Each year the Bible Society runs Masterclasses across Australia for high school students to invest in their spiritual development and equip them to be leaders in their school and local community. On Tuesday 7th August, students in the Year 10 Leadership and Year 11 Studies of Religion classes along with their teachers, Mr Tim Chavura and Mr Tyler Barnes attended the Sydney area Masterclass. The program consisted of three speakers, Dan Paterson, Richard Shumack and Patricia Weerakoon, who each spoke on their area of expertise.
Dan Paterson, a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, spoke on the topic ‘Has science buried God?’, answering criticisms that atheists have to belief in God and making the case that science has been supported by the Christian belief in a rational Creator and Cosmic Lawgiver, in contrast to the idea that science and faith are incompatible.
Richard Shumack, an academic at the Centre for Public Christianity, who works extensively with the Muslim community addressed the questions, ‘What is true Islam, and who is my Muslim neighbour?’. He was not averse to acknowledging the ugly realities we see in the media but he was sensitive to the fact that the full picture is more nuanced. Students were encouraged to not shun their Muslim neighbour but rather to outreach in the knowledge that as opposed to atheists Muslims are more likely to be open to talking about Jesus and to prayer.
Patricia Weerakoon, a writer and sexologist, spoke on ‘Sex: What has God got to do with it?’ She addressed the question head-on in an open and forthright approach that reflected a career working in health education. Her address confronted the fallacies of the world’s teaching that we ought to consume and do whatever feels good, and that sex is a commodity. She delivered a passionate, countercultural message grounded in a solid understanding of Scripture and God’s design for humanity.
The students enjoyed the Masterclass and were challenged to grow in their faith in Christ, to reach out to others openly and freely with the love and grace of God, and to honour and respect themselves and others through their relationships.