Read Part 1.
I have begun this series with this three-part introduction, trying to bring attention to the matter of Truth and the authenticity of our allegiance to it as Christian parents. My concern is that Christians nowadays do not prize Truth for what it is—an attribute of God—but rather treat it as something they can use a bit of when they think it needful. Francis Schaeffer used to say that the Church should live out what he termed “true truth” before the world. But the Church has forgotten the importance of Truth, and its role as the witness to the Truth in this dark and deceitful age. Truth must come first. Our preferences are not that important.
I realize that in putting matters this way I am not going to make many friends. But I am not concerned with making friends so much as with telling it as it is. And the fact is young people raised in Christian homes and attending evangelical churches are leaving those churches in droves.
According to a Barna poll 66% of these kids are deserting their Christian upbringing. And the figure may be even higher. A survey conducted by the SBC asserts that 88% of young people walk away from the faith never to return. And there is no sign of any abatement. Something is badly amiss, and Christian parents especially need to stop pretending everything’s okay so long as their kid or teenager has a good time at church.
Loyalty and Credibility
In surveys which have been done of young people who have “the Faith” the issue of deep commitment to what we Christians claim to believe crops up continually. Young people can sense when we are believing Christianity for its usefulness or pragmatic value, vs. when we are believing it because we know it is true and our allegiance is to it as Truth. The former carries no assurance because Truth is being used as a prop for our life-choices. The second is in rather short supply in our evangelical churches.
There is a lack of integrity and sincerity about the Church today. Sincerity is the great by-product of holding loyally to the objective Truth of God’s Word. The term Paul used when describing the “Belt of Truth” in the Christian Armor (Eph. 6:14) demands such loyalty. You can’t put on this “belt” if you don’t prize Truth. You don’t prize Truth if you don’t submit to it and internalize it.
The Truth ought to have the sort of authority over us that old-fashioned Headmasters had over school children. But too often Truth is treated like modern Headmasters are. They have a position of authority, but there is very little they can do with it, and the kids who pay lip-service to them know this. Insincere people tend to let the side down and don’t much care if they do. Sincere people who have placed themselves in subordination to the Truth, whatever the cost, have the kind of integrity which our young people are looking for.
What It Takes
My big concern in this series is how to use apologetics in evangelizing and building up our children, whether they are aged eight or eighteen. But I felt I needed to stress this issue of authenticity: the difference between using something true and committing to it because it’s true. To do this we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about our churches. Does our local church emphasize Bible doctrine, or is doctrine and theology never really discussed? Does the leadership have an unequivocal stance on the six days of creation and Noah’s flood? When was the last time the ugliness of sin was spelled out in a sermon? We must ask ourselves, Did we choose our fellowship primarily because of its commitment to the Truth, or did we choose it for the music or the programs?
1 Peter 3:15 tells us to,
sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
Here is the classic verse for Christian Apologetics. We are to be “always ready” to defend the Christian Faith. We are always to be able to “give a reason for our hope.” But please do not overlook how the verse starts: “sanctify [that is, set apart] the Lord God in your hearts.” To set God apart in our hearts demands of us that we allow His Truth to have full authority over us. In Christian venues where Truth is not seen as primary, we must respectfully depart and seek out those that do. No one leaves the Faith over the music. They do leave—and are leaving—over the matter of Truth. Let us defend the Truth, but let us be real!
Inculcating the Right Worldview
The Bible has a very specific and definitive outlook on the meaning of life. In the parlance of modern culture such an outlook is called a worldview. There has been a lot of talk about worldview in recent years, and this is on the whole a good development. Worldviews are very important, and appreciation of them, and of the Christian-Biblical Worldview in particular, is without doubt a great benefit.
Briefly: What a Worldview Is
A worldview is basically the lens or prism through which a person “looks,” and with which they interpret most of life. There are many definitions, some good, some not so good, but the key element of a worldview is a commitment of the heart. I don’t say total commitment. To be sure, no one consistently follows their worldview—and few in fact realize there is one to follow. But we all have one, and its influence upon us is often pronounced, for good or ill.
To illustrate this just think about the kinds of messages around us which tell us how to think:
- “Listen to your heart”
- “You have your truth and I have mine.”
- “People who think they are right and others are wrong are just bigoted”
- “We evolved from some prebiotic slime and are here by cosmic accident.”
- “We decide our own fate.”
These are all sayings which proceed from a false worldview, but a pretty prevalent one all the same. These sayings each are tinged with a pretended moral authority which makes them appear more imposing than they are. And people who absorb these kinds of beliefs will always tend to have little use for the concept of Truth as we’ve discussed it; or for absolutes, or indeed God. They will have no answers to the Big Questions of Life: the kind of questions teens often ask (a subject to which we’ll have to return). And the more tenaciously these trite sayings are held, the less patience these folks will usually have for Christian answers.
One thing is for sure: if any of these pat opinions take hold in the hearts of our kids, Christian Truth claims will be held with less conviction—maybe they’ll settle merely temporarily at the most superficial level of a childhood habit? We don’t want that!
Here I hope you begin to see why apologetics, the defense of the Truth of the Christian Bible and its worldview, can be a great asset in encouraging right thinking. And let no one persuade themselves otherwise—it is thinking!
Consider this insightful observation:
[T]he Christian world-view takes seriously the teaching that God lays claim to all of life, and is opposed at every point by the counterclaims of his adversary. Ultimately, there is no spiritual neutrality in either scholarship or literature, sports or agriculture, art or journalism. Everywhere there are forces which seek either to honour the Creator’s intent or to replace it with a substitute. (A. M. Wolters, “World-view,” in New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, edited by W.C. Campbell-Jack & Gavin McGrath, 761)
Parents of younger kids and teens need to be switched on to the reality of this interminable spiritual warfare that is fought in the realm of ideas. We cannot, as Christians, believe in neutrality in any sphere. Everything we meet with comes “worldview-loaded.”
Abstinence from the world is unscriptural, unworkable, and dangerous. We must be able to guide ourselves and our children in right thinking about the mixed messages they’ll encounter. To help them identify the Christian Worldview and see through false worldviews when they rear their heads (as they do every day)—that is a powerful gift we can give them.
We must place our kids in the kinds of settings where they are encouraged and trained to think biblically. We must seek to surround them (I do not say imprison them!) with influences which steer their hearts toward the claims of God upon them as His creatures. They must be trained to recognize the messages all around them for what they are: either for Christ or against Christ!
Beginning next time, we will see how this can be done.
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.