Apologetics for youth workers

Why Apologetics For Youth Workers?

Jude tells us to “be merciful to those who doubt” (v. 22). Since we live in a time of incredible truth-confusion, it isn’t surprising that youth workers need to exercise tons of mercy! It’s a difficult time to be a Christian young person. Youth daily face what I call the three-pronged pitchfork against Christ. For memory’s sake, each prong starts with S: Science, Subjectivity, and Sex.

 Is Science at War with Christianity?

In Generation Z, Barna’s most recent and comprehensive research study of 13-18 year olds, 1 out of 5 students claim that “Science refutes too much of the Bible.” This can be challenging to reason with since most students don’t actually cite evidence (beyond evolution, or other random examples…). The challenge is more similar to an underlying presupposition which constantly shames our students into feeling foolish for following Christ. Deep down, most students believe the popular cultural myth that science and Christianity are at war. This shouldn’t surprise us since most science classrooms and low-level science books are littered with examples that portray religion the archenemy of the pursuit of fact-based knowledge. Galileo’s story is the prime example. Normally the incredibly talented scientist is set against the mean old Catholic church, the persecuting, science-stopping, villain.1)But see the real story in Rodney Stark’s, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003). Of course, there are examples like this, but most scholars now argue that modern science would never have existed without the cradle of Christianity to protect and nourish it.2)As Allister McGrath puts it: “The idea that science and religion are in perpetual conflict is no longer taken seriously by any major historian of science, despite its popularity in the late nineteenth century. One of the last remaining bastions of atheism survives only at the popular level—namely, the myth that an atheistic, fact-based science is permanently at war with a faith-based religion. Not only is this caricature clearly untrue in the present day, but historical scholarship has now determined it to be misleading and inaccurate in the past. Yet the myth still lives on in popular atheist writings, undisturbed by the findings of scholars. At least in the minds of some atheist propagandists, science is the supreme champion of atheism.” Alister E. McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 87. And the more recent work by Rodney Stark is incredible on this note: How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2015).

The War of Scientism:

The war has never been between science and Christianity, it only becomes a battle when people make science their entire worldview. This worldview is called scientism, and it is the belief that science has more authority than it deserves. The book pictured here was published in 1896. It is bad revisionist history because it blames religion for slowing down science and is an example of how the academy turned against religion. To help alleviate the tension our youth feel with science, we need to provide space for them to talk about it, we also need to show them examples of people who are amazing scientists, while still believing in Jesus. My favorite example of a Christian scientist, because he is also funny, is Craig Hazen. This video would be appropriate to share with any youth in your life who are excited about science and Christ:

Sex:

Christian young people have never needed us to talk about sex more than they do today. If you take the first prong of science and combine it with popular teaching on sexuality, you end up with a toxic combo. Sadly, what is presented as fact is rarely proven by science. The New Atlantis is a secular periodical that surveyed all the recent findings on sexuality from a cross-section of scientific disciplines. Their main conclusion is that popular understanding and application of gender and sexual orientation far outpaces the scientific evidence. This video would be worth showing your youth group to spark conversation:

Recommended Resources on Sexuality:

For youth leaders, it is essential to be up to date on how to talk to parents and youth about sexual questions. The best and most recent books in this field are shown below:

If you need a book to help one of your youth think through identity questions, my favorite is called The Truest Thing About You, by David Lomas, a pastor from San Francisco.

Subjectivity:

Belief is difficult when you are surrounded by people who have obviously different beliefs from you. Just ask yourself how many students in your youth group have friends from at least 3 other religions. It’s obvious that it’s a tricky world to grow up in!

James K. Smith, my favorite author puts it this way:

“Even as faith endures in our secular age, believing doesn’t come easy. Faith is fraught; confession is haunted by an inescapable sense of its contestability. We don’t believe instead of doubting; we believe while doubting. We’re all Thomas now.”3)James Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular, Kindle Location 193-195James K. Smith

As we seek to lead our youth, apologetics becomes necessary not just for doubting youth, but also for ourselves–in a secular world our faith is being challenged everywhere we turn. For this reason, it is essential to help youth see not only that Christianity is true, but also that it is beautiful.

Showing the Resurrection is True:

My favorite resource for showing the validity of the resurrection is a book called Resurrection iWitness by Doug Powell. It is an incredible table coffee kind of book that deals with all possible challenging theories regarding resurrection and does so in a beautiful way. Below is a trailer for the book:

There is also an Apple app for Resurrection iWitness.

Resurrection iWitness

Author: Doug Powell
Was Jesus really resurrected from the dead? What are the facts and what theories best explain what happened? In Resurrection iWitness you will be taken on a journey through the historical facts and theories and see why only the biblical story of the resurrection can account for all the agreed-upon facts. So come to the empty tomb of Jesus and sort through the evidence as you do the investigation.


App Store
 

Showing that Christianity is Beautiful:

Finally, if you are looking to beef up your own apologetic knowledge, the following books are my favorites:

Conclusion – Apologetics for Youth Workers: 

At the end end of the day, apologetics is becoming more and more necessary for youth workers. We need to give ourselves to this task with diligence and passion, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).

 

Quick Guide to Apologetics for Youth Workers

References   [ + ]

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