Why is OCCA unique?
Apologetics is a growing area of interest for the 21st Century Christian. Many recognise the need to be ready to answer difficult questions and to give reasons why Christians believe what they do. But what format should training take? Should I pursue online, distance learning? Or a larger-scale formal course? Or be self taught? Or follow a series in my local church? The options are wide-ranging.
As a former student myself, let me share some of the reasons I was drawn to the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.
Dr. Sharon Dirckx
OCCA One Year Course 2004-5
Firstly, the OCCA is a place where our students are trained in apologetics to a high academic standard with the option of obtaining an Oxford University accredited certificate. Lectures are given by experts in small class sizes of about 20, and written assignments are set and marked directly by the lecturer. Assessment is via tutorials in which the students meet in groups of 2 or 3 to receive and discuss feedback. As part of their preparation for written assignments, the students are also encouraged to develop research skills and make use of the Bodleian Library within Oxford University.
Secondly, at the OCCA, students are given practical training and ‘hands-on’ experience to sharpen their effectiveness in evangelism. All students receive training in communication skills through preaching workshops, discussion seminars and giving presentations to their peers.
They learn how to respond to difficult questions through interactive question-and-answer seminars. They receive biblical teaching to deepen their encounter with and understanding of God’s word in order to apply it to present the gospel. The opportunities to apply this practical training are numerous.
All students are involved in weekly placements in local churches and also participate in periods of concentrated outreach in other universities or cities. They might be involved in anything from street outreach to evangelistic preaching to answering questions as part of a panel to outreach using art and music. The OCCA student is never short of opportunities to put theory into practice.
Thirdly, at the OCCA, we are interested in the whole person. The biblical mandate for apologetics (1 Peter 3:15,16), ‘Always be prepared to give an answer’, is sandwiched between the requirement for personal devotion to Christ (‘But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord’) and a fair treatment of others (‘But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience’). In other words, our effectiveness as apologists and evangelists is inextricably linked to Christian character. For this reason, we dedicate time at the OCCA to encouraging and exhorting our students to become even more devoted to Christ and to allow him to continue to shape and transform them into His likeness.
Our weekly fellowship group meetings are a focus-point for this in which the students enjoy a time of sung worship together and then divide into fixed smaller groups of 4 or 5 that meet throughout the year with the same tutor for the bible study, spiritual formation for leadership, and prayer. During the year students are also given opportunities to assess their spiritual giftings and explore calling and future direction.
Fourthly, time at the OCCA offers a unique opportunity to invest in Christian community. Our students spend time together on a daily basis in lectures, tutorials or fellowship groups and this provides a setting from which long-lasting friendships have emerged. Not only that, but OCCA students are also full members of the Anglican theological college Wycliffe Hall, which is a Permanent Private Hall within Oxford University. As such, they are welcome participants in the sporting, social and devotional life of the college.
Finally, the OCCA is set within the historic city of Oxford, home of the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It offers the opportunity to become an excellent apologist, an effective evangelist and a more devoted follower of Christ within a city of rich history and great architectural beauty.
Why would you study anywhere else?