“You can’t change just one thing” and “You can’t beat something with nothing” are foundational to American Vision’s mission. While American Vision has been working for 30 years to set the intellectual and apologetic foundation for the development of a comprehensive Christian worldview, there has always been a missing element. I’ve been having conversations with lots of people who have no idea what’s going on in the realm of colliding worldviews. What you and I argue instinctively, there are tens of millions of Americans who don’t even know the categories of the ongoing debate over the existence of God, the role of the State in society, church-state issues, eschatology, economics, and morality. I’ll mention some books and authors in conversations with people I meet that are familiar to most people who frequent this site. I get blank stares. Nothing registers. Why? We’ve been speaking to the Christian choir. Of course, this has been necessary since the majority of Christians are as ignorant as the general public on these same issues. You should read some of my emails if you think I’m exaggerating.
One way to reach the general public is to travel on Roman roads and use the Koine (common) language of the day. Rome built roads for commercial and political (military) reasons. Christians used these same roads to convert the Empire. Koine Greek unified the Greek Empire and became the common language of subsequent empires. This common language helped spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire before the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 (Rom. 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-26; Col. 1:6, 23).
Latin replaced Greek, and Jerome’s 5th-century Vulgate was the new language bridge to those who could read. The church resisted new vernacular translations. Wycliffe and Tyndale were persecuted for their translation efforts. Can you imagine the church fighting to stop people from translating the Bible so the common people could read it and know their Savior? There is a church near my house that has a sign out front that reads “We sing old hymns” and “We use the KJV.” I suspect that those who attend the church are also old, and the church is having a difficult time reaching the generations that will replace the old-hymn singers. This and future generations will be reached by a new set of roads and common language.
While Christian organizations, churches, and ministries have availed themselves of the latest technology to get out the message of the gospel-from cassette tapes and CDs to the internet and radio-the production value of what goes by the name of “Christian filmmaking” and audio and video production have a long way to go if it’s going to be the new Roman road. Providentially, change in this area is happening, albeit slowly. One day there will be a tipping point. American Vision and its ministry partners want to be on the cutting edge and not the bleeding edge.
For some time now I have been working with attorney David Hagopian (the moderator of the Greg Bahnsen-Gordon Stein “Great Debate”) and Director and Filmmaker Darren Doane on an exciting project that we hope will have a huge impact on the debate over the existence of God. American Vision has been earnestly producing materials related to the controversy by publishing a number of highly regarded books and audio and video courses by Greg Bahnsen. While these have had world-wide appeal and impact, we wanted to do something aimed at a broader audience to reach people who would not ordinarily pick up one of our books or CDs. In order to accomplish this, a radical reformatting of the debate process needed to be developed to meet the requirements of today’s new information transportation systems. Instead of a formal debate in a single setting before a limited audience, a fast-paced, three-day series of talks and debates were planned for New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. On October 29-31, 2008, Douglas Wilson and atheist Christopher Hitchens sparred over the topic of the existence of God. Darren Doane’s film production crew caught it all on tape. If all goes according to plan, the first-rate, professionally done film production will debut in March 2009. You can see a teaser trailer at Vimeo and Youtube. Send the links to your friends.
Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, Senior Fellow of New St. Andrews College, and author of several books, including The Deluded Atheist, God Is: How Christianity Explains Everything, and Letter from a Christian Citizen, published by American Vision, squared off in a spiritual and intellectual encounter with one of the most eloquent of the modern proponents of atheism, Christopher Hitchens. Mr. Hitchens is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine, author of the best-selling God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and owns an international reputation for merciless criticism of religion and religious figures. He has exhibited his disregard for all things sacred in his attack on the likes of Mother Teresa as well as a scathing media tirade on the late Rev. Jerry Falwell within a day of his death.
As I mentioned, this was not your ordinary academic debate. The series of fast-paced events began at noon on November 29th in New York with a Town Hall Forum and book signings at The King’s College which holds classes in the Empire State Building, followed that evening by a “Stump the Preacher Man” Q&A session hosted by the Columbia University student organization “Columbia Atheists and Agnostics.” Doug Wilson fielded questions from young unbelievers, on their turf, for a no-intellectual-holds-barred evening.
The following day, the participants travelled to the suburbs of Philadelphia where they engaged in a more formal debate and book signing at Westminster Theological Seminary. This debate was open to the public and was moderated by Westminster’s Apologetics professor Scott Oliphint. Events were rounded out the third night as the two protagonists arrived in D.C. and engaged in a more casual “Pub Debate” that took place at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown.
I asked David Hagopian for his take on the three-day event. (I was not able to attend because of a long-ago planned speaking engagement in Tennessee.) David’s one-word answer was “Awesome!” Darren emailed me his reaction:
More than I could have expected. . . . There was a moment when Hitchens hit Doug with the old, “Jesus didn’t fulfill his words in Mathew 24.” It was an amazing response by Doug. Very authoritative on this section of Scripture being a description of the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. Really powerful. You could hear multiple pin drops in the room between Christopher and Westminster profs and students. The hair on my arms stood up. Hitchens was stunned. He never again in debates brought up Scripture. Powerful stuff.
Can you imagine how a futurist would attempt to deal with Matthew 24? “Well, Jesus didn’t really mean ‘this generation,’ that is, that first-century generation. He was really referring to a future generation. Yes, ‘this generation’ does always mean the generation to whom Jesus was speaking everywhere else in the gospels, but it doesn’t mean that here. It might mean ‘race’ or ‘a future generation that sees these signs.’” Instead of hearing pins drop, there would have been out-loud laughing and dismissal. Many people wonder why American Vision deals with eschatology. Now you know one of the reasons.
Of course, these series of exchanges were more than about eschatology. The film will capture the reality of “A Collision of Lives” and the hope of the Gospel in a time when many are in despair and have turned to the State for temporal salvation. The atheists have no answers, as Doug Wilson repeatedly points out. Stay tuned.