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Discern Conference 2010

I spent a chunk of my weekend at the Discern Conference at Calvary Santa Fe. Here’s the schedule:

Friday September 10

3PM: Robert Sungenis (Catholic) and James White (Reformed) debate Predestination

7PM: Robert Sungenis and James White debate The Assumption of Mary

Saturday September 11

9AM: Ron Rhodes: Assessing Alternative Gospels, Christs, and Christianities

10:30AM: Richard Fisher: The Most Dangerous Trend in the Church Today

11:45AM: Ron Rhodes: Does the Existence of Evil Really Disprove the Existence of God?

2:30PM: Richard Mayhue: Hell — Never, Forever, A While?

4PM: James White: The New Perspective on Paul

6:30PM: Richard Fisher: Hermeneutics

8PM: Richard Mayhue: Have We Missed It? (The Rapture)

Sunday September 12

9AM: James White: The Security of the Believer

11AM: Richard Fisher: Avoiding Worldliness

I’ve italicized the sessions I attended; I had commitments elsewhere that made it impossible for me to attend several sessions.

Admission Friday and Sunday was free; Saturday was $10, and there was nobody taking money at the checkin table after the first couple of talks. CDs of the debates were available for $5 by Saturday morning; according to the conference program free audio downloads will be available shortly. I will add links if possible once they are available.

Ten dollars for seven talks (plus two free talks and two free debates) is a good deal. I don’t know how the conference was funded; I’m guessing from the titles of people who attend Calvary Santa Fe. Less than a hundred people turned out (including conference volunteers), and the church provided coffee and snacks at breaks on Saturday, so I can’t imagine that the conference broke even.

I wish I had more time to devote to church conferences, and more conferences available within easy driving distance. I really should have taken advantage of the recent world view conference in Albuquerque, which featured among other speakers Os Guinness, Chuck Colson, Michael Novak, and former New Mexico Congressman Bill Redmond [link], all for only $25.

When I was a kid the churches we attended had regular week-long revival meetings, and on rare occasion a “prophecy conference” or a “Bible conference,” and Discern 2010 is most in the mold of the latter; it featured a rotating cast of speakers (unlike a typical revival) and was devoted to apologetics, more or less. I guess it’s worth pointing out that most of the talks at this conference were devoted to arguments against error/heresy/differences of opinion within Christianity, rather than on behalf of Christianity vs. other beliefs.

As I understood various speakers’ comments they were assigned their topics by Calvary executive pastor Paul Scozzafava; by and large the topics were things the speakers had written articles or books on before, so we usually heard talks that had been given in whole or in part elsewhere before. The exceptions being the two debates, of course, and White’s talk on New Perspective on Paul.

Most speakers at a conference like this lie somewhere on a continuum between professor and preacher, and their talks generally resemble to varying degrees lectures or sermons, where the lectures present truth claims, proceed as more or less linear arguments, and attempt to convince the listener of the truth of a conclusion, and the sermons are meant to be persuasive, rely more heavily on illustrations and appeals to emotion/authority/shared prejudice, and tend to be less linear. There seems to be a more or less generational divide among the speakers here, with retired pastor Fisher giving a sermon, occasional adjunct professor White giving a lecture, and the other two falling somewhere in between.

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