Thinking Believers and Believing Thinkers

Lara Buchanan spoke in our services at St John’s and St Mary’s last Sunday. Lara works for the Oxford Christian Centre for Apologetics (OCCA). Lara’s talk was recorded as an mp3. Contact Dave if you missed it and would like to hear it. Can you tell us a bit about OCCA? At OCCA, we encourage Christians to use their minds as well as their hearts to explore faith. Our strapline is “helping the believer think, and the thinker believe.” If the Christian faith is true, we should be able to assess the evidence and look at difficult questions – like how science and faith interact. ‘Apologetics’ means ‘defence’ – giving a reasoned response for your belief. What is your story of faith? I was raised in a Christian home and belief in God seemed obvious to me as a child. As I grew up, I began to question whether Jesus was really unique as I had friends from many different faiths. I found, however, that anyone who is serious about asking questions about why we are here and if there is a God will need to look at Jesus. This carpenter’s son from ancient Palestine has had a unique and profound effect on world history and his words are read and studied more than any other person. More than that Jesus shows us God is good and cares for and loves everyone, including the outcast and least deserving. What’s also unique is that Jesus doesn’t ask us to earn God’s approval, like most religions do. Instead, Jesus offers something freely to each of us – acceptance, forgiveness and new life. Some Christians might feel guilty for asking difficult questions. What do you think? I find that in the stories of Jesus, we find a man who claims to be God, but who welcomes discussion and debate. The things he said and did are incredible – even his closest followers doubted. People who tell the truth invite questions. The opposite is also true, people who lie rarely invite question or comment – it’s too risky. So, if you’re questioning, go ahead and keep asking! Jesus says incredible things but also says, ‘come and see.’