your many good responses and reflections on my original essay which was posted, as Terry said, in April on the Lausanne website. For that reason, I dont propose to represent the essay as it was then. Youve stimulated me with so many good reflections and thoughts and challenges, and this really response to a further response. In terms of context, Ive spent my entire pastoral ministry in two cities with a similar industrial past, Glascow and Rotterdam. Already, weve reckoned remembering that Im not Dutch. I say that the Netherlands, until I open my mouth, nobody knows Im not a migrant. Im really a networker, a trainer, and a researcher of urban ministries in Europe. And over the last 12 years, Ive organized and attended many consultations with Christian leaders in a variety of cities.So the context from which I speak is Europe, a continent of 50 countries, most of which are sovereign Democratic republics. There are big differences for evangelical Christians in this patchwork quilt of different historical stories. For example, in Barcelona, the Catholic government is becoming more affirming of other Christians who are not Roman Catholics. But in Athens, evangelical Christians are still distrusted as neither being good orthodox or good Greeks. So I put it to you, can we talk about a soul of Europe? Take Greek mythology where Zeus, the chief of the gods kidnapped Europa, the daughter of the king of Phoenician. He did so by approaching her in disguise in the shape of a bull. And when she sat upon the bull, it took her to the island of Crete where Zeus revealed his true self to her. Now is this a story, a parable of Europe? Has Europes soul been stolen in a similar way? Affected by pagan, Celtic, Jewish and Muslim spirituality, is there any sense of the soul of Europe, of a Christian soul, of the living God alive and well in our cultures? The number of Christians in Europe has declined as has the percentage of world Christians. When I research these numbers, we find that in 1900, 71% declined to 65% in 1910, the time of the mission conference. To 1960, 50 years later to 40%. 30% in 1990, 26% in 2000. 25% this year, and its projected to go down to 15% in 2000 50. This afternoon were speaking about secularity. I describe that as the framework in which weve chosen to locate our discussion about truth and dogma. It shouldnt be confused with words like secularism, which is an ideology, or secularization, which is a process. Secularisation is the process that describes the gradual withdrawal of religion and its values in the public realm. It also includes the decline of church attendance. Secularism is the committed philosophy. Its an ideology that seeks to explain all of life without reference to God or the divine. So we come to the world secularity. A framework upon which we exercise belief or unbelief today. Its just a way of understanding the stage or the part of the planet that were living on. The context of understanding our age where Christian faith is one option among many. Now Charles Taylor, the author of that mammoth text. It traces secularity from deism that was so influential in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain and France as well as America. Our age is underguarded by assumptions of secularity, where he says, the presumption of unbelief what become dominant and belief in God isnt quite the same as it was in 1500 or 2000. Let me put it differently to you. Religion is not banished, but its relativized. A Christian was once discussing his beliefs with an editor of a Christian magazine. He was trying to explain how were limited by our prospectives on life. He said I have a point of view, he told the interviewer, you have a point of view, but God, God has a view. When the article appeared in print, a diligent copy editor had changed it to I have a point of view, you have a point of view, and God has a point of view. In other words, the revelation of God is relativized and just another perspective. Another illustration of this secularity comes in this months research newsletter Vista from the Nova Research Center linked with Red Cliff College in England. This survey of 44 European nations, you can look for the mention of God, church, or religion in their constitutions, in their national constitutions. Theres a chart contained in that newsletter. And what do we find? We find that the name of God, interestingly, is mentioned in 13 of the national constitutions. Church is mentioned in 24 of them, and religion is mentioned in 42. Not bad you think. But then you look a little closer and you see that church is mentioned mostly with regard to the separation of church and state. And where religion is mentioned, its with regard to the freedom of religion. Were living our faith in a secular? in a midsecularity. Were living our faith in a condition of doubt and uncertainty. Id like to illustrate this with a bronze monument, not the other one you saw just now from Rotterdam, but this one of Rotterdams famous son, one of the great reformers. His fashion was to education the church leaders and this shows him holding the bible aloft and studying it.Today in Rotterdam, weve given his name to a big bridge, a university, and to countless educational programs. But I want to tell you since this statute was put up in the city, it has been moved to no less than nine different locations. It seems that were not comfortable with him, as long as hes holding a bible in his hands. Well use his name, but please dont hold the bible aloft. We dont know what to do with him. I wonder if this is not a picture of Europe today. Our citys context for understanding secularity are very complex and very mixed. I want you to quickly look at the foreignborn populations in here. Look at how mixed they are ethnically, but also religiously. While I get you to see the cake of Amsterdam, let me say in Rotterdam most babies are born to couples where at least one was not born in the Netherlands. In Lester, in England, where UCCF has its headquarters or had its headquarters when I was a student, 36% are ethnic minorities and 24% of residents are of Indian origin. The highest in the UK. Go back to London and you find that 50% of the UKs Hindu and Jewish population are there and 40% of the Muslim population is in London. Centers are cities and cities are centers of cultural ethnic and religious pluralism. One sociologist has recently described the challenges not as ethnic diversity but of super diversity. Charles Taylor himself describes it as a galloping pluralism on the spiritual plain. Religious pluralism can mean one of two things. It can describe the variety of religious groups and expressions where we are now dealing with increasing numbers of nonChristian faiths. When we head to other faiths, religious pluralism becomes something different and can lead to the break up of our expression and understanding of evangelical faith and Christian doctrine. Two scenarios have been suggested by Grace Davia, a sociologist of secularization. One she says that followers of secularization suggest that growing religious pluralism necessarily undermine the plausibility of all forms of religious belief. However, rational choice theororists argue the reverse. They look at religious pluralism as enabling the religious needs of diverse populations to be more adequately met. Alternatives present themselves in new age and even witchcraft which is significant, because it even points us back to a reality in the world view that we thought had died out. The enlightenment told us died out many years ago. Theres a new thirst for something more than selfsufficiency and reason which is leading many to communal worship. And the question is now how are evangelical Christians to relate to religious pluralism thats about different options, lifestyles, preferences or the promotion of religious diversity? Let me say in the shadow of Richard Nibers Christ in culture gives us a handle on this subject. He outlined 5 responses that Protestant churches make to the prevailing culture around them. Now you have to decide which of these are appropriate to yourself. The first is to reaffirm tradition. Thats simply to preserve existing Ecclesiastical identities. The second is to structure, to streamline our organization to become more effective. The third is to replicate as far as possible the original pattern of the apostles. I want to suggest, and maybe well do this in conversation later, that this often amounts to little more than withdrawal from secularity and the culture that were in. On the other hand, mainstreaming takes us in the opposite direction. To mainstream is to participate in the culture and to take on its very shape. So we have a final preferred option of missionary engagement. Critical engagement and witness to kingdom values. Missionary engagement involves presence, preparation, and participation. What does this mean? Well, weve been talking a lot about the whole church, taking the whole gospel to the whole world and a holistic approach and practice. I find as a pastor we often tend to emphasize other making you Christians or making you churches or wanting to make you cities. We talk about making you Christians. Better discipleship programs, mentoring relationships, recognizing that our cities are not just, not peaceful places.So how do we engage in social action and civic witness and perhaps I might suggest that many of our discipleship programs, including alpha, make take on this to heart as we construct a discipleship training to enable Christians to be active in the marketplace. Churches. The development, the renewal of merging and immigrant Christian communities. The setting up of mission agencies. In Rotterdam West, they develop gifts and programs to engage with these multicultural communities. And in Rotterdam East, they visit 25 immigrant churches and sets up spiritual programs. As I share one or two stories, I dont want to say theyre the best examples but I find out fairly outstanding. Thirdly sitters. Developing urban centers that engage people 7 days out of 7, whether they be Atheists or people of other states. Could you take me to a ministry like that in your place where you live? I want to tell you about a story of Lisdon. A mission of compassion, a mission of Christian holism, in a city on the north side of Lisdon, the newly elected mayor bypassed the traditional Roman Catholic priest to seek a blessing from the new pastor of a Pentecostal church that had just grown from 30 people to 300. But the real reason that the mayor wanted to be there was that he knew that this church cared for drug addicts and the elderly. And today if you go there, youll find that 75% who are rehabilitated go back into society and 50% join a church and 25% get employment. Thats pretty good. Another model is that of coalitions. Coalitions in the public arena, coalitions around vision, around belligerence. In Berlin, when the wall came down in 1990, ministers on the two sides of the wall came together. The city mission on the east side that cared for the elderly, united with the city mission on the west side of the wall that cared for addicts. Today more than 500 employees make up the largest city mission in Europe. Even though I have to say that Glascow is the oldest one. I could tell you more stories, but my time is going. I want to say to you that today the challenge of secularity is a challenging one for us all. Europes church history of violence should not be forgotten, as evangelical Christians seek to call the church back to humility, integrity and simplicity. The challenge of secularity is to make the case for the truth of Christ in societies that are pluralistic and globalized. On the other side of the challenge is to make the peace of Christ in societies that are broken and divided. Evangelical Christians who need to critically engage rather than escape the challenge of this secular age are empowered to do this by the astonishing announcement that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Agree. Greetings to you in the name of the Lord and safer, Jesus Christ and I also bring greetings to you from India and our church, Union Chapel, and my wife Ronnie. I thank God for the great opportunity and privilege he has given me to stand before this gathering in Cape Town and I also greet the many who are watching over the Internet. I stand here as to testify as to what God has been doing in our country in India in again and in our city in particular. And my sincere thanks to the Lausanne Congress who has been so gracious in writing me and also my sincere thanks to Reverend Terry Smith for including me in this multiplex. I want us to know that India is a country that takes pride in the fact that it is a secular nation. And that means that it is one country which says that you can have any kind of religion and we will not try to force you to follow particular religion. And its the policy matter and they have assured the citizens that they will not be sidelined on the basis of religion. And thats a secular nation. Having said that, I also should mention that India is a very religious country, as well. Many great religions have come out of this country and Hinduism and also have Muslims and Janes and six and Christians who are in the minority and also many gurus have come out of India. In such a context of the church that India exists and how can the Christian community live out their Christian faith in a secular society? And thats the challenge youre facing. The church where I serve, commonly known as Union Chapel, and we have many members who work in government organizations and private sectors. And the challenge for them is to how to live out their life in their workplace.It is sad that we have divided work and worship. That work is secular and worship is something spiritual. Spiritual living God out of the context. And therefore the challenge whether we work, whatever the present, we need to present Christ or live out our Christian faith. I know a Christian woman who worked in a very big government organization and she retired in a particular post only because she would not compromise the secular world. Had she given bribe or taken bribes, she would be elevated in her office. Because of her faith she retired in that post. But the amazing thing that happened was that her life had been a challenge to the nonchristians in her office and some of them were transformed. And today in our country, I want us to know that people are responsive to the message of the gospel. I must say that there are some pockets where it is very difficult to share the gospel back in the southern part. And in some parts it is really, really challenging. And I understood that God has been opening doors. And recently we had visited a place, at least some of the places the district, and as a church we were able to reach out to the people that were affected during the rains recently. And one of the things we had to face as should we minister to those who are not Christians. Thats what we did actually. The church was not happy that we should give the relief material to those that are not Christians, but then I understood that Christian faith is all about sharing the good news with those who are unlovable. This is a village in the outer valley where we have a ministry and it is amazing as to how people have been responding to the gospel in the tribal religions. They are very open and this is one of the baptism services we had. And for the couple of months, almost a year from now, we had a ministry of the juvenile home and this is our youth team trying to do some ministering among them. Predominantly Hindus, Muslims and nonchristians and the people have welcomed us have also asked us to take over the girls juvenile home. And this is the third or the most interesting ministry which we just started. The children standing at the background are gypsies and their parents have just one business to have babies and as they grow, theyre sent out for begging. But recently, when they came to our church premises, I wanted to go see them at their home. Had we visited them, it was so amazing that they were amazed we could come to them and that was a time when they responded to the gospel. And weve been trying to share the good news with them and theyve been listening and we are challenged. In conclusion, I would like to say that the Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted us with the great response to prepare gods people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up. And also that we all may attend to the fullness of Christ. We are here, I believe, as Christian leaders, as pastors, as evangelists, as people in ministry, were preparing Gods people and to buildup the body of Christ. And its of prime importance that we let go of all the bad years we have created and together build the body of Christ. And as I close, I would like to remind you that India is a country which has a beautiful symbol which has the three faced lion, at the bottom of it you have this phrase known as (speaking foreign words), which simply means truth alone triumphs. Its Jesus Christ who said in Johns gospel, Chapter 8:3132. If you hold on to my teaching, you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. God has given us the truth in the Lord Jesus Christ, the person and hes given us the truth in 1 John 5:6, The spirit is the truth and hes also given us the written world which is the truth. And I believe that it is this truth which you and I possess which is a gift from God. We know that truth alone triumphs. So God be the glory. Agree. At the Lausanne Congress the first Lausanne Congress in 1974, Francis Schaffer gave a talk, later published under the title two contents, two realities. Let me quote from what Shaffer called the two contents. The first content is sound doctrine, Shaffer said, Christianity is a specific body of truth. It is a system and we must not be ashamed of the world system. There is truth and we must hold that truth. The second content is honest answer to honest questions.Shaffer said, Christianity is truth, truth that God has told us and if it is truth, it can answer questions. Truth and answers, thats the focus of this presentation. Half a year ago it was the first of April, a day when we at least in Europe have official permission to fool people. This years best prank came from an on line gaming store called Game Station. In the sites terms and conditions which you have to understand that you have read and confirmed before you place an order they had buried an he mortal soul close it read like this: by placing an order via this website on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010, you agree to grant us a nontransferable option to claim now and forever more your immortal soul. Should we wish to exercise this option you agree to surrender your immortal soul and any claim you may have on it within five working days of receiving written notification from Game Station. The company even included a hyper linked option, which said click here to nullify your soul transfer and they rewarded astute shoppers with a coupon worth 5 British pounds. But only 12% of the buyers noticed this, 88% of that days transaction included human souls, 7,500 human souls. We Europeans, it seems to me, have in a similar careless way sold our souls and dispersed our rich inheritance. Europe has become the excessively extravagant person. In North Africa, parts of the world with thriving truths, Europe has denied the gospel. I have four main points; the first is the European lesson. Of course theres many different kinds of Europe. The Roman Catholic south, the Greek Orthodox east, the Protestant north, you have the east and west with the form of Communist countries, but theres still enough things to bind us together to make it meaningful of talking about one continent Europe. And in order to understand a dramatic change for the church in Europe, we need to understand some of the historical background. There is cause and effect. The secularization of Europe has not come just unexpectedly.. Simply we find to the extreme there are two root systems of ideas in Europe with both goes back to antiquity. Humanism with its roots in Atheist; and Christianity with its roots in Jesus. Lets win with Christianity. Starting with Jesus of Nazareth where God is gloriously revealed. The belief in Jesus spread throughout the Roman Empire and became the dominant faith from the fourth century onward. And then the church grew but gradually also much of the gospel was lost or at least confused with other ideas and rediscovered. And we had times of reformation. And a hundred years ago we had a seemingly strong church in Europe. And yet, at the beginning of this century, the Christian faith has so to speak lost in Europe. Why is that? Why with this history are we struggling on my continent? The answer is to a large degree to be found in the other root system of Europe. That is humanism. Putting man at the center of everything and making him the measure of all things. An idea that was promoted by Greek philosophers. It was discovered during the Renaissance and became the central idea during the enlightenment in the 18th century and onwards. The enlightenment was at the start mainly a prospective represented by artists. It affected science and academia which at that time affected just a few or a small portion of the people. But gradually the enlightenment prospective has taken over much of our culture and today both science and academia affect everyone. And Europe has become a secular culture. One very interesting thing here is science. Of course science in one sense has its roots amongst the Greek philosophers but modern science with its empirical investigation into the actual state of he fares has mainly Christian roots. When modern science grew in the 15th century it has basically Christian motivation. Were to think about gods world. But as time went by and more and more in nature were understood, which of course its not the problem for Christianity; science was hijacked and turned against its mother. And today it? its often looked upon science as if it has established the enlightenment perspective. The resulting situation at the beginning of the 21st century is that Europe is a cut flower who has lost its root in the truth. Europe has become a deeply secular culture where God is absent in the public domain and where the underlying world view very often is naturalism.Please note that secularism in Europe is not a skepticism of a few individuals who challenge the norm. Rather, it has become the norm. Its viewed as a positive liberation from superstition and from religion power play which held people in bondage in previous generations. Most importantly, secularism is not seen as a world view in itself on the same level as Christianity and therefore a competitor but as the natural and neutral starting point which should be shared by all reasonable persons. And then of course after that you are free to add certain subjective things like Jesus or Buddha or something else to your life. This is what Philosopher Charles Taylor has called exclusive secularism. To exclude all transreference points to cultural, social and political life. The lesson for the global church is learning is this, do not ignore the secular outlook at the state when it only affects a small portion of the population. And everything still seems all right for the church. Today secularism dominates science, academia and media which in so many ways influences the whole world. How could this happen? Part of the answer is the faulty responses given by the church. One response was compromise. Many Christian theologians and leader felt compelled to adjust it. They seemed to think that the scientific method demanded the acceptance of enlightenment as if it meant God was out of the picture. So in order to be seen as intellectually honest, they started to deny miracles and revelation and the supernatural. This is of course the liberal theology that has intoxicated the European churches so deeply. An example, a hundred years ago one of the most influential thinkers was a German theologist. He said this, We are no longer in the business of fixing permanent dogmas from an inspired bible. Instead we formulate teaching which express the essence of Christian piety. In other words, he goes not from theology to practice, but he goes from Christian piety and practice and from that he formulates what is theology. By becoming infected with enlightenment thinking, the church has become our own grave digger. Or to change the met for, the church has been hijacked by secular philosophies and historical theology. The other response, the other faulty response was with withdrawal. It came from more bible believing people who did not want to accept the even light ebb meant challenge. They wanted to hold onto the gospel but they wanted to do it withdrawal from culture. They the later charismatic attitude. Dont misunderstand me, theres so much to welcome in this theology, but there has been a dangerous weakness in its isolation from culture and in the negotiate of the intellectual challenges. Theres been too little teaching on the worldly level of Christianity. Theres too often been a separation between mind and heart and the mind and the Holy Spirit and the result is that the church is failed the intellectual challenge. Europe has a long history based on the Christian faith. But claiming its not possible to believe that Christianitys true, Europe has turned away. Europe was first lost for the gospel in the areas of ideas. If Europe is going to be one for the gospel once again, it must be one also but not only but only in the area of ideas, because thats the point of departure. Thirdly, the enlightenment challenge is not over. A new global inquiry showing peoples beliefs and values was recently published. Question number 42 in that inquiry was how important is religion? And people who checked the box it is very important in my life. The statistic is like this, in many countries you will find extremely high figures, Africa at 98%, Brazil at 78, India at 74, go over to the US its lower but 57 percent think religion is very important in my life. If you move over to Europe, the picture drastically changes. The highest figures are in Poland 33%, Germany 25%, Britain 15%, and in my country 8%. Now its a world of difference, if 98% of the population thinks religion is very important or 8% thinks religion is very important. In the latter case, religion is seen as having nothing to do with [TRAOUPBL/] and reality any longer and it creates a strong attitude of dismissal and sin I six so people can say like this about theology and talk about God, theology is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isnt there.Now some people dont say this is enlightenment in modern thinking, what about post modern thinking and culture, havent we passed that area and moved beyond it to the post modern area where people dont believe in truth any longer and that could open some doors for us? Many think that a change from modern to post modern thinking will somehow solve our problem and open the door for gospel again. And they think that Christian has been made obsolete. I think this is wrong. First, even though post modern thinking is influential in some areas, western cultures is far from post modern. Let me give you some examples. Take science as one example. It operates on the general assumption that there is an external reality about which we can have true knowledge. This reality is the same for everybody around the globe. The debate on global warming is a current example. It presupposes from all sides there are universal truths. Take ethics, and the discussion about homosexuality. The new view on homosexuality which should be affirmed and embraced which is now the dominant view in my country is not seen as context dependent. Its viewed as the right view that should be accepted by other cultures. Or take the debate about new religion Atheists who are making absolute claims about religion. Now Im not denying the decision of post modern thinking. What I am denying is that the modern perspective has been replaced by the post modern. It has not. Along similar lines we need to think right about post modern spirituality. The post modern is born out of the modern which is not realistic and that naturalism has never been challenged. In post modern spirituality, therefore, there is no real transcendence, only imminence. There is no real God outside the human experience. Even though words like God or prayers are used, theyre used within a different framework, a different world view without real transcendence. As Christians living in a secular culture, we now have a double challenge. The concept of truth is challenged from the post modern philosophers and the content of truth is challenged by the enlightenment perspective. The lesson to learn is this: dont underestimate the enemy. Secularity goes together with the modern and post modern perspective and can affirm a dose of spirituality as long as its grounded in man only. At the same time, it has devastating hole in his armor. The project of liberating man from God, simultaneously undermines man. Without God the worth of an individual is evaporating. Our aspirations and longing ends nothing in human existence in the final analysis is without meaning. We also affirm that it is essential for effective witness in the modern world. Paul reasoned with people out of scriptures with a view to persuading them of the truth of the gospel. So must we. In fact, all Christians should be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them. I will end by just referring to what could be called the worlds first Christian sermon in Acts 2. In Acts Chapter 2, Peter is? the context of Peters sermon is a context of bewilderment and ridicule in relationship to what God is doing to this new community in Jerusalem. And Peter had to respond to two different questions, where the first question is what does this mean, the things that is happening in Jerusalem and the things that the first Christian believed, what does it mean? And you can find five very different aspects in Peters response to that question. Later he had to answer the question what shall we do. Peter presents the gospel firstly as responsible. Its responsible truth. He begins by saying: Let me explain this to you, listen carefully to what I say. So he has a message that can be explained in words and rationally understood. He invites them to listen carefully and there by asking them to analyze and probe his message. Its public truth. Peter refers to an underlines that it is about a shared reality and he appeals to the knowledge of his hearers. He points to their knowledge three times. He says Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did among you through him as you yourself know, it was public truth. Thirdly, it was historical truth. The gospel is good news about what has happened in history. And this has been theres witness to that, up to 600 people who saw Jesus alive after his resurrection. Fourthly, the message is a biblical truth.Peter quotes Joel once and David twice. There is coherence in the unfolding of Gods revelation in the Old and New Testament. And finally the gospel is convincing. Peter says: Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this, God has made this Jesus whom youve crucified both Lord and Christ and thousands of people came to faith. We may have some different situations than Peter had in Jerusalem, but I think we should share his attitude of presenting a reasonable public, historical, biblical and convincing truth. Therefore, we have an urgent need to upgrade and reaffirm its importance. We need to equip Christians so they can stand firm in the faith, and we need to challenge to grow the impact of secularism and secularity with the wonderful truth and wonderful life of the gospel. Well, the news from the Middle East always alerts everybody. I hope I alert you and you dont feel sleepy anymore. I come from Lebanon, from Middle East region. And we come from a region which is getting to be more religious or more fanatic in certain cases. In our region, theres no separation between church and state. And listening now to Stefan, my friend, he said in his country, Sweden, people are 7% only who are interested in religion. If you do the statistics of the Middle East, you will get 99. 99 people who are interested in religion. We live in a region 350? surrounded by 350 million Arabs. Christians are less than 5% among only those 350 million Arabs. However I come to you this afternoon to share with you a message of hope that God is at work in that region, too. And that God is for all nations and there is no minorities or majorities in Gods language. So were happy and privileged and blessed to live in that region of the world. Evangelicals, they have a major role in peace making in the Middle East. Specifically in my country where I come from where it still has a Christian faith country. We dont have anymore the luxury to escape or to say we are the minorities; we need to be the minorities with his help, with the effect of the majorities. Its our responsibility to be proactive. And although we are minorities, but in many cases we get to be the solution for the people who are fighting amongst each other. We ask ourselves today, dogma or diversity. I will share with you whats happening in Lebanon very briefly. In our seminary, we do have the Middle East conference and the Middle East conference is a platform where we get Muslim scholars to and Christian scholars to sit together and discuss issues between them. Usually we hate what we ignore. And the more we learn about other religions, the better we are. And more we talk to them, the better we are. Dogma or diversity, we cannot look to all Middle East to all the people to the 350 million to be terrorists. We cannot look to the 350 million people for the reason of any trouble in the whole world. Many of those people, they are very sincere people, they are? they have a sincere need to know more about our religion, about Jesus Christ, and about Christianity. We cannot take all of them, we cannot look at all of them the same way at all times. Im sure you have heard about the common Word document that has been done in Jordan and evangelicals had a minor part to do with it, we have seen that we have no choice; we want to coexist all together in the Middle East. We have no other choice. And I have some good news for you this afternoon, it depends how you look to other people. To Muslims or to other religions. Whatever we look to them. If we look to them we have two choices only. If we look to them as enemies, our bible teaches us to love them. And if we look to them as brothers and sisters, we have to love them. So basically, we have no other choice. Those are some pictures that will show you how we talk to each other, how we open this platform, and now we dont have plenty of time, but in many certain cases we see diversity is the solution. We talk, go and visit, we give them the chance you will be surprised how many people are hungry to hear the word of God. Beirut Baptist School is one of the platforms. We have 1300 students. 1200 of them are from nonChristian background. From Muslim background and they gladly listen to the bible every week and they attend chapel, attend bible classes. The mow to of this school is that the truth will set you free.And the truth we provide it very clearly and we do not compromise. We provide it with dignity and honor and respecting all other religions and God is using this platform for his glory. I tell you that education is a platform that we should put all our efforts into it. This is the platform which is the feeling comfortable of evangelicals and we can earn the trust of them, they come to our school because we provide excellence in education and our responsibility as Christians to provide the firstclass quality in everything we do to earn the respect of the others. During the war? since three years, Im sure you heard about the war in the Middle East, one of the wars you always hear about it, and we had opportunity for a social ministry. We found it difficult to witness to people who are hungry and scared and bummed. We opened our institutions and onethird of Lebanon was displaced and we opened for all those people who can upset you greatly we opened our institutions to feed them and to help them and to shelter them. And it was a very good opportunity to show them? to witness for them without opening our mouth. Evangelicals were working day and night. I will finish my brief word to tell you do not forget the Middle East and be sure that God has a lot to do more and more in the Middle East and keep us in your prayers. Thank you. Well, thank you, Robert and Paul, Stefan and Nabiel. Where I work, and I mentioned I work in Toronto at Canadian Baptist Ministries, we have a little trick that we play on our staff when we have a meeting in the afternoon. And that is that we put at the middle of the table a dish with chocolate covered coffee beans. And theyre so good, because they just manage to wake people up. We had asked the organizers to provide that for you and I think the budget was running a little tight, so you will see theres no coffee beans. The second thing we said is, well, we dont expect this subject to attract? a lot of interest. Its a complex issue. Perhaps with an appeal only in certain parts of the world. How about if you just give us a big table and well around that table and discuss informally. I dont think that would have worked with our group here. So what I am going to ask you to do is raise your left hand, wow, what a reluctant crowd you are. Raise your left hand and try to touch your ear, see if it works still. The hand hasnt fallen asleep. Lets go the other way, get the blood flowing out of your hand back into your body. You know, it is a challenge in a room pull of perhaps 1200 people to try to engage the group in a way that allows the participation that we believe is so important in the learning process of adults. We feel engaged, we hope that youre engaged by the subject. As a matter of fact, what were going to do is were going to invite you, first of all, stay, were not done, but were also going to invite you to come back tomorrow afternoon again entitled dogma and diversity. During that session were going to boldly put the Mike out in the room and were going to ask you to share your observations, comments, critiques of some of the things youve heard, as well as share some of our stories. But before we do that, I just want to ask you, feel like there is absolutely no problem to leave questions up here on the table at the end of our session this afternoon that we can be thinking about and we can try to orient the discussion. You may also leave them to the stewards as you exit this room in about 15 minutes. Now I want to engage a wee bit of a conversation with our participants. I think that weve understood that secularity is seen as a threat to the church in some places, and probably a gift in other places, particularly where Christians are a religious minority. We heard of the stories from around Europe, as well as in the Middle East particularly. Let me ask you folks here, what would be the predominant view of the churches in your culture? Just in a sentence or two. Well go down the line, Paul, Robert, Stefan. Would they hold a hostile view or would they rather see it as an opportunity? I know its a horribly general question, but its one we can begin with.