In his book-filled office at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Dr. Brandon Rickabaugh uses an expanding plastic sphere as he describes neural networks connecting in the brain. While Brandon speaks, an icon of Jesus Christ reflects the light on the bookcase behind him. It’s a juxtaposition quite natural to Brandon and to the others scheduled to speak in a PBA apologetics conference Oct. 28-29. These scholars find harmony, not conflict, as they consider the Christian faith in light of the sciences.
“All of the evidence from philosophy, neuroscience, computer science and psychology gives us reason to believe that the soul exists,” said Brandon, “and that a human person is a bodily soul that can exist without the body, which is the historic Christian view.”
Brandon is assistant professor of philosophy and research scholar in public philosophy at PBA and has won grants for his studies in both neuroscience and philosophy. He’s just completed a book with Dr. J.P. Moreland from Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology, one of the four keynote speakers at the apologetics conference.
Titled Faithful Witness, the conference is open to the public. It brings together a diverse group of 16 winsome speakers, including PBA’s own Dr. Paul M. Gould, associate professor of philosophy of religion and director of our Master of Arts in Philosophy of Religion. “There’s something here for everyone with the range of topics we’ll be discussing,” Paul said.
Each session, keynote or breakout ends with a time to ask questions. “It won’t be a stuffy academic conference,” promised Paul. “It’ll be vibrant and fun and engaging and inspiring.”
Find conference details online
At pbaapologetics.com you’ll find all the conference details, including the background and topic of each speaker. I love the idea of engaging with these fascinating scholars. Here are just a few examples:
∙ Dr. Sharon Dirckx earned a Ph.D. in brain imaging from the University of Cambridge. Her keynote topic is “Being Human in an Age of Neuroscience: Are We Just Our Brains?”
∙ Tripp Almon directs a gap year school called Summit Semester. He and his wife, Megan, encourage students to pursue real answers to the big questions in life – questions such as “If God, Why Evil & Suffering?”
∙ PBA’s own Professor Dr. Paul Copan has long been tackling tough questions and answering them in books now translated into multiple languages. His breakout session asks, “Is God a Vindictive Bully?”
The conference is geared for a wide range of attendees, including high school students, college students, pastors and lay people of all ages. Apologetics, explained Paul Gould, is simply the defense of some position. And Christian apologetics demonstrates how Christianity is true, good and beautiful.
“Apologetics is part of evangelism and part of discipleship,” he said. “It’s important and helpful for non-believers, but it’s also important and helpful for believers because it helps us with our doubts and it strengthens our faith.”
As Christ-followers, we shouldn’t be shy about asking the hard questions that spring from our doubts. In Colossians 2:2-3 the Apostle Paul said this about his brothers and sisters in Christ: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Skeptical freshman became apologetics scholar
Paul Gould’s own digging into the mysteries of God began when he was a college freshman and two other students told him about their faith in the risen Jesus. He wasn’t ready to accept their claims, but after those students walked away, he mused, “What if this is all true?”
Shortly after that, a Christian friend invited Paul to an apologetics course at a local church. Paul kept coming back to the class, enthralled by the topics: Does God exist? Was Jesus God? Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
“I was just blown away by the evidence, week by week,” Paul recalled. Finally, the summer after his freshman year, he decided the Good News about Jesus was true, and he placed his faith in the Lord. Since that time, he has attended seminary, earned his Ph.D., served as a campus minister, and written and spoken widely about apologetics. He’s excited about the conference coming up in October and also about a new degree offered at Palm Beach Atlantic, the B.A. in Apologetics. (For details, email him at [email protected].)
I share Paul’s excitement, and I rejoice over the heroes I see in his faith journey. Thank God for those students who had the heart and boldness to share their faith with freshman Paul. And what about that friend who invited him to the apologetics class? Those young people back then serve as great models for all of us.
So I hope you’ll register for the Faithful Witness apologetics conference. And I hope you’ll bring a friend. Become like Paul Gould and his friends from college: links used by God in a treasured, ever-expanding chain of faith.
Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, a physician, researcher and innovator, is president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. (www.pba.edu)
For more articles by Dr. Schwinn, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-debra-a-schwinn/