By Zach Krauss
Cedarville students will get the opportunity to ask questions regarding sexual identity and brokenness on Wednesday, April 4 at the Living Water Conference.
The Living Water Conference is one of the apologetics conferences put on by the Center for Biblical Apologetics and Public Christianity. The center is directed by Dr. Dan DeWitt, associate professor for applied theology and apologetics. He organized and spoke at last year’s Finding Truth Conference and frequently speaks in chapel. DeWitt came up with the name Living Water from the passage in John he’ll be speaking over on Wednesday.
“John 4 is the chapter where Jesus has the conversation with the Samaritan woman, and my sermon will be entitled ‘The Scandal of Samaria,’” DeWitt said. “The real scandal had little to do with the woman herself or the fact that Jesus knew about her past; it was that he knew her completely and also loved her fully.”
The conference itself will touch on many contemporary topics in Christian apologetics today including sexuality, gender identity and expression, and sexual brokenness. Dr. Sam Allberry, pastor and author, global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and visiting professor at Cedarville University, will be speaking on apologetics surrounding Christian sexual ethics. He feels that in order to effectively engage with our culture, we need to be able to understand where the culture is coming from.
“I suspect too many Christians have a very unsympathetic view of where culture is at and haven’t properly walked through the reasons people have the views they tend to have,” Allberry said. “It is too easy to just try to assert Christian thinking without actually being at all persuasive.”
Allberry said something very important about the topics being discussed at the conference is the fact that Jesus always levels our playing field as Christians. He said that the gospel message always puts us in the same boat, rather than calling Christians dealing with sexual sin as specially sinful.
“We need to demonstrate that in this area of life (as in all others) every single one of us needs to come to Christ in repentance,” Allberry said. “None of us is what we should be in this area of life; all of us will learn from Jesus that we need to turn from sin and follow His Word to us.”
Rosaria Butterfield is a former professor at Syracuse University who was converted to Christ in 1999. Butterfield has published her popular memoir “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” and is currently a speaker and homeschooling mother. Professors DeWitt and Allberry both said that the thing they’re most excited about for this conference is hearing Butterfield speak.
DeWitt has invited several other members of Cedarville’s faculty and staff to speak on panels and in breakout sessions during the afternoon portion of the conference. Mindy Mae, director of student development and dean of women at Cedarville, is working on her dissertation on topics related to gender identity and will be speaking on a forum and in a breakout session for the conference. Dr. Erin Shaw, instructor of women’s ministry, who has recently finished her doctoral defense in a similar area will also be speaking. Dr. Gregory Couser, senior professor of Bible and Greek at Cedarville and Dr. Joshua Kira, assistant professor of philosophy and theology, will be speaking in breakout sessions as well and have experience through teaching classes and preaching sermons on these topics. Dr. J.R. Gilhooly, assistant professor of theology and philosophy at Cedarville, will also be speaking and attending the panel. Gilhooly will be speaking on the philosophical differentiation between having a body and being a body.
“I think that there’s a big concern historically with evangelicals saying ‘do not do these activities,’ but we don’t always fill that in with what it means to live in a world that’s broken and being open about people’s struggles,” Gilhooly said. “This is a way of saying this isn’t just what you cannot do, but rather offering a positive account of human Christian sexual ethic.”
Gilhooly emphasized the importance of bringing an actual positive attitude to the table for these discussions and not feeling that having questions about these topics means that you’re “out of bounds.” He said he wants to be able to equip the student body to be able to truly interact with people as if they’re people living in a broken world.
DeWitt said the conference is important because the concept of living water is vitally important to living an informed Christian life.
“I think we’re trying to figure out issues and we often think of physical ways we can do that on earth,” DeWitt said. “We want people to see things from a Christian perspective. We want to say that no, Jesus can actually heal our souls in a way that our physical needs and expressions become dim as we’re satisfied in Him.”
Zach Krauss is a junior pharmacy/music double major from central Texas and campus reporter for Cedars. He loves music, theatre, biology, community, and meeting new people.