How do I explain abortion to my children?

By Michael C. Sherrard

These kinds of questions keep you awake at night. Knowing how and when to talk to your children about sensitive issues isn’t an exact science. But we better figure it out quick. While we contemplate the best way to do it, our little ones are being taught by someone else. The internet, social media, and public education have changed the rules of the game. With that in mind, here are four practical suggestions for parents and church leaders on how to get ahead of the issue and teach your children about abortion.

explain abortion children

1. START EARLY. 

Parents always struggle with “how soon do I allow my children to see the brokenness in the world?” My wife, Terri, and I err on the side of sooner than later. I want the first time my children to be horrified by the brokenness of our world to be in the safety of our company and in the context of the gospel. Besides, in the tech age, I’d be foolish to think I can keep the filth away. It will find them. My children need to be ready for when they encounter the darkness.

We need to be proactive in teaching our children. This doesn’t mean that we the force the issue, though. A good way to be proactive but not overbearing is to use questions to gently bring up sensitive subjects. They way I broached abortion with my oldest daughter (age 7) was by asking her if she knew why I went on a recent trip to England. She said, “to speak.” I said, “Yep. I went to speak about abortion. Have you heard that word before?” She shook her head no. I left it there. One minute later she asked what it meant, and we had an amazing conversation.

Good teaching requires knowing your children’s knowledge and assumptions. Bad teachers simply lecture and then patronizingly ask, “Does that make sense?” Don’t do this with your children. Instead, ask your children questions to find out where they are on abortion. Are they oblivious, disinterested, or already educated? Find out. Asking questions also allows for self discovery. You’d be amazed at the insight of seven year olds. They are already making sense of the world. They are forming their moral framework. When simply asked a question and introduced to abortion, children often know what to think if it.(1)

 

2. SIMPLIFY THE ISSUE.

Children, and adults for that matter, are confused about the pro-life position. We must simplify it. People need to know that we are pro-life because we believe it is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Abortion is the killing of an innocent human being. Therefore, we believe abortion is wrong.

Children also need to know the reasons that support this belief. They need to know that along with scripture we are pro-life because science and philosophy direct us to be. Science informs us that from the earliest stages of development the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. And philosophically, we understand that there is nothing morally significant in the difference between an embryo and adult that would justify killing the unborn. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not good reasons to kill the unborn.(2) 

The case for life is reasonable, rationale, and remarkably simple. Children easily grasp it. Use questions to simplify the issue, teach the pro-life syllogism, and explain the science and philosophy that support our conclusion.(3) Here are some questions you can use.

  • “Is it okay to kill humans?”
  • “Are the unborn human, and if not what are they?”
  • “Would it be okay to kill unborn humans because they are smaller, not aware of themselves, dependent on their mom for survival, and living in her womb?”
  • “Are humans valuable because of what they can do like be self-aware and able to care for themselves? Or are they valuable because of what they are, a human being?”
  • “If the unborn are valuable because they are human, what should we do with them?”

There you go. It’s that simple. You can teach your children the scientific and philosophical case for life by having a conversation directed by the right questions.

 

3. TALK ABOUT IT FROM THE PULPIT.

I understand that many pastors don’t want the controversy that might accompany speaking on a social issue, but neutrally isn’t an option when it comes to abortion. Children are very observant. When the church is silent on abortion one of two things is communicated to them: either that abortion is tolerable or that it is unforgivable. Both positions are false.

The sin of abortion is a horrific sin for which the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient. People in our congregation need to hear that abortion is wrong and that there is mercy, forgiveness, and healing for those who have participated in one. When the pulpit addresses abortion, it shows the relevancy of Christianity to our children. It shows that it speaks to all of life. Speaking on it also allows sin to be seen in a concrete rather than abstract manner which makes the gospel more tangible. If you want to faithfully teach your children about abortion, the pulpit must be involved. When it is not, the church undermines the work in the home. (4)

 

4. CARE FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY ABORTION.

Training our children to be pro-life doesn’t mean that we just make then apologists. We want them to serve and love those affected by abortion. Whether this means that they serve in a local pregnancy resource center, or simply show compassion to their friends who have had an abortion, actively loving those affected by abortion must be stressed.

Do this as a family or a church family. Our youth group went and served our local pregnancy resource center by doing odd jobs for them. Our youth painted, cleaned up the grounds, folded clothes, and many other things. They also were given a short presentation by the director educating them on what the resource center did for woman. Many of our kids had no idea what the resource center was doing. This experience opened their eyes to the compassion in the pro-life movement and the reality of abortion in a way that words never could.

 

Parents, church leaders, we must be motivated. Children are almost always ready for more than we give them. Knowing when they are ready for something isn’t always clear. But I would rather make a mistake a time or two of addressing something too early rather than too late. So start early and teach the simple pro-life message in the home and the church, and may we all show the compassion that springs from the love of our Lord.

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(1) Check out “Children asked about Abortion” by my friends at the Human Coalition..

(2) See “How to Defend Your Pro-Life Views in 5 Minutes or Less” by Scott Klusendorf for an excellent, concise summary of the pro-life position.

(3) A syllogism is simply a conclusion that is supported by reasons. This is the pro-life syllogism in case you missed it.

  •  Premise/Reason 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
  •  Premise/Reason 2: Abortion is the killing of an innocent human being.
  •  Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

(4) I am a pastor, and I’ve experienced the fruit of speaking an equipping, gospel centered message on abortion. Pastors, you can win on this issue. You don’t need to fear taking it on. For our story and some resources on how to do this is your church, visit the Pro-Life Pastors Initiative at plpi.info.

________________________________

Michael C. Sherrard is a pastor, the director of Ratio Christi College Prep, and the author of Relational Apologetics. Booking info and such can be found at michaelcsherrard.com.

 


 

How Should Christians Talk about Homosexuality?

Joe Dallas is one of the most articulate people who address homosexuality and the church. He is an author, blogger, and professional counselor. While I have been a fan of his writings for years, we sat down for coffee recently and got to connect in person. As a result, he gave me the opportunity to endorse his most recent book Speaking of Homosexuality. While there are some excellent books on the Bible and homosexuality, this book now stands out to me as one of the best. I highly recommend it for its content and gracious approach.

Dallas answered a few of my questions. Check out this interview, and if you enjoy it, consider getting a copy of his timely book.

Christians Homosexuality

SEAN MCDOWELL: You’ve written a number of books on how the church can address homosexuality. Why another book? What makes this one unique?

JOE DALLAS: I’ve had the pleasure of writing books for people who are affected in different ways by homosexuality – families with gay loved ones, for example, or individuals struggling with their own sexual feelings – but this time I’ve been able to write a book for the average Christian who wants to dialogue with gay or pro-gay people. So many of us know what we believe, but we’ve been unsure how to express those beliefs, or when it’s appropriate to express them, or how to express them without coming across like a bigot. That’s why I wrote Speaking of Homosexuality.

SEAN MCDOWELL: You have been writing on this subject for roughly two decades. How have you seen both the issues and manner of the debate change?

DALLAS: If you hold the Traditional view on homosexuality, you’re definitely on the defense now. Not too many years ago, the majority of Americans believed homosexual behavior was wrong. But today, the culture has come to believe that if you think homosexuality is a sin, then you’re the one with a problem. So when believers express the Biblical view on human sexuality, they make their apologia, or their “defense,” in the marketplace of ideas. That’s both exciting and unnerving.

MCDOWELL: The subtitle of your book is “Discussing the Issues with Kindness and Clarity.” What is it about homosexuality that requires both kindness and clarity? Do you think we need to address all moral issues in the same manner?

DALLAS: We seem to be forever swinging between the extremes of harshness and sloppy sentimentality. Kindness is required when you discuss this issue, because you can hardly convince people if you’re not showing them respect and even friendliness. But clarity is a crying need as well, because we can hardly win people to the truth if we’re not clearly explaining what the truth is. So both are needed when addressing this or any other moral subject. If I was into tattoos, which I’m definitely not, I’d put “Remember: Grace AND Truth” on everybody’s right arm.

MCDOWELL: Jen Hatmaker is a popular and influential Christian author. In fact, my wife has loved her books. Recently, in an interview with Religion News, she declared that same-sex relationships are holy. How do you process an announcement of this sort from such an influential figure?

DALLAS: I hate to say it, but “buckle up.” There will be plenty of influential Christian speakers, musicians, pastors, and leaders of all sorts announcing their epiphany from a traditional to a pro-gay view. Hatmaker’s the latest; she surely won’t be the last. It’s a symptom of the times. We mistakenly assume that if someone is a leader, she or he must be well grounded Biblically, but that’s hardly true. These days, if you’re articulate, empathetic, and personable, that alone can elevate you to a place of prominence in the church. So while I’m disappointed in Hatmaker, I’m more concerned about the church in general, and about how readily we accept people’s teachings without taking a Berean approach and checking what we hear from the individual against what we read in scripture.

MCDOWELL: Some people have claimed that within 10-15 years homosexuality will be as acceptable in the church as divorce, even though the Bible has strong teachings against divorce. What do you think? Any predictions as to where the issue is going over the next few years?

DALLAS: I agree with the prediction, although while those who make it tend to view it as a good development, I think it will be more proof of our general deterioration as a church and a culture. Where there’s doctrinal weakness, moral compromise is sure to follow. So I think we’ll see a growing acceptance of homosexuality within churches that claim a Biblical base, and we’ll see a broadening of our boundaries on other vital issues like the exclusive claims of Christ as being the only way to the Father, the existence of hell, and the sinful nature of man. Churches that stick to a truly Biblical world view are likely to face lawsuits, revocation of tax-exempt status, and eventual legal sanction for refusing the alter their teachings and in-house practices. Then again, since Jesus, Paul, and John in the Revelation foretold the downward spiral we’re experiencing, should it really be a surprise to us? But, praise God, there will always be people who’ll respond to truth, embrace and live it, and reap its benefits. So let’s keep our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith, and finish the race. It’s still on, and there’s still a prize to be won.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D.is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

What are the Best Questions for Meaningful Spiritual Conversations?

I love having conversations with people about spiritual matters. If we treat people with kindness, charity, and show a genuine interest in how they see the world, most people are open to discussing religious matters. In fact, in my experience, many people are eager for such conversations.

Spiritual Conversations

In his excellent book Generational IQ, Haydn Shaw explains how intellectual questions are back in the minds of younger generations today:

“One of the biggest challenges we have in responding is that Millennials are asking questions again. Generation Why? wants to know, ‘How do we know that?’ Three of the six reasons Barna Group gives in their book Churchless for why Millennial Christians are leaving their churches are intellectual: Christianity is too shallow, churches seem antagonistic to science, and the exclusivity of Christianity is a turnoff.[1]

Shaw is right—younger generations are interested in truth-related questions. In fact, they’re asking them. I have spiritual conversations with Millennials and young people from Generation Z all the time. But these generations are also less trustworthy and more skeptical than previous generations. They don’t accept simple answers. In many cases, simple answers are a turnoff. They are used to proclaiming their opinions through social media. And if they suspect you’re mistaken, they’ll simply Google a response. It’s not enough for them to be told, “That’s what the experts say.” They want evidence.

So how do we best engage this younger generation? The key is to ask authentic questions and be willing to listen. Authentic questions are different than leading questions. Leading questions aim to get a preset answer and to direct the conversation to a particular end. Authentic questions are meant to elicit genuine dialogue. And they only work if we are truly interested in hearing how others see the world.

Some people are better at asking authentic questions than others. It’s a skill that takes time to develop. I have worked at trying to become a better question-asker, and I am always looking for good tips and even particular questions that beneficially advance a conversation. My goal is not to be manipulative, but to genuinely spur people to think, and also to learn myself. After all, if I am wrong, shouldn’t I change my mind?

Here are ten questions you might find helpful to advance genuine spiritual conversations with those who do not share your faith. If you want to probe further for specific strategies to have meaningful spiritual conversations, check out the essay, “Christians in the Argument Culture: Apologetics as Conversation” in A New Kind of Apologist.

I offer these as the kinds of questions that have been helpful to me. I would encourage you to think of your own. If you come up with some good ones, please share them with me:

  • Do you have a background in religion? If so, what was it like?
  • Was there ever a time you believed in God? If so, why did you think it changed?
  • How important is spirituality to your life now?
  • If God exists, would it be important for you to get your life right with Him?
  • Do you put Jesus in the same category as other religious figures? Why or why not?
  • What do you understand the core of the Christian message to be? In other words, what is your understanding of the gospel?
  • Can you please tell me about the God you don’t believe in?
  • Are there any things that attract you to religion? And are there any things that turn you away?
  • What experiences have most shaped your spiritual life?
  • What would it take for you to believe in God in general and Christianity in particular?

The good news for these kinds of conversations is that you don’t have to have all the answers. That’s right. You don’t have to be an expert! You just need to be bold enough to ask the questions and care enough to listen. If you do, you might be amazed at the depth of conversation you can have with people who hold radically different views than your own.

Many people have never been asked these questions before. Simply raising these questions, and giving people genuine space to wrestle with them, can sometimes be transformative. And you might even be able to encourage people to consider the claims of Christ.

So what are you waiting for?

Sean McDowell, Ph.D.is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


[1] Haydn Shaw, Generational IQ: Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, And the Future Is Bright (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015), 117.

Freedom or Tyranny: What Will America Choose?

America is deeply confused about freedom. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, America is the land of the free. If anyone understands freedom it’s us!” We are certainly a nation who has historically fought for freedom, and we do have greater freedoms than many nations in the world, but as R.R. Reno points out in his recent book Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, we have abandoned classical freedom and embraced a new understanding that will, in the end, bring tyranny.

Freedom or Tyranny

Historically, Americans pursued a freedom that was aimed at serving the higher good and void of government overreach. There was a sense of collective responsibility and solidarity. Our freedom came from God and was based upon aligning ourselves with nature. We certainly fell short as a nation in living this ideal (e.g., racism and eugenics), but it’s the freedom we valued in principle and fought for.

But today we are embracing an entirely new understanding of freedom. Moral relativists encourage young people to be nonjudgmental. Students are encouraged to accept all lifestyles as equal and not to judge others. The only “sin” is to consider one’s lifestyle superior to another. Moral relativists talk about freedom, but it’s not the kind of freedom that encourages courage, forbearance, and sacrifice but the freedom to define moral truth for oneself. In other words, to the moral relativist, freedom means having no moral constraints.

The new understanding of freedom can also be seen in our cultural trend towards individualism. In The Beauty of Intolerance, my father and I describe the trend this way: “Moral truth comes from the individual; it is subjective and situational. This truth is known through choosing to believe it and through personal experience.”[1] SCOTUS judge Anthony Kennedy famously expressed this individualistic view in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Such a view seems liberating, but unchecked by God, nature, and custom, it will only lead to tyranny. In fact, untethered by any restraints, freedom becomes merely about freedom itself rather than what is best for the collective good. Reno observes:

“In a society without clear sex roles, without taboos against cohabitation, illegitimacy, and divorce—which is to say, without powerful social norms governing individual behavior—governmental and quasi-governmental support (and therefore control) necessarily expand. The triumph of nonjudgmentalism has created a cultural vacuum. The void is now filled by laws, lawyers, and courts that adjudicate the conflicts that arise in the private lives of ordinary people. Moral deregulation brings a certain kind of freedom, but someone has to pick up the pieces. More often than not, that ‘someone’ is the government.”[2]

This is the weakness with libertarianism, which promises unfettered freedom. By redefining the family, a pre-political reality that governments are meant to recognize, the state has now become the source of our freedom. And if the government can redefine marriage, it can effectively redefine every other area of private life as well. Again, Reno explains:

“The redefinition of marriage by the state turned the most effective limitation of government power, the family, into a creature of government. It does not matter whether this government takeover of private life is the work of unelected representatives, unelected judges, or popular referendum. If government can define marriage and parenthood as it sees fit, the personal is the political, which is one of the definitions of tyranny.”

How far can our culture take this new understanding of freedom. And what’s next? There have been sympathetic movements in favor of incest, bestiality, and for the view that people should be able to understand themselves as dogs. If the individual really is supreme, and there is no objective moral truth binding on us all, then on what basis can we criticize such behavior as wrong? In fact, in our nonjudgmental culture, the only “sin” is not praising such behavior.

Reno raises an additional possibility I simply had not even considered before:

“If we really can live in a way free from our maleness and femaleness, then the horizon of our freedom is almost limitless. Why should my future be limited by my body’s subjection to disease and decay, any more than by my nature as male or female? I fully expect that within a few years academics will advance the view that mortality, like sex, is socially constructed. Such a view provides the anti-metaphysical foundation for a right to doctor-assisted suicide, euthanasia, and abortion. I can easily imagine the argument: There’s no such thing as death; it’s a construct imposed on us by traditional ways of thinking that sustain the interests of the powerful.”[3]

I fear he may be right.

In contrast, Reno argues that real freedom requires truth. We are most free, he claims, when we orient our lives around truth rather than seek godlike independence from all restraints: “Freedom comes when we bind ourselves to something worth serving…A culture of freedom requires legitimate authority. Freedom is fullest now when it serves truths freely held.”[4]

Our culture really is divided over its view of freedom. Will we embrace classical freedom rooted in custom, nature, and the divine? Or will we embrace a freedom untethered by any limits beyond the whims of the individual? It is not an overstatement to declare that the future of our nation depends upon what we choose.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D.is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


Resources for Greater Impact

Legislating Morality (Video)

Download

DVD Set

Legislating Morality (Book)

 


[1] Sean & Josh McDowell, The Beauty of Intolerance (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2016), 19.

[2] R.R. Reno, Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society (Washington DC: Regnery Faith, 2016), 127.

[3] Ibid., 19.

[4] Ibid., 35.


 

What it Takes to Raise a Christian Child in a Country Ruled by Moral Confusion

By Natasha Crain

Oh, this election.

How it’s brought out the worst in everyone, including the two people running for office.

As crazy as the last few months leading up to the election have been, I haven’t felt inspired to write anything about it…until now.

The recording of Trump making vulgar and lewd comments about women is bringing me out of my election silence. But not for the reason you might think.

In the past few days, I’ve watched with amazement as scores of articles denouncing Trump’s character have been shared on social media by my liberal friends. They are rightly outraged at what he said. But these are the same friends who are pro-choice, support transgender bathroom choice, believe there’s no problem with sex outside of marriage, and think that not supporting same-sex marriage is bigotry.

Raise a Christian Child

Liberal America, from whence does this hodgepodge of moral views come, other than from your own fickle liking?  

Should not your moral outrage be tempered to the whisper of an opinion by the realization that, without a belief in God, you haven’t an objective foot to stand on?

This week’s showcase of moral confusion from our collective society demonstrates how few people bother to consider the basis for their moral convictions. As Christian parents, it’s our responsibility to raise our kids with feet firmly planted on objective moral ground. But what does that mean when they’re growing up in a country ruled by moral confusion?

 

First, it means we must proactively teach our kids how to think critically about the nature of morality…unlike the world around them.

You know what kind of political comment I never see? Something like this: “Now, let me say up front that this is just my personal opinion, and my opinion only, because I don’t believe in any revealed religion and therefore realize I have no basis for believing there is an objective standard of morality that applies to all people. So, if you disagree with me, your view is just as valid as mine, because in a world without such objective standards, everything is a matter of opinion. With that acknowledgement out of the way, I just want to say that I think what Trump said is so morally outrageous! Again, that’s just according to my opinion, and if you think what he said is totally fine, your view is valid as well.”

Ahem.

That is certainly not the kind of (consistent) thinking that is found in popular culture. Instead, secular America treats morality as a grab-bag of whatever the mainstream likes, while condemning those who disagree as if there were some objective basis for that morality in a world without God.

This. Is. Confusion.

We have to teach our kids the logical moral implications of a theistic versus atheistic worldview.

This isn’t even about which worldview is correct. It’s simply about consistent thinking.

In a theistic worldview, there is an all-good God who is the objective standard of morality—His character defines what is good and evil for all people, regardless of personal opinion. This standard is what gives meaning to the words right and wrong.

In an atheistic worldview, individuals can have a preference for what they think is right and wrong, but no one can claim a higher authority for that preference. I might say murder is wrong, for example, but I can only mean wrong in the weakest sense—“murder is wrong in my personal opinion.” Someone else could legitimately claim that murder is great, and there would be no objective arbiter of morality between us; no one could say what we ought to do. Morality is simply subjective.

If people were thinking in ways consistent with their worldview, we should see a lot more comments like my hypothetical one above.

 

Second, it means we must teach our kids why there’s good reason to believe the Bible is true.

Let’s say that you gift your kids with the critical thinking skills needed to understand the difference between objective and subjective morality, as I described above. That gives them the foundation for at least having consistent thinking, but it isn’t sufficient for giving them an understanding of why there’s good reason to believe it’s the theistic worldview that offers the accurate picture of morality. For that, kids must have good reason to believe that the Bible is true.

This means much more than a parent faithfully repeating that the Bible is God’s word throughout a child’s 18-plus years at home. It means thoroughly addressing why anyone should believe the truth claims of any book that claims to be divine revelation:

How were the books in the Bible selected?

Why were books left out of the Bible?

How do we know we can trust the Bible’s authors?

How do we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote?

Does the Bible have errors and contradictions?

For more on these questions, see my post, Don’t Expect Your Kids to Care What the Bible Says Unless You’ve Given Them Reason to Believe It’s True. As that title suggests, our kids won’t have any reason to base their moral understanding on God’s word if they don’t have the confidence that it’s accurate in the morality it teaches.

 

Third, it means we must give our kids experience applying their moral understanding to the social issues at the forefront of discussion today.

My first two points address the theoretical knowledge kids need to engage with the world. But if we don’t help them apply it to the actual social issues in the spotlight, it’s like studying a manual on how to ride a bike without ever getting on one.

All the foundational knowledge in the world can quickly get confused when presented with nuanced circumstances. For example, just today I saw someone on Facebook make the case that every person should be pro-choice, if only because some kids would otherwise be born into horrible families that will abuse them. Most people who have given thought to the abortion issue can see right through that (bad) logic, but if a child encountered such thinking for the first time, he or she might think it makes sense.

Taking the opportunity to walk through individual social issues that involve moral questions can make an enormous difference in preparing kids to engage with a secular world.

(Incidentally, I highly recommend Persuasive Pro Life: How to Talk about Our Culture’s Toughest Issue as a great resource on the abortion subject.)

 

Fourth, it means we must help our kids develop a willingness to boldly stand up for their beliefs.

We should be leery of raising kids who will have all the right beliefs but have no guts to stand up for those beliefs in a hostile world. The two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

I experienced that on a small scale this week. I heard through the grapevine that there’s a child in my son’s class at school who is being picked on by other kids. I pulled my son aside at home to talk about what he’s seen and heard. He acknowledged that he had witnessed this happening, so I asked what he had done about it.

Absolutely nothing.

He knew it was wrong, and he didn’t like what he saw, but he told me it’s “too embarrassing” to say something to his friends. We had one of those overly looooong parenting talks, and I explained why it’s so important to stand up for your beliefs even when it makes you uncomfortable.

Two days later, on the way home from school, I noticed he had tears in his eyes. He told me that some kids were talking about doing something bothersome to that child again. But this time he told them to stop. And they did.

Knowing what’s right, doing what’s right, and standing up for what’s right are three different things that aren’t automatically connected in our kids’ minds and hearts. It’s up to us to proactively draw those connections and raise kids who will be a light to the world rather than a light tucked away in a comfortable home.

 

Let me end this by saying that if you’re thinking, “I can’t believe she thinks you have to believe in God to know that what Trump said is bad!” (as some readers who stumble upon this post are bound to suggest)…you’ve totally misunderstood what I said.

And that’s exactly representative of the moral confusion in America today.


Sexual Morality In A Christless World

How would you make a case for Christian sexual morality in a secular setting? Specifically, what would you say if you were asked to speak on the Christian view of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in a university classroom? This is exactly the opportunity that motivated pastor Matthew Rueger to start researching and studying Christian sexuality in depth, and ultimately to write the book Sexual Morality in a Christless World.

Sexual Morality

Rueger begins the book by recognizing that the world has radically changed and that Christians increasingly find themselves being considered outcasts and radicals by the secular elite. In light of this reality, he asks a probing question: “Will we mirror the ancient Christians who were not afraid to stand out in the crowd and say, ‘Not for me?’ Are we willing to be ostracized, excluded, secretly derided, and maybe even openly mocked simply because we are Christians? We need to be; our children need to be.”

And yet Rueger rightly notes that for Christians—and in particular Christian students—to stand boldly for biblical morality, they need to first understand why it makes sense. It is critical to understand why God created sex to be experienced between one man and one woman for life, and why this model is still best for society today. This is the exact same approach John Stonestreet and I take in our book Same-Sex Marriage. In order for Christians to speak out confidently for a Christian ethic on marriage and sexuality, we must first understand why God designed sex to be between one man and one woman in a lifelong married relationship.

Sex in Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman sexuality was primarily tied to the idea of masculinity and the male’s need for domination. Thus it was permissible for men to have sex with his slaves, whether male or female. Rueger explains: “It was understood that he would be visiting prostitutes of either sex. A strong Roman male would have male lovers even while married to a woman. In the Roman mind, man was the conqueror who dominated on the battlefield as well as in the bedroom.”

And this domination often carried into sexual relationships between adult males and adolescent boys (pederasty). In the Roman mind, sex with boys was often viewed as intellectually superior and a purer form of love than sex with women.

While there are exceptions, women were often viewed as physically and mentally inferior to men. Their value was often tied to their ability to have children. In fact, in the primary creation story accepted in the classical world, which came from Greek mythology, woman was created as a punishment for man (the story of Pandora). This is radically different than the biblical view in which Eve is created as an equal companion to Adam (Genesis 2).

Sexual Exploits of the Caesars

In perhaps the most interesting section of the book, Rueger chronicles the sexual exploits of the Roman Caesars, who both reflected wider culture and helped advance its debauchery. There are stories of Augustus Caesar inviting senators to dinner, and then excusing himself to sleep with their wives. Tiberius practiced pedophilia and is said to have funded a special public office that concentrated on his sexual pleasures. Caligula lived in an incestuous relationship with his sisters. And Nero engaged in public cross-dressing, incest, rape, and other kinds of sexual assault.

It is important not to overstate the debauchery of ancient Rome. There were certainly many good people who resisted wider sexual norms. But citing such differences does reveal how radically countercultural Christian sexual morality was in the first century. And it also shows the courage of the first Christians who knowingly put themselves in harm’s way to advance the greater good in general, and the gospel in particular.

Secular Morality Today

Rueger speaks some chilling and prophetic words for Christians today: “Secular society is moving ever closer to Rome in its assessment of Christianity. The message of Christ is despised, and Christians are seen as bigoted and unloving. Christians today can learn from the Christians who lived in the Roman Empire of St. Paul’s day. The bubble of social acceptance for Christian morality has burst, and now we must be prepared to suffer. Those who speak God’s truth in love will be hated. They may even be prosecuted in some instances” (p. 41).

What I have discussed so far only takes us through the first two chapters in his book! Rueger also contrasts early Christian sexual morality with Jewish morality. He explores some of the key New Testament passages that lay the biblical foundation for sex and marriage, such as Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, 1 Peter 3:1, 7, and Matthew 19:4-6. And he also considers common objections against the biblical sexual ethic. In each case, he shows how Christian sexual morality both elevated women and cared for children, even though it was considered extreme at the time.

Overall, I found Sexual Morality in a Christless World to be insightful, timely, and challenging. Despite what we increasingly hear in our wider culture, the Christian ethic is both reasonable and good. And this is a truth we cannot hide, but must teach to our children and proclaim from the rooftops.


Sean McDowell, Ph.D.is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


Resources for Greater Impact

Correct NOT CLEAR

Correct Not Politically Correct (Why Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone)

Paperback

Download (PDF)

4PsNEWDVD4P’2 & 4Q’ (The Quick Case FOR Natural Marriage & AGAINST Same-Sex Marriage)

Download >> MP4

DVD

How Did Christianity Prevail in Ancient Rome and What Can We Learn from It?

What was unique about Christian practices and teachings in the first three centuries of the church? And how did such a minority faith—which was considered irrelevant, extreme, and at odd with the role “religion” is supposed to play in a pagan society—ultimately prevail? In his recent book Destroyer of the gods, New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado focuses on the first of these questions. But his book also has powerful implications for the second.

Christianity Prevail in Ancient Rome

Hurtado explains how Christianity was viewed by pagans in ancient Rome: “In the eyes of many of that time, early Christianity was odd, bizarre, and in some ways even dangerous. For one thing, it did not fit with what ‘religion’ was for people then. Indicative of this, Roman-era critics designated it as a perverse ‘superstition.’”[1]

Interestingly, this is not too dissimilar from charges that are increasingly being raised against Christians today who refuse to embrace the progressive sexual agenda.

Although Christians in the early church aimed to be good citizens, and to show due respect and care for both their neighbors and the State (as Christians do today), their beliefs in Jesus as the one true God put them at odds with the prevailing culture (as Christian beliefs and practices increasingly do in our secular culture today).

In fact, as Hurtado observes, Christian beliefs were even considered more problematic to Rome than Jewish beliefs. How so? While Jews also refused to honor pagan deities, there is little evidence Roman-era Jews aimed to persuade the masses to abandon their gods. And yet this is exactly what Christians did. In other words, Christians were often allowed to hold Christian beliefs in private, but should expect to sacrifice those beliefs when they enter the public arena. Sound familiar? Chuck Colson saw this coming years ago.

Roman authorities had little problem that Christians worshipped Jesus as God. Their problem, however, was that Christians refused to worship other deities. While Christians considered worshipping pagan deities idolatry, Romans considered such behavior defiance to the state. Jews were often excused since their behavior could be “chalked up” as a matter of national peculiarity. But Christians could not appeal to any such ethnic privilege. As a result of their refusal to worship the pagan deities, Christians experienced popular abuse, intellectual condemnation, and persecution on a local and (eventually) statewide level. And yet, amazingly, Christianity prevailed.

There are many factors that can help explain the growth of Christianity. But as Hurtado points out in Destroyer of the gods, Christian distinctives must be taken into consideration as a piece of the puzzle. Consider a few Christian distinctives, which are often taken for granted today:

  • When people worship God, Christians claimed they should withdraw from worshipping the gods of their families, cities, and peoples. The exclusivist stance of Christianity was so offensive that Christians were often labeled “atheists.”
  • Christians emphasized that there is one transcendent God who passionately loves his people and can be related to personally. Pagans often spoke of the love of gods toward humans in terms of philia, which indicates friendship. But Christians spoke of God with the Greek term agapē, which connotes a deep love and firm commitment to the one loved.
  • Christianity was a “bookish” religion. Like Jews, Christians read Scripture publicly, produced voluminous numbers of texts, and committed remarkable resources to copying and disseminating them widely. In fact, in their eagerness to disseminate Scripture, Christians were at the leading edge of book technology of the second and third centuries.
  • Christianity uniquely linked religious beliefs with ethical living. As a result, Christians were on the leading edge of overturning popular practices in ancient Rome such as infant exposure, gladiator battles, sexual abuse of children, and sexual perversity. Christians uniquely called men to the same kind of sexual loyalty demanded of women.
  • Christianity was uniquely diverse. In ancient Rome, there was social stratification between men and women, slaves and free, rich and poor. But Christians began with assemblies that were diverse in gender, age, and social status. Even the least important members of Roman society, such as women and slaves, were considered equal members in the church.

There are many other Christian distinctives in the first century, but if you want to read them, you’re going to have to check out Destroyer of the gods. If you are interested in comparative religion or the ancient roots of Christianity, and how this may apply to the Christian faith today, you will thoroughly enjoy the book.

In particular, there are two aspects that I most appreciated about Destroyer of the gods. First, Hurtado shows Christianity is not just like any other religion. There are unique beliefs and practices that we can proudly embrace as modern Christians. In an age when Christianity is often condemned as harmful and poisonous, Destroyer of the gods is a reminder that Christianity was on the positive edge of cultural change in ancient times.

Second, Christianity ultimately prevailed over the pagan culture that it was birthed in. Modern critics often claim that Christians are on the “wrong side of history” for not embracing modern sexual norms. Undoubtedly, these critics would make the same charge if they were writing in the first couple centuries of the church. And yet they could not have been more wrong. Christian teachings are not only true, but they are in the best interest of individuals, families, and the state.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D.is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


Resources for Greater Impact

DanielDVDNEW_Shadow

Standing in the Lion’s Den

[Video Download]

[DVD Set]

RomansDVDNEW_Shadow

The Great Book of Romans

[Video Download]

[DVD Set]


[1] Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the gods (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016), 2-3.

What Christian Parents Need to Know About New Age and Occult Beliefs

By Natasha Crain

I’m excited to share an interview with Marcia Montenegro!

Marcia was involved for many years in Eastern and New Age beliefs, and was a licensed professional astrologer. She became a Christian in 1990 and today has a ministry called Christian Answers for the New Age. Her ministry exists to 1) educate Christians about the New Age and occult so they can be more discerning and equipped to witness, and 2) reach people in the New Age and the occult with the love and truth of the Gospel. Marcia has a Masters in Religion from Southern Evangelical Seminary and is a missionary with Fellowship International Mission. She has spoken in 30 states, is a frequent radio guest, and has published articles in several Christian publications. She is the mother of an adult son, and is the author of SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids.

I had the opportunity to ask Marcia several questions on what Christian parents need to know about New Age and occult beliefs. This is an area I personally knew very little about before doing this interview. I learned a lot, and I know you will too! As Marcia explains, your kids are probably exposed to these beliefs more than you realize.

 

1.    Marcia, can you start by telling us a little about your own journey from being a professional astrologer to becoming a Christian? 

I was deeply involved in the New Age and followed Eastern spiritual teachings (Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist) for many years. I also practiced and taught astrology. I was very hostile to what I viewed as narrow-minded Christianity. In the year I ended my term as President of the Astrological Society in Atlanta, I suddenly experienced a compulsion to go to church. This led me to attend a (very open-minded) church several months later, where I amazingly experienced the feeling of God’s love pouring down on me (from a personal God I didn’t even believe in!). I then gave up astrology. I eventually encountered and began trusting in Jesus while reading the Gospel of Matthew. All of this took place over just 8 or 9 months!

 

2. Can you help parents understand exactly what “New Age” means, and why New Age ideas are so appealing to young people?

The term “New Age” covers a broad ground and can be difficult to define. The New Age itself doesn’t even use the term “New Age!” The more popular term is “spirituality” – someone forming their own spiritual path. That type of path is usually New Age or partly New Age.

But here is how I define New Age: It is a network of beliefs whose roots are Gnostic, Eastern, and New Thought.

The Gnostic part values spiritual above the material/physical; the material is merely a manifestation of the spiritual, so everything is spiritual. In New Age views, the body is a manifestation of the spiritual state.

The Eastern beliefs of Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism contribute several ideas to the New Age: principles of reincarnation, an impersonal source that we all come from and go back to, the view that this world is not ultimately real, the claim that there are no absolutes (all spirituality is subjective), and the need for Eastern-based meditation to achieve spiritual understanding or awakening.

Finally, the New Age draws heavily from New Thought, which includes the belief that Jesus came to correct wrong thinking and model how to achieve Christ Consciousness, the awareness of our innate divinity. New Thought also teaches that one’s thoughts and words can bring one’s desires into reality via certain techniques. The bestselling book, The Secret, is a classic example of New Thought. New Thought claims to be Christian and often sounds like it. It is very deceptive.

You can find people in the New Age anywhere along this spectrum from Gnostic to Eastern to New Thought, as well as many who combine these beliefs. Additionally, the New Age adopts some occult views and practices (see my response to the next question.)

The New Age can appeal to young people for several reasons. One is because it is very different from the Judeo-Christian worldview, which makes it intriguing. Another is that it seems to offer ancient wisdom, since Eastern and pagan beliefs were established before Christianity. Some areas of the New Age emphasize the power or divinity of the female, and draw women in that way.

One of the chief appeals is that the New Age is experiential in nature, so what a person experiences and feels is highly valued over objective truth. This allows you to have a customized spirituality, which is especially appealing to young people.

What Christian Parents Need to Know About New Age and Occult Beliefs

3.    Could you also define the occult and explain how occult ideas relate to New Age ideas?

The occult is a set of practices based on Deuteronomy 18:10-12, where God lists and denounces all of them. They are divination (often called fortunetelling), spirit contact, and sorcery.

Divination is the practice of gaining information by reading hidden meanings in nature or patterns (for example, astrology, tarot cards, numerology or palm reading) or via supernatural means (for example, psychic powers).

Spirit contact is seeking information or guidance from disembodied beings, who are believed to be ghosts (dead people), aliens, ascended masters, angels or deities from non-Christian religions.

Sorcery (today usually called ritual or ceremonial magic) involves using the will to bring about a desired end through incantations, rituals, magical tools, contact with spirit beings, and/or the manipulation of powers or energies.

Although many New Agers use occult practices or consult those in the occult, the New Age and occult worldviews differ. The New Age is transcendent and future-oriented; the person is always seen as evolving toward a goal, learning lessons, and eventually being liberated from this life and reality.

The occult is more here-and-now oriented, is more pragmatic in nature, and focuses on the practical use of one’s energy and/or nature’s energy to manifest happiness and results.

As a general disclaimer, New Agers and occultists disagree amongst themselves on their beliefs, and certainly some would likely disagree with my descriptions as well.

 

4.    In your experience, what are the dangers of kids getting interested in these ideas?

My two main concerns are desensitization and glamorization. I believe that the massive amounts of books, TV shows, and movies that promote occultism and heroes/heroines who have occult powers have desensitized the culture as a whole. No longer is it seen as a bad thing for a child to pretend to cast spells, for example; now that is viewed almost endearingly. It is easy to become desensitized to the fact that these activities are evil.

Ultimately, being desensitized can lead to acceptance of New Age or occult beliefs, which in turn can lead to disinterest in or rejection of what God has to say about false beliefs. That acceptance can lead to active participation in New Age or occult practices.

 

5.    Most parents probably aren’t aware of how New Age or occult ideas might touch their kids. Can you give us examples of where kids might encounter New Age or occult ideas in popular culture today?

One of the most popular ways is the Ouija Board, made by Parker Brothers and sold in toy stores. It was originally designed by a Spiritualist as a tool for contacting the dead. The dead cannot respond to us, but fallen angels can and do. They don’t care if you are using the Board as a game. A well-known series of books, the Seth series, came about from the author’s initial contact with an entity calling itself Seth via the Ouija Board. Seth eventually began to speak directly through the author, Jane Roberts, while she was in a deep trance state, and these messages formed the book series (the first one influenced me deeply as a New Ager). There are other cases of people who channeled teachings after using a Ouija Board. It’s not simply a game.

Probably the biggest purveyor of occult concepts is the media: television, video games, and movies which emphasize stories where the hero or heroine wields supernatural powers. Some of these abilities are harmless fantasy (e.g., X-ray vision), while others involve casting spells, using psychic powers, or even contacting spirits. It is common for books and movies to mix fantasy with the occult, further confusing the problem.

Parents often want a list of media to avoid, but it is impossible to maintain such a list. Ideally, parents need to understand Deuteronomy 18:10-12 so they can recognize occult ideas and teach their children to be discerning.

I offer parents a resource for this in my book, SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids (2006), which is now on Kindle and is an e-book on sites such as Barnes & Noble and Christianbook.com. This is a guide for parents (and others) that offers suggestions on how to talk to children about these areas and how to answer objections.

 

6.    What do you feel is the best way to handle New Age/occult exposure with your kids? What should parents say?

My concern is not so much that a TV program or book contains New Age/occult ideas as it is that a program or book glamorizes or promotes them.

A lot depends on the age and maturity of the child. I would say that kids under age 12 should have no exposure to books or media that promote occult ideas, no matter how mildly. At this age, children don’t yet have critical thinking skills and they emotionally identify with the heroes.

For early teens, be very selective and discuss any questionable material that pops up. I would completely avoid books or programs that have a focus on occult themes or have heroes who blatantly practice occultism.

For older teens, there is less control, of course, but if you discover they are reading or have watched something that promotes occult or New Age ideas, have a discussion with them. Ask them what they think of it, show them Scripture, and help them understand it is a fallen world that is under the sway of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Evil things will be accepted and even admired by the world, but that doesn’t make them harmless.

In my book for parents on the occult, I give suggestions at the end of each chapter on how to talk to your children about that chapter’s particular topic.

 

7. If there are parents reading this whose kids are already involved somehow in New Age/occult ideas, what resources do you recommend to help them?

I have articles on the occult on my website at www.christiananswersforthenewage.org. Also, aside from my book, there is Jeff Harshbarger’s From Darkness to Light: How to Rescue Someone You Love From the Occult.

For older teens and parents, a resource explaining biblical miracles versus occult paranormal activities is Norman Geisler’s book, Signs and Wonders: Healings, Miracles, and Unusual Events: Which Are Real? Which Are Supernormal? Which Are Counterfeit?

If your child is getting interested or involved in the occult, it is imperative to have a talk with him or her. Don’t postpone it or hope it goes away. At the same time, don’t show fear of it. Ask questions, use Scripture to show why these areas should be avoided, and make it clear you will not allow occult materials in the home. Be low-key about it, but firm. It is your home and your responsibility to guide your child in the wisdom of the Lord.

Visit Natasha’s website at ChristianMomThoughts.com


Resources for Greater Impact: 

LGBTQ Contradictions

“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive,” said Blaise Pascal. Indeed, attraction, not reason, is the engine of the LGBTQ movement. Otherwise it wouldn’t be riddled with contradictions such as:

There are no differences between men and women.

Except when we demand the right to marry people of the same sex because people of the opposite sex are just too different from people of the same sex.

You ought not judge me for what I do.

Except I can judge you for what you do. You’re an ignorant, intolerant bigot for supporting your political goals rather than mine, and for refusing to celebrate my same sex wedding.

People should be tolerant!

Except me when I’m intolerant of you and your position.

Discrimination is wrong!

Except when I discriminate against you. After all, I can refuse to bake a cake that’s against same-sex marriage, but you can’t refuse to bake one that’s for it. I’ll sue!

There is no gay agenda.

PayPal Founder Peter Thiel said this at the Republican National Convention: “When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom.  This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?”

Except when we at PayPal care enough to cancel our business plans in Charlotte because to the company, it’s absolutely a travesty of justice to keep men out of women’s bathrooms and showers. (Apparently, it’s not a travesty of justice to PayPal when Islamic countries literally murder gays and transsexuals. It’s business as usual for PayPal in those countries.)

It’s wrong to accommodate differences between men and women.

We at the NBA pulled our All-Star game out of Charlotte because it’s wrong to acknowledge and accommodate differences between men and women, especially by keeping them in separate restroom and shower facilities.

Except when we at the NBA acknowledge and accommodate the differences between men and women by keeping them in separate leagues, restrooms and shower facilities.

We are “inclusive and diverse.”

We at the NBA made our decision according to “the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.”

Except when it comes to “diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect” for the people of North Carolina who are being excluded because their diverse and opposing point of view is not respected by us at the NBA. You see, “Inclusion and diversity” to us and other liberals actually means exclusion for those who don’t agree with our approved views. (Whoops, there goes “diversity.”) But of course, you can see our point: it’s completely unreasonable for North Carolinians to want to keep biological men out of women’s shower facilities like we at the NBA do. After all, what could possibly go wrong? In order to rectify the situation, we at the NBA should move the game to New Orleans — a city with the exact same laws as Charlotte. That’ll show everyone that we stand on principle!

Why the Contradictions?

Truth is not the principle that the LGBTQ movement and their allies stand on. Truth is what corresponds to reality, and if anything obviously corresponds to reality it is that men and women are different. Humanity would not exist without those differences. They are not mere preferences; they are built into the very biological nature of the sexes.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ apologists are not concerned with the inherent contradictions in their positions. They are not on a truth quest but a happiness quest. Truth is being suppressed, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, because it gets in the way of what they find attractive; what they perceive will make them happy. This is understandable. In fact, all of us are apt to suppress the truth on occasion to get what we want. Most of our problems are self-inflicted and exacerbated by our unwillingness to follow the truth where it leads.

Suppressed truth has terrifying implications because power rather than reason is the currency of influence for those unwilling to follow the truth. If you don’t think so, just begin to articulate a rational case against LGBTQ political goals. You won’t get any rationality back, just hysterical cries that you must be forcibly shut up because you are the next Hitler! That’s what we see out of many in the LGBTQ movement — from the bullying by the misnamed Human Rights Campaign on corporate and sports America all the way to the Supreme Court, which has ignored its oath to uphold the true meaning of Constitution.

HRC bullying is bad enough, but the illegitimate use of power by the Court is even worse. Five lawyers adopted legislative power from the bench to impose their own political views on over three hundred million Americans. Along the way they charged opponents of their views with “animus” against homosexuals. Animus? That’s not true. But even if it was, why does the Court think that voter motivation has anything to do with constitutionality? Even the Court succumbs to the tendency to impugn motives and call people names when it’s short on reason. In fact, when your position isn’t true, you can distract attention from your contradictions by yelling louder and bullying all opponents as the LGBTQ movement is doing.

Regardless of your political party, it’s time to stand up to the bullies, with truth. If you don’t, those with increasing power will use it someday to shut you up on something you care about. Then the ultimate contradiction will be complete — your right to free speech, religion and association guaranteed by our Constitution will not be guaranteed for you anymore either.


 

Resources for Greater Impact:

3 Key Things Skeptics Will Say to Shame Your Kids for Being Christians

By Natasha Crain

I haven’t blogged in the last couple of weeks because my family and I were on vacation. We went on a wonderful trip to the island of Grand Cayman! I successfully managed to avoid email while I was there, but that made for quite a backlog by the time I returned. As I started going through the emails to my blog address, I was struck by the nature of comment after comment left by atheists on various old blog posts while I was gone: one emotional attack after another and not a single discussion of evidence for/against the truth of Christianity.

I actually get such emails all the time and am very used to it. But seeing them all piled together made me realize how often the objective of skeptics is to shame Christians rather than to engage in fair-minded discussions about evidence—something highly ironic given how much skeptics talk in theory about how important evidence is.

Shaming can have an especially negative impact on kids, who are very susceptible to believing emotion-laden statements. But this, too, is something we can (and should) prepare them for. While shaming comes in all kinds of forms, I can roll 90 percent of skeptics’ comments into some version of three general claims.

Here is what your kids are most likely to hear…and what you can do about it.

 

1. “You’ve been indoctrinated.”

The Implied Shame Claim: You’re just parroting what your parents have drilled into your head throughout your childhood. You’ve been brainwashed and can’t even think for yourself. If you’re brave enough to look at [evidence/science/common sense] instead, you’ll see how crazy Christianity is.

I probably receive at least one blog comment each week about how I’m indoctrinating my kids simply by raising them in a Christian home. Skeptics love to say this. The problem is, it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what indoctrination even means.  As I explained in this post, indoctrination is “teaching someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.” In other words, indoctrination is a problem with how you teach someone something. It’s not inherently related to any particular belief system, though religion is one type of belief system where indoctrination is possible. Atheists can indoctrinate their kids as well.

So, unless a skeptic has been inside the homes of every Christian in America, seen how we are teaching our kids Christianity, and then had appropriate reason to conclude that we don’tcollectively expose our kids to other ideas, it’s utterly meaningless to say that “Christians indoctrinate their kids.”

What Parents Can Do:

  • Make sure you’re not actually indoctrinating your kids. Make sure you are teaching them what other people believe. That doesn’t mean you should teach them that what everyone else believes is true (that’s not logically possible)—it simply means you’re appropriately comparing and contrasting other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.
  • Make it explicitly clear to your kids that you don’t want them to believe in Jesus just because you do. (Read why this is so important in my post, Six Scary But Important Words Every Christian Parent Should Say to Their Kids About Faith.) When you’ve actuallydemonstrated that it’s important for them to own their spiritual decisions, they’ll have no reason to later question whether they’ve been “indoctrinated” when someone suggests it.
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (you’re going to see a recurring theme on this bullet point). In that very process, you’ll be comparing and contrasting truth claims from various worldviews and your kids will know first-hand that you didn’t “indoctrinate” them.

 

2. “If you allow yourself to think critically, you’ll see there’s no reason to believe in God.”

The Implied Shame Claim: Don’t you want to be a critical thinker? Someone who is rational, reasonable, and uses their brain? If you have faith, you’re throwing all that out the door. You’re choosing to believe something in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

“Critical thinking” is a buzz phrase today. Technically speaking, critical thinking is the “objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgment.” The funny thing is, skeptics always assume that such thinking necessarily leads to their own conclusions. The logic goes like this:

  1. Critical thinking means forming beliefs based on evidence.
  2. There’s no evidence for God.
  3. If you believe in God, you’re not thinking critically.

The problem with this logic is the second statement—the foregone conclusion that there’s no evidence for God. A more honest assessment would be that Christians and atheists disagree over what constitutes legitimate evidence for God. As much as many skeptics would like to make critical thinking their own domain based on this implied argument, the reality is that neither Christians nor atheists are willing to believe in something without evidence; Christians believe there is evidence for God. That’s why conversations about who’s thinking more critically than whom are absolutely pointless. There are Christians who think well and Christians who think poorly; atheists who think well and atheists who think poorly. This says nothing about the evidence itself.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Be intentional in talking to your kids about definitions. So many times, Christians and skeptics talk right past each other with conflicting meanings of the same words. In this case, discuss the words critical thinking and faith (skeptics incorrectly assert that faith means believing something in spite of evidence —see chapter 8 of my book for help with this conversation).
  • Discuss the implied argument of the three points listed above and explain that this is the logic behind skeptics’ claims that Christians don’t think critically. When you expose your kids to the thinking behind the shame claim, they won’t be fazed by it later.
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (yup, here it is again!). It’s one thing to show them the faulty logic (see the point above)—it’s another thing to teach them how to combat a faulty premise themselves.

 

3. “Christians are less intelligent than atheists. Studies show it.”

The Implied Shame Claim: You’re stupid if you’re a Christian and that’s not just my opinion—it’s beenproven.

You may be surprised to hear that a number of studies have found a negative relationship between intelligence and religiousness—in other words, they suggest that the more intelligent a person is, the less likely they are to be religious. Many passionate atheists are well aware of these studies and use them as ammunition for their arguments that religion is for the poor, ignorant, or unintelligent.

My professional background is in market research (I have an MBA in marketing and statistics) so I decided to personally review the studies that are constantly referenced by skeptics. I explained my findings in detail in my post, Are Christians Less Intelligent Than Atheists? Here’s What Those Studies REALLY Say, and further in Chapter 16 of my book.

Here’s the bottom line of what you should know: Over the last 80+ years, many studies have been done on the relationship between intelligence and religiousness. In 2013, researchers pulled together all the ones that quantified that relationship. Of the 63 studies they identified, roughly half showed no relationship at all. The other half showed at least some kind of negative relationship (the more intelligent you are, the less likely you are to be religious). That said, statistically speaking, it’s not very helpful to simply know there is “some kind” of relationship. You have to know how strong the relationship is to know if it matters. So researchers combined the results of all these individual studies to evaluate that question overall…and found the strength of relationship to be very weak. What do I mean by very weak? A -.17 or -.20 correlation is considered to be a trivial or negligible relationship by most statisticians. In other words, hardly worth mentioning. There is no reasonable basis for suggesting Christians are less intelligent than atheists according to this data.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Give your kids an appropriate framework for considering this kind of claim before you even discuss specific studies: Even if we could reliability measure which group is collectively smarter (we can’t), the answer wouldn’t tell us anything about the truth of Christianity. Intelligence doesn’t equate to always having the right answer. The important question we must constantly point our kids back to is, Which worldview is an accurate picture of reality? (Not which worldview theoretically has the smartest adherents.)
  • If your kids are teens, take the time to read my summary of these studies and findings and then discuss (links to my blog post and book above).
  • Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity (I told you this would keep coming up!). How else will they know how to set aside distracting claims like this one about intelligence and answer the key question, Which worldview is an accurate picture of reality?

 

So, you must have caught the recurring solution that combats all of these attempts at shaming:Teach your kids the evidence for the truth of Christianity.

Consider for a moment why that in particular is the antidote for almost any shaming attempt. Shame by definition is “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.” In other words, the root of shame is feeling inadequate.

In order for our kids to feel (more than) adequate when they encounter shaming attempts, they need to have the deep conviction that what they believe is really true. Only then will they be able to fully see these shame claims for what they are—shallow and baseless emotional attacks—and be able to say confidently with the apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

 

If you need help talking to your kids about the evidence for the truth of Christianity and how to address secular claims with your kids, please check out my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith.

Visit Natasha’s Site @ ChristianMomThoughts.com


 

Resources for Greater Impact:

3 Key Things Skeptics Will Say to Shame Your Kids for Being Christians

 

Four Self-Refuting Statements Heard on College Campuses Across America

If I began this post by asserting, “I can’t write a word of English,” you’d probably recognize the contradiction. My sentence betrays its own claim, doesn’t it? Such is the nature of self-refuting statements. Wikipedia describes such utterances as “statements whose falsehood is a logical consequence of the act or situation of holding them to be true.” You might be surprised how often people are prone to saying something that is self-refuting, but there are number of common statements we hear (or use) every day that fall into this category:

“Don’t bother me, I am asleep right now”
“I’m not going to respond to that”
“I can’t talk to you right now”

There are times when our words collapse under their own weight. As I train university aged Christians around the country and listen carefully to their common college experiences, I’ve started to collect some of the more popular self-refuting statements uttered by college professors. Here are the top four:

“There is no objective truth” / “Objective truth does not exist”
Perhaps the most obviously self-refuting, this claim (or something similar to it) is still uttered in many university settings according to the students I train. Like all self-refuting claims, it can be cross-checked by simply turning the statement on itself. By asking, “Is that statement objectively true?” we can quickly see that the person making the claim believes in at least one objective truth: that there is no objective truth. See the problem?

Four Self-Refuting Statements Heard on College Campuses Across America

“If objective truth does exist, no one could ever know with confidence what it is” / “It’s arrogant to assume you know the truth with certainty”
Once again, the professor who makes such a claim appears to be confident and certain of one truth: that no one can be confident or certain of the truth! The statement falls on its own sword the moment it is uttered.

“Science is the only way to determine truth” / “I only trust things I can determine through a scientific process”
University students report this statement often, and it may take a little more thought to recognize as self-refuting. When a professor makes this claim, we simply need to ask, “Can science determine if that statement (about science) is true?” or “What scientific experiment provided that conclusion for you?” It turns out that there is no scientific process or procedure can be employed to validate this claim. It is a presumptive philosophical statement that is outside the analysis of science.

“It’s intolerant to presume that your view is better than someone else’s’” / “Tolerance requires us to accept all views equally”
An even more hidden self-refuting statement lurks here in this common errant definition of tolerance. Folks who hold to this corrupted view say they accept all views as equally true. But if you make the claim that some ideas are patently false and have less value than others, they will quickly reject your statement. In other words, they will accept any view as equally valuable except your claim that some views are not equally valuable. See the inconsistency? People who embrace this definition of tolerance cannot consistently implement their own view of tolerance.

This last claim related to tolerance may be the future battleground of self-refutation. Most of us, as Christians, recognize this assertion and have been accused of intolerance at one time or another. The exclusive claims of Christianity related to salvation (through faith in Christ alone) place us in the bulls-eye for such criticism. In my next post, I’ll examine the true nature of tolerance as we help each other navigate the concept and learn to defend the classic definition.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianityand God’s Crime Scene.

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Where Are The Watchmen?

By Michael C. Sherrard

Why is it that the church is always playing catch up? Things keep sneaking up on us. We hear the talk of same-sex marriage, and the next thing we know it is law in our land and supported in our churches. If it isn’t supported, many at the very least have a difficult time articulating from a christian worldview why marriage ought to be between a man and a woman. Have we all been napping? How did we get here? How is it that the children of light seem always to be in the dark, blind to what is happening in culture and in our congregations?

The answer to that question is certainly multifaceted. But part (perhaps most) of the blame is to fall upon pastors. The life of the pastor certainly is not easy. It is a calling that one shouldn’t step into lightly without counting the cost. And here is one of those costs. If we do not warn others of the dangers they are facing, their blood will be on our hands.

Pastors are watchmen. We are to declare the full council of God warning people of the impending danger. Paul recognized that the charge given to Ezekiel falls upon the entrusted stewards of God’s word today (Acts 18:6; 20:26; Ezk. 3:16-18). That is us pastors.

I must ask. Have we been faithful? Have we been alert? Or have we been too busy building our church networks, expanding speaking platforms, selling books, and planning new stage designs that we have missed the threats to our people. Or worse, have we ignored God’s voice because it threatened our comfort and our customers. Let’s just call it as it is. Pastors today seem more like salesman than watchmen. And I’d like to say “may God have mercy on us,” but I already know what he will require of those who hold back God’s word from those that need to hear it (Ezk. 3:18).

Pastors, it is time to step up. Let us fear God more than empty pews. Let us understand the times, the obstacles to belief in the gospel, and the threats to our people. Then, let us preach the fullness of God’s council trusting that many will turn to the Lord and follow His ways. Let’s equip our people and not merely entertain them (Eph. 4:11-16).

And church, support your pastor in preaching hard messages and addressing difficult topics. I know many pastors that will not preach on abortion, or any social issue, for fear of your retaliation. If you desire your pastor to speak difficult words, let him know he has your support. Do not be quick to condemn him (1 Tim. 5:19). Rather, encourage him, and spur him onto good works.

Let us all remember that truth sets us free. This world desperately needs freedom. Many are fashioning cages constructed by the principles of empty philosophies. Let us bring them truth. And let it not merely be the truth that is convenient, but the truth that addresses their condition. Pastors, let us become students of culture and truly know the people to whom God would have us speak. Then, let us boldly and persuasively proclaim the good news with gentleness and respect. And may God have mercy on those that hear the words of life.

________________________________

Michael C. Sherrard is a pastor, the director of Ratio Christi College Prep, and the author of Relational Apologetics. Booking info and such can be found at michaelcsherrard.com.

The 5 Worst Beliefs a Christian Parent Can Have in an Imploding Society

By Natasha Crain

America is changing fast, and not in the direction we’d like.

In light of recent events, I don’t think I need to detail all the signs that point to an imploding society. We see it. We feel it. We fear it.

Instead, I want to focus on our role as Christian parents within a society at such a point as this. In particular, I’m concerned about some very harmful beliefs—both conscious and subconscious—that I’ve noticed some Christian parents have.

Today I want to highlight five of the worst beliefs we can have when our society is spiraling downward.

The 5 Worst Beliefs a Christian Parent Can Have in an Imploding Society

1. I’m doing my part to make society a better place by raising kids with good values.

I’ve heard some variation on this way too many times. Let me make this very clear: Raising kids with good values is not the same as raising kids who love Jesus. And there are two important reasons why focusing on good values rather than on Jesus will never fundamentally alter society.

First, without universal acceptance of an objective moral standard (God), society will always disagree about which values are good. Without God as the standard, the goodness of a value system is simply a matter of opinion. One person can claim abortion is morally acceptable and another person can claim it’s murder. “Good” values can’t rescue a society when there will never be fundamental agreement on how to define what’s good in the first place.

Second, the fundamental problem in a troubled society isn’t a lack of values. It’s sinful human nature. Even if everyone agreed on the same set of objective moral values, they would still sin and act contrary to those values. Society’s deepest need for healing, therefore, isn’t more people with good values (however those values are defined)—it’s more people who know and love Jesus, who acknowledge the ever-present reality of sin as the world’s ultimate problem, and who accept Jesus’ sacrifice as the solution to that problem.

There will never be complete peace on Earth. But when we, as Christian parents, stay focused on raising kids who love Jesus—not just raising kids with good values—we are raising a generation who can impact society in an eternally significant way: by raising more witnesses for Christ.

 

2. I don’t need to waste my time teaching my kids the falsities of others’ beliefs when they’re better served learning the truth of Jesus Christ.

This is what someone said in response to one of my blog posts about the importance of helping our kids understand the secular worldview. And it absolutely belongs on this list of the 5 worstbeliefs a Christian parent can have in an imploding society.

It’s well known, based on multiple independent research studies over more than a decade, that at least 60% of kids who grow up in Christian homes turn away from faith as young adults.These kids learned the truth of Jesus Christ…but when they encountered false claims to the contrary, they were led astray.

In a society that’s quickly turning away from God, kids will be exposed to claims against Christianity at exponentially increasing rates. When they start to see their beliefs in the context of such claims, they have to know how to evaluate those competing views. Think of it this way: Just because a football team knows what to do when they have a ball at practice with no opponents around doesn’t mean they’ll know what to do when thousands of pounds of force come at them in a real game. If they don’t know what the other team will do, and how to respond, they’ll fumble…they’ll make poor plays…they’ll be pushed back. Similarly, our kids won’t be living in a Christian vacuum. Thousands of pounds of force will be coming at theirbeliefs. You can ignore it, but statistics show your kids’ faith will likely not stand up again after it’s been tackled by today’s opponents. Why wouldn’t you prepare them for that?

(If you need help learning about the specific faith challenges of today’s secular world, how to explain those challenges to your kids, and figuring out what all that means for you as a Christian parent, please check out my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith.)

 

3. God is in control, so whatever happens in our society is meant to happen. I’m not going to be concerned about it.

Allow me to be blunt: This is just plain laziness, whether a person wants to admit it or not.

Of course God is sovereign. But it’s not biblical to sit back and watch the world unfold because God is ultimately in control.

Did God tell the Israelites, “Just chill out. Don’t be concerned about Canaanite society. I’m in control and this ship is sailing regardless of what you do”? NO! He commanded the Israelites towage war against Canaanite society. The Israelites were used by God to execute judgment against them.

Did Jesus tell the disciples, “Just hang out here in Jerusalem after I’m gone and I’ll make sure the rest of the world hears the good news about me on my own?” NO! He commissioned the witnesses of his life, death, and resurrection to go out and tell the world about him…and to be willing to suffer and die in the process.

The fact of God’s sovereignty has never meant that we should relegate our faith to whatever status society wants to place on it. If we care about the world our kids are growing into, wemust be concerned about society’s changing moral and legal landscape and be willing to act on that concern accordingly.

 

4. My kids will learn what they need to know about the Bible at church.

If we’re going to raise kids who will represent Jesus in a society spiraling downward, they better be prepared to speak to the truth of the Bible—God’s Word to people in all societies. The Bible tells us where we came from (God), why we’re here (to have a relationship with God), the most significant problem we face (sin, leading to separation from God), the history of God bringing a solution to that problem (Jesus), how we should live our lives in response (putting Jesus first), and where we’re going (a final judgment of the whole world). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s pretty relevant stuff for today…and always.

Meanwhile, research shows that fewer than 1 in 10 Christian families read the Bible together in a given week.

As Christian parents, we should collectively feel that like a punch in the gut.

The belief that kids will learn what they need to know about the Bible at church is not conscious for most parents. But when we don’t study the Bible with our kids, our lack of action speaks to that subconscious belief. And it’s an undeniably wrong belief that will ultimately limit our kids’ effectiveness in engaging with a secular society.

As I wrote in my post, Why Your Kids Can Spend 600-Plus Hours in Church and Not Get Much Out of It, we have to remember that over the years a child attends Sunday school, teachers vary, curricula vary, and churches vary (as families move). Kids are handed various pieces of Christianity during that time, which they collect and store internally. But unless there is a consistent, focused, goal-oriented spiritual trainer in their life—a parent—those pieces will almost certainly lie around unconnected. This is especially true when it comes to their understanding of the Bible.

Furthermore, there are many things kids need to learn about the Bible that are never covered in most Sunday schools: How were the books in the Bible selected? Why were books left out of the Bible? How do we know we can trust the Bible’s authors? How do we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote? What about the supposed errors and contradictions in the Bible?

All of these questions are favorites for skeptics to weigh in on. But your kids won’t know what to make of their claims if you’ve assumed they’ll learn all this at church. They almost certainly won’t.

 

5. I’m sure things won’t get that bad.

I have been guilty of believing this until pretty recently.

But what a giant, dangerous deception it is.

To be sure, there are places in the world where Christians face persecution of a nature we may never see in America. If that’s your standard of bad, it may be true that things won’t get that bad.

But there are other kinds of bad that would represent an enormous change in the way of life for Christians in America…kinds of bad that are quickly becoming a reality, faster than most of us would have imagined. Every week (dare I say every day) there is a new headline that has negative implications for religious liberty in our country. Those headlines will keep rolling in.

We can ignore them, assuming things can’t get too bad. After all, this is America! Or we can look at such headlines like canaries in a coalmine—advanced warning signals of a precarious future for Christians in this country—and start taking more action in the public square on behalf of the next generation:

  • Stay up-to-date on the latest news affecting Christians (The Stream is a great place to do so).
  • Share articles representing Christian viewpoints on your social media.
  • Actively discuss these issues with your friends–online and in person.
  • Write politicians regarding key issues.
  • Gain an active knowledge of what public schools in your area are teaching that may be of concern and act accordingly.

Rather than assuming things won’t get that bad, let’s work together to make sure they don’t.

The 5 Worst Beliefs a Christian Parent Can Have in an Imploding Society

6 Ways Christians Can Respond to the Growing Police Dilemma

When we heard about the shootings last week, my wife and I were heartsick. Seven people died in what feels like an escalating national crisis. Two people died at the hands of police officers, while five officers died at the hands of a single suspect. The tension and distrust between African Americans and police officers is at the highest level in my lifetime. As my son Jimmy (a third-generation police officer himself) flew as a member of the Honor Guard to represent our agency at five officer funerals in Dallas this week, I began to gather my thoughts about how we, as Christians, might respond to the growing dilemma. I’ve tried to accurately communicate the nature of police work, but for every person who asks for my police perspective, there’s another who wants my advice as a pastor and Christian Case Maker. In this article, I’d like to outline six things each of us, as citizens and Christians, can do to respond to the growing dilemma:

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Six Things That May Change the Way You Think About Police Officers

After the horrific events of last week, I’ve been asked repeatedly about race relations in America, the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers, and the increasing violence against police officers. As a member of the law-enforcement family (and a member of the Christian community), I would like to respond by providing some insight into the training and daily practices of police officers, particularly given the number of requests I’ve received. Although most of us are familiar with police work from television dramas and news reports, few people actually understand the nature of the environment in which police officers work. Once you understand what police officers are asked to do on a daily basis, it may be easier for you to assess the current situation and respond in a more reasonable way. Here are six important things everyone should keep in mind (and prayer) when assessing the actions of police officers in our country:

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Why I Love Atheists

Last week I wrote a post Three Reasons I am Not an Atheist. For this post I am going to take a different route: rather than critique atheism as a worldview, I am going to discuss why I love atheists as people. So, I am shifting from talking about the idea of atheism to the people who embrace it.

Why I Love Atheists

I certainly don’t claim to represent all atheists in this post. There are a huge variety of people who consider themselves atheists (in terms of belief systems and demeanor), just as there is in Christianity, Islam, and many other religions. And there are even debates about what constitutes atheism—is it belief that God does not exist, or simply the lack of belief in God? My goal is not to enter into these kinds of debates, but simply to reflect on many atheists I have encountered personally, or through their writings, and what I love about them.

As apologists, we are often quick to criticize atheism as a worldview. But as I point out in A New Kind of Apologist, if we want people to hear our case for Christianity, we need to find common ground with others and also be charitable towards them as people. With that backdrop, here are three reasons why I love atheists:

1. Many atheists care about (what they believe is) truth

There are far more Christians in America than atheists. As a result, it is easy for people who grow up with Christian parents to simply embrace their family beliefs without genuinely considering any alternatives. There is little or no cost (at least in this country) to embracing the beliefs of your parents.

As a college student, I went through a period of significant doubt. In fact, I told my father, without knowing how he would respond, that I wasn’t even sure if I believed Christianity was true. While my father did respond graciously, and I ended up finding good answers to my questions, I remember counting the cost of what it would mean to reject my Christian roots. While thankfully I ended up keeping my faith, I still respect my atheist friends who choose a different path. Many count the cost and choose (what they believe is) truth over comfort. Even though I think atheism is wrong, I still can respect a person who makes a sincere decision based on what they believe to be true and tries to live accordingly.

Sure, I know some atheists who have rejected their Christian roots out of spite or rebellion. But that’s certainly not always the case. My atheist friends who have walked away from their faith remind me how important it is that we follow truth, regardless of the cost. Beliefs matter. And they do have consequences.

2. Atheists have made me think deeply about my own worldview

My worldview has undoubtedly been deeply shaped and influenced by great Christian writers such Aquinas, Augustine, Jonathan Edwards and even modern thinkers such as Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and N.T. Wright.

But just as formative for me are atheist writers such as Nietzsche, Russell, and Camus. They have forced me to think deeply about my worldview and to consider why I believe as I do. In fact, some of my motivation to study and learn has come from the challenges they have raised to my faith: Why does God allow evil? Is there life after death? Is my faith a crutch? The more I have studied to find answers to these kinds of questions, the more my faith has grown.

Similarly, I love having conversations with my atheist friends. They tend to see weaknesses and vulnerabilities in my arguments, and force me to clarify and justify what I believe. Sometimes I have a good response, but many times I have to go back and study further to find an answer. But regardless, these kinds of conversations are always beneficial and enjoyable.

3. Atheists are made in the image of God.

As a Christian, I believe every human being—regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, intelligence, athletic prowess, and sexual orientation—bears the imago dei. In other words, human beings have infinite dignity, value, and worth as members of the human race.

Even though atheists don’t believe in God, as a Christian, I still believe they reflect the image of their creator (Gen 1:17). As a result, like all people, they are unbelievably value human beings whom God loves. And so do I.

I am grateful for my atheist friends. Do I disagree with them? Yes. Do I pray for them at times? Certainly. Do I want them to become Christians? Absolutely! But my relationship with them does not depend upon their beliefs. My love for them does not depend on their conversion. Even if they never embrace Christ, I am thankful for their friendship. I love atheists, and if you are reading this as a Christian, I hope you do too.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

What The Fighting Over Gender Issues Is Really About

By Michael Sherrard

Do you have a hard time understanding how rational people can really think that genderless bathrooms are a good idea? Are you confused about what is happening culturally? Does it make any sense to you that corporations are applying political and economic pressure to reform our social sexuality? Well, here’s what’s going on.

The cultural battle over sexuality and gender comes down to one thing: a meaningful life. That is what all of the fighting is about, and it is why the battle contains such fury and vitriol. Each fight is part of a larger fight: How does one have a meaningful life? And this is what you must understand, the answer to the previous question is determined by your worldview.

A worldview is a set of beliefs that cause you to view life a certain way. We all have one. You cannot escape it. We each have beliefs that affect how we see life, form conclusions, and interpret our experiences.

I have a Christian worldview. I possess beliefs about reality. Among other things, I believe that God exists, the world is rational (i.e. knowable), and life has objective meaning and inherent value. My existence is the source of my meaning and value. Because I am made in God’s image, I have inestimable worth.

I live in a society, though, where nearly everyone else has a naturalistic worldview. Naturalism is a set of beliefs about reality. Naturalism holds, among other things, that God does not exist, the world is rational (though they cannot justify its rationality), and life has no inherent meaning or value. And that is a big deal. Did you catch it? Life has no inherent meaning or value. So what makes you and your life worth anything? That’s the big problem for the naturalist.

Naturalists have long recognized the consequences and problems that stem from their worldview. George Orwell noted this some time ago in his essay Notes on the Way. In it he writes about the necessity of cutting away the soul. You see according to naturalism, the self or soul does not exist. Put simply, you do not exist. “Man is not an individual, he is only a cell in an everlasting body” as Orwell says. The problem, though, is when you cut away the soul you find yourself in a very desolate world: existence void of meaning and value. Orwell saw this.

“For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came. But unfortunately there had been a little mistake. The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all, it was a cesspool full of barbed wire.”

So how do Naturalists rescue themselves from this bleak dystopia? How do they find meaning in life? They manufacture it. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was a pioneer in helping the naturalist out of their predicament. He espoused that existence preceded essence. This basically means that you are a blank slate, so make your life whatever you want. Because your existence has no inherent meaning or value, you can do whatever you want with it. Be a dragon. Become a woman. Marry your mother or computer. Define your life as you see fit. Your autonomous will is what gives your existence value and meaning. It is your dignity.

This is what the fight is over. In order to have a meaningful existence, you must have the complete freedom to form yourself according to your will and your will alone. So a threat to, say, the freedom of choosing your gender is a threat to the society that has embraced naturalism and needs to manufacture meaning and value through unfettered freedom of choice. For if you remove the ability to form your essence through choice, you remove any hope of a meaningful life.

Lets be clear about what is taking place here. Our society is collectively acting on the assumption that God does not exist and naturalism is true. They are fighting to form a society that reflects this belief. This is again why the fighting is so intense. It is a radical shift in our society. But I wonder if people are really aware of this. I wonder if we are prepared to declare in such a fashion that God is dead. Are we ready to officially replace the Christian worldview with a naturalistic one?

Well, here’s the thing, and this may shock you, we should be ready. We should abandon the Christian worldview if naturalism is true. But it’s not. Naturalism is a very weak worldview in terms of its explanatory power for reality, and it actually doesn’t offer a rational justification for believing in it. But that’s an article all by itself. Even so, I think we can examine just one aspect of the naturalist’s position and see why it’s something we can’t embrace.

According to naturalism, God does not exist. Therefore, form your own essence to give your existence meaning and value. But because God does not exist, the self cannot exist as the naturalist would readily concede. But if the self doesn’t exist, free will can’t exist. According to naturalists, I am a “cell in an everlasting body.” I am merely molecules in motion. Chemistry and physics dictate how I act, feel, and respond to this world. I am nothing more than a machine. Worse, I am a slave to my nature. Free moral agency is a huge problem for the naturalist. It is the very thing needed to have a meaningful existence, but it is the very thing that cannot exist if naturalism is true.

How anyone can hold to naturalism and a belief in free will is beyond me. It is the pinnacle of intellectual dishonesty. And for that, I cannot imagine how anyone can be a Naturalist. The most important thing about their worldview is not possible according to their worldview. And isn’t this the greatest form of irony. Because of their worldview, Naturalists must go to great lengths to manufacture freedom so that they can give meaning to their existence instead of embracing the Christian worldview that naturally contains both freedom and meaning.

To be clear, naturalism is the worldview that has brought us this battle. From it follows the fight we are currently in. Because God does not exist, life has no meaning other than what you manufacture through your autonomous will. A meaningful life is what hangs in the balance here. It is why the battle rages.

So what does this mean for us? Foremost, it means we must engage the root issue. We cannot merely address symptoms. We easily get sucked into arguments over bathroom policies and what not. And that is fine. We should engage in those conversations. But our efforts will not be fruitful if we are not addressing the heart of the issue. Genderless bathrooms flow from the naturalistic worldview.

Unfortunately, most people haven’t really thought about gender issues and such in a meaningful way. They haven’t recognized how naturalism is the worldview behind the fighting. They haven’t connected the dots. They’ve merely connected with sound bites.

You can help, though. You can help people think meaningfully about this important issue as you engage them in respectful conversation. As I’ve written in my book Relational Apologetics, I believe the best approach in most cases is to ask questions, listen, learn how to stay on topic, practice humility and point people at the right time toward a true understanding. Be gentle and respectful in your conversations, and many will come to see that Christianity still speaks reason in an age of naturalistic nonsense.

_____________________________

Michael C. Sherrard is a pastor, the director of Ratio Christi College Prep, and the author of Relational Apologetics. Booking info and such can be found at michaelcsherrard.com.

How to Explain to Your Kids Why Some People Think Gorillas and Humans Are Equally Valuable

By Natasha Crain

By now, you’ve probably seen all the headlines and controversy surrounding the killing of Harambe the gorilla. In a nutshell, a 4-year-old boy somehow fell into a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo last weekend and authorities ended up killing the gorilla in order to ensure the boy’s life would be saved. Controversy has raged over whether or not the gorilla should have been shot when he was, whether the mom was at fault for the whole thing, and, most notably,whether we really should always choose a human life over an animal life.

If you find the italicized last part of that sentence confusing, you should. It goes against our most basic understanding of our existence. But that’s where our society is today: equating the value of human life with the value of animal life.

On the surface, this controversy can sound like a simple battle over opinions, but in reality it originates miles deeper—at the level of a person’s entire worldview. The reactions to this story make it a perfect case study for our kids on how our worldview impacts the way we see absolutely everything in life.

Here’s what they should understand.

 

A Tale of Two Worldviews

There are two major worldviews in play here (well, technically, there are many more, but for our purposes we’ll compare the two big ones).

First, there is the naturalistic worldview. In the naturalistic worldview, there is no God. All that exists is the natural world, which sprang into existence 13.7 billion years ago. Eventually, about 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth formed, and 0.5 billion years later, the first life appeared. As life continued to reproduce, random mutations occurred in DNA (the molecule that contains all the information necessary to build and maintain an organism). Some of those mutations conferred an advantage to their organism within their environment, leading to improved survival and reproduction. When the organisms with the beneficial mutation no longer reproduced with the original population, a new species was created. Over billions of years, this process created every species on Earth—fish evolved into amphibians, amphibians into reptiles, and reptiles into birds and mammals, with humans finally arriving on the scene a couple hundred thousand years ago (the actual date is debated).

Without assessing the truth of this worldview, we can identify four basic implications of it. If naturalism is true:

 

  1. There is no objective meaning to our existence. People can certainly create their ownsubjective meanings—I can decide that the meaning of my life, for example, is to save dolphins—but no meaning is any truer than any other; there is no objective meaning to our existence.

 

  1. There is no objective purpose of our existence. Evolution isn’t moving toward any particular goal. Environmental factors may influence the rate of DNA mutations, but not the direction. In the most basic sense of the word, our lives our purposeless.

 

  1. There is no objective morality. Any individual can have a preference for what they think is right and wrong, but no one can claim a higher authority for that preference. I might say murder is wrong, for example, but I can only mean wrong in the weakest sense—“murder is wrong in my personal opinion.” Someone else could legitimately claim that murder is great, and there would be no objective arbiter of morality between us; no one could say what weought to do.

 

  1. Humans are equal in value to animals. If humans evolved from animals without any prior planning for or direction toward our existence, we are quite literally just another animal. No creature has a more intrinsic right to life than any other. The question of which lifeshould be saved in a situation like a boy falling into a gorilla exhibit is irrelevant—there can be no speak of objective shoulds. We humans may have an opinion on it, but no opinion is objectively more right than another. If naturalism is true, we have no reason to bristle at those who say they would choose the life of Harambe over the life of the child—like this person I saw on Facebook:

How to Explain to Your Kids Why Some People Think Gorillas and Humans Are Equally Valuable

 

Now let’s consider the Christian worldview. In the Christian worldview, God created the universe and everything in it. We learn about Him and ourselves through His revelation in nature, Jesus, and the Bible.

Again, whether or not this is an accurate picture of reality, we can identify the following four basic implications of it:

 

  1. There is objective meaning to our existence. If there’s an author of life, then it follows that He would imbue His creation with a specific meaning. Think, for example, of a painter who created artwork with the meaning that life is beautiful. Someone may look at the painting and say, “Oh! It meant something else to me…” but that won’t negate the fact that the author himself is the only one who can state what the meaning truly is.  In the Christian worldview, God is the One who determines the true, objective meaning of our existence (whether we like that meaning or not).

 

  1. There is a purpose for our existence. Similarly, if there is an author of life, then it follows that He created us with a purpose in mind. And, again, we might live as if that purpose is something totally different, but that doesn’t negate our true purpose.

 

  1. There is objective morality. In the Christian worldview, God is perfectly good and is the objective standard of morality. He has given us a moral conscience (Romans 2:14-15) and revealed further moral prescriptions in the Bible. We can speak of what humans should do because there is a universal should that applies to all people.

 

  1. Humans are fundamentally different from and more valuable than animals. Christians disagree over the age of the universe and God’s creative method, but universally agree that human beings—and no other creatures—were created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We were made to resemble God in a meaningful way that sets us apart from the animal world: We are rational, moral, and capable of having a relationship with our Creator. That makes human life sacred and of infinitely more value than that of other creatures.

 

So What Should We Make of Harambe?

None of this is to say that we should mistreat animals, or that we should have been happy about Harambe being killed in this unfortunate situation. It’s also not an analysis of whether or not he was killed prematurely. In an ideal world, they would have been able to save both the child and the animal.

Rather, this is to say that a person’s worldview is foundational to how he or she evaluates a situation like this. If you believe that there is no God who designed humans as unique creatures with a unique right to life, you’ll argue over the details of the situation to assert your opinion on which life should have been spared in this particular case. Maybe you think the gorilla should have won, maybe you think the boy should have won. The details are there for discussion. But if you believe that there is a God who has created us specially—in His imageyou’ll always argue for doing what it takes to save a human life, because human life is sacred in a way that animal life is not.

 

When we take the time to dig into the worldview issues behind popular stories like this, we help our kids tremendously in preparing them to engage with this secular world. So many of the battles today come down to the worldviews behind the issues themselves. The more we teach our kids to look far beneath the surface of what’s going on around them, the more we develop their critical thinking skills and demonstrate how far-reaching the implications of their beliefs are. If you need help with having these conversations, please check out my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith.  It’s available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian book retailers, as well as ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com.

 

How to Explain to Your Kids Why Some People Think Gorillas and Humans Are Equally Valuable

The Five “As” of Porn Consumption Today

It’s no secret that pornography is a HUGE issue in our culture today. People seem to be finally waking up to its destructive effects. I get asked give my talk, “What’s the Big Deal with Pornography?” as much (or more) than any other topic. Utah recently declared pornography a public health hazard. Even Time magazine ran a cover story on April 11, 2016 about a generation of young men who feel their brains and relationships have been sabotaged by porn.

And yet there are many parents, pastors, teachers, and other influencers who have still not dealt with the issue. It’s time! To properly address the “pornification” of our culture, it is helpful to see how radically porn consumption has changed in the past few years. Specifically, here are my Five “As” of how porn use has changed with the advent of modern technology:

1. AGGRESSIVE: To compete for viewership and money, porn producers have turned to increasingly aggressive content. In her article for Time, Peggy Orenstein notes:

“Producers of porn have one goal: to get men off hard and fast for profit. That means eroticizing the degradation of women. In a study of behaviors in popular porn, nearly 90% of 304 random scenes contained physical aggression toward women, who nearly always responded neutrally or with pleasure. More insidiously, women would sometimes beg their partners to stop, then acquiesce and begin to enjoy the activity, regardless of how painful or debasing.”[1]

2. ACCEPTABLE: Porn consumption simply doesn’t have the stigma it used to have. As a whole, porn use is much more acceptable than in the past. In fact, according to the recent Barna/Josh McDowell Ministry study, teens and young adults rank not recycling as more immoral than viewing porn (56% vs. 32%).[2] Further, 9 out of 10 young men 13-24 say that how they talk about porn with friends is encouraging, accepting, or neutral.[3]

3. AVAILABLE: “It’s all mainstream now!” That’s what Zack, Seth Rogan’s character, says to his best friend and intended love, about pornography, in an effort to get her to make a pornographic film with him in the 2008 film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Technological advancement has indiscriminately allowed people of all ages to encounter and consume sexually explicit content. Mobile devices have passed computers as the most common means of accessing pornography. And virtual porn is just emerging.

4. ANONYMOUS: In the past, people had to buy a porn magazine from a real person, such as a worker at a video store or a clerk. Today, any one with a cell phone can anonymously access endless free images with just a few clicks. People can now watch pornography entirely alone without any human interaction at all.

5. AFFORDABLE: Pornography used to cost money. People accessed porn through books, magazines, videos and other mediums that required some kind of fee. Even though the porn industry will make over 100 billion dollars this year worldwide (more than Apple, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, EBay, and Yahoo combined),[4] much is still free.

Porn use has clearly changed since generations in the past. And my guess is that this trend will only continue. What can we do? Talk about this with someone. Write a blog. Give a talk. Share your story, like my friend Mike. Forward this blog. Create a YouTube video. The only way we can give people hope is by speaking truth. Revelation 12:11 says, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Now is the time. Even though this is an uncomfortable topic, we must have the courage to address it. This includes you and me.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


[1] Peggy Orenstein, “How porn is changing a generation of girls,” Time, April 11, 2016, p. 47.

[2] Barna, July-August 2015

[3] Porn in the Digital Age, Barna Report (April 6, 2016)

[4] Forthcoming: John D. Foubert, Ph.D., How Pornography Harms: What Teens, Young Adults, Parents & Pastors Need to Know (2016).

Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist

By Natasha Crain

I received the following blog comment this week, packed with statements that your kids are likely to hear (and possibly come to believe) about the nature of truth. I wanted to reply to the commenter right here in a blog post because I feel there is so much that is important for everyone to understand about what he is saying.

I’m going to include the full comment below so you can read it in its unbroken entirety, then I’ll break it down part-by-part. If you have older kids, I encourage you to read them this letter and use it as a discussion starter.

For context, this person is responding to an atheist who had commented on a post previously, and is encouraging him to stay strong in the midst of Christian claims.

You are really brave defending your stance against a bunch of evangelical Christians banging on you. I myself am not an atheist. If I have to put a label on myself, I would choose agnostic theist. I believe in God or a higher power, but I don’t have an absolute certainty of his or her nature.

 My belief is rational to [a] certain extent. The rest is on faith. However, unlike Christians, my spiritual path is highly personal and subjective. I will never say that “you’d better believe what I believe or you will suffer eternal consequences”. Christians, whichever denominations, like to intimidate me which [sic] this “Jesus is the high way” tactic even though I never initiate any religious conversation with them. However, I have survived as a gay, Vietnamese, and non-Abrahamic-faith person, and my life is pretty good so far. I know you may not like to hear this. I feel connected to God with contemplation, prayer, and compassion practice. When I have a child, I will not raise him or her as an atheist or a believer. I will do my best to raise him as a person who has a higher sense of empathy and compassion. If he chooses to be a Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc., I will support his decision. I believe that God is like an ocean, and different spiritual paths are like rivers. I am not the one who decides which river is the best to reach the ocean…

Keep your stance and keep searching truth…your truth. Not mine and definitely not these Christians’.

 

My Response: An Open Letter to a Relativist

 

Dear Minh,

Thank you for being willing to honestly share your spiritual journey in the comments section of my blog. It’s clear that spirituality is an important topic for you, as it is for me. With that in mind, I’d like to respond to several of the points you make.

 

You said: I myself am not an atheist. If I have to put a label on myself, I would choose agnostic theist. I believe in God or a higher power, but I don’t have an absolute certainty of his or her nature.

From what you’re saying here, it sounds like you are “agnostic” about what kind of God or higher power exists because you haven’t found anything pointing to that Being’s nature withabsolute certainty. However, it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves about this desire for absolute certainty. There’s pretty much nothing in life we know with “absolute certainty.” For example, do you know with absolute certainty that you are a real person and that everything you experience is not just an illusion? No, but you have good reason to believe you really exist and you live accordingly. We claim to know things all the time that we can’t beabsolutely certain about. When the preponderance of evidence points toward something being true, we go ahead and say we know it.

The question I would leave you to consider, therefore, is this: If you discovered that a preponderance of evidence pointed to a specific religion being the one true revelation of God to humans, would you accept it as truth? Or do you require a level of certainty that you don’t require of anything else in your life?

If you require a unique level of certainty in spiritual matters, then I would suggest perhaps you don’t want to find truth. If you are open to considering the weight of the evidence for the possible objective truth of a specific religion, then I would invite you to begin that investigation in earnest. If you would like to learn about the evidence for Christianity specifically, I will recommend a great starting book at the end of this letter.

 

You said: My belief is rational to certain extent. The rest is on faith. However, unlike Christians, my spiritual path is highly personal and subjective.

It sounds as though you are suggesting that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is a better way than an objective one, such as in Christianity. However, it’s important to realize (if that’s indeed what you are implying) that by claiming this, YOU are making an objective statement–that a highly personal and subjective spiritual path is best for everyone! That’s a contradiction.

 

You said: I will never say that “you’d better believe what I believe or you will suffer eternal consequences”.

If you’re an agnostic theist, then you presumably don’t believe there are eternal consequences for your beliefs, so of course you will never say that. But what you are really saying here is that it’s wrong (and probably arrogant) for Christians to suggest to others that they have objective knowledge that beliefs have eternal consequences. Here’s the problem: What if Christianity is true? What if there are eternal consequences for what you believe? Would it be more loving for Christians to tell others about that, or to stay silent in the fear that the truth might bother you? Whether you believe Christianity is true or not, it’s not logical to suggest it’s a bad thing for Christians to warn other people about what they believe to be eternal consequences. When a person truly believes something horrible will happen to another person unless they warn them about it (think of someone about to get hit by a bus), the logical and loving action is to warn them. I would hope you would do the same if that were your belief.

 

You said: Christians, whichever denominations, like to intimidate me which this “Jesus is the high way” tactic even though I never initiate any religious conversation with them.

We really need to stop here and better define the nature of intimidation; there is a huge difference between an intimidating delivery of a message, an intimidating message, and feelingintimidated.

If a Christian has gotten in your face, waving a Bible in the air and shouted angrily at you, “Jesus is the only way!” then they have delivered a message in an intimidating way. And I apologize if you have been the recipient of any such graceless delivery. That is not how Jesus would speak.

An intimidating message is one that is frightening in and of itself. Is the message that Jesus is the only way to God frightening? If so, I encourage you to really dig deep and understand why it would be frightening to you if there was really just one objective truth. The gospel is good news…Jesus died so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be reconciled to our wonderful Creator.

Finally, a person can feel intimidated even if someone does not deliver a message in an intimidating way and doesn’t even deliver an intimidating message. There is nothing inherently intimidating about saying that Jesus is the only way to God! But if, in response to that, you feelintimidated, then it’s worth digging within to understand why the notion of one objective truth is so challenging to you personally.

 

You said: However, I have survived as a gay, Vietnamese, and non Abrahamic-faith person, and my life is pretty good so far. I know you may not like to hear this.

Minh, the test of truth should never be whether or not our lives are “pretty good.” A person can believe the world is flat (a wrong belief about reality) while having an amazing life from an earthly perspective. It’s not about survival and circumstances; it’s about having good reason to know that what you believe is an accurate picture of reality.

 

You said: I feel connected to God with contemplation, prayer, and compassion practice.

But why put so much trust in your feelings? Our feelings can’t be the final arbiter of truth. If I tell you I feel connected to Jesus as God’s son, who represents the only way to God, you wouldn’t believe I’m right. So there has to be something objective–evidence outside of your and my personal experiences–to help us determine what is actually true.

 

You said: When I have a child, I will not raise him or her as an atheist or a believer. I will do my best to raise him as a person who has a higher sense of empathy and compassion.

Why are empathy and compassion the most important values? Why are they “higher” in value or truth than whether or not God exists? If God doesn’t exist, and the world is only material, then there is no basis for objective morality; there is nothing morally good or bad because there is no moral authority. Empathy and compassion are morally equivalent to killing people if we are just molecules in motion. To be sure, I’m not suggesting that most atheists would ever think killing a person is OK. But, in a world with no God (a moral authority), at best you could say that killing people is not good in your opinion, and therefore you won’t do it. Atheists can be “good without God,” but they have no objective basis from which to call anything good. Similarly, if you don’t believe in a God who has revealed anything of His nature, you have no objective basis from which to refer to empathy and compassion as “higher” values.

 

You said: If he chooses to be a Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, etc, I will support his decision.

If by “support” you mean you will continue to love him dearly, regardless of what he believes, then I agree wholeheartedly. But if by “support” you mean you will accept whatever he believes as an equally valid picture of truth, then once again this is a contradiction. At the end of your whole comment, you advise fellow readers to not search for the truth of Christianity. Clearly, if your son believed Christianity is true, you would not feel that view is as valid as yours. Thus, you are willing to claim that at least some views are objectively wrong.

 

You said: I believe that God is like an ocean, and different spiritual paths are like rivers.

If you study where all these “rivers” are actually leading, you’ll see that they make logically incompatible truth claims; they aren’t even claiming to run to the same ocean. As a simple example, in Judaism, Jesus is not the Messiah. He is simply a man. In Christianity, Jesus is the Messiah and is God Himself. These claims cannot both be true. They contradict each other and cannot point to the same truth.

 

You said: I am not the one who decides which river is the best to reach the ocean.

If God exists, as you and I both believe, then you are correct: We are not the ones who decide which river is the best to reach the ocean. GOD IS! Ironically, by stating that you are not the one to decide what is best, so you therefore choose to believe that all paths are fine, you ARE making a claim of what is best. God, and God alone, determines which “river” flows to Him. The question is, has He revealed which river that is, and if so, which revelation is correct? Christians believe He has revealed that river as Jesus. We are not claiming to have decided that on your behalf, which I think is a misunderstanding that flows throughout your comment. We are simply claiming that the river that runs to God has already been decided by God and are sharing what we believe He has revealed.

 

You said: Keep your stance and keep searching truth, your truth. Not mine and definitely not these Christians’.

After all you wrote about the equally valid paths to God, it’s hard not to see the irony in how you’re advising others to definitely not search for the truth of “these Christians.” Are all paths valid except Christianity? You champion relative, subjective truth, but in doing so, you are making an objective claim that all paths are equally valid (except, notably, Christianity).

The bottom line is this: Truth is not what we like the best, what makes us most comfortable, what costs us the least, or what makes us happiest. It’s what accurately matches reality. I encourage you to consider the actual evidence for the truth of various worldviews, including of course, Christianity. If you honestly and openly do so, I am confident you will see that there is good reason to believe that Christianity is the uniquely true revelation of God. An excellent book that examines this evidence from the perspective of a detective is Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels.

 I wish you the best and hope that there is some food for thought here.


 

For anyone wanting to better understand the nature of objective truth, whether or not all religions can point to the same truth, why Christians can claim to “know” Christianity is true, and how common sense and personal experience are or are not helpful in determining truth, please check out my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. It’s available from your local Barnes & Noble and Christian book retailers, as well as ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com.

Is Spiritual Truth a Matter of Opinion? An Open Letter to a Relativist

How Do We Help Kids Who Have Left the Faith?

Perhaps the toughest question parents ask me is how they can help their wayward kids. The difficulty of this question stems not solely from the intellect, but from seeing the pain in the eyes of parents who are genuinely hurt and disappointed in the choices of their kids. What can we do? Here are some humble thoughts from my work with students:

Pray. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This first step may seem obvious. After all, which Christian parentsdon’t pray for their kids? But remember, while prayer is for our kids, it is also for us. God wants us to pray as an act of trust in Him, and he promises to guard our hearts as a result.

Work on the relationship. It’s no secret that I love apologetics. Yet despite the critical need to train our kids in defending and articulating the faith, there’s often relational and emotional pain at the heart of why kids reject faith. In a massive study of faith transmission between generations, USC professor Vern Bengtson revealed that the primary factor is a “warm relationship” with the father. If this relationship in particular is broken, or other key relationships, faith is far less likely to be passed on from one generation to the next. Rather than first trying to reason your kids back to faith, or force them to go back to church, be sure they know you love them unconditionally. After all, God said to Israel: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jer 31:3).

Remember that God’s heart is broken more than yours. It’s hard to think of a more passionate and committed love than the love of a mother. But God loves us and yearns to see our kids come back to faith more than we do. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). And Peter said, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). We can pray to God knowing that he yearns to see our kids return to faith too.

Have a long-term view. Many young people who return to the faith often endure a length, arduous journey. And this journey is often filled with pain, regret, and consequences. I have seen this with many of my students and some of my personal friends. While we certainly want their return to be quick, and we want to save our kids from unnecessary pain, many have to learn the hard way. If we have a long-term view, we will tend to be more patient with our kids and count our blessings along the way.

Trust God. Don’t blame yourself. It’s natural to blame yourself for the choices your kids make. As tempting as this is, don’t do it. There’s nothing wrong with reflecting on your mistakes and learning from them. I do it all the time. But don’t dwell on them. All of us make mistakes. The question is whether we will learn from them, accept God’s forgiveness, and trust God regardless. Ultimately, our kids are responsible for their own lives. I have seen kids from crummy families develop a vibrant faith, and I have seen kids from great homes walk away. There are always many factors tied to a young person’s faith development. We can’t take too much credit, nor can we give ourselves too much blame. If your kids have walked away, the most important question is, Am I trusting God through this process and responding in the way He would desire me to. If the answer is “yes,” then whether your kids return to the faith or not, you can rest assured that God is please withyou.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.