Apologetics: An Alternative for the Next Generation
The next generation of Christians commonly finds themselves between a rock and a hard place. We’ll call the rock Nominal Christianity. We’ll allow the hard place to be Skepticism.
Nominal means in name only. Nominal Christianity then is an inauthentic faith that is only associated with Christianity in name. Nominal Christianity means attending church most Sunday mornings if the person wakes up on time, or wasn’t out too late the night before. Nominal Christianity never deals seriously with sin, hasn’t opened the Bible in years, hasn’t shared the gospel in, well, probably ever. It almost certainly would never be a part of any intimate fellowship with other believers. Its faith is privatized and kept at arm’s length.
Unfortunately, this has been the model for many, if not most, young Christians from what I can observe. It seems so commonplace that Nominal Christianity simply is authentic Christianity in the eyes of many, including the next generation.
The next-generation believer cannot maintain this image of their faith for long. One of two things will happen. Preferably, they will come face-to-face with a genuine faith that takes Jesus seriously and actually has the power to transform a life. That is what I hope for. However, it seems pretty common instead for a young believer to come face-to-face with skepticism.
Skepticism isn’t necessarily bad. It is good to be skeptical and it is good to ask questions. What isn’t good is being faced with questions and having no idea what to do. This is the problem a nominal faith creates. The young Christian has never seen faith taken so seriously that it can actually withstand skepticism. The nominal Christian doesn’t seek answers to difficult questions, they simply “take it on faith” (whatever that means). Their Christianity doesn’t stimulate the intellect, it merely panders to their emotions and makes them “feel good.” This pseudo-faith isn’t engaged seriously enough to find answers to objections.
So what does the young Christian do? We can hope they have enough sense to look for answers. Surrounded by a nominal faith, though, who will they turn to? They must reach outside their immediate context, something not all are willing to do. Thankfully, with the growing interest in apologetics (which I define here in a moment), a simple Google search could land you on a helpful website. Nonetheless, you see the problem. The young Christian’s nominal faith is challenged, there are no answers in the immediate context, and they are left to make a decision. Many choose to walk away.
Enter: apologetics. Apologetics (from the Greek word for “answer” in 1 Peter 3:15) is the area of theology that seeks to provide rational answers to common objections to the Christian faith.
There are many reasons young people leave their faith and they aren’t all intellectual. I’m not saying that apologetics can save the day and keep all young Christians from walking away from their faith. However, it can help.
Apologetics obviously takes the faith seriously, so it is immediately set in contrast to Nominal Christianity. Where nominal Christianity keeps the faith at arm’s length, apologetics offers a welcoming embrace. Learning rational reasons for the existence of God, resurrection of Jesus and the validity of the Bible as God’s word causes a young Christian to realize the reality of it all. They no longer have to “take it on faith,” which for most really means “blind faith.” They find there are actually reasons to believe these things, and that makes it real. It makes faith more personal. Often this is what we mean when we say, “My faith became my own.” This is the effect apologetics can have on a young believer.
Apologetics also serves to fend off skepticism. To become familiar with apologetics, and more so philosophy, leads believers to discover a good kind of skepticism. Perhaps, the better word here is actually thinking critically. It is good to think critically. One who is interested in apologetics and philosophy learns this early on. But in the case of being faced with difficult objections by skeptics, apologetics exists for this very reason. It is the very purpose of apologetics to answer the critic.
If the next generation finds themselves between the rock of Nominal Christianity and the hard place of Skepticism, apologetics can help. Apologetics takes the faith seriously and serves the purpose of answering tough questions.
Originally published at HelpMeBelieveBlog.com. Reprinted with permission.