Islam and Christianity Seminar feedback.
About 115 people attended our marathon six-hour Seminar on Islam and Christianity this February, with Drs. Woodberry, Adeney, and Ahmad, and Mr. Mark Amini. Most hung on until the bitter (or, I hope, sweet) end at close to 9:30; and better than half remembered to fill out our “Seminar Feedback” forms before they went home. Much thanks to all of you!
We asked three questions about how people experienced the seminar, and it is the answers to those questions that we share, almostin full in the case of question one, with an occasional edit for length, or a brief response when appropriate. For the other two questions, we will summarize the response.
(2) “How did you enjoy the evening, overall?”
Concise answers . . . .
“Wonderful! Informative.” “Great, very informative.” “Wonderful.” “Excellent.” “8. 10=perfect.” “Mark Amini and Dr. Woodberry -- Outstanding!” “Very much.”“Interesting.” “Good, worthwhile.” “Excellent.” “Excellent presentations.” “Very informative.” “Very good.” “Good.” “Delicious dinner, good talks.” “Very much.” “Great agenda!” “Excellent.” “Very much.” “Yes.” “Yes.” “Very good.” “Very well. Thank you.” (You’re welcome!) “Very much.” “Very stimulating and helpful.” “Excellent.” “Very much.” “Very much – very informative.” “Yes.” “Yes.” “Very good.” “Yes.” “Good variety.” “Excellent.”
Longer answers . . .
“(I) liked it”
“I really enjoyed (it) but it was unfair having four speakers (favoring) Christianity.”
“It was stimulating (and) worshipful.”
“Yes – I enjoyed it!”
“(I) enjoyed it a lot.”
“Good. I personally prefer staying on schedule.” (Oh, come on now – we didn’t stray that far, did we?)
“The spirit and the information was excellent and positive. Dinner was delicious!”
“It was very good – balanced – well organized and well run!”
“It was both educational and entertaining. The food was excellent.”
“Yes. Especially hearing from Ismail Ahmad. It was good to hear from a practicing Muslim in addition to Christians coming from the Islamic faith. Having Ismail Ahmad speak made this a much richer experience – very authentic! Thank you for inviting him. I thank him for coming and staying to the end.” (So do I!)
“Very good. Thanks for (the) good food! The evening was well worth the money.”
“It was absolutely great!”
“I thought it was incredibly interesting.”
“It was great! Great speakers!”
“A very rare opportunity, especially to hear Dr. Dudley Woodberry – what experience! A good showing, but too expensive. I don’t know the ‘student rate,’ but I would invite many more students – I would have invited students – if it was $14 or less general admission / student rate.” (Sorry we couldn’t bring the general admission rate below $28 this time, but with dinner and five speakers, and a lot of preparation . . . We did have a lower student rate, though.)
(continued from previous) “I was encouraged Dr. Ahmad came and had the boldness to share. I sensed from the placement of his passions and presentation that our apologetic arguments don’t ‘scratch each other where we itch.’ How would Desmond Tutu’s Reconciliation Committee example help the Mid-East peace process? Professor Woodberry mentioned forgiveness is a / the solution because innumerable injustices have been committed by all sides.” (A complex and interesting question, to which a preliminary response question might be, “Do the various sides in the Middle East conflict see forgiveness as a virtue?” But perhaps we should try a “Peace in the Middle East Seminar” some time . . . leaving the steak knives at home, just to be sure!)
“It was awesome!”
“Some insights gained by I would not have set up one Muslim to four Christians (among) five speakers. You could have asked a Sufi; Shia & Sunni – Ahmaddiya also here. You are focused on evangelism. I am focused on education, everyone speaking for their own faith, showing the variety within a faith to each side, searching for commonalities and differences (agreeing to disagree) and searching for common actions and values.
(Continued) “I believe all above are necessary, but you have more certainty about the proclamation style and the rational approach as ‘convincing’ where I have more faith in experience out of which significant questions can arise and one can tell one’s story of faith . . . I hope all contribute to sensitive witness and I meet many who have been ‘turned off’ to any Christian contact by a ‘Christian’ witness . . . “
“I have some Muslims who continue to try to convert me to Islam. We need to deal with its possible appeal.”
(I am grateful for this thoughtful and passionate critique, and the willingness of the lady who made it to dialogue with people in the church as well as outside it, which is sometimes harder! One word of explanation may be in order. The purpose of our seminars are not “evangelism” exactly, but rather “truth.” I do believe that Jesus is the Messiah, died for the sins of the world, and rose from the dead. Dr. Ahmad believes differently, and we were honored to hear his point of view frankly expressed, as we have been honored to hear Hindu and Buddhist speakers. The keynote of these seminars is “speaking the truth in love,” so the focus is on truth, rather than personal experience so much, as important as it is. But whatever we think the goal of talking with people of other faiths is – to convert them to what we perceive as the truth, to understand and appreciate the good in their religions, or perhaps even do both at the same time – “witness” becomes mere propaganda without honesty and kindness, which is a point on which I sense we may agree.)
Summary: Overall appraisal of the seminar was about 96 % “thumbs up.”
(3) “What do you feel could be done to make the next seminar better?”
Sound system. 1
Visual presentation (power point, handouts) 5
Cost suggestions 2
Pray before meals 1
Speakers and content:
Need more balance between Christian and Muslim speakers. 5
Content suggestions 5
Speaker introductions 2
Other speakers 2
Organization related 2
More apologetic-oriented material 2
Less apologetic-oriented material 1
Great precision. 1
More small group discussion time. 1
More Q and A time. 1
Make it earlier 2
Make it longer 5
Make it shorter, or maybe not. “Not pack it so full, but I would have missed something if you had cut anything out.” 1
Nothing, conspicuously blank 9.
(4) What did you enjoy the most?
Everything / all speakers 6
Diversity of speakers, variety. 6
Friendly atmosphere, fairness 3
“Talking to the speakers during break.” 1
“Focused discussion.” 1
Particular speaker(s). 27
(Note: All four of our guest speakers were favored by many respondents, probably a majority of whom named more than one.)
Our February seminar on Christianity and Islam was our fourth “major” seminar. As with the earlier events, the feedback was almost uniformly enthusiastic. It was a pleasure, not just an honor, to have each of our guest speakers participate, and I felt like we really “talked turkey” (even if we ate chicken!)
As the same time, many people had specific suggestions to make about how to further improve future seminars. We really appreciate these comments: they generally seem to the point and reasonable – even when they contradict one another slightly. We will consider them carefully as we prepare for seminars coming up later this year.