Why Youth Need Apologetics

Does it matter that the youth at your church get apologetics? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was out walking today past a church when someone saw me who knew me from the past and asked what I was up to. In talking to him, I told about my work with Ratio Christi and asked if the youth of the church were getting anything in apologetics and he told me no. I offered my help and he told me “You like this stuff don’t you.” My reply was that it was not that I liked it, but that it is necessary.

We are multi-faceted creatures. We all know that. Even someone like me who is intellectual strongly has a great emotional and social need. This is something that thankfully marriage has helped to deal with which leads to more strengthening in the intellectual field. Emotional people need something to believe in as well and the socialites should want to be united in truth with their societies.

Our churches tend to deal when it comes to religion with the emotional and social side of faith. The intellectual side falls to the wayside, which makes it problematic when there are several children who grow up with an intellectual bent and do not ever get to hear about the difference their lives can make. My Christianity was always a part of my life, but nowhere near what it was after I saw the intellectual roots of my faith and what a difference it makes and how to think about it.

We seem to have this idea in the church today that we need to draw our youth to having a religious experience and once they have that experience, that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.

How many people on a new job have a great first day and look forward to more and then within a year or two if not even that long are already sick of their job?

We often speak of marriages that have a honeymoon period but when the honeymoon is over, no matter how much fun was had, the couple is not set to go on without a euphoric high of love. Most marriage counselors would tell you that if marriage lasting depended on a euphoria of love, most people would have to get remarried every couple of years.

How many parents are elated to finally have a baby born, but ask them if that same elation is there when the child cries at 3 in the morning wanting to be fed and Mom and Dad have a busy day planned.

The idea of “Hooked on a Feeling” has not served us well and when it comes to the most important truth in someone’s life, we’re telling people to do exactly that.

The problem is that if all there is is emotion, what happens when a stronger emotion comes by. Consider the boy and girl in the youth group who are dating and one night watching a movie and the parents have already gone to bed and some kissing gets started and before too long a lot of hormonal juices are going.

Do we really think that for a boy and girl caught in the moment that all of a sudden a verse popping into mind from St. Paul is going to be enough to deter them? That is a strong strong feeling and you can be sure that without having a place for sexuality in their worldview that they will give in to the pressure. (Note also if the church promised them they’d feel guilt afterwards and they don’t, they might think that maybe the church was wrong about a bunch of other stuff as well.)

When a college professor is up in front of his class railing on them against religion, is it really going to be enough for a student to be thinking about the love of Jesus if he is not even convinced at that point that Jesus is real? Now it could be that he will retreat and say “Well I may not have facts for my views, but I have faith!”

Such a student would have indeed saved himself. The problem is that is the only person he has saved and will save. He has shut himself off from any chance of having an impact on the Kingdom. After all, why should he go out and evangelize if he does not have any facts to share? Is he not supposed to teach the truth? Have we forgotten the concept of truth? Is it so absent to us that we forget that truth means that there are certain propositions Christians are to hold to be true and we are to pass them on?

The reality is, kids can learn this. Even if a child is not of an intellectual bent, they can at least learn enough that they know basic foundations and where to go for more information. They will have a knowledge of how Christianity informs their whole worldview, nay, is their whole worldview.

Such children will be better equipped to face a dark world and reach it for Christ. Such children will be better students, better children to their parents, better brothers and sisters, and eventually, they will be better spouses and parents.

Why? They will have no cognitive dissonance. They will see that Christianity is not just something that they take to church with them on Sunday and it will be really special when they die. They will see Christianity is a belief they can base their lives on and while it has great benefits when one dies, the reality of what it means and the difference it makes starts right now.

Our youth need apologetics and when we see the percentages increasing of students losing their faith, let us not blame atheists. Atheists are not to blame for being atheists. Christians are to blame for not being Christians. Atheists may be the ones that turn them away, but Christians are the ones who have not given them anything substantial to really be turning to.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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6 Responses to “Why Youth Need Apologetics”

  1. Andy Willhoit Says:

    Appreciate this post so much. So near and dear to my heart. I have teenage children and they are getting their dose of apologetics from me. They constantly tell me “Dad, why don’t they teach us this stuff in church?”

    I have approached both our youth and head pastor on a few occasions, offering to come and present this information to the youth (I am a current student via Biola’s Cert. Program), but have been turned away each time. I finally took matters into my own hand and approached the FCA leader at a local high school. He let me come and give a presentation to his group of 20-30 students a few weeks ago. He now wants me to come and speak every year. I plan on reaching out to other FCA groups this next school year too. Our youth NEED to be equipped! Reason and evidence is on their side.

    • MichelleMu Says:

      Nick and Andy,

      Just the other day my sister and I were talking about the amazing training we received back at our church in the 1970s. Perhaps we were fortunate that our church was associated with a seminary that always had a plentiful supply of academics anxious to teach young people – who knows? All I can say is that we were truly educated by the Christian education time in my youth.

      I’m so saddened that a church would turn away someone willing to teach young people. What reason(s) do they give for not taking you up on your offer, Andy?

  2. Andy Willhoit Says:

    MichelleMu, the head pastor said he would go with whatever the youth pastor decided, as he has full authority over the program. The youth pastor, in exhibiting a sense of indifference, merely said that they needed to stick with the existing curriculum, but that I was welcome to help substitute teach if ever need be. It is saddening to me, and frustrating as well. Any opportunity that I have had in driving the youth group around on trips and activities, I am constantly throwing tid-bits of information at them, in a manner that is engaging and compelling. And they absolutely EAT IT UP! They are so hungry to know WHY they believe what they believe.

  3. Jeff Says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that churches have no interest in the intellectual development of youth (or adults, for that matter) — I doubt you’ll mind many churches that don’t encourage their youth to study their Bibles, to be like those noble Bereans, etc. The problem is that they take it as a given that the youth believe, and they take it as a given that the Bible is fully reliable and trustworthy, and don’t feel an obligation to contend for either of these, and the youth aren’t adequately prepared to interact with ideas or people that run contrary to either assumption.

    Apologetics is a fine tool but I think we’d do even better to integrate scholarship, and yes, scholarly controversies, into the warp and woof of how the Bible is taught in the first place. Obviously this has to be done in an age-appropriate and careful way.

    I think you’re spot on about the emphasis on religious experience as the perceived route to a lasting faith. In our area, youth conferences abound, and the goal seems to be to get the youth to a conference to provide them a personal encounter that will ignite their walk with Jesus. I don’t challenge the legitimacy or value of such religious experiences, but I don’t think they provide an adequate basis for faith. There was an interesting post at Thom Stark’s blog (not by Thom) about a former believer who was re-interpreting a religious experience he had had in his youth. And that, I think, is pretty much what happens; if you become convinced that Christianity is false, you just convince yourself that those experiences, miracles, etc weren’t actually real.

    Having said all that, I politely suggest you drop this from your arsenal:

    “How many parents are elated to finally have a baby born, but ask them if that same elation is there when the child cries at 3 in the morning wanting to be fed and Mom and Dad have a busy day planned.”

    It is absolutely still there. Maybe not in the same exact way, but yes, you absolutely still feel emotional love for your child even when he is screaming his head off in the middle of the night.

  4. Thomas Bryant Says:

    EXCELLENT commentary, Nick, and so true. I’m going to try to get some local pastors I know to read this.

  5. apologianick Says:

    Thank you Thomas! I’d be glad to talk to any of them!

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