Do those young people in your church need apologetics? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Yesterday, I wrote on apologetics and the layman. I was specifically focusing on adults, but what about the younger crowd in the church? I’m mainly thinking college age and teenage youth. Do they need equipped? Well let’s look at some scenarios.
Sean has graduated from high school and is getting ready to go to college. He has had excellent grades all his life and decides that he will go to Harvard. He applies and is happy to hear that he has been accepted. Sean has grown up in the church all his life, but he has received no training in apologetics. He would not even know what the word means. He is unaware at this point of how many of his professors are atheists, have been for years, and are ready to let his Sunday School faith be knocked down. Is he ready?
Bill is nineteen and out with his friends on a Saturday night. They decide to get some chips to get together for a night of video games at one of their houses. While at the store, Bill is told to step back as they prepare to go to the check-out line. When he asks why, Bill is told that the oldest member of their group, the only one who is 21, is going to be buying beer. They will be having a party tonight. Bill is a Christian and knows his friends underage should not be drinking, but he doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t want to be embarrassed.
Rick is seventeen and is in his high school biology class. His teacher is teaching him about evolution and is saying “It is because of this that we know that evolution is true.” Bill has no real problem until Sunday when he’s in school and learns that God created the world in 6 24-hour days just 10,000 years ago. Bill doesn’t know what to do. He’s heard one thing in school and another in Sunday School. Science is such a powerful authority. What will he do?
Anne is sixteen and out with her friends shopping one day. They are going through the cosmetics section when Anne notices one of her friends is slipping some items into her purse. Anne tells her that that’s stealing and she shouldn’t do it. Her friend tells her that she’s being a prude and that all the other girls are doing it and unless she wants to get made fun of, she’d better keep quiet. Anne wants to keep her friendships, but she doesn’t know how to confront them.
Kyle is eighteen and he and Jennifer have been dating for two years. One day, they’re over at her house together when her parents say an emergency has taken place and they have to go out for awhile. They are on the couch together and kissing each other heavily when Jennifer starts to reach for Kyle’s pants. Kyle hesitates for a bit. She asks him what’s wrong. He says he’s a Christian and believes in waiting for marriage. Jennifer says she understands but that they’re in love and they’re surely going to get married someday. She knows that her parents have to have some “protection” around the house so it will be safe and no one will ever know. Kyle looks at her. He loves her deeply and his hormones are raging. He has often wondered what Jennifer looks like under all those clothes and what this great experience of sex would be like. He knows all his friends have mocked him for being a virgin after dating for so long. He hears somewhere in the back of his mind that marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure, but those hormones are overpowering him. Jennifer pulls him in for a long and passionate kiss and he wonders what he’s going to do.
Craig is a fourteen year old who has just returned from a church trip where he heard his favorite Christian band in concert. Unfortunately, he did not have enough money to buy a CD, so he decided to settle for the poor man’s version and get on YouTube and look up the song. While he is rocking his head to his favorite tune, he notices a video on the side called “Why the Bible is not the Word of God.” He wonders about that. He’s never heard that before. Maybe he should click it.
Eric is thirteen and is on the school bus heading back when he hears his friends talking amongst themselves, though somewhat quietly. He asks the guys what’s going on and finds that they’re passing around a magazine. He looks and sees a woman totally naked. His hormones start racing. He knows something from the Bible about not having lust, but these are his friends and he doesn’t want to look like a prude. What’s the harm in taking a little look?
Frank is eighteen and in high school and preparing for finals. He is incredibly stressed out and one of his friends notices and asks what the problem is. Frank says he’s just been studying hard and wants to get into a good college, but is just nervous about finals. His friend says he understands and suggests that he try some drugs that he has that have a really powerful way of clearing someone’s head. Frank is a Christian and doesn’t want to get involved in drugs, but he does realize he needs the edge. What’s the big deal if he did this?
Gary is nineteen and is in college and has been approached by someone asking him if he will join the group that is trying to give homosexuals the right to marry. Gary says he won’t. When asked why, Gary says that he’s a Christian and God’s Word is clear on the matter. The person looks at him and says “Dude. This is the 21st century. That’s an old and antiquated book. You need to get with the modern times. Why don’t you come to this seminar this weekend? We’ll be having a talk on atheism and why we know God doesn’t exist.” Gary doesn’t want to be afraid, but he is.
Eva is sixteen and has spent all her life in Sunday School. She’s been taught all the things she should do right. She doesn’t want to drink alcohol. She doesn’t spend time alone with boys in her house or their house. She wants to wait until she’s married for sex. She doesn’t do drugs. She doesn’t cheat on her classes at school. She is an all-around good girl. Unfortunately, she’s never been taught the rational side of her faith and why she believes what she believes. For her, Christianity is all about being a good person. She is unaware that the next good person she meets will be an atheist. This atheist will tell her it’s fine to keep all that good behavior if she wants to. She just needs to get rid of God. He’s not necessary for that after all.
These examples, again, could be multiplied. There are numerous problems facing our youth today and while they are in their formative years, we are wasting their time. There is more emphasis on going to concerts and having pizza parties than there is on learning the Scriptures and how to defend them. There is nothing wrong with concerts and pizza parties from time to time, and indeed our youth should know they can have fun as Christians. The problem is that we are making the basis for Christians be entertainment.
When our youth come to youth group, they are getting entertainment, and God is an add-on. The lesson that they are getting most often is simply ethical. I am not opposed to ethics of course, but ethics need a foundation. I think back to a time in Sunday School when I was in college and we were going through the book of Joshua and were told that the book was written so the Israelites would know to “obey God.”
Of course, the listing of kings who were killed and the division of the land and other such matters are necessary for that. Having all that history in there of what happened, the renewal of the covenant, the miraculous conquering of Jericho, and other such matters was all written just to make that one point. Of course, Joshua teaches us to obey God, but it certainly teaches us much more than that.
All we give people is years of entertainment. With this, we are also not preparing them to be slaves of Christ. We are giving them the idea that they should be always entertained and God will always be enjoyable. It would be worth noting that Paul was not probably thinking “I am having the time of my life” when he spent a night and a day on the open sea or when he was being given the 39 lashes with a whip.
This further feeds the self-serving tendency, the one we all naturally happen. What does that do when one gets the pressure to do something wrong so that one will appeal to friends instead of seeking the honor of God? What does that do when the person you love is really wanting to have sex, or heck, if you’re really wanting to have sex with the person you love, and you’re thinking “What’s the harm? It’s just sex.” For our youth, a few verses in Paul is not going to be enough to deter them when hormones are raging.
Our youth need to be prepared. Eighteen years of Sunday School will not prepare them to meet a professor who has twenty-five years of studied atheism under his belt. They will be more prone to see Christianity as just a set of ethics, and even then they will soon be shown to be outdated ethics, without any real connection to the external world. The youth are not taught what difference the doctrine of the Trinity makes or how they can know Jesus rose from the dead or what the purpose of saving sex for marriage is.
On that last one, I have a huge problem with too many even Christian leaders today using just the Bible. I have a stance on the Bible that says that something is not moral or immoral because the Bible says so. The Bible says so instead because it is describing an accurate state of affairs that exists independently of itself. You don’t need the Bible to know that sex is reserved for marriage. You don’t need it to know that homosexual behavior is wrong.
Yet so many Christians I know, and this includes the leadership, have as their only defense “The Bible says so.” If that is the case, what happens when the person decides to jettison the Bible? What happens when that person is in the public square and has to defend their views? They have to defend all of Christianity in total instead of just one point. Now of course, all of Christianity is defensible, but let’s not make more of a burden than we ought. When we argue for sexual ethics, we are not arguing Jesus rose from the dead, although that influences our ethics, we are focusing on that one battle right there. Let’s not think we have to win the war to win the battle. Let’s win the battles and let those lead up to the war.
Statistics show that around 80% of our young people lose their faith in college. This does not have to be. Why is it so? It is because the church is not doing its job. Our youth are the casualty and the next generation after them will have even more of a problem as a result. The answer to this problem is to start raising up our young people right now so that they can be equipped for the challenges that will face them.
We have several who could be leading the charge. Don’t let them fall in the name of entertainment.