25th - 29th November 2019
Writing: Jewook Ryou (Year 13)
Editing: Ben Corby (Year 10)
This year, the Christian Union returned with another rethink week - another year, another set of brilliant speakers. Again, the posters had gone up and the notices had been slipped into pigeonholes. Assemblies, visitations during morning registrations, word of mouth - it was hard to not notice that something was in the air. The moment had arrived.
The lineup was impressive, to say the least. Speakers who had studied at top universities - Oxford, Cambridge and UCL.
On Monday, the speaker was Reverend Joshua Bailey, an Anglican pastor who had studied both Theology and the Natural Sciences - specifically the History of Philosophy and Science. Reverend Bailey spoke on whether the Old and New Testaments contradicted. A topic of immense depth had to be condensed into half an hour, but somehow, he managed. The bulk of the talk was a simple assertion - that 'the God of the Old and the God of the New were one and the same'. Long, serious questions followed from the audience: one particularly stands out -'Why would God punish someone for planting two types of crops in one place; for wearing clothes with two types of fabric?' The deceptively simple answer was that God didn’t. The verses from Leviticus apparently came without any punishments attached - those verses referred to good ways to farm; to make clothing. Imagine, he said, how difficult it would be to have a disordered field and attempt harvests? How many of us have clothes with multiple fibers?
Tuesday was led by Dr Ben Chang, the former president of Christians in Science London. A medical doctor, Dr Chang was discerning and clear, but medicine was not the topic chosen. He spoke instead, on why Christians trust the Bible to be accurate. He spoke of how the Bible wasn’t the fiction of the time. He reported how the ancient period was one of oral history. An insightful example was the first biography of Alexander the Great, which was written four hundred years after his death, and yet is held as mostly acceptable. Comparatively, the Gospels were newsflashes - all within a few decades; under a century. Furthermore, the Gospels apparently reflect the various authors’ personalities. Matthew was a tax collector - the Gospel of Matthew focuses largely on money and what Jesus said about it. Luke was a physician; a doctor - the Gospel of Luke details Jesus’ healing. He moved on to speak about non-Christan sources of Jesus’ time - a deep dive into the historical elements and evidence for the truth of the Gospels.
On the following day, there was a talk by Mr Ben Goddard-Fletcher (Cambridge University), on 'How God can love humans?' He came at it from a refreshing and oblique angle. Mr Goddard-Fletcher looked at this talk from the perspective of God, not humans. The normal reaction would be to ask the traditional question - the problem of evil? Rather, Mr Goddard-Fletcher chose to ask - 'How can God love us, despite our evil?' The conclusion reached was of substitution - that a just God had fulfilled justice by mercy and not indifference, in the figure of Jesus. That is to say, that Jesus died for our sins. It was an interesting talk and I would encourage you to watch or listen to the recordings of the event.
The week ended with 'Grill a Christian' with the panel consisting of a returning speaker, the Reverend Josh Bailey, and Mr John Spence, a church worker from St Mary’s Church, Chesham. Jewook Ryou, a Year 13 student, was also present as a representative of the Challoners’ Christian Union. They discussed, 'Where blood sports are a metaphorical reality!' It was an hour of inquiry - the audience was engaged, indeed hooked. Difficult scenarios were posed - how could anyone go to heaven if they hadn’t heard about Jesus? Surely this was evil, or at least indifferent? A variety of answers were given. Perhaps it was a matter of grace - that this person would know God in some other way? Perhaps it was a matter of self-realisation? Several students stayed behind to ask more questions and the speakers seemed more than happy to stay to answer.
It was a fast-paced, exhaustive week. It was a deeply thought-provoking series of lectures from enthusiastic and energised professionals. The Challoners’ Christian Union also took a collection for Christians Against Poverty, raising a substantial sum.
A special thanks to the speakers: Reverend Joshua Bailey, Dr Ben Chang, Mr Goddard-Fletcher, Mr Jack Bull, and Mr John Spence. Further thanks go to the Challoners’ Christian Union for organising the week.