At the Bible Society Australia’s Masterclass event in Sydney, about one thousand senior high school teens were encouraged to continue believing in Jesus, despite hostility, opposition and horrible history.
Masterclass are one-day events for Christian senior high school students, held annually around Australia. In Sydney on Tuesday 8 August, John Dickson, Dan Paterson and Natasha Moore helped year 10 and 11 students to think through atheism, the role Christianity has played in the good and bad moments of history, and the importance of free speech. On August 15, the same three speakers are encouraging students in Adelaide.
Dan Paterson, a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, encouraged the students that “coming to believe [in Jesus] and continuing to believe are different things.”
“I took home the message that we have an impact on the way non-Christians view Christianity and should make the most of that.” – student at Masterclass
John Dickson, co-founder of the Centre for Public Christianity, asked whether the world would be better off without Christianity, and was honest about some of the horrific things that Christians have done in the name of Jesus. He pointed to one of the Crusades in 1099, where Christians from Europe besieged Jerusalem and slaughtered all its inhabitants – men, women and children. “Sometimes, real Christians did terrible things in the name of Jesus … the complaint against Christians is real,” explained Dickson.
But he also pointed to the good things Christians have done, and highlighted when history has wildly exaggerated bad things linked with Christianity. His summary: “The problem isn’t religion or irreligion; it’s the human heart unrestrained by compassion.”
Natasha Moore, research fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity, helped students see that freedom of speech is both interesting and important, by reflecting on lessons learnt from 19th Century English philosopher John Stuart Mill.
“Why weren’t you there? You need to go next year.” – teacher who brought students to Masterclass
One student said, “a super fun day, incredible loving environment and an amazing day for learning and growing as a Christian.” The same student also said, “I feel challenged to have more conversations about God, Jesus, Bible evidence and political views with my friends and family.”
Another said, “I took home the message that we have an impact on the way non-Christians view Christianity and should make the most of that.”
A third said, “I just came away with more reasons for what I believe.”
When a teacher was asked how they would describe the day to others, they said, “Excellent. Why weren’t you there? You need to go next year.”
Masterclasses will be held in South Australia on 15 August, Victoria on 22 August, and Tasmania on 29 August.