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Monday, August 1, 2011

More Light Shines in the Dark

Heard about a panel discussion on Origins at a Egyptian Coptic Church in my neighbourhood tonight. I was free so I thought I would go along.

On arrival I learned that there was to be one each of a Biblical Creationist, a Theistic Evolutionist, an Intelligent Design and an Atheist speaker on the panel. The priest of the church had organised the event as part of the Apologetics stream of church teaching and preparation for the English speaking young congregation. The priest was quite an articulate and most affable man. He announced that every effort to secure an Atheist speaker from the nearby university failed. However, six to ten Atheists (or at least Humanists) turned up to be part of the audience and ask questions. The biblical Creationist was from Creation Ministries International; the Theistic Evolutionist turned out to be skeptic of evolution (but no fan of Biblical Creationism) who taught evolution at a Catholic institution because the curriculum required it; the other speaker was, I think, a member of the Coptic Church who was a medical student, an Intelligent Design advocate and a little antagonistic toward the Biblical Creationist. My rough count put the audience number at eighty plus attendees.

Another member of the church gave a half hour run-down on the different views and laid down guidelines for the audience to watch out for by way of errors of logic in the position to be espoused by panel members.

Each panel member was given five minutes to state their belief then, after a ten minute break, we got into the panel discussion. Most questions were directed at the Biblical Creationist both from other panel members and the audience. He handled it all gently but a little softly for my hearing.

While the priest carefully guided order there was a little disjointedness about the questions asked and answers given. I thought too that some questions and answers were a little over the head of the audience.

One Atheist when asking a question made a preliminary statement observing that this was the friendliest church he had been to. I agree as to the friendliness of the church. I also considered the Atheists to be polite and orderly.

I later overheard the priest in conversation say that his intention of having such an event was to help the young people of the church hear just what the Biblical Creationist position because there had been some animosity toward them from within the young and it was the priest's desire that his young ought not rely on what their opponents say about them. This is commendable but I felt the format did not provide the best means for the Biblical Creationist to state his position with clarity and completeness.

After the event I went to the table in the foyer where the Biblical Creationist's helpers had a table with some of their wares for sale. Notwithstanding my reservations at the format for the event, as I looked at things I heard young members of the church on the way out expressing warm thanks to the Biblical Creationists for coming along. Just politeness or appreciation of what they heard? - I think I read it more the latter. What convinces me most of this were two Sisters/Nuns (in habit) who came to the table while I was there. They were aged in their twenties or thirties and they had a very gentle and earnest manner in desire for more information on the Biblical Creationist position. I listened with interest as they spoke to a helper searching for help. They said they didn't want literature too heavily scientific because they were just starting out exploring the subject. I detected most of all in them that they trusted God, they believed his Word and they had not heard before that there were good reasons to maintain this trust from observations of (empirical and philosophical) science. There was a simple desire to understand their Lord more and this was the highlight of the night for me but close behind that was observing from afar the Biblical Creationist and the Intelligent Design medical student in prolonged discussion after the formalities of the event and then the two going over to the table of wares and the Biblical Creationist handing a book to the Intelligent Design medical student with it being accepted with genuine reception. From antagonism to inquiry - this is information transfer.

May it be that our Lord waters the seeds sown tonight. I'm glad I went and I wish more power to Biblical Creationists in their endeavours in the Name of our Lord.

Sam Drucker

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