Two leading philosophers will discuss the topic ‘The role of reason in faith and unbelief’ in a public conversation at St Paul’s Cathedral on 12 April. Professor Peter Singer of Princeton and Melbourne Universities, and an atheist, and the Revd Professor Brendan Purcell, of University College, Dublin, and a Roman Catholic priest, will engage in conversation as part of the Anglican Church’s response to the global atheist convention being held in Melbourne 13-15 April.
Following the Convention, a national Coalition of Christian organisations called ‘Reason for Faith’, is planning a ‘Reason for Faith Festival’ to engage with Melburnians who have serious doubts or questions about God and faith, “in a rigorous, yet respectful and generous way,” according to Anglican minister, the Revd Tim Patrick, project manager of the Festival.
He told TMA: “The Global Atheist Convention is not a threat to retreat from but an opportunity for Anglicans to engage and share their reasons for faith. When groups and conferences such as the Global Atheist Convention come to town attacking religious faith in general and Christians in particular, believers have a tendency to feel silenced and retreat to their safe faith communities.
“However, we thank God for the Global Atheist Convention, which is putting God, and questions of faith, reason and religion back on the public agenda.
“Every day we all share our lives with lots of people, many of whom have never heard or understood the Good News. The Reason for Faith Festival is a direct response to the GAC and it makes the most of this opportunity for Christians to engage with their sceptical friends and colleagues and invite them to any of the public events in and around the city, many of which are free,” he said.
The events range from presentations by a Christian physicist and a geologist engaging questions of Creation, to a conversation on ethics between Dr Greg Clarke, CEO of Bible Society Australia and Chris Berg from the Institute of Public Affairs, to a discussion on the future of faith between Global Atheist Convention spokesperson Jason Ball and Anglican minister of City on a Hill, the Revd Guy Mason, and to a proclamation of the Christian hope by City Bible Forum apologist, Ian Powell.
Mr Patrick said he has been encouraged that The Global Atheist Convention website has already posted links to the Festival website and will be advertising the events as part of its Fringe program.
“It’s very encouraging that the Reason for Faith Festival is already being received with enthusiasm not only by Christians, but by unbelievers too,” he said.
Mr Patrick said that, in addition to the program of events, City Bible Forum, the lead organisation behind the Festival, will be running a series of training sessions around the Melbourne CBD before the Festival to help Christian believers grow in their understanding of new atheism and in confidence to engage with it. Details of these sessions can be found online at citybibleforum.org/melbourne.
Full details of the Festival and all the events is on line at reasonforfaith.org.au
A YouTube video promoting the Festival to Christians has been produced, and can be freely used by any church.
It is available at http://bit.ly/R4FFest.
Higher quality video, flyers or powerpoint slides are available by contacting the Revd Tim Patrick on firstname.lastname@example.org.