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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 www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label youth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label youth. Show all posts

Friday, August 04, 2017

The New Generation and the Lack of Struggle



There's a very interesting scene in the movie The Matrix where Agent Smith, speaking for the computers, tells Morpheus how early versions of simulated worlds constructed by the Matrix proved to be failures. He explains:
Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this...
I don't think Smith got it quite right. Human beings don't define our reality through suffering, but suffering definitely wakes us up to what is truly real, what is valuable, and what is important. During the Great Depression, children would go out and work if they could, perhaps selling newspapers or whatever they could find, in order to bring their earnings home and lay them on the table. They didn't demand to keep “their” money. They did it because it could mean the difference between eating something that night or not. They learned that one cannot expect to have every desire satisfied. That's a luxury, not real life.  It's no wonder that these children went off to fight in WWII and became known as the “great generation” for their continued self-sacrifice.

Of course, after the war, things changed. The Baby Boomers were given advantages their parents had never before seen. The Boomers then reared their children with privileges and technologies that were unthinkable two generations before. It is kids from this generation who demand that no one should ever feel offended and who believe that happiness is a right by virtue of birth. It is this generation that has spawned the Social Justice Warriors, who want to wage a war against any imagined slight or bias they can think of.

The Necessity of Being  Just and Wise and Charitable 

Sir Roger Scruton, speaking at the end of the James Delingpole podcast, made a striking observation.  Delingpole noted “Presumably, we're not living in the darkest times that anyone has lived through…” prompting Scruton to reply:
Absolutely. That is part of the problem. But, em, the new generation and beyond has nothing to confront. They've got an abundance of everything, of food, of clothing, a shelter, and opportunities. And, you know, there are some who are less well off than others, but there's a—the element of struggle has been removed from their lives. And I think that's one reason we've produced a different kind of human type, one that's out of touch with ancestors for whom, who required virtue in order to live properly. They had to be courageous. They had to be just and wise and charitable if they were to make their way in society.

They were… In those days, there was a real difference between human types: those who could attract to themselves friends and a circle of collaborators and those who were on the margins. Now, you know, with social media and all that, it helps people to get by without virtue. You can cultivate the substitute virtue—virtue signaling as it's called—and have friendships which are purely spectral, which exist in cyberspace but not in reality. So, it's easy to get by without furnishing yourself with the real moral attributes that you need.

But I think at a certain stage young people will wake up that they've done this and they rebel against it and they do want what is real.
I hope Sir Roger is right and young people will wake up to the difference between what they perceive as virtuous versus what virtue actually is. If we as a culture can only learn through suffering, the future looks very bleak indeed.

Image courtesy Andrew Ciscel and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 (cc-by-sa-2.0https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en) generic license.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We Need More Christian Kids Hearing from Atheists



A Barna Group Study released earlier this year reports some dramatic shifts in how American youth approach the Bible. Today's youth read the Bible much less than young people have even fifteen years ago and fewer Millennials see the Bible as a Holy book, let alone one inspired by God. 1 Of course, the rise of skepticism has only added to young people's disillusionment about God's word. As the Barna researchers noted, the culture has seen a steady rise of skepticism "creating a cultural atmosphere that is becoming unfriendly to claims of faith."2

The skepticism and danger of losing their kids to skepticism and atheism has caused many Christian parents and pastors to try and shield them from non-believing influences. They dismiss any biblical difficulty as something not worthy of consideration or as a sign of faithlessness.

Reactions like this are not new. In 1874, when John W. Haley compiled almost every single biblical discrepancy or troubling passage into a single volume, he answered similar concerns:
Some persons may, perchance, question the wisdom of publishing a work in which the difficulties of scripture are brought together and set forth so plainly. They may think it better to suppress, as far as may be, the knowledge of these things. The author does not sympathize with any such timid policy. He counts it the duty of the Christian scholar to look difficulties and objections squarely in the face. Nothing is to be gained by overlooking, evading, or shrinking from them. Truth has no cause to fear scrutiny, however rigid and searching. Besides, the enemies of the Bible will not be silent, even if its friends should hold their peace. It should be remembered that the following "discrepancies"are not now published for the first time. They are gathered from books and pamphlets which are already extensively circulated. The poison demands an antidote. The remedy should be carried wherever the disease has made its blighting way.3
I think that's well said. While a Christian parent's gut reaction may be to steer their child away from objections or controversies of the faith, it is far better to take them on, take them apart and see how well they stand up in the light of truth. That means your youth group needs to integrate some kind of apologetics teaching into its regular curriculum. Invite an apologist to speak at a mid-week service. Make defending the faith the theme of your next youth retreat. Perhaps even find out how you can participate in one of our Apologetics Missions Trips, where students are trained then taken to a secular environment where they get to interact with atheists and skeptics directly.

We need to prepare our young people for the objections they will face once they head off to college. Kids will her these objections; there's no way to shelter them from the rising cultural animosity toward the Christian worldview. To try and do so may even backfire and produce the very result you had hoped to avoid. However, when you engage the arguments and objections, you may be amazed at how poor they really are. As Haley noted, if Christianity is true, then it has no cause to fear scrutiny. The poison demands an antidote.

References

1. Barna Group. "The Bible in America: 6-Year Trends - Barna Group." Barna Group. Barna Group Inc., 15 June 2016. Web. 26 Sept. 2016. .
2. Barna Group, 2016.
3. Haley, John W. Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible. Grand Rapids,: Baker Book House, 1977. Print. (preface)

Saturday, December 05, 2015

How to Know God's Will For Your Life (video)



Have you ever wondered what God has prepared for your life? How can I be certain my desires match his plan? Do you want Him to use you like He did to the heroes in the Bible?

In this chapel devotion presented before a high school group, Lenny explains one way God prepares us for the calling He has for us.



Image courtesy Anne-Lise Heinrichs and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reaching the Young by Connecting the Past



The continuing exodus of young people from the church has grabbed a lot of church headlines. A lot of churches have tried to stem the tide by seeking more "hip" youth programs, or trying to be more relatable. That may be exactly backwards.

In his book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...and Rethinking Faith, David Kinnaman points out that the disconnect isn't because the church isn't being hip enough, but that it isn't teaching its history to the next generation. He explains:
Intergenerational relationships matter on earth because they are a snapshot of Zion, a small but true picture of the majesty and diversity of God's people throughout the ages, who are citizens of the new reality God inaugurated in Jesus Christ. How can we recapture that sense of historical continuity, of a living, breathing body of Christ—of a divine assembly of the saints alive today and throughout the ages? ...

If younger generations are to avoid the mistakes of the past, young leaders desperately need a sense of what has gone before—and you can only get that sense from soul-shaping friendships with older Christians. Often I am surprised at how teenagers and young adults believe they are the first to think of an idea, a cause, or a way of doing something. (I know because I have thought this very thing.) Eventually most find that their idea was not so revolutionary after all; it just seemed hip and new. Meaningful relationships with older adults who are following Christ will help to ensure that your fresh ideas build on the incredible work of previous generations and that your passion to follow Jesus in this cultural moment is supported and upheld by this whole, living generation of believers.

If you are a Boomer or an Elder, I encourage you to come to grips with the revolutionary nature of the Mosaics' cultural moment. Young Christians are living through a period of unprecedented social and technological change, compressed in an astounding manner, and the longer we take to acknowledge and respond to these changes, the more we allow the disconnection between generations to progress. Ask yourself how available you have been to younger Christians. The generation gap is growing, fueled in part by technology, so it takes extra effort to be on the same page. Frankly, deep relationship happens only by spending time, and big chunks of it, in shared experiences. I encourage you to be ready for a fresh move of God, buoyed by young adults. Are you open to "reverse" mentoring, wherein you allow younger leaders to challenge your faith and renew the church? 1

References

1.Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...and Rethinking Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker Book Group, 2011. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 3441-3453).

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Reach Students with Apologetics (radio interview)



Recently, Lenny was a featured guest on the Urban Theologian radio show, which broadcasts in the greater Phoenix area. Urban Theologian has been bringing stellar interviews by noted apologists; previous shows recently featured Dr. J.P. Moreland, Dr. Paul Meier, and Dr. Paul Nelson among others.

In this interview, Lenny comments on the need for apologetics in student ministry, how Christians can effectively reach out on college campuses, and how to shift the conversation on ideas like teaching about sex. You can listen to the entire interview below or visit the show's web site at http://urbantheologianradio.com/ 


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Report from Berkeley: God is Changing Hearts and Minds

Last month, I was privileged to take a group of students on an Apologetics Missions Trip to Berkeley, CA. This is one of the different Apologetics Missions I've taken on in the last few years. We've engaged with Mormons in Utah, with Muslims in Dearborn, MI, and with atheists and skeptics on campus at U.C. Berkeley. Each time, the trip participants come back more equipped and strengthened in their own faith as well as trained to more powerfully share the gospel with an unbelieving world.


But don't take my word for it.  You can listen to some of the students explain the trip in these short videos we've just produced. In the first video, entitled "Apologetics Missions Trips: Making an Impact," several of the attendees tell of how this trip changed them and their relationship with Christ. In the second, entitled "Marissa's Story: Turning an Atheist Towards God" you will hear how one conversation made a Berkeley student rethink his dismissal of God.

Apologetics Missions Trips: Making an Impact


Marissa's Story: Turning an Atheist Towards God


These stories are just a sample of the great feedback we receive from students and churches who have traveled on an Apologetics Missions Trip. To find out more about how your group can participate in such an event, contact us here. And if you'd like to support these trips and other events like it, just click here to donate securely to Come Reason.

Image courtesy brainchildvn on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, March 13, 2015

It's Imperative that Christians Train for Their Faith!

Mischa Elman was a celebrated violinist who emigrated from Russia to New York and spent many years providing captivating music. His wife tells this great story of Elman's quip after the orchestra was making too many mistakes:
One day, after a rehearsal that hadn't pleased Elman, the couple was leaving Carnegie Hall by the backstage entrance when they were approached by two tourists looking for the hall's entrance. Seeing his violin case, they asked, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Without looking up and continuing on his way, Elman simply replied, "Practice."1
Of course this is an old joke that has many iterations, but there is something that we can learn from this old canard. We value practice as one of the primary ways to develop skill and prepare for important occasions.  One would never imagine putting a musician on stage in front of a packed house at Carnegie Hall without them first practicing. No one plays as a major league baseball player without spending many hours in the batting cages.



However, how do we help our kids practice and strengthen their faith before we send them out to face college professors or others who would seek to tear down their beliefs? College is a crucial time for young Christians as they are establishing themselves and their beliefs away from their parents and the comfort of familiar surroundings. This is when young people will begin to examine much of what they've accepted as true. Yet, if the church has never taught them to think critically or how to respond to difficult questions or objections, how will they be prepared to face highly educated opponents? It would be like asking them to pinch hit for the World Series without ever playing in the minor leagues.

Steven Kozak recently wrote a prescient article asking "Are Christian Students Living Within A Christian Worldview?" He states:
The Church has done an excellent job of providing an assurance of salvation, but had not provided her with any intellectual resources to help her defend the impending onslaught of alternative theories and ideologies that are taught in college classrooms. Personal worship? Check. Pretty good moral compass? Check. Hopes of going to heaven someday? Check. A clear understanding of why the gospel is needed in our world, and how to engage our world for the Kingdom of God, hmmmmmm?2
Kozak notes that "Colleges all over the world are content on teaching every system of philosophy and morality possible, and yet excluding the most influential and dominate system of beliefs in the history of the world."3 Without proper preparation and instruction, many young people will never know the incredibly strong intellectual and rational history that undergirds their faith. They will never know that those seemingly convincing objections to God's existence pale in comparison to the Christian evidence of the universe's need for a Creator, its incredible design, the reliability of reason, the need for a moral lawgiver, and many others.

Tomorrow I will lead a group of Christians in a trip to U.C. Berkeley where they will become immersed in a climate completely unchristian. They will engage with atheists, visit a Unitarian Universalist church, visit a Hare Krishna Temple, and interact with secular students on the UC Berkeley campus. Throughout these five days, they may be challenged and stretched, but they will also better understand the reasons people have both for and against Christianity. They will get trained to talk about issues of faith in a loving, intelligent way. And they will know what it's like to engage others without being tongue-tied.

If your church, school, or youth group would like to find out more about these Apologetics Missions Trips, please get in touch with me here. Come Reason Ministries will work with you to plan an event that will be as transformative as it is faith-building. Just click here and we will send you more information.

References

1. Carnegie Hall. "History FAQ." Carnegie Hall. Carnegie Hall Corporation, 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.carnegiehall.org/History/History-FAQ/.
2. Kozak, Steven. "Are Christian Students Living Within A Christian Worldview?" Stevenkozak.com. Steven Kozak, 1 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.stevenkozak.com/content.cfm?page_content=blogs_include.cfm&friendly_name=Students-Living-A-Christian-Worldview.
3. Kozak, 2014.
Photo courtesy Josh Hallett and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) License.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Another Hidden Benefit of Apologetics: Relevance

Relevance. It's the buzzword of the day, especially for churches looking to capture and retain young people today. Many church leaders have a justified concern that they are losing the next generation, especially given studies like the one conducted by Lifeway, showing 70 percent of young adults ages 23-30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18-22.1 Christianity Today, in commenting on how to keep youth committed to church, offers the advice of "Disciple, disciple, disciple. If your student ministry is a four-year holding tank with pizza, don't expect young adults to stick around. If, however, they see biblical teaching as relevant and see the church as essential to their decisions, they stay."2



I agree that movie nights and pizza parties won't hold our kids; these provide no distinguishable difference from the social lives of most college dorms. But what does it mean to be "relevant?" Here are a few things relevance is not:
  • Relevance is not being hip. Some think that relevance is wrapped up in the style of worship that's played on Sunday morning or how fashionable the youth pastor appears. But that isn't relevance, it's faddishness. If a church is trying to be relevant by importing Ray Bans, beards, and baristas, it won't work. College campuses will always be more cutting-edge than the church, and will change more quickly.
  • Relevance is not using the newest media. While a great web site, sermon video integration, and similar technologies can help the church communicate its message more effectively, it doesn't make that message relevant to its audience. These are methods of communication, but what's being said is more important that the medium used to say it. Advertising has tried to use every conceivable method of communication invented, but in a house of all boys, the sale of pink dresses has no relevance to me whatsoever.
  • Relevance is not offering "how-to" clinics on crafts, workshops on budgets, or cooking classes. I have no problem with churches reaching out to their congregations in offering such instruction. This can many times be a good service to provide to a community that could not otherwise afford to enroll in a community college course or something along those lines. But relying on such activities on their own does not offer relevance in the lives of others.

Relevance Means Making a Difference Where it Counts

So, what is it to be relevant, especially to young people today? The concept of relevance is much deeper than clinics, communications, or pop-culture. Relevance means making a real difference where it counts. The early church was relevant because they dealt with the difficulties that real people faced. While the Greek writer Celsus criticized Christianity as being the religion of "only foolish and low individuals, and persons devoid of perception, and slaves, and women, and children, of whom the teachers of the divine word wish to make converts,"3 it is precisely these individuals, the disenfranchised, that Christianity helped the most through its teaching that all persons bear the image of God and are therefore equal. In a letter written just over one hundred years after the founding of Christianity, the anonymous writer addresses Diognetus who was seeking to understand the attraction to the new Christian faith. He reported:
They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed… They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all men, and by all men are persecuted. They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they still pay due respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life.4
Relevance comes when we meet the needs, the questions, and the struggles of others. Someone who can help you through the real questions and challenges of your life becomes very relevant to you. Community projects reaching to help the poorest in your own community are a relevant thing to do.

Apologetics Offers Relevance

Another way of meeting people is to meet then where they are struggling intellectually, too. Apologetics ministries can greatly help in this area. As apologetics wrestles with the conflicts people face in defending their faith against the social and cultural disintegration we see happening around us, it becomes incredibly relevant. A lot of people have doubts or very difficult questions that they are afraid to share with others, thinking they would be perceived as weak in their faith. Yet, the church should be the first place they come to find answers. Young people are especially searching to find the answers to a host of issues. Their friends and teachers will many times contradict what they've been taught at home or at church and they simply don't know how sift through the milieu to find out what is true. Apologetics can help them get the right answers and help them to share those with others, vindicating them when they are defamed.

Just as guarding against heresy is one hidden benefit apologetics offers the church, another is providing more relevance to the congregation and to the youth. The truth is always important, we should be helping our kids find it and share it well.

References

1. McConnell, Scott. "LifeWay Research Finds Reasons 18- to 22-Year-Olds Drop Out of Church." LifeWay. LifeWay Christian Resources, 7 Aug. 2007. Web. 02 Mar. 2015. http://www.lifeway.com/Article/LifeWay-Research-finds-reasons-18-to-22-year-olds-drop-out-of-church.
2. Stetzer, Ed. "Dropouts and Disciples: How Many Students Are Really Leaving the Church?" Christianity Today. Christianity Today, 14 May 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2015. http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropouts-and-disciples-how-many-students-are-really-leaving.html?paging=off.
3. Schlabach, Gerald. "Celsus' View of Christians and Christianity." Celsus' View of Christians and Christianity. Gerald W. Schlabach., 8 Aug. 1997. Web. 02 Mar. 2015. http://www.bluffton.edu/~humanities/1/celsus.htm.
4. . "An Anonymous Brief for Christianity Presented To Diognetus." Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/richardson/fathers.x.i.ii.html Accessed 4/6/2014.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Questioning the Bible

Jonathan Morrow may not be a name most people recognize, but the author of Think Christianity has shown that he is adept at taking front-line issues in defending the faith and making them accessible to a broad audience. He does this again in his latest work, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority. Here, Morrow delves into eleven common objections to the trustworthiness of not only the Biblical texts, but the general cultural understanding of the Bible as well, all written in a light, easy to understand style.



The book opens with a wonderful introduction addresses specifically to the Christian in the pew. Morrow sets the stage well as he notes that traditionally, pastors' sermons usually begin with the presupposition that the Bible is both accurate and authoritative. However, those concepts should not be so easily assumed, as the culture has become more and more secular, and therefore skeptical of those claims. In chapter one, Morrow next creates a broader foundation for his arguments by showing that faith may be built upon evidence, that the heroes of the Bible built their faith in just that way, and that we as modern Christians are also commanded to provide reasons for our own faith.

Once the foundation is established, Morrow moves into the question of the historicity of Jesus and the historical nature of the Gospels themselves. The former topic is key as the "Jesus as myth" movement many atheists propose seems to be gaining ground today, particularly via spurious Internet sources. Chapters 4 through 6 focus on the collection of texts that make up our New Testament, first showing that the Gospel accounts were chosen neither frivolously nor, as books like The Da Vinci Code would assert, to advance a certain political agenda. Morrow discusses the problem of forgeries that were identified and then shows why the biblical gospels cannot be considered forgeries themselves. H ends this section by showing why the modern New Testament text itself is a reliable copy of what the original authors wrote.

Once the biblical texts are confirmed accurate, the next question would be do they match with reality? While we may have the original texts, that doesn't mean they tell the truth or are giving us real knowledge. Morrow now answers these objections in the next three chapters, which deal with claims of Biblical contradictions, the claim that the Bible is unscientific, and the charge that the Bible is prejudiced or backwards compared to our modern morality. The last two chapters are reserved for issues focused on Christian application of the scriptures.

Overall, the book offers some really great tools to help the reader not only understand but implement the content. Chapters are short and the content is broken up by subheadings every page or two, creating bite-sized ideas that are easy to take in. There are not a lot of illustrations, however every chapter is summarized at its end with its "three big ideas", tips for how you can explain the main points of the chapter within a conversation, as well as a couple of resources that allows the student to dig deeper into that chapter's topic.

One key point is that there are three appendixes at the back of the books, which could really be three additional chapters. While not really fitting into the main scheme of questions that challenge the Bible's authority, they still touch on key issues that help establish the Bible as the authoritative word of God. While the writing style is conversational and friendly, each chapter is properly sourced, with the footnotes found at the back of the book.

As Morrow notes in his last appendix, today's youth are not taking the Bible as seriously as previous generations. Because of the growing secularization of the culture, the anti-institutional attitudes that pervade the younger generation, and the increasing onslaught of skeptics and atheists, Christian kids today have more confusion about the authority of Scripture than ever before. Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority goes a long way in quelling those doubts and reestablishing why trust in the Bible is a rational position to take. Morrow has given the church a gift in this book. I recommend it highly for youth groups, personal study, or simply general edification. You may be surprised—it could even answer questions you didn't know you had.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Epidemic of Relativism Among Christian Youth

I'm concerned. I'm deeply concerned. There's an epidemic spreading among Christian youth today that can have dangerous and perhaps even deadly consequences. What makes this more dangerous is that most parents and pastors don't even realize their kids are infected. I'm speaking of the danger of moral relativism, and how it's become rampant even within most Christian colleges and universities. Ask Christian young adults who have been active in their church or youth group if something like abortion or homosexual unions are wrong and many may say yes. But press them on if they should declare others sinful or wrong for participating in such actions and you may get a different response, one more akin to "It's wrong for me since I'm a Christian, but they aren't so it's right for them."


This idea that the only things binding on an individual is whatever his or her personal perception of morality is has become rampant among our youth today. I have a ministry partner who for the last couple of years also teaches at a conservative Christian college in Southern California. He has told me of how consistently he faces moral relativistic beliefs held by the students each year. He offered one example that is typical: he asked his students to pick a topic and defend it as a writing assignment. A young science major chose to write a defense against the use of embryonic stem cells in research, leveraging such appropriate arguments as how life begins at conception in her paper. However, when asked what the student would do if she discovered that her lab partners were using embryos in research, she replied that she couldn't tell them what to do. Their beliefs are different from hers, so she felt that she had no right to push her morality on another. While her paper read as though she was a moral absolutist, further digging showed that she was only applying that standard to herself, not others.

The Danger of Believing Relativism

This kind of thinking is how tyranny is born. If one cannot tell another his actions are evil, then they will continue until those that would dare to oppose immorality are themselves labeled as immoral. We have seen this in the criminal prosecution of Christians who simply wish to not be a part of homosexual unions. They are fined and their businesses closed down, really only acts of vengeance for nothing more than holding to a moral standard. And now, the kids we send to college hold not the belief that they cannot stand their moral ground, but that they should not stand their moral ground, because to do so is itself an immoral act!

Christians of all people should know that sin is sin regardless of whether one believes it to be or not. If moral precepts are true, then they are binding on all of humanity. Imagine if Nazi Germany was to have won World War II and Hitler was successful in his genocide of the Jewish people. Now, imagine 2014 in such an alternate timeline where every last soul on earth believes that Hitler was the savior of humanity for carrying out such a feat. Would that make it right? Could it ever be right simply because of popular consensus? Of course not!

Where's the Church?

The problem of moral relativism isn't going to go away, especially since the secular culture thrives on it. It is the one way everyone can do what is right in his own eyes and not feel bad about him or herself. Rather, we as the Church need to be doing more to help our young people see that moral relativism isn't merely a non-Christian position. It is in fact a contradiction to the Christian worldview. I think one way to do that is to make sure you have regularly scheduled "hard questions" nights in your youth ministry where kids can ask questions that they face in school. You may want to do this once a month, with each month designated on a certain topic. One month may be about premarital sex, while the next is euthanasia, and a third talking about the legalization of mind-altering drugs.

Youth pastors shouldn't be pushovers here, either, Make sure you investigate the nature of the kids' questions and ask more questions yourself. Have the kids role play as if they were discussing this with an unbelieving student or even perhaps a hostile professor so they hear real objections and they learn how to respond in different circumstances. Have your group go through good books on apologetics and cultural issues, or pass out articles that make the case for natural marriage or why the embryo is just as valuable as any other human being. Talk about why moral relativism itself fails.

The Christian church needs to take this epidemic seriously. Kids not will simply "catch" the Christian worldview from their parent's action and example. We must talk with them about these things, and we need to start right now. To wait any longer could be deadly.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For Today's Youth, Life is Theater

This Sunday, I got into a discussion with a high school senior about the prom. She had a steady boyfriend and she knew they would be attending prom together, but she had grown anxious about him not formally asking her. Why would a formal invitation cause so much anxiety? They both knew they were going and they both knew they were going with each other. But for today's youth, being asked to prom is not what it used to be.


Kids today expect "promposals." If you're not familiar with the term, the promposal is a rather overt and showy way one would ask another to the prom and kids are using tactics that had previously been reserved for significant life-marking events such as engagement proposals. There are many examples. Fox News out of Boston just reported a teen enlisted the help of the local police to pull over his girlfriend so he could ask her to prom. One boy inflated 1500 balloons in his high school hallway and set up a 30' long sign reading "Will you go to prom with me?" and then carried his girlfriend blindfolded on his back to the location for the reveal, complete with a bouquet of roses. I would imagine that it took more hours to plan and execute the invitation than the dance lasted.

Why would kids today make such a fuss over something like a prom invitation? One reason is that it's become expected. The Washington Times reports the phenomenon of promposals really caught on because of two factors: the teen "reality" show Laguna Beach ran an episode highlighting some cast member making promposals and the advent of YouTube which allows kids to video tape their own promposals and get a bit of fame from them. The Times writes that "There are currently more than 40,000 videos tagged ‘promposal' and an additional 900,000 tagged ‘prom proposal' or ‘ask cute.'"

When talking with high schoolers, such as the girl above, a promposal of some sort is now expected. Junior Maggie Gitschier, who was interviewed by USA Today, expressed the sentiment. "Just a simple text asking to prom is not enough," she said. "Girls wait for this forever, so these guys need to keep up the good work and make sure it's cute." In the conversation I had, the girl had said that such acts "Make you feel special." She ended up making a sign to hang inside the pool at his swim meet and asked him rather than risking not having a promposal at all.

The Show's the Thing

The expectation of a promposal concerns me. Our culture has been accused of superficiality, but young people today are growing up in a world where they believe the media really is the message. They hold the production in high regard, but they lose perspective on the weight of the actual event. Kids are investing time, thought, and effort into asking someone to a dance, but acts that will have lifelong effects, such as intercourse after the dance are not given a second thought. According to the CDC, nearly 50% of high-schoolers reported to have previously had sexual intercourse.

I see the pervasiveness of the promposal another warning sign to say that even Christian kids can be more influenced by worldly values than we know. As Christian parents, we need to begin to ask our kids just how important a dance invitation really is. Are they giving it an appropriate level of attention? Are boys being pressured to make such a big display that their actions may be misinterpreted by their prospective dates? While kids like Maggie may think that being asked to the prom is something for which they've "waited forever," missing a high school dance won't change one's life all that much.

What do you think? Are promposals merely the latest youthful act of immaturity and nothing to worry about or are they more serious? I would like to think that we should be trying to teach our kids that big gestures match the big moments of life. Having a popular YouTube video isn't where we should place our emphasis. Developing authentic relationships with God and others should be. What message does a promposal really communicate and what are one's motives for so doing? I'd love to hear your views.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Does Criticism of Homosexuality Foster High Suicide Rates?

Last week, the Supreme Court in Canada unanimously  struck down many of that nation's laws against prostitution. The ruling wasn't because the laws ran afoul of legal precedents, but was because the court held that by making prostitution clandestine, the laws are "imposing dangerous conditions" (emphasis original) to prostitutes to be vulnerable to violence and therefore violates the basic values that Canada holds.


This kind of reasoning is, of course, insanity. Prostitution is illegal because it causes harm to people and communities. For example, it's widely known that men who visit prostitutes catch sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, herpes, or AIDS. They will then go home and sleep with their wives, infecting them. Young girls who are displaced are more at risk for becoming entrapped in prostitution as a legally available service creates a need for more and more sex workers. Making prostitution legal doesn't rid girls of danger; it will more likely make it worse.

However, prostitution isn't the only area where such reasoning exists, even in the church. Homosexuality is another area where confusion has prevailed. On the same day the Canadian court delivered its ruling, Youth Pastor Tyler Smither wrote a blog piece entitled What You Believe About Homosexuality Doesn't Matter. After noting that there is strong theological debate on the issue, Smither notes that 30% of kids who identify as homosexual commit suicide. He then writes, "It does not matter if you think homosexuality is a sin, or if you think it is simply another expression of human love. It doesn't matter. Why doesn't it matter? Because people are dying. Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life." Smither then concludes that we should keep our opinions about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality to ourselves, as it's the morally responsible thing to do. This kind of thinking is well-meaning but just as mistaken as Canada's court decision.

First, it isn't at all clear that "telling a gay kid that you love him and you don't want him to die" will solve this problem. In fact, it may not curb the problem at all. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has published data showing that men who have sex with men have higher rates of substance abuse, engage in high risk sexual practices, and up to 44% experience domestic violence from within their same-sex relationship. So, it doesn't follow that suicide rates are higher than normal simply because others are criticizing their behavior.

The rise in suicide isn't confined to only young homosexuals either. The U.S. National Library on Medicine published a report detailing the high rates of suicide among alcoholics. High school dropouts are also at a higher risk. Tellingly, transsexuals have the same suicide rate as the homosexual kids Smither worries about even after they have completed their surgeries and their transition! It's obvious that the proposed cure isn't working there.

I agree that the loss of life we see for young homosexual kids is abhorrent. I agree with Smither that we should do everything we can to save as many kids as possible. But accepting the person is not the same thing as giving homosexual behavior a free pass, any more than saving young girls caught up in the sex industry means abolishing prostitution laws.  We must try to understand and be compassionate, but not excuse their proclivity to same-sex encounters. Otherwise we will be widening a door that destroys one out of three human beings, which isn't at all a moral thing to do.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CSI has Nothing on Cold-Case Christianity

Crime dramas are one of the longest-running genres in television. From Perry Mason to Dragnet to CSI, people have consistently tuned in to see how clever detective work can uncover the truth about the facts in the case, sometimes even showing guilt on a very likable character. Former cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace has taken all the drama of these whodunits and created a new apologetics book entitled Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels that is just as engaging as any television show, perhaps more so given that his investigation focuses on the question "Did Jesus really rise from the dead?" The fact that this is a real historical question with the most profound implications makes this book more interesting than any fictionalized television show.

Cold-Case Christianity is at once accessible; each chapter begins with an anecdote drawn from Wallace's 23 year law enforcement career, and then uses that example to show how one discerns the truth from the facts at hand. The chapters are short and only deal with one topic at a time, which is perfect for a 21st century audience more accustomed to Twitter than treaties. Each point is reinforced in a sidebar and the illustrations make it that much easier to grasp.

Wallace builds his case by using the first ten chapters explaining how rules of evidence work, then in the last half he turns his attention to the New Testament and applies these rules as strictly as he would to any homicide case. Not only are his results convincing, but the journey is fun, which is not an adjective normally used in describing apologetics books.

Because Wallace also holds a seminary degree and has served as a youth pastor, his application of the material hits all the right notes: there are no theological gaffaws. His apologetic approach is sound and he has familiarized himself with the leaders in the field to know how to put forth the most current and convincing arguments.

Cold-Case Christianity is simply a joy to read and it would be one of the first titles I would recommend to individuals or small groups who haven't had a lot of exposure to the arguments in defense of the Christian faith. I'd also suggest that seasoned defenders read the book so they can learn how to better communicate the truths of the Gospel in a compelling way. As the culture continues to make the false dichotomy of faith versus reason, this book stands to show how one can use reason and evidence to support one's faith.

The detective has found the evidence to show that each of us can be freed from the guilt of our sin. Why wouldn't you grab it?
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