For many of us, the CMF National Students’ Conference is the high point of the spring term; this year’s conference was no exception. From 7-9 February over 360 of us enjoyed a fantastic weekend of teaching and fellowship at the Hayes Conference Centre in Derbyshire.
Over three plenary sessions, the main speaker, Don Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the USA, examined some of the major ‘Turning Points’ in the history of salvation. He began on the Friday night by looking at Genesis 3, offering an enlightening perspective on the problem of evil: if we are to be effective in proclaiming the gospel – the ‘solution’ to this problem - we must get to grips with evil’s true reality. Evil, at root, is mankind’s rebellion against our Creator. According to Carson, Eve’s choice to ignore God’s instructions in the Garden of Eden was a manifestation of this desire to de-god God and make herself equal with him. Although we may not recognise it, we would still prefer to rule our own lives; every time we opt to do things our own way, we deny God’s sovereignty.
In the second talk from 2 Samuel 7, we saw how God promised David a dynasty that would be central to his redemptive purposes for the world. David’s response was simply: ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord?’ (v18). Through Scripture we see that it is God alone who has taken the initiative in the turning points of salvation, so we can be confident that he knows where history is heading.
The central ‘Turning Point’ is the cross. Prior to a very moving communion service, Carson used his final talk to speak from Romans 3:21-26, highlighting some of the amazing truths about God that we see demonstrated at Calvary. Above all we see his love: despite all our failings and inadequacies, he regards us as lovely, simply because he’s that kind of God. At the same time, throughout Scripture, we see his hatred of sin and evil. Only through the cross could these two things have been reconciled – he is a God of immense justice, but also full of mercy and compassion. Through the death of his son, he made his righteousness available to us, whilst maintaining his justice.
On Saturday afternoon the conference address - ‘Meaning and Purpose in Medicine’ - was given by John Patrick, Professor of the History of Science, Medicine and Faith at Augustine College, Canada. He examined the Hippocratic Oath and demonstrated how far the medical profession has deviated from these traditional values.
For the second year running, the music was provided by Andy Flannagan, a former medic now working for Youth for Christ, ably assisted by a band made up of CMF student members from around the country. As well as leading some very inspiring worship sessions prior to the main talks, he also gave a praise concert, including his own music, on the Saturday night. At the same time, other students chose to attend the ever-popular barn dance, or a mind-boggling question and answer session with Don Carson and John Patrick which addressed everything from evolution to eschatology.
During the week prior to the conference, a group of international students attended an orientation week - a time of Bible and ethics teaching - held at the CMF offices in London. We were thrilled to get to know them, as well as several other overseas visitors at Swanwick. It was fascinating to hear their stories of medicine and Christianity but, at the same time, a reminder of how blessed we are in the UK to have so much provision for Christian medics, both within our universities and at a national level.
During the weekend, students had the opportunity to attend a selection of fifteen seminars, which tackled an eclectic range of issues facing medical students, from the ethics of abortion to the ethics of sharing Christ with patients! One that went down particularly well was ‘Evidence-Based Bible’, given by Alex Bunn. Afterwards, one student commented: ‘Really, really good. It has given me more confidence to show others the authority of the Bible, and to defend it against insinuations of reliability problems.’
At a time when new technologies are very much in the news, the seminar on ‘Cloning and Stem Cells’, given by stem cell researcher Phil Jones, was also well received: ‘We get taught ethics, but only woolly concepts and ideas. To have a guy who’s funded by the MRC dealing with these issues every day saying what’s what and then interactively working through the ethics is totally different. Wow!’
There were not only many opportunities for us to hear about getting involved with national movements from Tearfund and MedSin to the BMA, but also the usual stall selling hundreds of books at knock-down prices, which left many of us penniless. It’s perhaps testimony to the quality of Don Carson’s talks that all his books had been snapped up by Saturday lunchtime!
Last but not least, the facilities get better and better each year - high standard, mostly en suite rooms and good food, as well as miles and miles of green fields. As one student said: ‘A lovely place, setting and people – it all helps to make it a positive weekend. I’d love to go next year.’
So will you?
Conference CD's: CMF has produced a four-CD boxed set of the main talks (in both audio and MP3 format) available for just £10. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to place your order!