Category Archives: Mentoring

What got me started on apologetics? William Lane Craig debate transcripts

William Lane Craig lecturing to university students
William Lane Craig lecturing to university students

Yes, William Lane Craig debate transcripts. In fact, I still read them from time to time to keep up my skills.

Here’s one of my favorites, the Craig-Nielsen debate on grounding morality without God

Summary:

THE CRAIG-NIELSEN DEBATE: GOD, MORALITY, AND EVIL
William Lane Craig and Kai Nielsen
with annotations by William Lane Craig
February 1991, University of Western Ontario

Best part:

Finally, he raises the issue of immortality and says, “Death doesn’t undermine moral values. In fact, things that we value become all the more precious.” Well, in one sense he’s right. It’s the absence of God that undermines the objectivity of moral values, not death. But let’s suppose that there are objective moral values. What would be undermined by the lack of immortality? I think two things.

First, I think there would be no reason to adopt the moral point of view. Since you’re going to die, everyone ends up the same. It doesn’t make any difference whether you live as a Hitler or a Mother Teresa. There is no relationship between your moral living and your ultimate fate. And so in that sense, death undermines the reason for adopting the moral point of view rather that just being an egoist and living for self.

Second, there’s no basis for self-sacrifice on this point of view. Why should an atheist, who knows everything is going to end in death, do things that are morally right that go against self-interest? For example, a few years ago there was a terrible mid-winter air disaster in Washington, DC, as a plane crashed into a bridge spanning the Potomac River, spilling its passengers into the icy waters. And as the helicopters came to rescue these people, attention focused on one man who again and again passed by the rope ladder rather than be pulled to safety himself. Seven times he did this, and when they came again, he was gone. The whole nation turned its eyes to this man in respect and admiration for the noble act of self-sacrifice that he did. And yet on the atheistic view, that man wasn’t noble. He did the stupidest thing possible. He should have gone for the rope ladder first, pushed others away, if necessary, in order to survive! But to give up all the brief existence he will ever have for others he didn’t even know? Why? It seems to me, then, that it’s not simply the absence of God that undermines objective moral values, but ethical living is also undermined by the atheistic point of view because you then have no reason to adopt the moral point of view and you have no basis for acts of self-sacrifice.

By contrast, on the Christian view, where you have both God and immortality, you have the necessary presuppositions for the affirmation of objective moral values and for consistent living of the ethical life.

And another of my favorites, the Craig-Taylor debate on the ontological grounding of morality.

Summary:

Is The Basis Of Morality Natural Or Supernatural?
Richard Taylor and William Lane Craig
October 1993, Union College, Schenectady, New York

Sample Craig:

(2) I argued that moral accountability also exists under the supernaturalist view, and Professor Taylor didn’t deny the point.

(II) What about my critique, then, of naturalism? I said that naturalism doesn’t provide a sound foundation for morality, and here I made two points:

(1) On the naturalist view, objective right and wrong do not exist. Again, Professor Taylor doesn’t deny this point; he just says, “Well, to say that they’re conventional doesn’t mean they’re contemptible.” Well, granted; but it does mean they’re arbitrary, they’re non–objective. There’s no more difference between moral right and wrong than driving on the right–hand side of the road versus the left–hand side of the road. It’s simply a societal convention. And the modern evolutionist thinks these conventions are just based in socio–biological evolution. According to Michael Ruse, a professor of the philosophy of science,

The position of the modern evolutionist…is that humans have an awareness of morality…because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation, no less than are hands and feet and teeth…. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, [ethics] is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves…. Nevertheless…such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction and…any deeper meaning is illusory….{26}

This is essentially the same view as Professor Taylor’s. Moral values are simply rooted in socio–biological evolution, that have passed down as certain taboos and certain commands, but they have no objective validity in terms of their moral rightness or wrongness. Professor Taylor says, “But I have a high regard for people who are truly moral and decent.” I don’t deny that. Of course he does! But the point is that in his ethics, in his philosophy, he has no basis for that affirmation. What I bring is not a new set of values—I think we pretty much hold those in common—but I’m offering a secure foundation for those values that we all want to hold dear.

You see, on Professor Taylor’s view, there really isn’t any objective morality. I think every one of us here tonight would agree that it’s wrong to kill babies and that the holocaust was morally wrong. But in his book Professor Taylor says, “The infanticide practiced by the Greeks of antiquity did not violate their customs. If we say it was nevertheless wrong, we are only saying that it is forbidden by our ethical and legal rules. And the abominations practiced by the Nazis…are forbidden by our rules, and not, obviously, by theirs.”{27} I submit that that is simply a patently false view of moral values and that naturalism, therefore, can’t provide any objective basis for right and wrong.

And another of my favorites, the Craig-Tooley debate on the problem of evil.

Summary:

A Classic Debate on the Existence of God
Dr. William Lane Craig & Dr. Michael Tooley
November 1994, University of Colorado at Boulder

Sample Craig:

(2) Christian doctrines increase the probability of the coexistence of God and the evils in the world. Let me just mention a couple of these.

(i) On the Christian view, the purpose of life is not happiness as such in this life. Rather it is the knowledge of God—which will ultimately produce true and everlasting happiness. What that means is that many evils occur in this life which might be utterly pointless with respect to producing human happiness. But they might not be pointless with respect to producing the knowledge of God. Dr. Tooley assumes when he talks about changes that would make this world a better place, that the purpose of life is basically to be happy in this life. And I certainly admit that you could make changes that might appear to make this life a better place, make it happier. But that’s not God’s purpose. So if you understand that the purpose of life is not happiness as such, I think that you can see that the existence of evil doesn’t necessarily cast any improbability upon God’s existence.

(ii) It’s also the Christian view that God’s purpose spills over into eternal life. In the afterlife God will bestow a glory and happiness upon us that is incomparable to what we’ve suffered here on earth. And the longer we spend in eternity with Him, the more the sufferings in this life shrink by comparison to an infinitesimal instant. Dr. Tooley admits in his article that it is possible that immortality could justify such evils. But, he says, it’s “very unlikely” that there is life after death. Well, I have two comments. First, I’d like him to prove that it’s unlikely that there is life after death.{26} Second, I suggest that the resurrection of Jesus gives us grounds for hoping in life after death, and I’ve attempted to justify that historically. So given these Christian doctrines, I think you can see that the existence of God and evil is not so improbable after all.

[…]

(4) Finally, I think that there is actually an argument for God from evil. It would go like this:

(i) If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. If there is no God, moral values are either socio-biological by-products or just expressions of personal preference.

(ii) Evil exists. That’s the premise of the atheist. There is real evil in the world.

(iii) Therefore, objective values do exist. Some things are really wrong.

(iv) Therefore, God exists.

Thus the presence of evil in the world actually demonstrates God’s existence because in the absence of God, there wouldn’t be any distinction objectively between good and evil, between right and wrong. So although evil in one sense calls into question God’s existence, in a much deeper sense, I think, it actually requires God’s existence.

So in the light of these four responses, I think that the argument from evil, as difficult and emotionally pressing as it might be, in the end doesn’t constitute a good argument against the existence of God. So I think the four arguments given against the existence of God by Dr. Tooley are inconclusive. You’ve still got my six arguments for God’s existence, and therefore I still think that on balance the evidence favors theism as the more rational worldview.

There are more debate transcripts on Craig’s Reasonable Faith web site.

Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?

Here’s a wonderful post on decision making and the will of God posted on Neil’s blog. In his post, Neil explains the Biblical model for making good decisions.

Excerpt:

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

He has a helpful picture posted as well:

This is actually a very important topic for me, because I like making plans and making good decisions. I like being the quarterback or squad leader of my own life. I like to pick objectives and then make plans to achieve them. (Nothing too exotic, just simple stuff like saving money or reading more books)

Actually, I really oppose the idea that God has a magical fairy tale will for each person that will make them happy and fulfilled. For me, life isn’t like that. I don’t expect God to lead me along like a child at a scavenger hunt. I expect to survey the battlefield where I am and then do something to make a difference. There are lots of things you can do that will please God. Should you focus on your career and sponsor apologetics conferences? Or should you use your spare time preparing Sunday school lessons? There are lots of good things you could do to please God. Your job is to pick the one that will be the most effective. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, it only matters if it’s effective and if you are good at it.

Who is Rifleman Dodd?

A while back, I was busily working my way through the U.S. Marine Corps Official Reading List, and I came across a book by C.S. Forester called Rifleman Dodd, or alternatively titled Death to the French. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. The story is about a British marksman named Dodd, who is cut off from his own lines during a withdrawal maneuver. He is subsequently left to fend for himself behind enemy lines. An ordinary man might be full of despair and forget about his mission entirely. But Dodd is no ordinary man. Not only does he find a way to survive by finding food to eat, water to drink and places to sleep, but he also tries to remember his orders and to think about what he can do to advance the cause of his General, the Duke of Wellington.

Here’s an excerpt from a gritty book review:

It’s about a green-coated British infantry rifleman in the Napoleonic Wars, an age when rifles were a novelty and most of the army was red-coated and carried muskets. Private Matthew Dodd gets separated from his regiment during a retreat and finds himself stranded behind enemy (French) lines in Portugal. With the occasional aid of some natives, but mostly on his own, he harasses the French with his rifle and tries to prevent them from building a bridge across the Tagus River. It’s a remarkable tale of survival and solitary achievement, of a rank-and-file soldier who lives by his wits and slowly learns to make plans without orders, and shows leadership qualities and a knowledge of warfare.

I think we’re in the same situation as Dodd.

There is no point in us looking for breadcrumb trails to happiness at this point. That’s not the point of Christianity. The point of Christianity is friendship with God, imitation of Christ, honoring moral obligations, self-sacrificial love for your neighbor (and even your enemies!), and dedication to the truth – whether anyone else likes you or not. It’s not supposed to make you happy, and it’s not necessarily going to be a normal life like everyone else has. Things may not work out the way you’d like them to.

We seem to be making such a big deal about compassion and forgiveness in the Christian life these days – such a big emphasis on our feelings. Almost like we have forgotten that we have obligations to our friend. A relationship doesn’t mean that one person does whatever they feel like, completely disregarding the character and goals of the other person and then is automatically granted forgiveness whenever they want it. That’s not a friendship – that’s using someone else for your own ends.

For a lot of people today, Christianity only comes into play after you’ve made a mistake and you’re feeling guilty. For example, suppose you decide to go to a party with your secular friends, then you drink too much, and you do something sexual that you shouldn’t have done. Or maybe you watched some prosperity gospel preacher on TV, then made irresponsible business decisions thinking that God would bail you out and make you rich, and you went bankrupt. Most people think Christianity is for this situation: you’re a Christian so that you don’t have to feel guilty about sin. And so that you can tell people that God forgives you, so that they can’t think anything bad about you, either. You sort of get your idea about what you should be doing in order to feel good from the culture, and God is just there to forgive it all when it blows up in your face.

But in my case, putting myself in a situation like that is not even possible. I’m more likely to try to plan to do something for God. Like, I might try to mentor a young Christian by sending them books. Or, I might try to teach a class in apologetics at my church. These are things that are for God, not for me. I’m not just being dragged along by the culture, and trying to find happiness by feeling good (e.g. – with alcohol) or being liked by non-Christians. And if my plans fail because the mentoree doesn’t grow up into anything, or nobody comes to my apologetics class, that’s when I go to God and say “I screwed up. but can I still be in your army?” And God always says yes to that. You don’t have to be the best player on the team for the Coach to like you. He already likes you.

One of the great things about being a Christian is that you can never lose your identity as a Christian by failing to do something for him that you planned to do. That’s what forgiveness is for. If you set out to do something for God’s glory, and you mess it all up, that’s OK. But I do think that, like Dodd, our ambition should not be about just making ourselves happy, or making non-Christians like us. We should be trying to make plans and carry them out for God.

That’s how I understand forgiveness. It’s not just something that’s there for you to use to fix your feelings when you’ve been irresponsible while seeking your own happiness in secular ways. It’s also there when you’re trying to do something good for God, and you fail. A lot of times in life you try your best, but you fail, and then you lose something that you really wanted. With God, when you try your best for his glory, and fail, you don’t lose your identity as a member of his team. I think that not losing your identity in Christ is even more important than not feeling guilty about selfish decision making.

So, have you got a plan to serve your General? Let’s focus more on what operations we’re planning for God than on being happy and being popular with non-Christians. Your life should not be all about you, with God just there to make your bad feelings go away. Your life should be about God’s goals and God’s interests.

Eight tips for talking to non-Christians about Christianity

Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS
Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS

From Stand to Reason – some excellent tactical advice about how to have a conversation about spiritual topics with a non-Christian.

Here’s the setup:

I overheard a conversation on the airplane coming back from my vacation in Wisconsin.  A Christian gentleman was vigorously sharing his faith with a gentleman in the seat directly behind me.  There are some things we can learn, both good and bad, from what I overheard and take his effort—which was a good one—and channel it in a little bit more constructive direction.

So I am going to give you eight points of application.

And here are my favorites from his list:

3.  Try to stay away from religious language, terminology, and religious affect. This person was very religious in his whole approach.  I think this is hard for us as Christians because we are brought up in a Christian environment and it’s natural for us to talk this way, but it sounds weird to people outside of that environment.  I think there are a lot of people who may be, in principle, interested in a bona fide, genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ but who are not interested in the Christian religion as they perceive it.  This is where I think a lot of the emergent guys have a legitimate bone to pick with Evangelicalism.  Let’s try not to sound like Bible-thumping fundamentalists if we can avoid it, even if that’s what we are, because there’s no need to sound that way if it puts people off.  Find another way to communicate the message.  Just talk in a straightforward manner.  Be conscious of using religious language the other person may not understand or may think is strange.  Avoid all of that so they can hear the message you’re trying to communicate.

4.  Focus on the truth, not personal benefits of Christianity. I appreciated the gentleman’s approach in that he kept talking about truth.  One person he was talking to said he liked reincarnation.  The Christian man said that even if he liked reincarnation that that didn’t make it true if it’s not true.  Liking something is not going to change reality.  That’s a great point.  He was focusing on the truth claims of Jesus.  He wasn’t giving a bunch of promises.  He wasn’t saying, “Jesus is my ice cream.  He’s a great flavor.  Try him to see if you like him, too.”  Or, “Try Jesus because he’ll make your life so wonderful.”  Focus on truth and not personal benefits.

5.  Give evidence. This gentleman was giving all kinds of evidence for his seatmates to consider.  Good for him!  You should too.  You know why?  Because people in the Bible did, too.  Jesus, Paul, Peter, all the Apostles.  If you look at the details of how they communicated their faith they gave evidence for the truth of what they were saying about Jesus.  In fact, if you want to get the content of the Gospel, one of the most famous passages for the articulation of the Gospel is the beginning of 1 Corinthian 15.  Paul gives all kinds of evidence.  It’s all right there as he is explaining the Gospel.  We see that all through the New Testament.  So give evidences.  It’s appropriate.  People do respond to that even in a postmodern age.

I remember that I was once working in Chicago, and after a particular good apologetics discussion with a team of engineers, I apologized to them all for being so conservative and confident that I was right. These guys all had MS and PhD degrees in computer science from top schools like Stanford, Purdue, U of I, NIU and Northwestern. I was worried that they would think that I was some sort of fundamentalist because I was so definite about what I believed. They said “you’re not a fundamentalist”. And I said, “but I am ultra-conservative in my theology!”. And they said “That’s ok – as long as you have considered different points of view and you have objective evidence, then somehow it doesn’t sound fundamentalist”.

I think that’s something that we need to work on. When Christianity is about truth, it’s open to investigation using public evidence. At work, I have explained the structure of DNA molecules in the office and had people rolling their chairs out of their cubicles to come and see me draw amino acid chains on a white board, and calculate the probabilities with a calculator. You can be a fundamentalist, without sounding like a fundamentalist. You just have to focus on public, testable evidence.

Look here:

Make religion about truth – not personal preferences. They respect that way of talking. Don’t talk about your feelings or your spiritual experiences. They can’t test that. Talk to them about history and science. They CAN test that.

Woman explains what she was told about having children when she was young

Man teaching woman proper marksmanship
Man teaching woman proper marksmanship

This article is by Ellie Bufkin, writing for the The Federalist. I always had a suspicion that women were being told not to marry too early, and not to have kids too early, but to instead enjoy their freedom. (With all that that entails) In some cases, it was their own mothers telling them this. Here is the story of one woman who was told to follow her dreams – as long as they didn’t involve marriage and children.

Excerpt:

Since I was young, I’ve heard a non-stop stream of encouragement for me, as a “modern woman,” to take charge of my own life, live independently, and chase my dreams. This seems like the obvious advice we should give children, except that many people spent so much time chasing their dreams and creating their bespoke lives that they forgot to have children.

While growing up in the suburbs, my post-scholastic dream did not consist of finding a partner and having babies. I wanted to see the world, experience many cultures, and live without having to worry about caring for anyone else. I ended up in a fast-paced career with a propensity for hard partying, late hours, and a taste for travel and luxury.

As years ticked by, I assumed my perfect life would simply fall into place when I was ready, my career would steadily improve, and I would be swept off my feet by a perfect man. I had many friends with the exact same expectations for their lives, and today, we are pretty much all still single and childless.

We set our expectations so high that we never achieved them. We dated people with the same hope for impossibly perfect lives and moved from city to city, hoping we could achieve a greatness that was not to be.

[…]Liberal feminists widely consider it to be morally wrong to have children in your twenties, or to have more than two children, or to continue any unplanned pregnancy. As a species, shouldn’t we want to reproduce? If we continue to reinforce the idea that having kids is a taboo choice, how long will it be before there are no children?

Many of the women I went to primary and high school with never left our little hometown, and now have their own children in the exact suburb I couldn’t wait to get away from. In my twenties, I pitied them. How could they be so uncurious as to never leave home? Weren’t we all raised to believe that women had choices now?

The next thing I want to do is to give you some facts about infertility, and whether women have accurate beliefs about infertility.

Dina sent me this UK Daily Mail article a while back, but I held onto it until I could find something to pair it with.

It says:

One of Britain’s top NHS fertility specialists last night issued a stark warning to women: Start trying for a baby before you’re 30 – or risk never having children.

In a strongly worded letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, consultant gynaecologist Professor Geeta Nargund has also demanded that teenagers are taught about the dangers of delaying parenthood, because of the spiralling cost to the taxpayer of IVF for women in their late 30s and 40s.

[…]Prof Nargund said last night: ‘Ideally, if a woman is ready for a child, she should start trying by the time she is 30. She should consider having a child early because as a woman gets older, her fertility declines sharply.’

If a woman started trying early enough, doctors would still have time to diagnose problems and take action before it was too late, she said.

Her comments were endorsed by Professor Allan Pacey, outgoing chair of the British Fertility Society.

‘You need to be trying by 30 because if there is a problem and you need surgery, hormones or IVF, then you’ve got five years to sort it out,’ he said. ‘If a woman starts trying at 35, doctors have got to sort it out when she is already on a slippery fertility slope’.

My friend Drew found a study reported on by ABC News, that explained why the age of 30 is so important.

Excerpt:

By the time a woman hits 30, nearly all of her ovarian eggs are gone for good, according a new study that says women who put off childbearing for too long could have difficulty ever conceiving.

The study published by the University of St. Andrews and Edinburgh University in Scotland found that women have lost 90 percent of their eggs by the time they are 30 years old, and only have about 3 percent remaining by the time they are 40.

Now, do most women know what the experts say about infertility?

Consider this article from Aeon magazine.

It says:

Many studies show that women are not only woefully ignorant when it comes to fertility, conception and the efficacy of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) – but they overestimate their knowledge about the subject. For instance, a 2011 study in Fertility and Sterility surveyed 3,345 childless women in Canada between the ages of 20 and 50; despite the fact that the women initially assessed their own fertility knowledge as high, the researchers found only half of them answered six of the 16 questions correctly. 72.9 per cent of women thought that: ‘For women over 30, overall health and fitness level is a better indicator of fertility than age.’ (False.) And 90.9 per cent felt that: ‘Prior to menopause, assisted reproductive technologies (such as IVF) can help most women to have a baby using their own eggs.’ (Also false.) Many falsely believed that by not smoking and not being obese they could improve their fertility, rather than the fact that those factors simply negatively affect fertility.

[…]According to a 2011 study in Human Reproduction, which surveyed 410 undergraduate students, most overestimated a women’s chances of spontaneous pregnancy in all age groups, but particularly after receiving IVF beyond age 40. Only 11 per cent of the students knew that genetic motherhood is unlikely to be achieved from the mid-40s onward, unless using oocytes or egg cells frozen in advance. ‘This can be explained by technological “hype” and favourable media coverage of very late pregnancies,’ the authors concluded.

So, I guess now I’ll issue my advice to women in their 20s on how to avoid being single and childless at 35.

Money gives men confidence to pull the trigger on marriage, so you should focus your efforts on men with a solid balance sheet and a gap-less resume. Beware of men who paint a rosy picture of their finances in the future that makes you feel good, but who have not demonstrated their ability to earn or save. It’s much better to focus your time on a man who can marry you right now. The best way to tell if a man is capable of marriage is not by listening to confident words, it’s by looking to see how he has prepared to perform his roles, one of which is provider.

Be debt free. Study STEM in school, update your resume, and get a job that pays well. Jobs are not meant to be fun or fulfilling. You need to be preparing financially for marriage, and that means a normal 8-4:30 job in an office with 3% annual raises and 401K matching. The more you save to help your man with the down payment on your house, the better. Pursuing fun and spending money on frivolous things like travel makes you addicted to fun, which is unsuitable for the hard work and responsibilities in marriage. Working a hard job is a good way to break down your selfishness, and prepare you to take your obligations to others seriously. Don’t live in the moment,  do sacrifice for the future. Believe me: a woman’s debt is a serious damper on a man’s willingness to marry her.

If you went to college, chances are that you absorbed a lot of feminism. Feminism emphasizes being free of constraints, feeling happy, having fun, career over family, and independence from the needs of men and children. You need to renew your mind in order to undo the cultural denigration of marriage and children. Get yourself a marriage mentor, ask for book recommendations that will educate you about the challenges and rewards of marriage. A good marriage mentor will explain to you why marriage is a better plan than the feminist plan, and will emphasize self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-control and serving others. It’s only by getting specific about marriage and parenting that your heart will change to want to work on marriage rather than work on the things that the feminist culture prefers. I recommend Dr. Laura’s book on husbands, and lectures by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse.

This talk of infertility made me think of a woman I know who just turned 30. She spent most of her 20s in relationships with huge, tall burly men. Race car drivers, etc. She liked to travel, especially to the beach. She liked ride around with in boats with buff guys. Now, at 30, she is very jaded about men and struggling to even get a date. In my experience, men are most open to marrying a woman who is young, athletic, and doesn’t have baggage from fun-seeking with hot bad boys. Sexual baggage usually builds impatience, mistrust and controlling behavior in a woman. Men prefer to marry virgins who are calm, stable and not addicted to alcohol or drugs. The less experience the better. The time to focus on serious marriage-minded providers and leaders is when you have what they want to marry.

How I retained my Christian faith, sobriety and chastity on a university campus

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

A couple of years ago, I was talking to a woman who grew up in a Christian home that was very focused on externals. There was a lot of bullying to get her to comply with expected Christian behavior, although the expected Christian behavior was often arbitrary, and had nothing to do with Christianity and more with just appearing “nice”. There was no discussion of the evidence, no talking through objections. No focus on truth at all. She was always very curious about me, and how come I didn’t drink, and how come I was able to stay a virgin through college, grad school, to the present day when so many people she knew who were raised in the church fell away from it in college. My answer was simple. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home so I was never bullied into acting like a Christian beyond what I was convinced of myself. I just took my time and proved everything out before I had to act any particular way. I was in the driver’s seat all the time, and that’s how Christianity ought to be. The truth-seeking comes first, and then the slow process of re-prioritizing comes after. Performing for your parents and church will not survive contact with college.

Growing up, I didn’t ever have to go to church. I didn’t go to church until I  was comfortable going. If I felt bored in church, I read an apologetics book, and I did this openly. If I didn’t like the words of a song, then I didn’t sing. My first youth pastor, Grant, never tried to get me to be like the other kids. He asked me what I was interested in. I said “arguing with people”. He gave me books by E.J. Carnell and Alister McGrath. I read them, and that was how I acted like a Christian. When I met other Christians at the church who hadn’t read anything about God’s existence or the historical Jesus or the problem of evil, I didn’t feel pressured to be like them. In school, there were lots of people who never did any studying or lab work. They could talk a lot about things they knew nothing about. But because they didn’t know anything, they failed tests and they couldn’t put anything they learned into practice, either. People can sound so smart about things… until they actually have to take a test, or put something to use practically.

To me, if you didn’t like apologetics, you were a fake and you were faking behaviors of a worldview that you had never investigated. It was really obvious to me that there was more to Christianity than just God-hollering and Scripture memorization. I did swimming lessons up until the point where I got my lifeguarding certification. At the later levels, we always had written exams as well as a practical portion including activities like treading water, swimming long distances, and rescue simulations. People who could pass the written test often failed the practical. If you fail the practical, then you fail the course. Period. No exceptions.

Knowing the truth about God’s existence and character comes before acting as if God is real and God has a specific character and will for us. From the existence of God, we move on to the accuracy of the Bible, and on to theology, and then and only then do we start the outward behaviors of a Christian. If you skip to the behaviors, that is unnatural – like pretending to be a doctor when you have never been to medical school. Everyone who comes to Christianity from the outside, like me, knows how strange it is to meet people in church who talk about feelings and experiences as the basis of their worldview. Those people would never do anything serious, like making investment choices, on the basis of feelings. They would never think that merely having feelings about auto repair or Java programming enabled them to solve problems in those areas. But somehow, this is the standard operating procedure in the church. Which is why so many kids raised in the church dump their faith in college. For me, it was apologetics that made me so resistant to alcohol, sex and atheism in college. After all, if you win the argument, then why should you act like the person you defeated? They lost. That means they’re wrong. I didn’t feel any social pressure to behave like people who couldn’t beat me in an argument.

Every single day, children raised in intact Christian homes on a diet of piety and “the Bible says” come to an understanding of what Christianity is that is fundamentally different from the knowledge they are acquiring in school or at work. And that is the beginning of their loss of faith. There should be no separation between practical areas of knowledge (e.g. – mechanical engineering) and Christianity. Christianity should not be seen as easy or shallow. We should not praise people who don’t know how to talk about spiritual things intelligently to non-Christians, which is the real core “skill” that Christianity requires. Christianity is not a religion of being nice or feeling good – that’s what all the other religions are trying to do. Christianity is about laying hold of the truth, and adjusting your actions to it.

Every Christian ought to be trying their best to learn how to speak intelligently to non-Christians about their faith, to the best of their ability. Especially when they are confronted with educated non-Christians – which is most of us living in the Western hemisphere. No Christian should be better at something else, like sports or school or music or anything. They should put maximum effort into Christianity, and do other things in their spare time. There is no one in my office who thinks that I know more about computer science than I do about my Christian worldview. Computer science is my day job – I have a BS and MS and 18 years experience in it. But my co-workers know what comes first, and where my real interest and passion lies. When we go out to lunch, I talk about Christian things. That’s what I’m the best at. I’m not trying to impress my co-workers by being the best at computer science. I’m trying to perform for my Audience of One, and show him that his honor and reputation are my top priorities. That quiet, hidden vertical relationship is what Christianity is all about. Not my will, Lord, but your will, be done. Tiny little steps backward from selfishness to communicate to the Lord Jesus that his goals are important to me.

My friend Stephen Bedard tweeted this, recently:

“Frankly, I find it hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.” – William Lane Craig

Typical Christian parents expect behaviors of their children but they put in almost zero effort to answer their questions. I hear from so many Christians who fell away in college about how they dropped their faith in high school but just kept acting to please their parents. And the parents had no idea. The parents are the ones who are closest to the problem. They are the ones who should be finding out what is in the culture and the schools, and discussing it with their children. Most pastors are in the business of saying things that people like in order to pack the pews, and collect offerings. They aren’t there to talk about uncomfortable topics. They’re no good at responding to non-Christian thought in the culture. So it really falls on the parents to do the work of answering questions and leading.

Christianity ought to be more like engineering or lab work if you want to appeal to young people – testable, repeatable, practical. Think back to math class, and how teachers would insist that students SHOW YOUR WORK, instead of just writing the answer down. Instead of just saying “the Bible says”, parents really need to show young people their work – how did they arrive at their worldview? That’s what parents need to be prepared to show their children. Not singing, not feelings, not community, not family time together. Facts and evidence. Because that is the only way we know to test knowledge claims to see if they are objectively true or false. Parents who get their worldview straight will also find it much easier to act in accordance with what they say they believe. Even when the pressure is on, they will know what is true, and be able to do hard things because they want to respect what is true. Coming through a test of your Christian convictions is much easier when you do the homework first. It’s just like any other test in that respect. It certainly worked for me in high school and college when I had to defend my faith to non-Christians. It also helped that I had no desire to fit in with people my own age, because they didn’t have jobs. I had no respect for people who didn’t work for money, which is almost everyone in high school and college.

In the church, we should respect people who are able to study these issues deeply, and then have conversations about their Christian worldview with people who don’t accept that God exists, and don’t believe the Bible. That is what followers of Jesus did (e.g. Acts 17). We should be especially respectful of those who are able to defend the Christian worldview using scientific evidence and historical evidence. Especially those who get PhDs and do research in testable areas of knowledge that matter to the Christian worldview. Jesus offered his own resurrection as evidence of his claims to people who didn’t believe him. He liked evidence, and he had a passion for the truth. And so should we, if we claim to be his followers.

Dr. Walter Bradley

By the way, the lecture that changed my life the most is this lecture by Dr. Walter Bradley, a fabulously successful professor of mechanical engineering. I got hold of this lecture from 1997, about the time when I first started working full-time. It changed my life. Our young people are being raised to look up to attractive athletes, entertaining musicians, fideistic theologians, charismatic pastors, etc. People who have never set foot in the lion’s den. Dr. Bradley is an expert in the scientific evidence relevant to the Christian worldview, and has lectured on HUNDREDS of university campuses. He is invited to speak on campus because he KNOWS what he is talking about. If parents could just start by understanding what it takes to have a career as an open, visible Christian professor on a secular university campus, that would be a good start.