The speakers got underway quickly, after a big continental breakfast provided by the Sheraton. The day started off with Jimmy Akin‘s talk entitled “Pope Francis: The Man, the Myth, and the Media”, where he began by making an astonishing connection that only fellow nerds and Catholics would be capable of making… that the world reacts to changing of the Holy Father in the same way they respond to a change in the doctor from Dr. Who. It struck me quickly that a game of Dungeons and Dragons would be very interesting with Jimmy Akin involved… but back to his talk. Jimmy continued to discuss the way that Catholics understand this change and how we often make bonds with a certain Holy Father, but we must take caution not to factionalize this and take it too far. He also spoke of the honeymoon period that all pontiffs experience, and how that can quickly wear off and the fervor and scrutiny of their words fades somewhat. He also spoke of how important it is to view differing papal styles in the same hermeneutic of continuity that Pope Benedict XVI often spoke of. Jimmy’s time went by far too quickly, and before long it was time for a break.
This year, they built in a longer break between speakers which is both good and bad… it is good because one needs a few minutes to process all of the received content. It is also good because it gives far more time for mixing and chatting with the apologists. The bad part is that has caused a continuous stream of money to fly out of my pocket as I keep finding more good things to buy. It doesn’t help that they are offering their lowest prices of the year right now… it’s a perfect storm of reckoning for my debit card.
Next, it was time for the indomitable Tim Staples with his presentation “What Our Lady Reveals To Us – About Ourselves”. Tim began by providing an overview of his background, and how along the way he encountered the work of the evangelical Walter Martin. Martin, as many evangelicals and Protestants do, rejected the teaching that Mary is the Mother of God. Tim continued to examine Martin’s claims and found that if you claim to deny that Mary is the Mother of God… then who was she mother of? And quickly, with a few steps of logic down that road you lose both Christ’s Divinity or his human nature, and if you lose Christ’s Divinity then you also lose the notion of the Father along with it. Please understand here that I am doing a shockingly poor effort at recreating Staples’ argument, but suffice it to say the logic was very sound and the discussion compelling. If you’re interesting in learning more, Tim has a new book coming out entitled “Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of Marian Doctrines” which he describes as a comprehensive attempt to outline Marian doctrines and how they are both Biblical and defensible and necessary for our adherence as Catholics. For those of you that have never experienced Tim Staples’ presentation style… someone once described it as “Holy Spirit Power” and that’s the truth… I challenge any Christian to listen to him and not leave completely fired up.
Another break after Tim’s talk, luckily this time I succeeded in keeping my debit card in my pocket.
The last speaker of the day was Trent Horn, who helped us understand “How To Talk About Same Sex ‘Marriage'”. Trent is a uniquely different sort of apologist from Staples and Akin, however he presented an equally densely-packed presentation about the common ineffective arguments against same sex marriage, common arguments for same-sex marriage and how we might refute them, and some more effective strategies to defend marriage. The thing I appreciate most about Trent Horn is his practical advice for entering into dialogue about difficult topics. I have heard him on the radio use pure logic to walk someone to a conclusion that a few minutes prior they never would have considered, and it is impressive. He also had a few of the most genuinely funny jokes of the day, but I won’t spoil that for you… you’ll have to wait and buy the talks to enjoy those.
The last main break of the day caused another minor hemorrhage of cash, followed by the live broadcast of the Catholic Answers Live radio program. The crowd participation was infectious and the guest, Archbishop Sample of Portland, was fantastic. I don’t know if this is a charism shared by all bishops, but Archbishop Sample’s kind, direct, and charitable answers to difficult questions was just a marvel to behold. The podcast should be up in a couple of days at the Catholic Answers radio archives, so check it out.
And thus, the conference adjourned for the night. Thank Heavens the Sheraton offers free wi-fi in the lounge so I could use my laptop to hammer all this out… doing so on my phone like last night would have been pretty challenging. More tomorrow!