About twenty years ago statistics began coming to light that the church was losing way too many of its young people. Apologists began moving toward reaching college age Christians who were subject to teachings that were hostile toward their Christian beliefs. Some estimated the percentage of Christian young people losing their faith as high as eighty-five percent. Other statistics were around fifty percent. Even losing one out of two college-age Christians is too many, in my opinion. The swell of talks, articles and books on how to prevent this disaster added to the rising tide of apologetic material. Ministries emerged (and are emerging) to reach this age group. It also became apparent that high school and junior high students were subject to material challenging foundational Christian doctrine. Now, you can find every conceivable challenge to Christianity on the internet where sites devote themselves to debunking Christianity. Christ’s resurrection, the existence of God, and anything ranging from questioning the historical Jesus to the idea that early Christians borrowed from other religious myths to create the gospel story can be found here. It becomes pretty clear that this situation is important and needs an urgent response.
A Changed World
It is important to recognize the world has changed, and by “the world” I mean culture - American culture. Christians are not the vocal majority, nor do Christian values mean anything to most people. We have watched the decline of Christian morality and values in our society. Now, what?
It is both important and urgent that the church learns to defend the historic Christian faith that rests upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. From my perspective, we are in a fight that will claim all our young people if we are not diligent to persevere, roll up our sleeves, or prepare our minds for action, as the Scripture command us (1Peter 1:13). It is also urgent we begin to think and act like an army and not a militia.
Also from my perspective, parents of young children (especially) must learn the reasons why they are Christians and be able to defend those reasons with cogent arguments that can persuade the naysayers. Parents must learn to do this so they can teach their children the reasons why they believe Christianity to be true.
I made a mistake, and I own it outrightly. I hope to help the parents of this and future generations not to make my mistake. When I pastored and was the parent to my young children, I believed the influence of my godly lifestyle and simple presentation of gospel truths were enough to win and keep my kids as Christians. I thought to teach them Christian values was enough. What I didn’t teach my kids were the reasons why I believed my beliefs were right. I didn’t show them the evidence why I believed God exists, that Jesus rose from the dead, and why the Bible is reliable. I didn’t arm my children with the reasonable arguments for Christianity, just the emotional and experiential ones. Each of them has wrestled and been unsteady with their relationship with Jesus because of this. Clearly, I don’t believe it is “either-or”, but “both-and.” Children need to know the reasons and see examples of the outworking of the beliefs. They need to sense God’s presences and experience his love, but what the heart believes the mind does seek to know as well. Having reasons for faith is a foundational necessity.
What I should have done was be proactive in “homeschooling” my children with the reasons why I believe Christianity is true. By homeschooling, I mean taking the reigns to make sure my kids knew the reasons why our experiences were valid. Sure, being in an exciting worship service is a plus. So is having friends in the church who demonstrate the love, grace, and mercy of God. I don't discount those aspects in any way. We also had a wave of momentum that made us feel strong and influential. We asked, “How could anyone miss this witness?” Evidently, many of our kids did.
So here’s my plan to help the church, parents, and grandparents, train up a new generation of on fire, intelligent soldiers for the army of God. First, learn the basics of apologetics. It is urgent to know the basics yourself begin and keep the discussion going. Many parents don’t know how to defend against something like Evolution. Evolution is something your kids will encounter relatively young. Atheism will be riding on this teaching and Atheism will be introduced to them at an early age. Evolution is the first subject your kids will find that discredits Christian values. So here is the first step: learn the basics.
So, the basics to learn are one, the arguments for God’s existence, what is called the argument from origins. Technically, these are the cosmological arguments which demonstrate God’s existence both in creating and sustaining life as we know it.
Then two, the arguments from design or the teleological arguments. These show the universe has elements of design that point to intelligence. The Intelligent Design movement (ID) has done a lot of work in this area. However, they stand in a place of neutrality when it comes to affirming what intelligence they are promoting. Even though many of ID community are Christian, some are Muslim, some agnostic. ID has a lot to offer and utilize.
Then you must become more than acquainted with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is an enormous amount of evidence for the existence of the historical Jesus, the reliability of the New Testament documents, the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, and the early church’s activities. Personally, this is my particular area. I find this evidence compelling toward belief in Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God and Savior of the world.
I find there are questions about the resurrection appearances of which most Christians do not want to talk. The reason being they don’t know how to reconcile what appear to be contradictions in the text. We’ll deal with this more in future blogs.
Finally, everyone should learn to think critically. That is, determine to think seriously and seek truth in your thinking. Put your emotions in their rightful place behind your thoughts. Let your emotions follow the truth rather than lead you to the truth. How you feel about something matters little unless it is a well thought out conclusion, held up to the light of Scripture and the truth of reality.
I once receive an email from a parent of a teen (I’ve received more than a few) asking for help. The parent, in this case, mom, was distraught that her son had tossed his Christianity out for a scientific, realistic belief. Her son told her that she based her views on fairy-tales. You know he didn’t come up with that by himself. My heart sank as I knew this was a tough uphill fight for this mother as it is a tall order to keep her cool, learn the arguments and keep her son from delving further. She would be playing catch-up all the way.
It is important to determine the general topics. Any soldier will tell you he must learn the enemies strategies and tactics too. I find few Christians who are willing to study the basics of Evolution and when their child comes home from school asking questions about Darwin’s theory they tell their kids something like, “Well, we don’t believe that.” Or, “That’s not in the Bible.” Clearly, these are pat answers, not well thought out, shot from the hip. Kids will walk away agreeing but secretly questioning or comparing the thoughts they’ve heard.
Let’s go back to Eisenhower’s quote: It is both urgent and important that parents of young children address this problem and learn the basics of apologetics to teach their children the same. I add to this that it is crucial and important for grandparents, too.