Good Questions Deserve Good Answers

#Christianity #College #Conversation #Culture

Our Speakers – Base Camp Central

Teachers are carefully chosen based on their expertise and their love for Jesus. Topics are carefully chosen based on the questions Christian teens are asking (and being asked) as reflected in our research and survey results. For Base Camp West (Phoenix, AZ) teachers and topics CLICK HERE.

Faith Ascent Teachers / Speakers

Christopher Buckles

Talk Title: Words & Meaning: Defining Terms when Definitions are Relative

Chris Buckles is a Literature, Composition, Logic, and Rhetoric teacher at Providence Classical Christian Academy and an adjunct instructor of English at Missouri Baptist University here in St. Louis. He received his B.S.E. in Secondary Education English from Hannibal La-Grange University, where he met his pretty and witty wife Lindsey, and has M.A. in Educational Leadership at Saint Louis University. During his undergraduate studies, he traveled locally and internationally with a ministry team called The New Edition, ministering to students at various events and camps, while also performing Biblically based dramatic sketches. Chris has also been a contributor to Missouri Baptist’s Faith and Learning Journal Integrite. He enjoys reading theology, being involved in theatrical productions, and the music and films that are a product of the infamous 80s. Chris and Lindsey have one son, Scott, and are members at Trailhead Church in Edwardsville, Illinois.


Kirk Clayton, Ph.D.

Talk Title: War and Killing in the Old Testament: God in the Dock

Rev. Dr. Kirk Clayton holds a PhD from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he studied in the “Theology and Culture” program with a focus on apologetics. His dissertation explored the possibility of developing a new apologetic method of response to the New Atheists (such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens) and their attacks on Christianity by emphasizing the importance of the Christian life lived in sacrificial service to others. Supplementing his studies at Concordia Seminary, Dr. Clayton has attended the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism, and Human Rights held in Strasbourg, France, where he studied with John Warwick Montgomery, Craig Parton, Gene Edward Veith, and others. In addition to his academic interests in apologetics, Dr. Clayton serves as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Mascoutah Illinois, about 25 miles east of St. Louis. Kirk is a member at Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS).

Rachel Ferguson, Ph.D.

Talk Title: Navigating Differences of Opinion: How To Disagree Agreeably 

Rachel Ferguson is a professor of philosophy, co-chair of the Lindenwood Honors College, and director of the Liberty & Ethics Center, which is part of the Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise. Her research interests include Hume’s classical liberalism, the philosophy of economics, and Aristotelian virtue theory. She is an associated scholar of the Abbeville Institute, a participant in Liberty Fund Colloquia, a reviewer for the Journal of Markets and Morality, and has been a Summer Rowley Fellow at the Mises Institute. Dr. Douchant teaches political philosophy, game theory, business ethics, and the spring seminar in economic federalism. She is faculty sponsor for Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship and Young Americans for Liberty. Dr. Ferguson received her BA in Philosophy from Lindenwood University (1999) and her PhD in Philosophy from Saint Louis University (2008). She has two sons, Asher and Solomon.


Chris Gadsden, Ph.D.

Talk Title: Christian Case Making: What Exactly Is Evidence?

Chris Gadsden currently serves as research field staff with Cru in Columbia, MO, where he lives with his wife, Kristin, and their four amazing kids. His passion for communicating truth and defending the faith stems from his own conversion from atheism while an undergrad at Florida State University. In addition to his 25 years of campus ministry experience, Chris earned an MA in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics from Talbot School of Theology (Biola University) in 2003, and his PhD in Philosophy (Epistemology) from the University of Missouri in 2014. In 2017, Chris founded GroundBelief.com, a website dedicated to helping people build better beliefs. His teaching experience includes philosophy, ethics and logic at Mizzou and at Heritage Academy in Columbia. Chris’ most interesting publication is a chapter in the volume, “Doctor Who and Philosophy: Regeneration Time.” He avidly follows professional soccer (Sporting KC, Barca and Watford), and is a huge fan of Twenty One Pilots.

Judd Jensen

Talk Title: Intelligent Design: Design Implies Designer

Judd Jensen MD has been a practicing neurologist for 38 years. He has directed two residency programs and has been awarded the Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award by the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University in Chicago. He has studied bioethics and the theology of sickness and suffering at Covenant Seminary.

He is currently involved in the production of a PBS documentary film on acute stroke therapy.

He has been interested in the evidence for design in biology for more than 25 years and has been involved with the Discovery Institute in Seattle since 2001. While living in Denver he was on the board of the Discovery Institute’s local chapter of the Center for Science and Culture. He and his wife Amy have recently retired to Saint Louis. They have 2 sons, both of whom live in New York City.

Randy Larson, J.D., LL.M., CFP

Talk Title: The Evidence of Experience: Apologetics & Your Personal Relationship With Jesus

Randy Larson graduated from Biola University in California in 2004 with his Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. After he received his Master of Arts in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics from Biola in 2007, he and his wife moved from California to the Midwest. Randy received his Juris Doctoris from Washington University in 2010 and his LL.M in Taxation in 2011. When Randy is not playing with his children or watching “The Office” with his wife, he enjoys riding his YZF 450R dirt bike and studying theology and philosophy. Randy and his wife also serve as youth leaders at his Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Randy is a member at The Vineyard Community Church.


Michael J. McClymond, Ph.D.

Talk Title: Universalism: A Serious Critique of a Serious Error

Michael J. McClymond is an Associate Professor in Theological Studies at Saint Louis University and previously completed a term as the Clarence Louis and Helen Irene Steber Professor. He was educated at Northwestern University (B. A. in Chemistry), Yale University (M.Div.), and the University of Chicago (M.A. in Religion, Ph.D. in Theology). In addition to his work at Saint Louis University, he held teaching or research appointments at Wheaton College – Illinois (1988-89), Westmont College (1989-96), University of California – San Diego (1996-98), and Emory University (2001- 02). Following college, he worked for Hercules, Inc. Research in Delaware as a research chemist and an understudy to Dr. David Breslow, who was part of the 1940s Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.

McClymond’s book, Encounters With God: An Approach to the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford University Press, 1998), received the 1999 Brewer Prize from the American Society of Church History as the best first book in the history of Christianity. He was co-editor of (with David Noel Freedman of University of California, San Diego) and a contributor to The Rivers of Paradise: Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, and Muhammad as Religious Founders (Eerdmans, 2001), editor of Embodying the Spirit: New Perspectives on North American Revivalism (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), and author of Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth (Eerdmans, 2004; winner of the Award of Merit in 2005 from Christianity Today magazine). He is the sole editor of a two-volume reference work that incorporates the contributions of 120 scholars, Encyclopedia of Religious Revivals in America (Greenwood Press, 2007).

McClymond has several projects currently in progress. With Lamin Sanneh of Yale University, he is co-editing the Blackwell Companion to World Christianity (Basil Blackwell, 2012). With Gerald McDermott of Roanoke College, he is co-author of The Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford University Press, in press, anticipated 2011). Comprising forty-five chapters, this work will be the most in-depth study ever published on its topic. It draws on the full range of texts included in the 73-volume, online Yale University Press version of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (http://edwards.yale.edu) and interacts with hundreds of books, dissertations, and articles on Edwards’s theology.

During 2009-10, McClymond was co-recipient (with Candy Brown of Indiana University) of a grant from the Flame of Love project to do on-site observation of divine healing practices in emerging Pentecostal churches in Mozambique, Brazil, and North America. Currently he is finishing some articles related to that grant. In 2003 McClymond was featured in an hour-long National Public Radio program on Pentecostalism. In the last five years he has served as the dissertation adviser for a total of nine Ph.D. students who are investigating diverse aspects of Christian theology and history, including developments in Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and Orthodox Christianity.

Dr. McClymond has been a speaker in Protestant and Roman Catholic parishes and conferences. Since 2005, he has been Program Coordinator for Global Day of Prayer –St. Louis, which attracted an interracial and interdenominational gathering of some 3000 Christians to Busch Stadium. He is founder and president of the Institute for World Christianity (www.worldchristianity.org), a nonprofit organization (501c3) that brings together emerging Christian leaders from around the world to explore new forms of collaboration with one another. He also has served on the board of Stepping into the Light, a drug-and-alcohol addiction recovery ministry in the city of St. Louis and on the board for Habitat for Humanity–St. Louis. He is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter in The Pneumatics–a blues-and-rock trio that has opened for Chuck Berry. He is the single father of a college-aged daughter, Sarah, who lives in Atlanta.


Ron Quick, MABTS, MSW

Talk Title: The Reliability of the Bible: Archeology, Accuracy, and Authenticity

Ron and his wife Shona have been married for over 20 years. Their family includes their three children, Shelby, Ronald, Ada and numerous animals (dogs, cats, birds, etc.). Ron has an M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Knox Theological Seminary, an MSW from St. Louis University and a B.A. in Bible from Johnson Bible College. Ron worked in the counseling field for over 20 years and is currently an adjunct professor for several colleges and universities. Ron is a board member and a seminar speaker for Faith Ascent Ministries and has been involved with the ministry since 2010. His personal interest and expertise in Christian apologetics focus on the reliability and historicity of the Old and New Testaments.


Shane Rosenthal, M.A.

Talk Title: Faith vs Fideism: What Exactly is Biblical Faith? 

Shane Rosenthal is executive producer of the White Horse Inn, a national radio broadcast on theology and apologetics, and throughout 2019 he is serving as the host of the program during their year-long series on the Gospel of John.

Shane is a graduate of Cal-State Fullerton (B.A. Humanities) and Westminster Seminary California (M.A. Historical Theology). He wrote a chapter for the book Defending the Faith, Essays on Apologetics, and is a frequent contributor to Modern Reformation magazine. Shane is also ruling elder at Christ Presbyterian Church in St. Charles, MO, and the director of the Friday Night Forum. 


Mark P. Ryan, M.Div.

Talk Title: Sanctification: God’s Human Renovation Project 

Mark Ryan is the Director of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary, Saint Louis, MO, where he also serves as adjunct professor of religion and culture. Mark has worked with L’Abri Fellowship in both Massachusetts and British Columbia and has pastored churches in Australia and the United States. Faith Ascent’s staff and board think very highly of Mark’s ministry experience, heart for evangelism, and interest in helping Christians and non-Christians alike navigate the cross-currents of religion and culture.

Neil Shenvi, Ph.D.

Talk Title 1: The Gospel Apologetic: How “The Good News” is Itself Compelling Evidence for Christianity
Talk Title 2: Critical Theory, Hegemonic Power, & Social Justice: Are These Ideas Compatible With A Biblical Worldview?

I grew up in Delaware and attended Princeton University as an undergraduate where I worked on high-dimensional function approximation with Professor Herschel Rabitz. I became a Christian in Berkeley, CA where I did my PhD in Theoretical Chemistry at UC – Berkeley with Professor Birgitta Whaley. The subject of my PhD dissertation was quantum computation, including topics in quantum random walks, cavity quantum electrodynamics, spin physics, and the N-representability problem. From 2005-2010, I worked as a postdoctoral associate with Prof. John Tully at Yale where I did research into nonadiabatic dynamics, electron transfer, and surface science. Shenvi moved down to Durham in 2010 to do research into nonadiabatic dynamics and electronic structure theory with professor Weitao Yang at Duke University.

In 2015, I quit my job at Duke to homeschool my four children, although I still fiddle with quantum mechanics now and then for fun. In addition to my duties as the principal of the South Durham Academy for Math and Science (also known as Daddy Academy), I tutor the Master’s class at our local Classical Conversations homeschool co-op. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, weight-lifting, and video games. my wife and I are members at the Summit Church.

A list of my articles on apologetics and culture can be found here while my academic publications can be found here.


Andrew D. Shaw, Ph.D.

Talk Title: Science & Truth: The Scope and Limitations of Science

Dr. Andrew D. Shaw Ph.D. is a high school science teacher at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, and the chair of the science department and the Director of STEM education. His teaching assignment includes advanced chemistry and physics, but he has also taught advanced biology, earth science, forensic science, and astronomy. His passion is studying and teaching the relationship between the Christian Faith and Science. Dr. Shaw is a graduate of Covenant College (BS in Physics), University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (MA in Science Education) and University of Missouri-St. Louis (Ph.D. in philosophy of science education). His research experience includes 12 summers at the Idaho National Engineering Lab where he primarily studied the detection of chemical weapons with a mass spectrometer. Andrew is a member at Chesterfield Presbyterian Church (PCA).


Jeremy R. Smith

Talk Title: Apologetics: You Keep Using This Word. I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means

Jeremy R. Smith’s life miraculously changed when Jesus rescued him in 1996. Since then, he’s been passionate about helping the non-religious and the religious to think through and seriously consider what they believe, why they believe it, and why it matters. Since 2010, Jeremy has been serving Faith Ascent as one of the founding leaders.

Jeremy studied select topics related to Christian Apologetics, Evangelism, and Philosophy through Biola University in La Mirada, CA and Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Jeremy is a member of The Christian Apologetics Alliance, The Missouri Apologetics Network, and St. Louis’ Reasonable Faith Chapter. Jeremy also serves as a Corporate Chaplain at Cordell & Cordell (A Domestic Litigation Firm).

Prior to Faith Ascent, Jeremy’s 10 year professional history included consultative sales roles in both the legal industry and educational publishing. Jeremy’s 6 year volunteer history included a “Big Brother Bible Study” at The Mill Skateboard Park and youth ministry leadership at his home church.

Jeremy is happily married to Katie and is a grateful father to Elijah, Lucy, and Lorelei Rae.


Jannique Stewart

Talk Title: Reasonably Defending the Unborn: Re-Thinking Pro-Life Apologetics

Jannique Stewart was born and raised in Europe and after her family moved to the United States for her high school years. Jannique is a graduate of Greenville Christian University. In 2005, Jannique joined First Care Family Resources, the leading faith based Pregnancy Clinics in South Florida, as a sexual integrity and pro-life speaker. In 2010, Jannique became the Center Director for First Care’s Boca Raton Pregnancy Care Center, leading a team of women to provide counseling and ultrasounds to women faced with unplanned pregnancies and financial hardship. Jannique founded her own ministry, Love Protects in 2011, a ministry focused on biblical sexuality. She also is a very involved Board Member for Faith 2 Action which has helped to pass crucial life saving pro-life legislation such as The Heartbeat Bill in seven states and is a also a Board Member for Personhood Florida, which fights for Personhood status to legally protect the unborn. In 2012, Jannique joined the Life Training Institute as a full time pro-life apologist and speaker. It is here as a pro-life apologist that she feels most fulfilled. Jannique is also an Advisory Board Member for Faith Ascent ministries. She speaks to thousands of teens each year across the America and internationally equipping them to defend the pro-life position using science, sound logic and philosophy.


S. Joshua Swamidass, MD Ph.D.

Talk Title: The Science and Theology of Adam and Eve

Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass MD PhD is an assistant professor in the Division of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine at Washington University in St Louis, MO. His PhD is from the University of California, Irvine in Information and Computer Systems. Both a scientist and a physician, he uses computational methods to study information at the intersection of medicine, chemistry, and biology. Dr. Swamidass is a nationally recognized voice in the dialogue between science and the Christian faith, where he explains how mainstream science (including evolution) can be understood within the context of orthodox Christian faith. He worked as a science advisor for the AAAS Science for Seminaries Program with Concordia Seminary. Currently, he directs the Inquiry into Common Ground, a collaboration between St Louis ministries to seek peace in the creation wars. Dr. Swamidass also speaks nationally with The Veritas Forum, Intervarsity, and BioLogos on a wide range of topics, and was a featured seminar speaker at the last two Urbana Missions Conferences. He blogs at Peaceful Science, seeking peace in the creation wars. Joshua is a member at Outpour Evangelical Covenant Church.


Jason Wilkins, M.Div.

Talk Title: What is a Biblical Worldview? Seeing Everything Through The Lenses of Creation, Fall, Redemption, & Restoration

Jason Wilkins, a St. Louis native and lifelong Cardinal fan, is a graduate of Westminster Christian Academy and Mizzou. He also holds a Masters of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Jason currently teaches world views at Westminster Christian Academy. Although Jason has an observable passion for God’s word and for seeing the saints (young and old) brought to maturity in Christ, he is best known for his starring role as the private investigator, Thomas Magnum, in the hit television series, Magnum PI. 😉


2019 Panelists

Panel Discussion: Christianity and Counseling: Views on Counseling and Mental Health 

Dr. Dona Comfort-Schaefer, PhD, MA, RN, LPC

Dr. Dona Comfort Schaefer is Director of Continuing Education at Christian Counseling Connection in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. She earned a Master of Arts in Higher Education from University of Louisville, a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Biblical Counseling from Trinity Seminary. Throughout her career in nursing and counseling, Dona has had a passion for teaching and mentoring in both professions and has served as a preceptor and training supervisor for countless adult learners in Intensive Care and Emergency medicine as well as in various counseling roles. She also served as Director of Behavioral Health Intake for SSM Healthcare. In this position she supervised 25 professionals who provided mental health and crisis counseling interventions in seven Emergency Departments throughout St. Louis.

As the owner of Comfort Consulting LLC, Dona currently provides mental health services to individuals in St. Charles County Department of Corrections. In addition, she has conducted training and consultation for representatives of more than 50 organizations on the topic of Suicide Risk Assessment. She developed the Comfort Scale of Suicide Risk (CSSR) which has been adopted for use by a number of healthcare organizations, private practices, schools, and mental health treatment centers throughout Missouri and in several other states.Dona’s private practice areas of expertise include Cognitive and Biblical counseling of women’s issues, depression, anxiety, anger, crisis intervention, stress, and spiritual growth. The passion fueling her work is best exemplified in the words of the Apostle Paul when he said “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24


Cathy Downen, MA, MA, LPC, NCC

Mary Catherine (Cathy) Downen founded Christian Counseling Connection, LLC to provide resources and support for licensed professional Christian counselors in private practice. Christian Counseling Connection has grown to become a flourishing collaborative group of Christian counselors dedicated to creating a Center of Excellence for mental wellness in our community.

Cathy Downen is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Missouri and a National Certified Counselor. She earned a Master of Arts degree in counseling from Missouri Baptist University and a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has extensive teaching experience as a college adjunct instructor. She is also a Certified SYMBIS Assessment Facilitator for premarital and marital counseling, and a board member of the Liam Michael Foundation for suicide awareness and prevention. Her professional memberships include the American Counseling Association and the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Cathy trusts in the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help individuals, groups, couples, seniors, and young adults improve their lives as they work through issues of mental wellness. Her therapeutic interests include: depression, anxiety, anger, stress, grief, regrets, relationships, self-esteem, boundaries, life transitions, women’s issues, career, education, goal-setting, premarital preparation, marriage enhancement, and other areas on the road to healthy living.

Using concepts and techniques that are a blend of several therapeutic strategies (including cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior therapy, narrative, positive psychology, existentialism, person-centered, and solution-focused), Cathy works within a Christian framework that is mindful and respectful of the individual value systems and diversity of her clients.


Stacey Juengst, MA, LPC

Stacey Juengst is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Missouri and a National Certified Counselor. Stacey is passionate about encouraging clients on the journey of life to discover true identity, heal from emotional wounds and trauma, overcome fears, breakthrough relational walls, replace unhealthy thought patterns and achieve healthy cognition and behaviors. It is her goal to empower clients to live a fulfilling life and establish hope for the future.

Stacey has experience working as a crisis counselor with individuals of all ages and demographics specifically addressing suicidal ideations, depressive episodes and anxiety disorders, life crisis and trauma. She has worked with individuals and groups to break generational patterns of dysfunction, improve self-esteem, strengthen boundaries and maintain sobriety. It is her mission to provide a safe environment for her clients to work through life’s challenges.

Stacey primarily utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to collaborate a treatment plan with clientele.


Dwain Sliger, M.Div, MA, LPC, CRAADC

Dwain Edwin Sliger is Director of Counseling Services at Christian Counseling Connection in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. He received his Master of Divinity Degree from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Missouri and a Certified Reciprocal Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor in Missouri.Dwain has extensive teaching experience as a college adjunct instructor. He is a former Navy chaplain and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His professional memberships include the American Counseling Association and the American Association of Christian Counselors.Dwain is dedicated to helping individuals, couples, families, and groups improve their lives as they work through issues leading to mental and spiritual wellness. His therapeutic work includes: anxiety, depression, grief, relationships, trauma, marriage enrichment, co-parenting, and high conflict families. He works extensively with court ordered family counseling.He has worked with the military and the veteran population as a Navy Chaplain as well as clergy in congregational settings. He has worked with law enforcement as a chaplain and counselor.

He uses motivational interviewing, solution focused, positive psychology, cognitive behavioral, and person centered approaches in working with individuals and families.Dwain believes God is able to work in our lives with the assurance of redemption, restoration and renewal with the goal of making us whole in Jesus Christ.He is mindful and respectful of the individual value systems and diversity of his clients and has a strong awareness of the value of cultural diversity in the counseling setting.

Panel Discussion: Traditional Sexual Ethics: Natural Law, Biology, & The Bible  

Kyle Keating, M.Div.

Kyle Keating is a history and theology teacher as well as Director of Student Life at Providence Classical Christian Academy here in St. Louis. He received is B.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and his M.Div. from Covenant Theology Seminary. He served for three years with the campus ministry Cru at Ball State University before moving to St. Louis. He has served with the ministry FirstLight St. Louis teaching about Christian sexual ethics at local churches, and taught biblical theology in Athens, Greece with Training Leaders International. He has been married to the wonderful Christy Keating for seven years and has one daughter, Kira. Together they enjoy reading, traveling, watching sports, and playing board games. Kyle is a elder at South City Church. 

Jannique Stewart

Jannique Stewart was born and raised in Europe and after her family moved to the United States for her high school years. Jannique is a graduate of Greenville Christian University. In 2005, Jannique joined First Care Family Resources, the leading faith based Pregnancy Clinics in South Florida, as a sexual integrity and pro-life speaker. In 2010, Jannique became the Center Director for First Care’s Boca Raton Pregnancy Care Center, leading a team of women to provide counseling and ultrasounds to women faced with unplanned pregnancies and financial hardship. Jannique founded her own ministry, Love Protects in 2011, a ministry focused on biblical sexuality. She also is a very involved Board Member for Faith 2 Action which has helped to pass crucial life saving pro-life legislation such as The Heartbeat Bill in seven states and is a also a Board Member for Personhood Florida, which fights for Personhood status to legally protect the unborn. In 2012, Jannique joined the Life Training Institute as a full time pro-life apologist and speaker. It is here as a pro-life apologist that she feels most fulfilled. Jannique is also an Advisory Board Member for Faith Ascent ministries. She speaks to thousands of teens each year across the America and internationally equipping them to defend the pro-life position using science, sound logic and philosophy.

Austin J. McCartney

Austin McCartney is a co-author and team leader of the Chapter 7 Project at ThriVe St Louis. After teaching Sexual Risk Avoidance Education to thousands of students in and around the St. Louis area, he was given the opportunity to serve the church by studying and presenting a case for Biblical sexuality. Arguing from both a practical and experiential perspective, Austin works to share his story of addiction to pornography and freedom in Christ, as a source of hope to struggling students. When he is not playing baseball or reading theology, Austin plans to spend much of this year enjoying life at home with his wife. Claire and Austin met in the fall of 2015 at a ballroom in South Saint Louis, and were married on April 28, 2019.

Past Faith Ascent Teachers / Speakers

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the lead writer and founder of Mere Orthodoxy. He is also the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. He is currently pursuing a D.Phil in Christian Ethics at Oxford University. He is married to Charity Anderson (PhD Saint Louis University), and they reside in Waco, TX.



Vince Bantu, Ph.D.
Dr. Vince L. Bantu joined Covenant Theological Seminary in 2016 as Visiting Professor of Missiology. He holds a PhD in Semitic and Egyptian languages from the Catholic University of America and serves as co-chair of the Theology Committee of the Christian Community Development Association. Dr. Bantu is an MDiv graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education in Boston, and served the Cambridge Community Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a church-planting apprentice of Dr. Soong-Chan Rah. He also served as a program coordinator for the Emmanuel Gospel Center.Dr. Bantu also holds a ThM in church history from Princeton Seminary and a BA in theology from Wheaton College. His main areas of scholarly interest include theological contextualization, racial reconciliation, early Christianity in Africa and Asia, and theological education in under-resourced communities. He has served as an adjunct faculty member for several institutions, including Nyack College, New York Theological Seminary, North Park Theological Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, the Center for Early African Christianity, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In addition to his role with CMI, Dr. Bantu directs local networks such as the Inter-Minority Dialogue, Minority Scholars of Religion and Theology, and the African American Interfaith Dialogue of St. Louis, and serves as pastor of education at Outpour Evangelical Covenant Church in St. Louis. He, his wife, Diana, and their two daughters enjoy traveling, parks, games, and are huge movie fans.The Historical Jesus: What We Know and How We Know It

Gregory R. Beabout, Ph.D.
Dr. Gregory R. Beabout (Ph.D., Marquette, 1988) is a professor of philosophy at Saint Louis University. Dr. Beabout has received many awards for his teaching and service to students. He teaches and does research in ethics, Kierkegaard, personalism, and Catholic social thought. Informed by his engagement with the history of philosophy, some of his work involves applying personalism and the tradition of the virtues to business and the professions. His research and publications are in the areas of ethics and social philosophy. Dr. Beabout has nine books as author or editor, including Ethics: The Art of CharacterApplied Professional EthicsThe Character of the ManagerFreedom and Its Misuses, and Virtue Ethics in Business and Management. Greg is a member at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church.

Luke Bobo, Ph.D.
Dr. Bobo (Dr. B) serves as Director of Resource and Curriculum Development for Made to Flourish (madetoflourish.org). He is the former associate professor and department chair for Lindenwood University of St. Charles, MO in the school’s Christian Ministry Studies Program. And prior to Lindenwood, Luke also served as Assistant Dean for both the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute and Youth In Ministry Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary. He has spoken and/or preached in Cape Town, South Africa and Goiânia, Brazil. Dr. Bobo holds a PhD in Rabbinic Andragogy from the University of Missouri St. Louis. He holds a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis, MO); a M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia; and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas, Lawrence. Professionally, Dr. Bobo worked as an Electrical Engineer for fifteen years prior to his work with the Institute. He is a regular contributor to The Washington Institute (washingtoninst.org). He sits on several national boards including the University of Kansas Alumni Association, Consortium of Christian Study Centers (CCSC) and The Culture House. And he is the author of “Living Salty and Light-filled Lives in the Workplace” (Wipf and Stock, 2014) and “A Layperson’s Guide to Biblical Interpretation” (Wipf and Stock, 2016).

Holly Brand, Ph.D.
Dr. Holly Brand has been privileged to serve as professor of psychology at Missouri Baptist University since 2000. Prior to her service at MBU she taught psychology for three years at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Dr. Brand earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southeast Missouri State University. After working as a mental health caseworker at the Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Dr. Brand moved to St. Louis to attend graduate school at St. Louis University. She earned both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology from St. Louis University (SLU). Her specialty includes child, adolescent, and adult development. Dr. Brand is married to Todd Brand, president of Brand Asset Management Group, a wealth management firm in Chesterfield. They have three young children, Tanner, Walker, and Tori. In 2000 Holly Brand created Yellow Umbrella Ministries, a speaking and writing ministry for both Christian and mainstream audiences. She is the author of a book entitled Christ & Culture. For more information visit www.drhollybrand.com. Holly is a member at The Crossing Church.

Bum Yong Kim
Bum Yong Kim is a pastor at Outpour Evangelical Covenant Church here in Saint Louis. Before planting the church in 2009, he served college students with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for fifteen years. Bum Yong and his wife Angela have committed their lives to helping young people embrace the mercy of God through Christ and in turn, to love their neighbors, especially those that are marginalized. Bum Yong has taken students on mission projects overseas as well as in the inner cities of the US and specializes in cross-cultural and economic reconciliation. He received his dual degree in art and biology from the University of Washington and is currently pursuing his Masters of Divinity from North Park Seminary. Bum is a pastor at Outpour Evangelical Covenant Church.

Jessica Eswine
Jessica received her J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, where she served as a notes editor for The Journal of Law & Policy. She currently works as a law clerk for a judge seated on the Missouri Court of Appeals, and she serves as a visiting instructor in Integrated Apologetics at Covenant Theological Seminary. Jessica is also pursuing a masters degree in Apologetics from Houston Baptist University. For the last 13 years, she has served ministries to children and youth as well as hosting community conversations addressing issues of doubt and Christian faith at Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Missouri.

Dawn Jones, MA
Dawn is the Women’s Ministry Director for First Light, a St. Louis based ministry that helps couples and individuals align their lives with Biblically informed sexuality and sexual expression. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Trauma Studies Certificate from the University of Missouri. She obtained her Master of Arts in Counseling from Covenant Theological Seminary and is currently in the process of completing a Master of Divinity. Dawn was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. She both teaches and speaks throughout the area. She has a deep desire to help those who are broken to find wholeness and those who are afraid to find peace.

Adam McCleod
Adam J. MacLeod
Adam J. MacLeod is Associate Professor at Faulkner University, Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. He serves as consulting scholar for the Massachusetts Family Institute and a faculty member of the Witherspoon Institute’s annual Moral Foundations of Law seminar for graduate students. He is a former visiting fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, and he formerly served as a Deputy Attorney General of Alabama, advising the Governor and Attorney General in defense of Alabama’s marriage laws. Professor MacLeod writes and speaks in academic and public venues about the importance of the family, religious associations, private property and other foundational institutions of private ordering. He is the author of Property and Practical Reason, published by Cambridge University Press, and dozens of articles, essays, and book reviews in peer-reviewed journals and law reviews in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. He contributes to the online journals Public Discourse and Library of Law & Liberty. Before beginning his scholarly career, Professor MacLeod served as law clerk for state and federal judges in Massachusetts and Colorado and practiced law in Boston. He holds degrees from Gordon College and the University of Notre Dame Law School. He is a member of Christ Church in Montgomery, Alabama where he attends with his wife and daughters. A former and founding member of the Pneuma Brass Quintet in Boston, he is a musician, runner, cyclist, skier, hiker, Notre Dame partisan, husband, and father.

Josh McDowell
Well known as an articulate speaker, Josh has addressed more than 25 million people, giving over 26,000 talks in 125 countries. As a young man, Josh McDowell considered himself an agnostic. He truly believed that Christianity was worthless. However, when challenged to intellectually examine the claims of Christianity, Josh discovered compelling, overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the Christian faith. After trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, Josh’s life changed dramatically as he experienced the power of God’s love. After his conversion, his plans for law school turned instead to plans to tell a doubting world about the truth of Jesus Christ. After studying at Kellogg College, Josh completed his college degree at Wheaton College and then attended Talbot Theological Seminary, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Master of Divinity degree. In 1961, Josh joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ International (now called Cru). Not long after, he started the Josh McDowell Ministry to reach young people worldwide with the truth and love of Jesus.

Sean McDowell, Ph. D.
Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for reaching the younger generation with the Gospel message. He connects with youth in a tangible way through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support for viewing all areas of life through a Biblical worldview. He serves as Head of the Bible Department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools where he teaches Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics. As a high school teacher, Sean has exceptional insight into the prevailing culture and imparts his observations poignantly to fellow educators, pastors, and parents alike. In 2008 he received the Educator of the Year award for San Juan Capistrano, California. His apologetics training was awarded Exemplary Status by the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Traveling throughout the United States and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities, and conferences. He has spoken for organizations including Focus on the Family, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth Specialties, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean has also appeared as a guest on radio shows such as Focus on the Family, Point of View, Converse with Scholars, Stand to Reason as well as shows hosted by Hugh Hewitt, Frank Pastore, Michael Reagan, and others.

Gregory R. Perry, Ph.D.
Dr. Perry is the Associate Professor of New Testament & Director of the City Ministry Initiative at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. Dr. Perry came to Covenant Seminary in 2003, following over ten years of ministry in local churches and on the mission field. While teaching theology in Australia, Dr. Perry chaired a task force to assess and support Australian church planters. He has also served on pastoral church staffs in Atlanta and Northern Virginia, working with small groups, pastoral care, and ministry to single adults. Dr. Perry has been involved in several creative nonprofit ministries seeking to embody the Gospel while addressing social challenges in urban Atlanta and D.C. He is currently a board member of Third Millennium, an organization created to bring theological education to church leaders in the developing world. Dr. Perry has a heart to disciple students in creative cultural applications of the Gospel, which he carries out through the Seminary’s City Ministry Initiative.

Taylor Reynolds
Originally from Valdosta, Georgia, Taylor is a transplant to St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Washington University where he studied history, psychology, and religion and politics. While attending WashU, he founded Kairos, an undergraduate journal of Christian thought. He currently interns with the Veritas Forum working with their Veritas Labs initiative as well as a coach for the Augustine Collective network. Taylor is a leading member of Midrash St. Louis and frequently facilitates group discussions on the intersection of the Gospel and culture. His aspirations include publishing his book and completing a PhD. In his free time, Taylor writes poetry, fishes, watches romantic comedies, backpacks, reads novels, and is starting a podcast. He prefers dead languages to computer languages, existentialism to analytic philosophy, and people who disagree with him to people who agree with him.

John Richardson, M.Div.
John Richardson is a professional mediator and pastoral counselor at Level Path Ministries in St. Louis, MO. John also serves as the Pastor of Congregational Care at First Free Church in St. Louis, MO. At First Free, John oversees multiple care ministries including Celebrate Recovery, Visitation Ministry, Pre-Marital Mentoring, and general Counseling. John has a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary and a B.A. from Fort Wayne Bible College. He is a Certified Christian Conciliator with the Institute of Christian Conciliation and serves on the board of directors for the Association of Missouri Mediators.

Lee Strobel
Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty books and has been interviewed on numerous national TV programs, including ABC, Fox, PBS, and CNN. Described in the Washington Post as “one of the evangelical community’s most popular apologists,” Lee shared the Christian Book of the Year award in 2005 for a curriculum he co-authored with Garry Poole about the movie The Passion of the Christ. He also won Gold Medallions for his books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and the The Case for a Creator, all of which have been made into documentaries distributed by Lionsgate. Lee was educated at the University of Missouri (Bachelor of Journalism degree, 1974) and Yale Law School (Master of Studies in Law degree, 1979). He was a professional journalist for 14 years at The Chicago Tribuneand other newspapers, winning Illinois’ top honors for investigative reporting (which he shared with a team he led) and public service journalism from United Press International. After a nearly two-year investigation of the evidence for Jesus, Lee became a Christian in 1981. He joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, in 1987, and later became a teaching pastor there. He joined Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, CA, as a teaching pastor in 2000. He left Saddleback’s staff to focus on writing.

Frank Turek, Ph.D.
Dr. Frank Turek is a dynamic speaker and award-winning author or coauthor of three books: I Don’t have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Correct, Not Politically Correct and Legislating Morality. As the President of CrossExamined.org, Frank impacts young and old alike at colleges, high schools and churches with hard yet entertaining evidence for Christianity. He hosts a hour long TV program each week called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist that is broadcast Wednesday nights at 9pm and 1am Eastern on DirecTV Channel 378 (the NRB Network). His radio program called CrossExamined with Frank Turek airs on 144 stations every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. eastern. Frank also writes a column for Townhall.com and has appeared on many TV and radio programs including:The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity and Colmes, Faith under Fire, Politically Incorrect, The Bible Answerman, and Focus on the Family. He has debated atheist Christopher Hitchens twice. A former Aviator in the U.S. Navy, Frank has a Masters from George Washington University and a Doctorate in Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary. To help reverse the exodus of young people from the Christian faith, Frank conducts dynamic I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist outreach events on campus. At these events, Frank presents the evidence for Christianity, cross-examines arguments against it, and answers student questions.

Lilian Werner
Lilian Werner is the Director for Women’s Ministries at FirstLight Ministries, a para-church ministry helping Christians align their sexual lives to the teaching of Scripture. Since 2003 FirstLight has been helping men and women who are struggling with sexual brokenness, as well as their families, find hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Lilian has worked as an LPC for 12 years, and has been involved in ministry in various ways. She has worked in church planting, women’s ministries, children’s ministries and adult Sunday School. Her degree is from Covenant Theological Seminary. She and her husband Brad live in South City have 3 children: Inna who is 20 and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and new baby, Ivan who is in kindergarten, and Anya who just turned 3.