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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Truth Versus Relevance in Today's Culture

When standing before Pilate, Jesus claimed he had come to testify to the truth. Pilate famously replied, "What is truth?" While Pilate's response may seem a little dismissive, Christians shouldn't be too quick to ignore it, especially in our modern culture. Most young people today would side with Pilate here. On issues like absolute morality, whether God exists, or if Jesus rose from the dead, young people think either the truth cannot be found or if it can be discovered, it really doesn't matter much in their lives. It is an abstraction to them; a fuzzy concept where they would argue about the concept without seeing any practical implications.

I've spent countless hours on college campuses engaging in many conversations with young adults about their lives, their concept of morality, good and evil, and religion. I've already written about the girl who told me that she couldn't tell a rapist he was wrong even if he was attacking her sister. The fact that she said this with her sister standing next to her demonstrated that she wasn't taking the question seriously; she was simply trying to win an argument. She viewed the concept of right and wrong as something surreal. Over and over I see this same pattern of confusion in kids who are attending some of the most prestigious and academically powerful universities in the country. They simply dismiss the search for truth as something unnecessary.

Young people are motivated by things that are "relevant"; things that matter to them and are more concrete. They value ideas such as fairness, the well-being of others, or the future of the planet. Christians must be able to demonstrate that the truth is relevant and that what one believes has real-world effects if our evangelism and apologetics are to be effective.

The trend to dismiss truth as irrelevant especially troubling because I know the reverse is true: truth does matter. It is more important than ever to now show how the abstract concepts of truth really matters in the everyday lives of these students and how it affects the things they care about. Here are three ways you can do just that.

Prove that Ideas have Consequences

False beliefs are dangerous to oneself and to others. But that isn't well understood today. It is assumed in popular culture that religious faith as merely a preference to give a person comfort or inspiration; one can find solace in a quote from Colossians or a quart of ice cream. Isaiah or Instagram serve equally well to inspire.

Yet, the real world again and again shows how ideas have consequences here and now. Therefore, the first step is to find out what the person you're talking with cares about. Are they passionate about injustice? Perhaps you mention that Martin Luther King's fight for justice was anchored in his Christian faith. Inequality? Ask them what makes us equal in their worldview. Equality of all people isn't possible in an evolutionary framework.

It isn't any type of religious belief that can produce real world benefits, but it is Christian beliefs that do so. ISIS' motivation is not some generalized view of religion but a wrong one that cannot survive in a Christian theology. Poverty is a serious issue across the globe. While Christianity has not only been on the forefront of aiding the poor through such organizations as The Salvation Army, it's been conclusively demonstrated that in countries where Christian missionaries made a significant impact enjoy better health, greater literacy, lower corruption, lower infant mortality, and better educational opportunities, especially for women. In the Islamic state of Saudi Arabia, some women must humiliate themselves just so they can travel within their own country. Even with the Ebola outbreak, the faithfulness of one man following his Christian beliefs made it possible to save strangers in Dallas who were infected accidentally. Comforting the hurting is what Christianity has always done.

To become more effective in our evangelism, we need to demonstrate why beliefs matter and why truth matters. False beliefs about morality can be just as dangerous as false beliefs about medicine. Christians should prepare themselves to show why. Tomorrow, I'll provide some ways to do just that

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