“Isn’t morality just a by product of the evolutionary process?”
“Human consciousness is surely explained entirely by material and chemical processes in the brain isn’t it?”
“If God made man in his own image and he made them male and female doesn’t that make God transgender?”
“My parents raised me to believe in the bible but I how can I when we know so much of it is irrelevant now?”
These questions were levelled at me not on some online skeptics forum but in our church youth group. I immediately recognised God’s hand in this, as it just so happens that over the past year I have spent hours and hours studying Christian Apologetics so that I am prepared to respond to questions of this nature. I spent nearly 45 minutes after one youth session having an in depth discussion about the existence of morality and reason with one young skeptic. Since starting our youth programme in September I have realised the following: 1) The real power and utility of apologetics 2) The need for apologetics in the Christian home.
I grew up in the 90’s. Evangelical Christianity in the UK was at its zenith, the summer bible weeks such as Stoneleigh and Soul Survivor would draw tens of thousands and seemingly every town had its own monthly church youth event. Back in the 90’s these bible weeks and Christian events were a lifeline to young people like me, providing us with a much needed ‘shot in the arm’ for the challenges faced at school and at home. These events introduced me to the power of the Holy Spirit, gave me strength to endure the relational and emotional challenges of my teenage years and provided me with a network of believing friends on the same journey. What they did not do was prepare me in any way for the intellectual challenges to my faith that we’re waiting for me at university. ‘Who really wrote the bible?’ ‘When was it actually written and can we be sure it is telling the truth?’, ‘Did Jesus really exist?’ Questions not posed only by unbelieving friends after a night out but by lecturers on my course. Had it not been for the strength of teaching and community I found at St. Aldate’s, Oxford during those years I would have struggled. In 2017 these challenges will find our children long before they reach university. Culture has changed, the idea of the normative, nuclear family unit which prevailed during my school education has been ripped apart. Our children increasingly will be taught the exact opposite at school of what they hear in Sunday school where it pertains to family and sexuality. Then there is the challenge of reconciling what their biology teacher has taught them about Darwinian evolution with the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2. While we teach our kids the kingdom principles behind biblical stories they are questioning whether any of it actually happened! If we don’t address this now our children’s faith will suffer shipwreck on account of our ignorance.
The same solution which worked so effectively for my generation won’t work now. Many feel that all we need is more high quality Christian youth events, ‘relevant’ guest speakers and modern worship. The problem is, we’ve all been trying that and it isn’t working. Any marquee Christian event these days has to compete with Netflix, YouTube, social media and online gaming for the attention of young people. They have all the entertainment they could possibly want at their fingertips and they’re almost inextricable from the device that provides the entertainment. If we want to reach our children and young people with the gospel and equip them to withstand the challenges in culture we are going to have to change our gameplan, we’re going to have to start closer to home. The most influence I have as an apologist is in the lives of my two daughters. I have the privilege of hearing my four year old’s honest questions about God, the bible and the world before anyone else will. As a parent you have the unique responsibility to ‘train up your child in the way they should go’ (Prov 22:6), you are tasked with helping your child to shape their worldview. Every Christian parent is their child’s foremost apologist. The responses you give to their questions will inform their foundational, core beliefs about God, Christianity and the nature of reality. I read the Bible with my four year old regularly but alongside this I use things she watches on YouTube or television to get talking thoughtfully about other issues. For example, I found her watching a short film depicting Hindu gods in a powerful and attractive way so we talked about the differences between Jesus and these gods and why it makes good sense to pray to Jesus. My aim is to help her and my other little girl to think clearly and critically for themselves. You don’t have to be a genius to begin to use apologetics in the home, all you need is a few good resources and to stay one step ahead of your kids! Websites such as Stand to Reason, Reasonable Faith and Natasha Crain’s blog are great places to start.
If we abdicate our responsibility to train up our children in the Christian faith we shouldn’t be surprised when they abandon it as soon as they leave home. The Sunday school teaching that sustains them through their teens won’t get them through their twenties. Discipleship starts at home and it needs to be robust, well-reasoned and regular.
by Graham Phillips