10 Presentations You Must See

10 Presentations You Must See

Lists like this are a bit of a gimmick. “Click bait” is the term, I believe. But I’m listing them here out of a conviction that the presentations that follow are, in fact, worth your time. While other presentations surely are just as worthy of your time, these are ten that have impressed me as worth hearing here at the end of 2016 (and, no, these aren’t necessarily presentations made or posted in 2016).

Now, I struggled with even the thought of attempting to rank these, or even to put them here in any particular order. Different considerations would result in a different ordering. But I’m not ranking or ordering them in terms of importance. I feel like each is important is significant and notable ways. So, I offer you ten presentations I believe you’ll want to watch or hear.


Oh, Those Amazing Feats!

Oh, Those Amazing Feats!

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

Fire-walking? Oh, those amazing feats!

Perhaps you’ve seen them on late-night television. You know, “awaken the giant within” and other such rallying cries.

The conferees line up — some quietly confident, others perspiring and nervous. They roll up their trousers and hike up their skirts and . . . off they go.

Sure, it’s virtually speed-walking, but who’s to judge? Look, Mom, no hands, and no burns either.

So, is fire-walking really such an amazing feat?



Readings at Summit Oxford • Spring Term 2016

It undoubtedly is a truism that one can be wearied by the reading of many books. Perhaps even more so, the reading of many online articles, a bulk of blogs, frenzied Facebook statuses, hasty hashtags, and awful opinions. Even so, some publications actually can be enlightening, perhaps challenging. Some most certainly are fuel for our conversations at Summit Oxford. And sometimes our conversation get to be a bit energetic. I call these CHAT times: Christians Happily Arguing Theology (hopefully with an emphasis upon happily).

Readings at Summit Oxford • Hilary Term 2016

Our reading list changes a bit from term to term. New books are published, older ones seem less pressing or helpful, and there is ever a steady stream of articles and chapters on subjects that beg to be included. We do read a lot, mind you, approaching 2500 pages.

For the upcoming coming Autumn Term (September – December), along with a selection of articles, essays, and other items, we are reading and discussing the ten volumes listed below. I have listed them roughly in the order we will read them. Well, actually, several of them will be divvied up over the course of several days, with a chapter or section each day. Often I have our students read the books in their entirety and prepare reports/summaries for select chapters or sections. I’ve provided links to Amazon, if you care to purchase any of them.



Do Muslims, Mormons, and Christians Worship the Same God?

Do Muslims, Mormons,
and Christians Worship the Same God?

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

I would like to explore an important subject with you: the worship of God. I beg your patience as this is a longish post. The inquiry deserves careful and sustained attention. My thoughts are informed yet exploratory. So, with your permission, and with your patience, join me as we explore a very controversial subject.

Do Mormons and Christians worship the same God? How about Muslims and Christians? These questions occupy time in the minds of many just now.



Since 9-11 it has been common to hear that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, especially given that these three religions are commonly called “Abrahamic religions.” And some would add in Mormons, since Mormonism also resides in what could be termed the Abrahamic tradition.

When I ask Christians this question, most quickly answer in the negative. But a few answer in a hesitating affirmative.

What is the correct answer to this question? Or, alternatively, what if we have asked the wrong question?


Mormonism and the Fall of Humanity

Adam and Eve exiles bilboa“The decision of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit was not a sin…” – A Mormon Sunday School Manual

“Indeed, we honor and respect Adam and Eve for their wisdom and foresight.” – A Mormon Apostle

These stunning, even counter-intuitive statements beg for an explanation. Both assertions come from publications approved of, and used by, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the Mormon Church.

It is common to hear of Mormonism being “just another denomination.” I would suggest that this is a misperception. Many Christian books have pointed up differences between Mormonism and Christianity. Some of their proposed differences have been, to my mind, less than illuminating; others have been clarifying; still others have been important, even profound. We’ll focus on one the latter in this post. 


Of Mormonism and Maps

Of Mormonism and Maps

Part 3 of My Conversation with Mormon Missionaries

by Kevin James Bywater

12 July 2008, Manitou Springs, Colorado — The following recounts a conversations with three Mormons, two of whom were missionaries. It is a continuation of a conversation I began to recount in previous posts. So, lets join the conversation. 

♦ ♦ ♦

Mormonism and Maps

One missionary asked whether I had prayed about the Book of Mormon. I knew we were entering what I term “the time of decision.” This is precisely the point at which the missionaries offer what they deem to be a clincher. They firmly believe that if people openly read the Book of Mormon, sincerely pray about it, and have some good feelings in the meantime, that this is the witness of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God and the founder of the restored church.

I admitted that I had not prayed specifically about the Book of Mormon since our last meeting. I explained, however, that I had prayed and praised God for his faithfulness, for his promises and presence, and had thanked him for his many gracious answers to our family’s previous prayers. Then I noted that I had read the Book of Mormon in the past, and that I had prayed about it. I also noted that when I had done so, I hadn’t received the answer that the missionaries expected.


Alister McGrath – A Philosophy of Persuasion

At the Summit Oxford Study Centre‘s October 2013 conference, C.S. Lewis: Then and Now, we enjoyed a number of engaging and inspiring presentations by eminent scholars who have long studied the life and works of C.S. Lewis. Previously I posted “Jack: My Mentor, My Friend,” by Walter Hooper, and “Lewis and the Poetic Imagination,” by Malcolm Guite.

Among the other presenters was Alister McGrath, who currently is Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, is the Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, and is a Fellow of Harris Manchester College Oxford. A prolific author, McGrath published dozens of books and articles, more recently C.S. Lewis: A Life (audio) in 2013 and If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C.S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life (audio) in 2014.

McGrath gave two presentations during the conference. The first was a brief overview of Lewis’s life, with a view to his conversion to Christian faith: “Lewis – Convinced and Converted” (m4a, 39mb). Among the many insights in the talk are the following remarks.

“Christianity, in the end, isn’t a set of ideas; it’s a story. And its a story that generates ideas. And because the story generates ideas, the story always take priority over the ideas. And therefore, the best way of articulating the Christian faith is not through a systematic exploration of ideas but the telling of stories, which…can retell the Christian story, but…angle it for certain audiences.”

“Stories capture the imagination whereas arguments quite often leave you cold.”

“A story opens up ways of thinking…opens up possibilities that otherwise you might not entertain at all.”


Communicating Our Convictions

Greg Koukl, the president of Stand to Reason, has for many years now provided both hours of engaging radio commentary and a host of insightful articles. Greg is on the International Advisory Board for the Summit Oxford Study Centre (which I founded and currently direct), and he also is a friend.

Well over a decade ago Greg began speaking at Summit Ministriesstudent summer conferences. Personally, I was very pleased to have him on our faculty as his contributions were intelligent, clarifying, experienced, and mature. Greg is a careful thinker and speaker, conscious of which words are better to use and how best to use them. One learns not only from the content of his messages but also from the manner of his messaging.


The Power of Storytelling (1.1)

Robert McKee, in his book, Story: Substance, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, says the following about storytelling.

In 388 B.C. Plato urged the city fathers of Athens to exile all poets and storytellers. They were a threat to society, he argued. Writers deal with idea, but not in the open, rational manner of philosophers. Instead, they conceal their ideas inside the seductive emotions of art. Yet felt ideas, as Plato pointed out, are ideas nonetheless. Every effective story sends a charged idea out to us, in effect compelling the idea into us, so that we must believe. In fact, the persuasive power of story is so great that we may believe its meaning even if we find it morally repellent. Storytellers, Plato insisted, are dangerous people. He was right.

I imagine that along with poets and storytellers one could include actors and journalists and politicians. Regardless, there are several things to take from this.

For one, the power of story has been known and realized for a very long time. However, this is not to say that everyone realizes the power of story.

Also, because stories can convey what is the opposite of the good, the true, and the beautiful, we should be ever-conscious when we encounter stories, both those with presented with the explicit intent to persuade hearers of some conviction, as well as those that are not so explicit.

A third observation is that in our desire to persuade others of the truth, it behoves us to be able not only to present rational argument, and not only to embody the very truths we seek to convey, but also that we endeavor to couch what is good, what is true, what is beautiful, and what is just in compelling narratives.


On the next page McKee writes:


Craig Blomberg on the Bible

Professor Craig L. Blomberg, of Denver Seminary, has just published a book addressing the trustworthiness of the Bible: Can We Still Believe the Bible?. Only twice have I pre-ordered a book so it would be delivered to my Kindle on the morning of publication. Blomberg’s book arrived in the night and waited patiently. I’m eager to read it as soon as I am able (which likely will be smallish portions for the coming three weeks).

Blomberg’s books are characteristically clear, both in prose and argument, and sound in scholarship. He does not tend to cut corners, over-simplify issues, or caricature the opposition. Indeed, at times I feel he has been overly generous to non-Christian perspectives (as he was in his book discussing Mormonism, How Wide the Divide?), and perhaps less generous to fellow Christians (as in Neither Poverty nor Riches, or, again, in How Wide the Divide?). Even so, if you want an example of knowledgeable and careful Christian scholarship and a generous spirit, I recommend that you read Blomberg’s works.

Here is the table of contents for this new volume:

  1. Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?
  2. Wasn’t the Selection of Books for the Canon Just Political?
  3. Can We Trust Any of our Translations of the Bible?
  4. Don’t These Issues Rule Out Biblical Inerrancy?
  5. Aren’t Several Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorical?
  6. Don’t All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical?