In apologetics,Axiome,David Haines,francophone,french,organization
Canada’s Francophone Apologists: an Interview with David Haines of Association Axiome
by Justin Wishart
I attend a church in Calgary which is part of the Missionary Alliance denomination. We regularly send missionaries to far flung areas around the world to share the message of Jesus with people who have never heard the Gospel. Yet it seems as if we often miss missionary opportunities right here in Canada. One such region is la belle province, otherwise known as Québec.
I had a chance to interview David Haines, cofounder of the organization Association Axiome, which seeks to address this shortfall by gathering multi-disciplined Francophone Evangelical scholars to “serve the local church by providing it with a reasoned defense of the historical Christian faith.” Association Axiome is not a lay level organization, as it functions more like an academic enterprise, similar to the Evangelical Philosophical Society in the United States. Although apologetics is almost non-existent in Quebec, Association Axiome has managed to assemble what may be the finest group of scholars in this field in Canada. They certainly are an impressive lineup of highly educated French speaking Evangelicals.[i]
Justin: What are some distinct obstacles to sharing your faith in Québec, as opposed to other areas in Canada?
David: I would say that the Québec population can be divided into 4 general categories. The vast majority of the population that is 60+ is, more than likely, practicing Catholic. They may not be as fervent as they once were, due primarily to the attack on organized religion that their children undertook, but, if asked, they will claim to be Catholic. The part of the population that falls into the 40-60 bracket was almost entirely baptized Catholic as children, but ended up rejecting Catholicism (and all organized religion) in their mid-20s. The reasons why they rejected Catholicism might range from frustration and anger against Christianity due to the different abuses of the priests, to intellectual rejection of the claims of Catholicism, and a lack of any type of rational response from the Catholic priests. This age bracket rejected not just Catholicism, but Christianity in general, as Catholicism was, in all honesty, the only Christianity that they knew of. The part of the population that is currently in the 20-40 bracket may have been baptized Catholic, but, for the most part, they grew up outside of Catholicism, though they knew of the abuses of the church through their parents and grandparents. They have little actual knowledge of the Bible, Christianity, or the different denominations, and don’t really care all that much about these subjects. The two age brackets (20-40 and 40-60) are often extremely hostile to any form of organized religion … The fourth section of the population, 0-20, has little to no knowledge of Christianity, Catholicism, or any formal religion. They grew up outside of organized religion, and have been taught by confirmed atheists throughout their entire education.
In the 1950s -1960s, right about the time that the 2nd age bracket (40-60) started turning against Catholicism, there was what we call the silent revolution. It was the revolution of the educational system. The educational system … rejected all forms of religious teaching. The universities embraced secularism, and any teacher that held some form of Christian belief found that their jobs were in jeopardy. Since that time, there has been a constant move towards the secularization of Québec society. Even now, Québec Premier, Madame Marois, is attempting to remove all religious symbols from any and all government institutions, including Québec government agencies, the police, schools, etc.
In Québec, the evangelical protest church was originally associated with English businessmen who came to Québec to build companies. Protestantism was seen as some form of an English cult, and the Catholic priests cautioned the population against it. French protestant evangelical churches began to actually gain ground only 60-70 years ago, and many of the first church planters were imprisoned and beaten for preaching the gospel. Many of them are still alive today.
The obstacles to sharing the Gospel in Québec are primarily cultural, based upon the history of religion in Québec. Christianity is seen as a dictatorial organization that removes the freedom of its adherents, and constantly asks for money from a population that is relatively poor. Unfortunately the many abuses of the Catholic Church, and the relative ignorance concerning Evangelical Protestantism, creates an atmosphere in which to be Christian is to be either a brain-washed idiot, or a fanatic.
As such, when one attempts to discuss the gospel, not only are we forced to deal with a very difficult history, but we are also required to deal with a lot of unwarranted prejudices.
Justin: Are there many other Evangelical apologetics organizations in Québec?
David: There is no other Evangelical apologetics association in Québec that seeks to provide a general defense of the faith. There is a Québec Association of Creationist Science,which focuses on issues related to the Creation/Evolution debate, and which is run by Laurence Tisdall. I, personally, know of no other association that concentrates on presenting a reasoned defense of the Christian faith. Association Axiome has been seeking, and continues to seek, to join forces with different evangelical scholars in Québec, some small evangelical seminaries and associations with the purpose of defending the historic Christian faith.
Justin: What are some future goals for this organization?
David: Axiome wants to work together with the already existing Evangelical associations and seminaries in order to: (a) provide solid French apologetics material for the churches, and (b) engage Québec society.
(1) We want to see our members involved in at least one apologetics conference per year.
(2) We want to see the publication of at least one book, in French, written by French apologists (personally I would like to see more than one).
(3) We would like to provide internet material through YouTube and blog posts that defend the truth of historic Christianity.
(4) We would like to see our list of members grow exponentially.
(5) We would like to gain support from Christian scholars and apologists that live outside of Québec. English apologists that (a) push their publishing companies to publish their books in French, (b) come to Québec to speak in conferences and debates, and (c) encourage their French colleagues.
Justin: If people want to get involved with your organization, how can they do so?
David: There are many ways that you can get involved with Axiome.
We don’t currently have a structure that allows for financial involvement, as such, it would be impossible to donate money to our association. Though I’m sure that our members would be thrilled to receive books and other important resources that can help in their research.
Many of our members are able to speak English, and would certainly be encouraged by invitations to speak, and represent Axiome, outside of Québec.
There are a number of small Christian Evangelical French publication companies in Québec that would love to publish books on apologetics. The main thing that keeps this from happening is finances. You could send financial support to Editions Cruciform, which is a Québec based Christian publication. To learn more about how you can help them out contact Daniel Henderson at Daniel@editionscruciforme.org.
There are a number of small French Evangelical Seminaries in Québec. You can support them financially as well. It would be great to see one of these seminaries with a program in apologetics, but in order for this to happen they need finances. One of the seminaries that you could contact is SEMBEQ (Séminaire Baptiste Évangélique de Québec). Others include ETEM, FTE- Acadia, and ÉcoleThéologique ProFAC.
If you speak and write French, and hold (or are currently pursuing) an accredited M.A. or PhD in any academic domain of research, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t have to live in Québec to write blog posts on apologetics, to participate in book projects, or to be invited to speak at apologetics conferences. The French world is much larger than just Québec; there are French communities throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa, and elsewhere.
Also, we would love to see more Anglophone Christian apologists coming to Québec to give apologetics formation, to teach module courses, and to participate in apologetics conferences. If you are interested, please contact us.
[i] Members include: Paul Gosselin, M.A. Anthropology; Nicolas Lussier, M. Mechanical Eng.; Jocelyn Plamondon, PhD Candidate M.A.; Gilles Despins, PhD Candidate, B.Th., M. Div.; Prem Isaac, M.A. Philosophy; Jean-Luc Lefèbvre, B. Sci.; Jean-Sébastien, PhD Candidate, M.A. Philosophy; Adama Dicko, diploma Theology; Alex Farley, B.A. Math & Computer Science, B. A. Theology; Guillaume Bignon, PhD Candidate, M.A. N.T. Studies; Dominic Monosiet, Deg. Admin.; David Haines, PhD Candidate, M. A. Philosophy.