We live in a day of religious skepticism and confusion, of biblical illiteracy and theological superficiality. Atheism is becoming more strident, other religions more aggressive, and cults more numerous, while Christians far too often are becoming less informed and less equipped to respond to such challenges. While some segments of evangelical Christianity are very interested in apologetics, there is still widespread ignorance on many key issues. Now more than ever, Christian churches and schools need help to educate believers in the truth of biblical Christianity. The Institute for Religious Research (IRR) offers several seminars to help meet this need, including the following:
Buried Evidence: Defending the Bible’s Historical Reliability Today
At least once a year, TV documentaries like the Discovery Channel’s Rameses: Wrath of God or Man? and NOVA’s The Bible’s Buried Secrets expose the public to skepticism about the Old Testament. Meanwhile, in almost every college and university and in every semester, professors teach their students that modern scholarship shows that Moses (if he even lived) wrote little or none of the Pentateuch, the Exodus never occurred, and Joshua never conquered Jericho. This seminar refutes these common criticisms and equips Christians to have confidence in the historical reliability of the Old Testament.
Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ
This seminar equips Christians to know and appreciate the rich, broad evidence from the whole Bible for belief in Jesus as God—and in a way that they won’t soon forget. Believers will be encouraged in their faith, enriched in their worship, and enabled in their witness by understanding and appreciating Jesus’ identity as our Lord and our God.
Mormons at Your Door and Next Door: How Should Christians View the Mormon Religion?
Mormons are often some of our best next-door neighbors. Yet when Mormon missionaries knock on our door, they are seeking to lead Christians of all denominations to abandon the historic Christian faith for their religion. At the same time, Mormons insist that they are Christians and that they do not attack other faiths. How should we view the Mormons? Are they Christians? If not, why not? Is it possible for us to take a firm stance against the false teachings of the Mormon religion while respecting Mormons for the traditional values they have in common with us? This seminar sheds light, not heat, on these questions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses at Your Door and Next Door: Equipping Christians to Respond to Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses attend at least three or four meetings a week, spend hours each week studying their literature, memorize numerous biblical texts that seem to support their beliefs, and constantly canvass their neighborhoods door to door offering to provide literature and free Bible studies to anyone who will listen. Most Christians find JWs’ apparent knowledge and facility in defending their beliefs intimidating. What do Christians need to learn in order to be prepared to discuss the Bible’s teachings with JWs? What are the key weak points in their doctrinal system? What really motivates most Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how can we respond to them in a personal way? This seminar will equip Christians with answers to these questions.
Counterfeit Detection: Recognizing the Social and Doctrinal Characteristics of Cults
Counterfeit religions abound—and most of them don’t issue “cult member” t-shirts to their followers. These religions often succeed using manipulation, deceit, and even fear. Many use the Bible and Christian terminology to confuse and mislead believers and non-believers alike. This seminar identifies the social and doctrinal marks of false religious groups, providing examples from the past and present, enabling you to detect a counterfeit before you get taken.
Heaven and Hell: Who Goes Where and Why?
There is a lot of confusion today about Heaven and Hell. Is Hell an eternal state of punishment? Is Jesus really the only way to eternal life with God? What about those who have never heard the gospel? Is Heaven a physical place? This seminar provides clear, biblical answers.
Gospel Smackdown: New Testament Gospels v. Other Gospels
Why did the early church accept Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and reject such so-called Gospels as the ones named for Thomas, Peter, Mary, and Judas? It turns out that the reasons are easy even for those with no academic or scholastic background in the subject to understand and remember. This seminar will enhance the confidence of Christians in the biblical Gospels and equip them to respond to people who think that “the winners” merely chose the Gospels that reflected their own viewpoint.
Faith Founded on Fable: Healing Hype and Prosperity Preaching
Much of Christian television, some of the bestselling Christian books, and the largest church in America all promote some form of the “word of faith” message of guaranteed healing and financial prosperity to those who confess these blessings in faith. Is there anything to these doctrines? Does God’s Word, the Bible, really teach these things? It is possible—and important—to understand Christianity as a positive, life-enhancing way of life without falling into extremism and false doctrine. This seminar explains how.
Unlocking the Problem of Evil: Biblical Perspectives on Unjust Suffering
Why God allows people to suffer undeserved pain and loss is probably the most common objection to the Christian faith. This seminar equips Christians with sound, biblical answers to this question.
Let My People Reason: Critical Thinking for Christians
For too long, conservative evangelical Christianity has been stereotyped as a kind of anti-intellectual, anti-reason pietism. Unfortunately, this stereotype, while unfair to evangelicalism as a whole, does apply to far too many of us. The fact is that the Bible does not support such neglect of or hostility to reason. Biblical Christianity encourages sober, clear, and honest thinking and discernment; it teaches us to love God with all our minds. This seminar makes the case for cultivating reason as an aspect of Christian growth, equips believers with basic critical-thinking tools they will use again and again, and provides fascinating examples of the application of these tools to current issues of controversy.
Don’t see the topic your church or school needs to have addressed? Contact IRR and if we do not have someone who can speak on your topic, we will gladly refer you at no charge to someone who can. IRR has contacts with excellent Christian speakers specializing in a variety of subjects.
Seminar Instructors and Format
Robert M. Bowman Jr. is Director of Research at the Institute for Religious Research, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the author or co-author of twelve books, including the critically acclaimed Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Kregel, 2007). He is available to present any of the seminars listed here.
Joel B. Groat is the Director of Ministries for IRR. He has served in this ministry for over twenty years, authoring many of IRR’s printed and web-based resources, and has spoken extensively to both English and Spanish speaking congregations in the United States, Latin America and most recently in Madagascar. Joel is available to present the seminars on Counterfeit Detection, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the “word of faith” movement.
Each of IRR’s seminars is available in two types of presentations:
- A popular seminar (typically 45-75 minutes) especially suitable for presentations in churches and Christian high schools.
- An in-depth academic seminar (typically 2-3 hours) especially suitable for presentations on Christian college and seminary campuses and at secular universities under the sponsorship of Christian groups
Both types of seminar include curriculum materials that the sponsoring church, school, or campus group can reproduce and distribute to those who attend. If you are interested in scheduling a seminar at your school or church, you may contact IRR’s offices by calling (616) 451-4562 or via email.