As the English philosopher Edmund Burke is purported to have said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”1
What a reminder from Simon Peter to “
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine … they will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:2–4)
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. Do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Pet. 3:15; NIV)
Susan is in fifth grade and she loves it. Typical of children her age, her learning curve seems to be going straight up. She loves making friends; she loves reading books; she loves her mom and dad (though she’s not sure about her big brothers that pick on her); and she loves Jesus . . .. sort of. In all honesty, she’s not too sure about Jesus right now. Yes, Susan grew up in the Church and faithfully attended with her family on a regular basis. For the last several years she has enjoyed the bliss of faith as a child. Now, however, on the verge of adolescence, she is beginning to make her faith her own . . . or not. Her spiritual life is hanging in the balance and no one even knows that’s the case.
On Monday morning, with a ponytail sticking out from the side of her head and her favorite cartoon character embossed on her backpack, Susan will go to school.
At school, Susan learns many things. She learns about history, mathematics, language, and science—both observational and historical science. She learns the science from men and women who wear white coats and safety glasses. They use test tubes and Bunsen burners. They dissect animals and use microscopes to look at cells, and they carry clipboards under their arms to record all of their scientific findings. To Susan, they look smart. They do research. They test hypotheses. They prove them with their experiments. Susan knows that these people deal with real things—things that you can touch and feel—the kinds of things that matter. She spends many hours a week learning from these people. And she sees that they are dealing with fact. Because of this, when the same people talk about the history of the universe, dinosaurs, fossils, the origin of life, and the like, and interpret them in a particular way (e.g., millions of years and evolution)—Susan thinks they are speaking with the same authority as when they discuss their observational science that involves what you can observe and experiment with directly. Susan can’t discern the difference between observational and historical (origins) science; to her, it is all science. And, that is how it is usually presented anyway.
On Sunday morning Susan’s mom and dad will dress her up and take her to church. For two hours or so, she will enjoy the company of friends under the care of committed Christian volunteers. To Susan, they look nice. They read stories to her. She is not sure if they are true or not—but they are nice stories. They don’t really connect to reality and they come from an old book anyway. They help her with her crafts. They sing songs together. Susan knows that these are good people and that they are teaching her about things that can’t be seen. They tell her what to believe about many things. She actually has a 90 percent chance that her pastor and teachers will tell her that God created everything. (Only 10 percent of all the people in our survey, which again, attended conservative churches, said that their pastor said it was okay to believe in Darwinism.)
However, there is a very strong likelihood she will get the idea she can believe in millions of years. Yes, this is a Bible-believing church after all. Or they will tell her what the Bible says, but they don’t tell her why to believe. No charts, no time-lines, no experiments. She’s learning about things that she can’t touch or feel, and she’s not entirely sure anymore that these things really matter. All in all, Susan will get about ten minutes of focused, spiritual input from adults this week at church, and none of it will include science. And she knows that they are dealing with faith.
Over the next few years, Susan’s “worldview” (her philosophy of life) will be formed. She doesn’t even know this is happening, but connections and assumptions are being made in her mind that will determine how she interprets everything that goes on around her for the rest of her life. By ninth grade or so, she will be able to articulate her worldview to herself and others. She will even think she came up with her worldview herself, but that’s not true. Her belief has mostly been shaped by all of the input that she has been getting throughout her childhood. What has she learned? She has learned about the facts that supposedly govern the world, and she has learned about the faith that supposedly governs the heavens. The problem is that many of the “facts” that she has learned seem to contradict her faith—but no one talks about those things at church.
In her mind, there are obvious questions that no one seems to be asking:
- Why is there death and suffering if God is a good God?
- Why can’t people of the same sex who love each other get married?
- Isn’t it better to get divorced than live unhappily?
- How can the earth be only a few thousand years old when it “looks” so old?
- Why is Jesus the “only way”?
- How come dinosaurs have nothing to do with the Bible or church?
Because no one asks these questions, she assumes that no one has the answers to these questions. She realizes that church people seem to have faith in spite of the “facts” that she has been told. That didn’t matter so much as a child, but now on the edge of adulthood, she begins to feel the disconnect: The facts are relevant; faith is not. If you want to learn something that’s real, important, and meaningful, you do that at school. If you want to learn something that is lofty and emotional, you do that at church. At school, they teach about everything—fossils, dinosaurs, marriage (different views, gay marriage, etc.), sex, the origin of life, what is “right” and “wrong,” different religions—they learn about everything!
Yes, she’s still in elementary school, but she is on her way to being one of the 20-somethings who will leave the church and never come back—not even during the holidays; not even when she has children of her own. She’s not cynical, she’s just skeptical. She’s not uncommitted, she’s just indifferent. She will become what George Barna calls “the Invisible Generation” that brashly challenges us to respond to her honest questions:
All I want is reality. Show me God. Tell me what he is really like. Help me to understand why life is the way it is and how I can experience it more fully and with greater joy. I don’t want empty promises. I want the real thing. And I’ll go wherever I find that truth system.
—Lisa Baker, age 202
Susan is already sliding down the slope of unbelief. She’s willing to believe in something that is real, but no one offers her anything like that on Sunday morning. They tell her what to believe, but they do not tell her why.
No one talks about it at home either. By and large, what she is taught at secular school is not dealt with. She is given no answers. Even at Christian school, the textbooks don’t really teach answers to the skeptical questions of the day. And even in most homeschools, kids may be taught the Bible is true, but many don’t understand how a non-Christian thinks, nor are they prepared to answer the questions of the day. In many instances, the same compromises with or indifference about millions of years and evolution are no different than the compromising churches. In the vacuum of answers, her doubts begin to solidify.
When did Susan’s problems start? Did they start with television? Did they start with secular school? Did they start in Sunday school? Actually, her problems started a long, long time ago . . . a long time ago in a garden.
Adam and Eve had it made. In fact, I don’t even think we can imagine the beauty, the harmony, and the intimacy that they shared with
each other, with the world, and with God. It was all “
very good,” as
God proclaimed. In unhindered exploration of God’s creation, they
walked freely in the Garden of Eden, “
naked and unashamed,” without
fear, without condemnation, without threat. Yes, it was very good, but
it didn’t last. God placed only one parameter on Adam and Eve: “
tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day
that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
The serpent in the garden was more sly than anything else that God had made. Having rebelled against God and having been thrown down from heaven, Satan laid down the doubt that would lead to the sin that would distort, decay, and bring death to the perfection that God had created. It was a simple and subtle scheme. It wasn’t a direct accusation at first—just a hint of a suggestion. It was the beginning of doubt—the same doubt that plagues the generation that is now exiting the Church. Satan simply brought up a slight possibility:
Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden? . . . You will not surely die.” (Gen. 3:1–4; NIV, emphasis added)
Did God really say . . . ? It was the first attack on the Word of God. Since then, the attack has always been on the Word of God. The attack manifests itself in different ways during different areas of history. But the question is really always the same. Did God really say . . . ? Throughout the centuries, Satan has attacked the Word of God and attacked the human soul by casting doubt into the truthfulness of what God has said and the relevance of God’s words in practical everyday life. In the last 100 years, the attacks have begun to sound more and more scientific:
- Did God really say that He created everything? Surely science has proven that the big bang happened spontaneously, without any outside force.
- Did God really say that He created the earth in six days? Surely science has proven that life evolved over millions and billions of years.
- Did God really say that He created life? Surely science has proven that the right chemicals in the right place over a long enough period of time will spontaneously generate living forms.
- Did God really say that He created humanity? Surely science has proven that the human race is really just a highly evolved life-form that is the product of time and random chance.
- Did God really send a worldwide Flood in the time of Noah? Surely science has shown there never was a global Flood, and that the fossil layers were laid down over millions of years—not by a Flood.
The youth of today are wrestling with such questions. Fact seems to disprove faith. As we saw in the last chapter, how did the Church respond to this attack in England? By doing almost nothing. Actually, they did do something—they basically agreed one could accept the teachings of the world concerning the past, and reinterpret the Bible’s account in Genesis. It focused on issues of faith and left its people defenseless against the so-called facts. To a certain extent, evangelical Christianity has done the same thing in America. Oh, yes, there are a few people in every congregation who seem to specialize in “apologetics.” They are the brainiacs who read and study and seem to have a quick answer for everything. But they are few and far between. The rest of us try to ignore our doubts, leave the intellectual battles to someone else, and just focus on Jesus and the gospel.
But in this day and age, we must see that an attack on the Word of God is an attack on the gospel. Without the Word of God, we have no gospel. Without the Word of God, we have no morality. Without the Word of God, we have no record of our past and no prophecy for our future. Without the Word of God, Christianity cannot stand.
Biblical Authority Issues
Those of us who are born-again Christians believe that Jesus Christ
bodily rose from the dead. After all, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:14: “
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain,
your faith also is vain.” We believe, as real historical fact, that Jesus
Christ bodily rose from the dead.
But let me ask you a question: how do you know Jesus Christ rose from the dead? You were not there, and you don’t have a movie re-run, so how do you know? Because the Bible says, that’s how. We accept that the Bible is the revealed Word of God—it is inerrant, inspired, the “God-breathed” revelation from our Creator. And as such, we let God’s word speak to us through this written Word. If it is history, we take it as history. We don’t try to force our ideas onto God’s Word; we let it speak to us in the language and context in which it is written. How about Jesus actually walking on water? Or that Jesus fed thousands of people from just a few loaves and fishes? Or that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish? We know, because it’s in the Bible.
But let me ask you a question: how do you know Jesus Christ rose from the dead?But if I go to many churches in America and ask if God created everything in six ordinary days, that death of animals and man came after sin, that there was a worldwide Flood in the time of Noah and so on, I suddenly get responses like, “Well, we wouldn’t say that. The days could be millions of years. God could have used evolution. Noah’s Flood might have been a local event or really didn’t make much impact on the earth,” and all sorts of similar statements.
Now I want you to understand what has happened—this is key to understanding what has happened to our culture, and key to understanding why our kids are leaving the Church. This is the crux of the issue. It is an issue of authority—biblical authority.
It is true that the literal events of Genesis are foundational to all doctrine—to the gospel. In Matthew 19:4–7, when Jesus was explaining the doctrine of marriage, He quoted from the creation account of Adam and Eve to teach the doctrine of one man for one woman. The whole meaning of the gospel is dependent upon the account of the Fall of man, and thus original sin, as given in Genesis. Ultimately, every single biblical doctrine of theology, directly or indirectly, is founded in the historical account given in Genesis 1–11. And Genesis is written as typical historical narrative (not like the Psalms that are written as typical Hebrew poetry). If one undermines this history, or reinterprets it, or tries to claim it is myth or symbolic, then one undermines the foundation of the rest of the Bible, including the gospel.
But even given this, there is something far more crucial—it is the very WORD itself, the authority of the book we call the Bible.
The reason we know Jesus rose from the dead is that we take God’s Word as written. The reason we know a fish swallowed a man is that we take God’s Word as written. And if you take God’s Word as written in Genesis (and it is written as history and quoted from as history throughout the Bible as did Jesus Himself in His earthly ministry), it is very clear that God created in six ordinary days, that man and animals were vegetarian before sin, there was a global Flood, and there was an event after the Flood called the Tower of Babel that formed the different people groups.
Thus, one can’t have a fossil record of supposed millions of years before man containing evidence of animals eating each other, bones with diseases like cancer, and thorns said to be hundreds of millions of years old, when everything was described by God as “very good” and animals and man were vegetarian and there was no sin and thus no death and disease or thorns before Adam’s rebellion. The ultimate reason so many in the Church (including professors at Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian colleges) reinterpret the Genesis account of creation, or say it is not important, is because of the influence of the idea of millions of years and evolutionary teaching.
Here is the point. Stand back and consider the big picture. If we teach our children (or anyone) to take God’s Word as written concerning the Resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, and the account of Jonah and the great fish that swallowed him but then tell them we don’t need to take Genesis as written but can reinterpret it on the basis of the world’s teaching about millions of years and evolution—we have unlocked a door.
The door we’ve unlocked is the door to undermine biblical authority. We are really saying, “We want you to take God’s Word as written according to literature and language in certain places—but not here at the beginning in Genesis.” What we have actually done is made man the authority over God’s Word. We have taught our children that they can take what they learn at school and can reinterpret the Bible’s clear teaching in Genesis to supposedly fit this into the Bible. By staying silent and not defending Genesis, we are “teaching” our children that we don’t have to take God’s Word as written, and man can reinterpret God’s Word according to what the majority in the culture might believe.
Scripture teaches that if there is sin or compromise in one generation and it is not dealt with, it is usually observed to occur to a much greater extent in the next generation, and so on. When we unlock that door in Genesis, the next generation usually pushes that door open farther—and then the next generation farther again, and then the next farther again—until eventually all of the Bible is rejected. There is a loss of biblical authority each generation until it becomes an epidemic throughout the Church and nation. The structure of Christianity (its morality, its Christian worldview) collapses, to be replaced by a man-centered structure where moral relativism would pervade the culture. That is what we have seen across Europe, and before our very eyes in America.
An Open Door
So why do we tolerate ideas that undermine the authority of God’s Word? We think that simply because a secular humanist or an atheist is not directly attacking Jesus or the Cross that he’s not attacking them at all. If the mass media and education systems directly targeted Jesus and the Resurrection, most in the Church would be up in arms. But if the foundation of those beliefs is attacked and weakened first (the attack on the Word itself), then unbelief creeps across the country and through the Church slowly and surely, while we have to fight more and more for the things we value in our faith.
Many Christian organizations are spending millions of dollars and countless hours trying to change the culture. We are trying to get nativity scenes back on public grounds. We are trying to get the Ten Commandments back in the courtrooms. We’re trying to get the Bible back in the classroom. (Actually, I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think anyone even hopes that the Bible might someday be read and respected in the secular schools anymore.) But why in the world would the Bible (and its Ten Commandments, nativity scenes, and so on) be allowed in the classroom if the educators don’t believe it’s true. And the gospel? The message of Jesus comes from the same book that records the Genesis history of creation and the Flood. If they don’t believe in the first part (which is written as history and quoted as history throughout the Bible), why would they believe in the rest?
The world, the devil, and even our sinful human tendencies have caused a deep, dark shadow of doubt to fall across God’s Word. Did God really say … ? In regard to the events in Genesis—six literal days, and so on—most people would say no, because the Word of God has been under successful attack. In Europe the attack began when scientists threw doubt on the age of the earth. In America today, those same attacks are shattering the foundation upon which the Church and the gospel depend. Actually, the Bible itself warns us that such attacks will happen and we need to be ready for them. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul warns us that Satan will use the same attack on us that he did on Eve:
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
And what was the method used on Eve? “Did God really say . . . ?” He got Adam and Eve to doubt and thus disbelieve the Word of God. This attack was meant to cause Adam and Eve to reinterpret God’s Word based on their own appraisal of things. They looked at the evidence—the beautiful fruit—and decided that God’s Word couldn’t mean what they thought it meant. It was okay to reinterpret it and determine truth for themselves. I call this “the Genesis 3 Attack”! Genesis 3 Attacks have occurred over and over again throughout history. And in this era (particularly since the late 18th century), the Genesis 3 Attack has manifested itself as science attempting to disprove the account of creation, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel in Genesis. Our culture today is in great danger—the Genesis 3 Attack has hit the Church and the culture!
While I have very strong feelings about the direction that our culture is going, I do not believe that culture can be changed from the top down. Sure, you might get the laws changed for the next four years, but the next guy who gets voted in can erase everything. You might be able to win a few legal battles regarding freedom of speech, but before we know it, the next group will be telling us to sit down and shut up. Why? Because they don’t believe the book from which we speak. You see, the culture has changed from the foundation up, as reflected in the predominant secular worldview and relative morality. The culture went from being built on the foundation of God’s Word to being built on the foundation of man’s word. And this has also happened in the Church. When the Church adopted millions of years and evolutionary ideas into the Bible, they put man in authority over God’s Word, making man the ultimate authority, not God! No wonder the kids are walking away from the Church!
At its heart, Answers in Genesis is not a creation-versus-evolution ministry, and we’re not out to change the culture. The Bible doesn’t say to go into all the world and change the culture, but to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The culture changed because hearts and minds changed in regard to the Word of God. To change the culture back, hearts and minds need to be changed toward God and His Word. When such changed hearts and minds, committed to the Word of God, shine light and distribute “salt” in the culture—then the culture will change.
We see it as our job to defend the Christian faith, stand on the authority of God’s Word without compromise, and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. And when the relevancy of the Word of God is restored, lives will be changed as the power and authority of the living Word of God empowers their lives. Then, we believe, these individuals will permeate the culture by living truthfully and honestly in harmony with godly principles . . . and then culture will be changed from the bottom up. That’s what this ministry is all about. We strive to get information out there to change the foundation and worldview of individuals so the culture will naturally be changed from the heart.
We forget that the first attack by Satan was to cast doubt on the Word of God. How does that relate to the gospel today? Paul shared his concerns in the verse quoted previously from 2 Corinthians 11:3:
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Satan deceived by his craftiness, the Word of God was compromised, and people’s minds were corrupted from the simplicity of the gospel and Jesus.
But why should we be surprised? Psalm 11:3 says, “
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Our foundation is
the Word of God. We need to defend the Word of God as one of our
top priorities as Christians. If we are to give a strategic and effective
response to the wave of souls who are leaving the Church, these issues
must be addressed.
The Attack Today
In our survey, we asked the thousand young adults who have left the Church if they believed that all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true and accurate. Of those, 44 percent said no, 38 percent said yes, and 18 percent didn’t know. We asked those who said no this follow-up question: If you don’t believe all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true and accurate, what made you begin to doubt the Bible?
- 24% It was written by men.
- 18% It was not translated correctly.
- 15% The Bible contradicts itself.
- 14% Science shows the world is old.
- 11% The Bible has errors.
- 7% There’s so much suffering in the world.
- 4% Christians don’t live by the Bible.
- 4% Evolution proves that the Bible is wrong.
Look at those results again. If you add up all of the responses related to biblical authority, you’ll see that 82 percent of those who said they did not believe all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true and accurate did so because of doubts about the authority of the Bible. Then we asked this other question: Does the Bible contain errors?
Forty percent said yes and another 30 percent didn’t know. Only 30 percent said that the Bible does not contain errors. Of those who said that the Bible does contain errors, these were the supposed errors that they pointed out:
- 22% Alleged contradictions
- 18% The writers made mistakes.
- 10% The Bible is wrong about the young age for the earth.
- 6% There is too much suffering and death in the Bible.
- 5% Genesis has been disproved by science.
- 2% Miracles do not occur.
- 2% There was never a global flood.
These are the doubts that students like Susan are facing. These are the doubts that are plaguing the hearts of the next generation. For the group that will never come back to church and never comes on holidays, these issues are even more pronounced. It would seem logical, then, that if we are to strategically respond to the devastating epidemic of young adults who are leaving the evangelical Church, we should be addressing these issues. Responding to these attacks on our Bible should be at the forefront of our attempts to restore relevancy to the Word of God and make our churches relevant to this generation. It is so obvious we need to be teaching apologetics in our churches—creation apologetics and general Bible apologetics! The fact that this is not happening in the majority of our churches, nor in the majority of Bible and Christian colleges and seminaries, is one of the great travesties of this age in regard to the Church.
What is really happening?
A False Relevancy
Medical researchers often talk about a phenomenon called “the placebo effect.” When trying to determine the effectiveness of a drug or treatment, sometimes researchers will intentionally give a group of people a pill that looks like the new medicine but really isn’t. Amazingly, the people taking the false medicine sometimes feel better even though the pill is not actually helping them at all.
A similar thing is happening in the Church. In our efforts to slow the flood of young adults who are leaving, we often give the Church a placebo. We try to restore cultural relevancy without restoring biblical relevancy. As you’ll see in the next chapter, I’m all about adopting religious forms that are appropriate to the culture of the upcoming generation. Becoming “culturally cool” can feel like it helps for a while, but it’s really just a placebo, a Band-Aid for a much deeper disease. By simply making our services more attractive to the younger generation, we might feel better and they might feel better, but it’s doing nothing to solve the core issue of the epidemic. All it does is sacrifice eternal truth for short-term attractiveness, and it turns a church into an organization that is driven by the felt needs of its young consumers.
Tell them what they want. Make them feel good. That’s not what the doctor ordered. Yes, we need a good bedside manner, but the Church is sick and it needs to be told the truth—and they need to know that the truth hurts sometimes. (Okay, a lot of the time.)
One of my big frustrations with this “placebo effect” comes down to music. I have visited hundreds and hundreds of churches. Everywhere I go, music seems to be the central issue. Even in conservative churches everyone tries to make a big deal out of praise and worship. We think that if we can make it dynamic, energetic, and fit the style of the generation we’re trying to reach, the epidemic will be stopped and young people will start flooding back into the Church. That’s simply not the case. Our research showed that music is not a fundamental factor in young adults choosing to leave or stay at a church—but the preaching of God’s Word is.
music is seen by many in the church as the most important part of the service.Now don’t get me wrong. David used music to praise the Lord. God has created us to love music. We can use music to worship the Lord. But what I’m talking about is the fact that music is seen by many in the church as the most important part of the service—that it is the music that will draw people in. This is not what our research showed. Yes, people love music, but they want good teaching!
However, to try to restore relevancy to Scripture, what do we usually do these days? We add guitars and drums to the service. We think that the Church needs to follow the culture in order to be relevant. But cultural forms do not make you relevant, they just make you cool. Truth makes you relevant. It doesn’t mean we can’t make such reforms to be more contemporary—but the motive and priority are what is so important.
I watched an argument one time between the worship pastor and an associate pastor over how much time I would have to speak in the service. I was trying to get my computer set up, but I guess I was interfering with the rehearsal. The worship pastor got a little bent out of shape and told the other pastor, “Hey! Music is the most important part of this service!” Eventually the other pastor backed down. That day we had 20 minutes of praise and worship, 20 minutes of message, and 25 minutes of worship at the end. The Word of God was put in second place. The placebo was given precedent; the real medicine was given a token amount of time. I see that everywhere, by the way—in liberal churches, conservative churches, across all denominations. And besides, many times the music worship time is more of a stage production and entertainment time than it really is a worship time.
There is a war going on over the Word of God. This is not the time to focus on making people feel good. Through our survey, we can now better pinpoint the areas where they are struggling with doubt.
Resources for Reclaiming Biblical Relevance
Let’s take another look at the situation that the first-century Apostles were facing and draw another parallel between their situation and ours today. Is a child like Susan growing up in Athens or is she growing up in Jerusalem? In other words, is she growing up as a “Jew” in a society where biblical belief is assumed, or is she growing up in a “Greek” society that is secular and skeptical?
The answer is that Susan is actually doing a little of both. Part of her is growing up in a church that believes. Christianity is the accepted norm on Sunday morning. The problem is that the moment she steps out the door, she enters a world that is more like Athens. Because of that, Susan’s church should be “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” in an unbelieving world by teaching her and her church to defend the Word of God from the very first verse against the skeptical attacks of this age. Not only would this help protect Susan’s faith from the attacks she gets in the world, but it would also arm her and the rest of her congregation to take the offensive. In both situations, the foundation of the authority of the Word of God both inside and outside the Church needs to be rebuilt.
The Church needs to be reminded over and over why the majority of students begin to doubt the Bible in middle and high school—and then diligently deal with the issues by introducing relevant apologetics courses (teaching a logical, reasoned defense of the faith) by at least middle school (even before).
As I travel around the world teaching on biblical apologetics, I find that whether my audience is primarily secular or Christian, regardless of what country I’m in, I get asked the same basic questions—such as (to name only some of them):
- How do you know the Bible is true?
- Hasn’t science disproved the Bible?
- Isn’t the world millions of years old?
- What about carbon dating?
- How did Noah get all the animals on the ark?
- But don’t we observe evolution because we see animals change—we see bacteria become resistant to antibiotics?
- If God created Adam and Eve, only two people to start with, where did all the people come from?
- How come there are so many different “races” of people?
- But dinosaurs don’t fit with the Bible; how do you explain them?
- Where is the evidence for a global Flood?
- How can you believe in a loving God when there is so much death and suffering around us?
Most Sunday school lessons, sermons, Bible studies, etc., are not teaching people how to answer the questions of the day. They are not connecting the Bible to the real world. They are not teaching people how to defend their faith—and we wonder why we are losing them. Not only is apologetics (a logical defense of the faith) not taught in most churches and Sunday schools, it is not taught at most Bible colleges or seminaries—or is actually taught against! Church leaders today seem to think that programs, entertainment, music, and many other things are what is needed to reach people and keep them in church.
However, our research also showed something very different— that people want good Bible teaching. It is the preaching of the Word and making it relevant to them in today’s world that they need and want. But this is not happening even in Sunday school in the majority of instances, let alone the rest of the church programs.
The Bible is not some “pie in the sky” philosophical book. It’s a real book that is really connected to the real world. It is a history book that connects to dirt, fossils, stones, bones, tsunamis, earthquakes, oceans, mountains, death, and so on. It has everything to do with geography, biology, anthropology, and sociology. The Word of God has never changed, but the Church’s perception of the Word of God changed when it failed to engage the scientific community on matters of fact as well as faith. It’s time to change that and be true to the challenge that Peter left for each of us to follow:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. Do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Pet. 3:15; NIV)
Typical churches use materials that are more geared for “the Jew in Jerusalem” who has a developed religious background and lives in a religiously friendly society. That’s just not the case anymore. Our society is now immersed in secularism. It’s absolutely essential that we learn to defend the Bible and the Christian faith for the sake of our faith and our children’s faith, and to evangelize a society that has a highly diminished understanding of biblical truth. I firmly believe that we are now in the era of the “Greeks” . . . yet our churches and Sunday schools are still teaching us like “Jews.” See the problem?
We do not have a ready defense in most of our churches—yet. But, thankfully, God has supplied us with all the weapons and shields we need to defend ourselves and to take the offensive in reclaiming the relevance of God’s Word in our churches and in this society. Our defense must be strategic. As families and as a Church, we need to think through the threats that lurk around us and be willing to protect our families and our churches from the onslaught of ideas that continually cause us to question if God really said what He says He did.
I’m advocating a completely new approach to how we educate ourselves as Christians! God’s Word and the Christian faith are supported/confirmed by the facts. The disconnect between faith and fact is nothing but an illusion created by an overwhelming misinterpretation of the facts. Good observational science supports faith. It always has and it always will. It’s time to bring the facts back into our faith. Training yourself, your family, and your church to be defenders of the faith is an exciting and empowering adventure. It can change the Church—it can change the world. It’s time to attack doubt with courses and preaching and teaching that defend God’s Word against the attacks of this age!
That sounds like a huge endeavor, and in some ways it is—in fact, it will take a lifetime!
But thanks to this survey, we now know where we need to focus our efforts today. We now know which lies are causing elementary, middle school, and high school kids to doubt the most:
- The Bible was written by men.
- The writers made mistakes.
- It was not translated correctly.
- The Bible contradicts itself.
- The Bible has errors.
- Evolution proves that the Bible is wrong.
- The Bible is wrong about the young age for the earth.
- Genesis has been disproved by science.
- There is too much suffering and death in the Bible.
When we interpreted all the data, questions arising about the Book of Genesis represented about 40 percent of all the concerns. Ultimately, if we are unable to defend Genesis, we have allowed the enemy to attack our Christian faith and undermine the very first book of the Bible. We need to be able to defend our faith from general attacks and defend against the specific attacks on the Book of Genesis. The number of resources now available is wonderful. To get you started, however, let me give you a manageable, balanced arsenal of shields and swords that you can use to arm yourself and your family and your church.
God’s Word stands by itself and doesn’t need defending—that is true—but, practically, in this culture we are talking about answering the skeptical questions to uphold the Word and proclaim why we can believe in the Bible’s life-giving historical and scientific authority. That means we need to not only know the Bible, but we need to know about the Bible and why it is worthy of our complete faith. Do you see why that’s so important now? Some great resources to get you started are listed in appendix 3.
This Sunday, take a second look at the kids coming through the door of your church. Like Susan, most will appear to be excited, enthusiastic, and engaged. The fact is, about 30 percent of them are kids who are beginning to wrestle with significant doubts about the relevancy of the Word of God. What can we do to help children like her? What can we do to protect our own kids as well as our own hearts from the attacks on God’s Word? By defending and teaching the Bible from the very first verse and then depending on God to keep us faithful to our call!