Friday, September 9, 2016

Part 1 of "An Apologetic for Apologetics: Children and Youth"


The following is a condensed excerpt of the final paper I wrote in the Apologetics class I took at Dallas Theological Seminary. Essentially, you will read my attempt to convince church leaders (whether staff or dedicated volunteer) that apologetic teaching is necessary for our children and youth ministries today.                     
Part 1 of "An Apologetic for Apologetics: Children and Youth"
American teenagers seem to be leaving the faith in which they were raised in great number. Teenagers are finding alternatives which seem more attractive or compelling than the Christian faith. Some of these youth are going to college and becoming convinced that their faith is unfounded because they encounter arguments they have not been exposed to before, and many become atheists or find something they feel is more compelling. Others simply quit going to church and hold to a vague spirituality. For instance, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, authors of Soul Searching published in 2005, interviewed youth and studied research from the “2002-03 National Study of Youth and Religion” study where they found many teenagers have a similar set of beliefs. They call it “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” (MTD) They hold to a religion that treats people well (moralistic), makes them feel good (therapeutic), and where God is involved just enough to keep things spinning (deism). This is not the only alternative youth are turning too, but it is one that seems pervasive. 1
Some may say that if children and youth are turning away, it is because there are genuinely better options out there. However, if these young people saw the beauty of the gospel, then nothing would be nearly as appealing. If they saw the evidence supporting the truth claims of Christianity, they may not disown their faith. If these young people knew of the goodness and justice of God, they may not fall prey to the MTD worldview. It is not that the other options are better. The issue is that the church is not equipping its members in general or its youth in particular to face those options head on. The church as a whole is not teaching the beauty of the gospel or the evidence for the validity Christian faith.2
Apologetics is the answer to this information deficit. The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics says, “Apologetics is the discipline that deals with a rational defense of Christian faith.”3 Apologetics is the answer to this fast growing dilemma of the Church. If the young people of the church were more equipped to handle the objections and alternatives the world throws their way, far fewer would leave their faith. Christian apologetics is necessary in order to nurture strong faith in the lives of children and youth; families and the church both have parts to play in this nurture.
It has already been mentioned that youth are leaving their faith in great numbers. The National Study of Youth and Religion, 2002-03 conducted a study of teens ages 13-17 who are now no longer religious but were previously religious in some way. It is worth noting that 64% identified as Catholic, Christian, or part of a Protestant denomination. 32% left for “intellectual skepticism and disbelief,” 22% “don’t know why,” 13% “lack of interest,” and 12% “just stopped attending services.” The other 21% were for other reasons. In other words, nearly a third claimed they left for intellectual reasons and almost half (47%) say they left due to some form of apathy. This means nearly three out of every four youth who have left the faith say they have done so for one of those two reasons.4
Apologetics seeks to give sound, evidence-based reasoned arguments and answers to the 32%. Apologetics shows them that we have good reasons to believe the Bible is reliable and true because it is internally cohesive despite being 66 different books written by about 40 different authors over a period of perhaps 1,400 year and externally consistent historically, geographically and archaeologically with other ancient documents of that time. Apologetics can show them that there is great historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Or young people can learn that the Theory of Evolution does not come anywhere close to disproving God’s existence. Others can learn that just because horrible and evil things happen in the world, it does not mean that there is not a God of love, goodness, and justice doing something about it. All of these are a few classic apologetic topics (the historicity of the Bible, the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, the supposed conflict between faith and science, and the problem of evil) which can be used to show that there are many reasons and evidences to believe what Christians believe.
As for the 47% who left for varying reasons of apathy, apologetics also has something to offer here. Anyone who has worked with children or youth will be able to say that both get bored easily. They want to have fun and they have to be actively engaged or their minds will wander off to find something more fun and engaging. Teaching kids the “classic” Bible children’s stories such as Jonah and the Whale, Noah’s Ark, the story of Adam and Eve the way they have been typically taught is not engaging to the students in any given class. Even if they are entertained enough to follow along with the lesson and story the first time, after hearing the same stories over and over again, they become nothing more than church fairy tales. I believe this is why most of those 47% become apathetic and leave their faith.5
There is nothing wrong with the stories mentioned above. They are part of the inspired word of God, but they are more than just cute stories. The Christian faith when studied is fascinating. For example, there are many viewpoints on the stories in Genesis including the Creation story. Rather than just walking them through the days of creation, compare it to what has been discovered through science. Let them talk about whether they believe it was created in seven literal days or over many millions of years and allow them to clarify why they hold their particular view. After a guided discussion the youth should not only be more engaged, but they should have a better understanding of their faith. Others may wonder if miracles are possible. Explore some of the miracle stories of the Bible. Let them question without fear of chastisement whether miracles are possible at all. This type of environment should grasp the attention of more children and youth alike rather than simply telling stories. It is worth noting, however, that no technique or environment will work 100% of the time since each young person is different, so the environment should be tailored for those participating. 
____________________________
1 Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, (Oxford University Press: New York. 2009), 118-171. 
2  Ibid.

3 N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999) 37, Logos Bible Software.

4 Ibid., Smith and Denton, 89.
5 Ibid.
The blogs in the "Apologetic for Apologetics: Children and Youth" series are based on a research paper written by Leah Chapman at Dallas Theological Seminary during May 2016. Footnotes will be included in each post and a full bibliography will be published on this blog at the conclusion of the series.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Kids and Apologetics

"Did you hear about that guy that shot people and then they bombed him [in Dallas]? Why do people do these things? Can Jesus do anything about it?"

"How is Jesus God? But He's God Son? But He's God? What?"

"What does it mean to be saved? Like, how does it work?"

"How do I know I'm really saved? I know I'm doing okay now, but what if I really mess up someday and do something wrong? Will I go to hell?"

These are questions I have been asked by children under the age of 10. I will not seek to answer these questions now, but I pose them to challenge you to think more deeply about your children - whether your own family or your church family - and the curriculum and spiritual nourishment you are giving them. Our kids have questions. Are we giving them solid theologically sound answers?

I recently wrote a research paper about the importance of apologetics training for children and youth. I will be posting parts of this paper over the next number of weeks as well as interviews I conducted as part of my research. We will learn that teenagers are leaving their faith and what we can do about it, what is appropriate material for the varying age groups between children and youth, the role of parents and the church in the nurture of children and youth, and a case study of a church who is incorporating apologetics into their regular children's ministry programs.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Seminary and Ministry

As I write this I am four weeks into my ThM studies. I have learned the skill of observation n hermeneutics, a few  ton of Greek words and grammar, theological concepts, and things about God that simply put me in awe of the greatness of God. I have met godly seminary students who I hope to continue to get to know and befriend. I have begun to get used to this new home and city. I have learned that a Masters degree in theology is a million worlds apart from a Bachelors degree in math.

I began to realize in the past few days that though all of those things are wonderful and I am so grateful to be here, something is missing. Ministry. People besides seminary students. I am learning so much, but that does not keep me from beginning ministry and I strongly believe this is a must. I intend to begin through this blog by writing about my academic studies as well as what God is teaching me through the classes. While this will help me to reflect and further understand what I am learning, I hope it also will minister to you. I hope God will use this to help you learn more about Him through the reading as you vicariously attend seminary through me.

I am going to try to blog throughout the semester. Feel free to discuss with me about any topic of the faith you find here or otherwise (whether you agree or disagree). I love talking to people and I hope you are blessed.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Little Personal History

Today I want to give you a little personal history on myself and where my thoughts and plans are right now. This will be an autobiography of sorts about my time surrounding apologetics and my views on how it relates to mathematics.

I was first introduced to the concept of Christian Apologetics by my father at a young age when we would go out and look at the stars. I just didn't know such a topic had a name. My 5 year old self would stare up at the stars and be amazed at the multitude. Sometimes he would pull out the telescope and we would look at certain stars, planets, and with the right eye protection on the telescope, we would even look at the sun. I always remember talking about matters of faith with my father. It has always been a favorite and frequent topic of ours. (Some might say that my upbringing is the only reason I believe what I believe. It might be a reason, but I assure you it is not the main reason.)

As I grew up, I learned the concept had a name in one my Bible courses at my private Christian high school. During my junior year, I took an independent study of apologetics course. The logic, order, and reason in the universe has always made sense to me and finding a specific subject dealing with just this was fascinating. I was hooked. I read books such as "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist" by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, "A Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel, and many articles from the Apologetics Bible
.

Upon graduating from high school I wanted to be a math teacher or go into ministry as a preacher. (The dream has changed some with time.) Either way, I knew I wanted to major in math. I had been told by some preachers to major in something besides religion if you are planning on going to seminary. The reason being since you will get the theological training in seminary, you do not necessarily need it for undergrad.

Beyond that, I just love math.

I love the order and the reason and solidity behind it. Throughout my freshman year I continued to independently study apologetics and one day walking across campus I had a realization: I want to be an apologist. I still do not quite know what that will entail, but I had a dream.

Math fit into that dream perfectly. 
The summer of 2013 I had the incredible opportunity of interning at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). I was able to learn from the RZIM team, study, and even give a short devotional to staff during chapel. I was able to travel to a conference, and go on a speaking engagement with Dr. Ravi Zacharias himself. I have continued to personally study and go to conferences since this summer. It kickstarted a learning experience which continues still today.

Now, many ask why I am majoring in math if I am planning on going into apologetics and vocation ministry. You see, I believe the two go hand in hand. By the way I see the world, the two are tied together. The things I study in math describe the order in the universe
, which I believe an intelligent God put into existence.

The strong Christian professors in my college's math department have done nothing but encourage this idea and encourage me. They have been a wonderful support team. Someday I hope to use math, my experience in writing and editing for the school newspaper, and my love for God, people, and apologetics to be able to minister to others. 


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

RZIM SI Day 4

What an action-packed day.  Unlike the previous days, I am not going to give a detailed map of the day. If you want one, contact me. I will send it to you when I am more awake.

Today I have sat under brilliant teachers, discussed some of the hardest issues of our day and how we can point to Jesus in them, and I finally heard Ravi Zacharias speak for the first time. I also had the honor of speaking to him and shaking his hand afterwards.  I realize that Dr. Zacharias is human as we all are, but you can sense the powerful and authoritative power of Jesus in this brilliant, yet humble, man when you meet him and hear him speak.

Our theme as been Light in the darkness. Every conversation you have about apologetics, or maybe every conversation in general, should point back to Jesus Christ.  It is about Him. It is not about winning an argument. It is not about showing off what you know. Point your friend, enemy, or whoever you are talking with to Christ. Know the Holy Spirit is the one who saves, but be the instrument God is leading you to be. Follow his lead and instruction. Always point to Him.

"The bad apologist addresses the question.  The good apologist addresses the questioner."
- Ravi Zacharias

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RZIM SI Day 3 Part 2

This is a continuation of the post I published earlier today about my experience at RZIM Summer Institute.

After lunch, I went to the break out elective session led by Stuart McAllister entited "Conversational Apologetics: Practical Apologetics."  We talked about the different definitions and connotations of apologetics.  Negative connotations being defensiveness, which is necessary at time, while positive connotations being simply giving a reason for faith. He spelled out for us the ways in which to engage in apologetics and evangelism in conversations.

Afterwards, Lyle Dorsett took us on a journey with C.S. Lewis.  He describe Lewis' range of influence, how God used his life before conversion to reach people, and how humble Lewis was. Dorsett was a deep and riveting teacher.  He made Lewis' influence clear, but even more so showed how this influence was really only by God's guiding hand.  "C.S. Lewis' influence was wide because he was deep in the Lord," he said.

We closed the day with a showing of Amazing Grace which is the story of the abolition of slaves in England.  It is a powerful story of struggle, reliance on God, fellowship, perseverance, and victory for what is true and right.  It is a wonderful example and testimony on how to persevere under trial.

That wraps up day three!

RZIM SI Day 3 Part 1

Yesterday as I hashed through everything I had learned I discovered it was difficult to sort through it all. Simply blogging about it was exhausting. So, I am going to start breaking this up.  During our lunch break I will recap the morning, and in the evening I will recap the afternoon.

We began our day, again, with worship. Immediately following, Margaret Manning led us in a discussion of John 4 where Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman. She presented something about this story I had never thought of or heard before. In the Jewish culture, women had no right to divorce. Only a man could initiate divorce.  Additionally, a woman's identity was completely wrapped up in a man, whether that be a husband or son. So, this Samaritan woman had been, if you read the story, rejected five times. Can you imagine that pain? Not only do you have no identity, but the ones who can give you identity have accepted and soon rejected you time after time. So why live with a man she is not married to now? Well, it is better than being alone.  How incredible is that. Jesus used this outcast and total reject to reach into the hearts of the Samaritan people. There are so many other wonderful things Manning mentioned that I want to share, but for the sake of time and space I will not for now. 

Next, Cameron McAllister spoke on Dorothy Sayers. She was a brilliant author who combined genres such as science fiction and mystery with theology.  She held that the dogma of the Christian faith is beautiful and an incredible story.  In fact, she is noted for saying, "the dogma is the drama". He continued with information about Sayers life and how God used her dramatic and unique perspective to show how dogma and creeds are applicable to everyday life.

Following a short break, we broke into different sessions. As I mentioned yesterday, I am on the University track.  There we discussed the challenged that Christians face in the University setting. Sitting next to me was a young man from Belgium.  In his University back home, they mock and ridicule Christians and their faith.  His struggle is understanding how he and his church can be a witness there in Europe.  We had a wonderful discussion and I know God is going to do great things with him back home. 

That is it so far! I will update again later.