The length of these presentations can be adapted to the needs and requirements of various audiences—from one-time events to multi-part series to, in some cases, full academic courses.
The Biblical Case for the Full Equality of Women and Men
This presentation is based on my book The Journey Back to Eden: Restoring the Creator’s Design for Women and Men. The thesis is that the Holy Spirit is nudging the people of God toward a fuller embrace of the gospel vision of gender equality, freedom and mutuality. Employing a redemptive movement hermeneutic, participants are invited to see the biblical landscape through new eyes. The class will trace across the pages of Scripture and annals of history the trajectory of the Spirit as he slowly but surely brings followers of Christ back to the personal wholeness and relational harmony that have eluded men and women since the Fall.
Thinking Christianly about Film and Cinema
Movies are among the most powerful educational forces in society today. This workshop equips participants with a perspective and the basic skills to engage this medium with understanding and discernment. In the spirit of the biblical challenge to “test everything; hold on to the good” (1 Thess. 5:21), the goal is to cultivate the art of listening and watching perceptively, with a view to learning whenever possible, and to affirmation or criticism as appropriate. Normally emphasis is on theological evaluation of the heart and mind of contemporary culture as reflected in significant motion pictures; and particular attention is paid to portrayals of the human condition and to religious themes. However, groups may request that particular themes be highlighted in our movie selections.
Dynamics of Christian Spirituality:
Toward a Practical Theology of Prayer and the Christian Life
The purpose of this presentation is to encourage and stimulate a growing and meaningful life of Christian devotion in the midst of our frenetic and highly secularized culture. The content is based on my book A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality, which explains that the Christian spirituality is about living all of life before God in the transforming and empowering presence of his Spirit. Such a life is characterized by relational (connecting), transformational (becoming) and vocational (doing) dynamics. Attention will be given to biblical teaching and classic historical insights on prayer and spirituality. When there is sufficient time set aside for the purpose, practical assignments and directed experiences of prayer can provide opportunities to move beyond theory to personal spiritual formation.
The Pursuit of God:
The Spiritual Legacy of A. W. Tozer
A. W. Tozer, a simple, self-educated Midwesterner began his working life in an
What I Should Do, What I Want to Do, and God
Should I stay in this relationship? Should I look for a new job? Should I go to a different church? Should I move out of state? Should I change my major? Should I have another child? Life is made up of a series of important crossroads. And as soon as we’ve navigated one, there’s another one looming on the horizon. How do we negotiate the big decisions of life as well as the innumerable smaller, yet still important, decisions we’re faced with every day? How can we really know what “God’s will” is for us? In this workshop, we’ll talk about the theology behind big-decision making and we’ll gain some clarity on whose desires matter and why.
Is God Green?
Christian Perspectives on Creation Care
Environmental destruction is perhaps the greatest contemporary threat to human civilization. This presentation explores the biblical resources that Christianity can draw on to become a global force for the preservation and healing of nature, rather than an ideological foundation for the continued abuse of it. God is both creator and redeemer, and these two dimensions of his nature cannot be severed without tearing him apart. Christian environmental stewardship is becoming increasingly important to the credibility of the Gospel we proclaim.
The Cross and the Crescent:
Christianity and Islam Today
Christianity and Islam are closely-related religions of the West with many shared convictions. Together they hold the allegiance of over half the humans on the planet, and their ability to get along with one another is crucial to the peace of the world. The common ground between these two religions must be appreciated without any deceptive downplaying of their acute differences—most notably in their views of the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is vitally important that the rhetoric of religious war be avoided.
Christian Convictions that Matter
This presentation surveys key scripturally-rooted convictions that have always been the hallmarks of vital Christianity. It explores Christian beliefs about God, human beings, the purpose of life, and the future that awaits us all; and demonstrates how these convictions, when truly understood and internalized, become life-transforming.
Reasons to Believe:
The Classic Foundations of Proper Christian Confidence
Apologetics is the task of defending and commending the substance of the Christian faith. This presentation evaluates various evidences for Christianity and, as the schedule allows, suggests answers to selected problematic issues (like evil and suffering). It considers how best to accomplish this task in a culture increasingly indifferent to matters of truth.
The Reign of God:
A Kingdom unlike Any Other
This is a four-part exploration of the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10). It profiles the upside-down beauty of the kingdom, and considers how kingdom-building is more gift than duty, inasmuch as we find our own fulfillment through this greater-than-ourselves purpose for living. The church is to be a prototype of the kingdom, an example before the watching world of how humans are meant to “do life.” Finally, Christians find hope and confidence in the promise of the inevitable triumph of the kingdom.
All Paths Lead to God . . . or Do They?
Most of humanity is not Christian. It seem plausible, in this light, to assume that all paths—not just Christianity, but those of Muhammad and Buddha, for example—lead equally well to God. Like the early church, we are being challenged to decide whether Jesus Christ really is unique among the great religious leaders of history. Once again we must ask: “Did the early church get it right to believe him divine? Is Jesus the way or just a way? As we try to answer these questions, we must admit that too often exclusive claims for Christ have been made in unattractive ways.
Why Bother Being Good?
The Case for Virtue in an Enron Age
Why be good? Why bother swimming upstream? This presentation offers some classic Christian answers to this question, and goes a step further. It explores the nature and significance of virtue for 21st-century Christianity. Virtues are positive, Christ-like qualities of character that are acquired and strengthened through the soul-crafting impulses of the Holy Spirit. Virtue is less about what we ought to be doing, and more about who we are becoming. Its rediscovery today is key to integrating the otherwise disconnected areas of Christian belief, spiritual experience, and morality.
The Great Gospel Virtues:
Keys to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s World
The ancient Greek philosophers considered the classic virtues of wisdom, self-control, courage and justice to be essential to living well. But the Christian church, faithful to apostolic teaching, affirmed three even higher priorities for Christians: faith, hope and love. These great “theological virtues” overarch time. Faith looks back, grounding itself in what God has accomplished. Hope looks forward toward an unknown, but confidently-anticipated future. And love is the atmosphere we are called to cultivate in the present. Firm then in faith, joyful in hope, devoted in love—these are still the keys to thriving in life.
Theological Foundations for Renewing Christian Worship
Worship is the God-directed, soul-nourishing center of the Christian life. In one sense worship is the consecration to God of everything we do. Nevertheless, such worship still needs to be anchored in regularly-scheduled worship events of the gathered Christian community. This presentation goes beyond the debates over stylistic preferences to address the looming crisis of worship itself. It explores the nature of life-giving worship from a theological perspective, and identifies elements and dynamics (like invocation and remembering) that have proven to facilitate encounter with God, personal cleansing and healing, and renewed vision to serve.
Reflections on the Future of Global Christianity
Historian Philip Jenkins, in The New Christendom, documents how the center of Christianity is presently shifting from the West to the
God and War:
A Christian Perspective
The ideal for human relationships is biblical shalom—a state of justice, peace, well-being and harmony. Tragically, this ideal has been elusive; every century has experienced its share of wars. This presentation reviews the classic Christian response options of pacifism, nationalism, and engagement only in “just wars.” It will review traditional moral grounds for entering, conducting, and exiting a war; the obligations of a Christian citizen in time of war; and what it means to follow Christ in times of conflict.
A Different Way of Seeing:
The Christian Worldview
Doctrines are not just truths to look at. They are lenses through which we are to see all of reality. Christians view the same “landscape” as everyone else, but they see it through different eyes. This presentation identifies the truth foundations for a distinctively Christian way of viewing life and the world. Along the way, the distinct contours of the Christian world-view will be compared with those of alternative worldviews—specifically, the primal religions, modern naturalism and secular post-modernism. The Christian worldview must also become deeply internalized; only when it becomes truly part of us will it shape our character, conduct and spirituality.
Christ and the Powers of Evil:
A Christian Perspective on the Occult
This presentation is especially timely prior to Halloween each year. As C. S. Lewis observed, we should neither deny the existence of evil powers nor have an unhealthy fixation on, or fear of, them. This seminar offers biblical perspectives on topics ranging from territorial spirits to spiritual oppression to animism. All too often Christians can be intimidated by these topics. Therefore our emphasis will be on the early church’s joyful motto “Christ is Victor!” Vibrant Christianity has always been a buoyant celebration of the Jesus Christ’s triumph over evil, and the resulting security of believers.
Continuity and Change in the Community of God:
Re-Thinking Church for Today
This presentation explores the contours of the competing sub-cultures of modernity and post-modernity, to which the church must remain contextually connected. The heart and soul of modernity is still shaped by such powerful themes as individualism, materialism, rationalism and domination. Post-modernism is essentially a reaction against it—a cry of the human spirit against the dehumanizing effects of modernity. Both ways of doing life have profoundly influenced, and continue to influence, the church. The Christian church may selectively appropriate themes from them, but must refuse to endorse either uncritically. Ancient-future classic Christianity is a refreshingly distinct “third way” to do life together.
The Doctrine of Scripture
This three-part presentation begins with a consideration of the God who speaks truth, examines the various conduits of his communication, and shows why Scripture deserves preeminence among them. It highlights reasons for confidence in Scripture, and shows that the exceptional power and trustworthiness of the Bible are results of its origins in divine inspiration. The books included in the canon of Scripture were not arbitrarily determined by the church’s vote; rather, they imposed themselves upon the church with self-authenticating force. Scripture must be interpreted correctly in order to understand its true message. The wonder is that it is more than a record of revelation; it remains to this day a conduit of God’s living voice.
The Victory of the Lamb:
Making Sense of the Book of Revelation