Category Archives: Mentoring

Trying to make Christianity entertaining makes people think that it’s fake

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there
Church sucks, that’s why men are bored there

My friend Bruce shared this article from the leftist The Atlantic on Facebook. It’s written by Larry Taunton of Fixed Point Foundation.  Larry surveyed some people who had left the church, and I thought it was worth it to look at this case of Phil.

Larry writes:

“Church became all about ceremony, handholding, and kumbaya,” Phil said with a look of disgust. “I missed my old youth pastor. He actually knew the Bible.”

[…]Phil was in my office as part of a project that began last year. Over the course of my career, I have met many students like Phil. It has been my privilege to address college students all over the world, usually as one defending the Christian worldview. These events typically attract large numbers of atheists. I like that. I find talking to people who disagree with me much more stimulating than those gatherings that feel a bit too much like a political party convention, and the exchanges with these students are mostly thoughtful and respectful.

[…]A smart, likable young man, he sat down nervously as my staff put a plate of food before him. Like others after him, he suspected a trap. Was he being punk’d? Talking to us required courage of all of these students, Phil most of all since he was the first to do so. Once he realized, however, that we truly meant him no harm, he started talking — and for three hours we listened.

Now the president of his campus’s SSA [Secular Student Alliance], Phil was once the president of his Methodist church’s youth group. He loved his church (“they weren’t just going through the motions”), his pastor (“a rock star trapped in a pastor’s body”), and, most of all, his youth leader, Jim (“a passionate man”). Jim’s Bible studies were particularly meaningful to him. He admired the fact that Jim didn’t dodge the tough chapters or the tough questions: “He didn’t always have satisfying answers or answers at all, but he didn’t run away from the questions either. The way he taught the Bible made me feel smart.”

Listening to his story I had to remind myself that Phil was an atheist, not a seminary student recalling those who had inspired him to enter the pastorate. As the narrative developed, however, it became clear where things came apart for Phil. During his junior year of high school, the church, in an effort to attract more young people, wanted Jim to teach less and play more. Difference of opinion over this new strategy led to Jim’s dismissal. He was replaced by Savannah, an attractive twenty-something who, according to Phil, “didn’t know a thing about the Bible.” The church got what it wanted: the youth group grew. But it lost Phil.

An hour deeper into our conversation I asked, “When did you begin to think of yourself as an atheist?”He thought for a moment. “I would say by the end of my junior year.”

I checked my notes. “Wasn’t that about the time that your church fired Jim?”

He seemed surprised by the connection. “Yeah, I guess it was.”

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 many people who were raised in the church fell away from it in college. My answer was simple. I never grew up in a Christian home so I was never bullied into acting like a Christian beyond what I was convinced of myself. There was no rebellion, I just took my time and proved everything out before I had to act any particular way.

I didn’t ever have to go to church. I didn’t go to church until  was comfortable going, and I would say that I still am not comfortable in church – ever. 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. I liked to read apologetics books from the beginning, and when I talked to church Christians, I just classified the ones who didn’t read apologetics as non-Christians – as fakes. So I never felt like there was anything wrong with me because I didn’t sing, pray, read the Bible or do more church stuff. To me, if you didn’t like apologetics, you were a fake and you were faking behaviors that you had no way of verifying. Apologetics is the baseline activity of church, and only fakers try to skip over it. Knowing the truth about God 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 acting a part of a doctor when you have never been to medical school. It’s morally wrong to try to pretend to be something you are not.

Bruce commented this above the post:

When authentic conviction is lacking in your words and actions–or your “zeal” lacks the requisite knowledge to back it up–your teenager knows it.

Right. Young people in the church can tell when old people are more interested in feelings and posing. All they have to do is ask you how much you have done to study whether the things you believe are true. If you have read more devotional literature than you have read apologetics, then you’re a fraud. And that, more than anything, is what causes young people to step away from a two-way relationship with God.

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

I think you have to blame parents and the pastors when young people reject Christianity.  They are the ones who focus on outward behaviors, feelings and rituals instead of frank discussions about truth where reason and evidence are center stage.

If I had to rely on deciding what Christianity was from looking at people in the church, or from looking to my parents or peers, I would never be where I am today. I can barely tolerate church, especially the singing. I generally don’t like pastors. Pastors who think that simply speaking the words of the Bible out loud will magically cause a person listening to become a Christian. Pastors who assume the Bible is true without ever arguing for the truth of it. Pastors who never connect their preaching to historical context, historical evidence, philosophical arguments or scientific evidence. Pastors who try to make me feel things. Pastors who never mention current events or public policy. 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 their work, instead of just writing the answer down. Instead of just saying “the Bible says”, pastors and parents really need to show young people their work – how did they arrive at their worldview? It’s not respectable to be ignorant about these things – there should be no respect in the church for people who put piety above truth.

Tactics: the worst mistake a Christian can make when doing apologetics

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

So, this is just an advice post for doing apologetics.

Here are three situations I’ve run into while doing apologetics in the last month.

First situation. I was talking with a lady who is an atheist. I had a copy of “God’s Crime Scene” in my hand, and she asked me about it. I told her that it was a book written by the guy who solved the homicide case that I asked her to watch on Dateline. She remembered – it was the two-hour special on the woman who was killed with a garrotte. She pointed at the book and said “what’s in it?” I said, it has 8 pieces of evidence that fit better with a theistic worldview than with an atheistic one, and some of them scientific. Her reply to me was – literally – “which denomination do you want me to join?”

Second situation. I was talking with a friend of mine who teaches in a Catholic school. She was telling that she got the opportunity to talk to her students about God, and found out that some of them were not even theists, and many of them had questions. So she asked them for questions and got a list. The list included many hard cases, like “what about the Bible and slavery” and “why do Christians oppose gay marriage?” and so on.

Third situation. Talking to a grad student about God’s existence. I’m laying out my scientific arguments for her, holding up the peer-reviewed papers for each discovery. I get to the Doug Axe paper on protein folding probabilities, and she holds up her hand. One question: “Am I going to Hell?”

So think about those three situations. In each case, the opponent is trying to reject Christianity by jumping way, way ahead to the very end of the process. When you do Christian apologetics, you do not take the bait and jump to the end of the process dealing with nitty gritty details until you have made your case for the core of the Christian worldview using your strongest evidence. Let me explain.

So, your strongest evidence as a Christian are the scientific arguments, along with the moral argument. Those would include (for starters) the following:

  1. kalam cosmological argument
  2. cosmic fine-tuning
  3. galactic and stellar habitability
  4. origin of life / DNA
  5. molecular machines / irreducible complexity
  6. the moral argument

The problem I am seeing today is that atheists are rejecting discussions about evidence because they think that all we are interested in is getting them to become Christians. Well, yes. I want you to become a Christian. But I know perfectly well what that entails – it entails a change of life priorities. Both of the women I spoke to are living with their boyfriends, and the kids in the Catholic school just want to have fun. None of them wants to believe in a God who will require self-denial, self-control, and self-sacrifice. Nobody wants God to be in that leader position in their lives. Christianity is 100% reversed from today’s me-first, fun-seeking, thrill-seeking, fear-of-missing-out travel spirit of the age.

So, how to answer all these late-game questions? The answer is simple. You don’t answer any late-game questions until the person you are talking with accounts for the widely-accepted data in your list. These are things that have got to be accepted before any discussion about minor issues like one angel vs two angels at the empty tomb can occur. When we discuss all the basic issues where the evidence is the strongest, then we can go on to discuss issues where the evidence is debatable, then finally, in the last bits before the end, we can discuss these other kinds of questions.

How to explain why this process must be followed to the person who asks specific questions about minor issues? Simple. You explain that your goal is not to get them to become a Christian right now. That you want to let them believe anything thing they want. That’s right. They can believe anything they want to believe. As long as what they believe is consistent with the evidence. And what I am going to do is give them the evidence, and then they can believe whatever they want – so long as it’s consistent with the evidence.

So, for example, I’m going to tell them 3 pieces of evidence for a cosmic beginning of the universe: the expanding universe (redshift), the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the light element abundances. That’s mainstream science that shows that the universe came into being out of nothing, a finite time in the past. And I will charge them not to believe in any religion that assumes that the universe has always been here. For example, Mormonism is ruled out, they believe in eternally existing matter. See how that works? Hey, Ms. Atheist. You can believe anything you want. As long as what you believe is consistent with the evidence. 

I think this approach of not letting them rush you to the end at the beginning is important for two reasons. First, we can get our foot in the door to talk about things that are interesting to everyone, in a non-stressed environment. Everyone can talk about evidence comfortably. Second, we show that we hold our beliefs because we are simply letting evidence set boundaries for us on what we are allowed to believe. We can’t believe not-Christianity, because not-Christianity is not consistent with the evidence. And you start with the most well-supported evidence, and eliminate worldviews that are falsified by the most well-supported evidence. Atheism actually gets falsified pretty quickly, because of the scientific evidence.

So, that’s my advice. Had a friend of mine named William try this out about a week ago. It went down like this:

William to me:

This guy I know messaged me and bragged for a while about how easy he can dismantle Christianity. He said: “present the gospel to me as you understand it. I’ll simply ask questions to demonstrate it is not worth your belief.”

WK to William:

First of all, he isn’t allowed to just sit there and poke holes in your case, he has to present a positive case for atheism. Second, don’t discuss Christianity with him at all until you first discuss the evidence for theism – start with the good scientific evidence.

And William wrote this to his friend:

The way I’m wired is that I process all competing theories and go with the best one. By doing a comparative analysis of worldviews I find that Christian theology easily explains the most about the world I find myself living in.

I’m pretty sure that a God of some sort exists because of the scientific evidence for the origin of the universe and the fine tuning in physics. From there I find it quite intuitive that if a God went through the trouble of creating and tuning a universe for life that this God likely has some sort of interest in it and has revealed Himself to humanity in some way.

From there I can look at the major world religions and compare them to see which one explains the past and the present the best. Christianity easily comes out on top.

And then a few days later, I got this from William:

I finally got the agnostic to tell me what he thinks about origin and fine tuning. When I started pointing out that his views were unscientific, he blew a gasket, called me dishonest and told me he didn’t want to discuss anything further.

And that’s where you want to be. Cut off all discussions where the challenger tries to jump to the end and get you to debate the very last steps of your case. Present the strongest evidence for your core claims, and get him to account for this evidence within his own worldview. Lead the discussion with public, testable evidence. All warfare depends on picking the terrain, weapons and tactics that allow you to match your strength against your opponent’s weakness.

William Lane Craig explains the faith enterprise in an 8-minute video

Investigation in progress
Investigation in progress

I found the video below on the blog of my friend Eric Chabot, who just recently hosted Michael Licona at the Ohio State University. I am hopeful we will get the recording of that soon, and I heard it was a very good lecture and a good turnout.

Here is the video, featuring Dr. William Lane Craig:

When I was doing my undergraduate degree, I had an atheist friend who was super smart, and he once surprised me by announcing that he had read the gospel of John. Flabbergasted, I asked him why. He said “I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about”. Indeed. And this video from Dr. Craig explains to you what all the fuss is about. This is basically everything that everyone – Christian or non-Christian – should know about what Christianity is about. This is what I wish all my co-workers knew about me.

I really wish that non-Christians could understand how different Christianity is is from other religions, because it is true. Half my family is Muslim, the other half is Hindu and some Catholic. There is literally nothing cognitive going on in the spiritual journeys of my Muslim and Hindu friends and family members. But Christianity is so different from that – it is truth-centered. Anyway, in the rest of this post, I’ll describe three striking things about the Christian worldview.

Christianity is testable

First, the Christian worldview is testable scientifically and historically. There are claims made about the external world in Christianity. For example, creation is a major doctrine in the Bible, and in Romans 1, Psalm 19 and other places, God explains to us through his human scribes that the nature of the world (created, designed) is there to prove to us that there is a Creator and Designer. If the universe were eternal, and complex embodied life common for any permutation of the constants and quantities that are built into the fabric of the universe, that would be evidence for atheism. And the same with history. As 1 Corinthians 15 says, if the historical person of Jesus did not die and was not seen alive after by large numbers of friends, skeptics, and enemies, then there is no point in being a Christian. Christianity started out as a movement in the very time and place where the events that make it significant happened. There was no long delay between the central events, and the earliest proclamation of those events. So, you can test scientifically and historically. If the universe did not begin to exist, and if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity would be disproved. These are things that anyone can investigate, but some people do not because they are afraid about what they will find, and how much they will have to adjust to God’s existence and character.

Christianity is hard

Second, Christianity is not something that you get into because you need a crutch or because it enhances your life. It is not done in order to fit in with your family or with your culture or with your nation’s dominant religion. Christianity is designed to not be fun, to not be easy, to not make you popular. In fact, one of the ways that you know that you are a real Christian and that God is leading you, is because God allows you to suffer, and because some people around you don’t like you, and because your career and finances and so on are a little harder because now there is God to worry about in the decision-making, and not just you. It’s like being married. A good marriage takes work because it is a commitment to another person. The more you learn about God through your study of science, history, theology and apologetics, the more you love him. And the more you love him, the more you choose to adjust your priorities and actions in a way that will invest in the relationship, instead of just what is best for you.

Christianity is effective

Third, Christianity is not about just being passive, having feelings and doing private things like prayer, singing and attending church. Christianity, when done right, involves projecting your beliefs outward. Evangelism, the practice of telling non-Christians the truth about Christianity, is not optional for Christians. Although many other religions dislike Christians for evangelizing, and some even use coercion and force to stop us, it is our responsibility. Many Christians seek to augment their evangelism by learning how to answer objections to Christianity, and how to make a case for the truth of core Christian beliefs. This involves studying philosophy, as well as scientific and historical evidence. And then there are other things to do – like organizing talks with good scholars on university campuses, and funding them through your job. Giving to charities that protect religious liberty, promote the pro-life message, and natural marriage. Those last two are important, because Christians care about children, since they are made by God, in order to know God, and selfish adults must be convinced control themselves. Christians often get involved in politics, seeking to limit the power of the secular government to infringe on human rights, to promote economic growth and to support the military when they engage in just wars. Christians often serve in the police force or the military, because we seek to restrain and destroy evil and protect the good.

You should use this video as a way to think again about what your life is about. Have you investigated the evidence for Christianity? Have you made an effort to find answers to your objections to Christianity? Have you thought about how to live out your Christianity and make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom? What’s your plan?

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Should we be trying to change the world from the bottom up or the top down?

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

Dr. Paul Gould is a professor of philosophy (PhD from Purdue) at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Here is his bio, which says, in part:

I have a Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics from Talbot School of Theology and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Purdue University.

I am an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Christian Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

What his bio page doesn’t say is that he left a career in business to go onto this apologetics/philosophy track. I find that very interesting, because like most professionals with an interest in apologetics, I had the same dream – to go and do a PhD and get into a college and be a positive influence on Christian kids. But the main thing is that he has had some experience in the real world.

Anyway, Dr. Gould has written two posts on how to change the world, and I want you to look at an excerpt from the first one.

First post:

Christians like to talk—and aspire—to changing the world. This language stems very naturally from our God-given desire to make a difference, to live a life that matters. In a very real sense, making a difference is to change the world. But, usually, when Christians talk about “changing the world” they mean something like “winning the world for Christ” or “helping the gospel to gain a hearing in culture” or “contributing toward shalom.”Recently, there have been a number of very helpful books written by folks who challenge the common view of how to go about the task of world-changing, and call into question the relationship between Christ and culture. One of the most important books to enter this discussion is James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic of world-change. In this post I will share his critique of the “common view” of world change. I think his critique is dead on.

Hunter argued that by and large, Christians have gone about the task of world changing in completely the wrong way and the result is that Christianity in our country at least and in the western world in general, represents a weak culture.

He focuses on world-view ministries (primarily from the US such as Chuck Colson’s Wilberforce Forum and Focus on the Families’ Truth Project) and those like them that offer the following view of how to change the world:

Common view of world change: as we change the individual beliefs and values of persons, and change enough persons, then we will ultimately change society. This is a bottom up approach.

On the common view, the implicit view of culture is that “the essence of culture is found in the hearts and minds of individuals” and that culture change will come as enough individual lives are transformed.

Hunter argues that this approach fails to take into account cultural elites and the institutions that yield power within culture.

Instead, cultural change has always been top-down: it is always elites—those who have cultural capital to exert influence and power—who have changed the culture. This is why the university, and the media, and the arts are so important in shaping the culture.

All of this leads to a fascinating conclusion: some ideas have consequences—namely ideas propagated by those within society who possess cultural capital and a supporting network of other individuals and institutions also within the center of cultural influence and production.

Second post is here. The second post has a link to his review of Hunter’s book (PDF), which is published by Oxford University Press.

I agree completely with the top-down thesis of James Davison Hunter, and I think that it is a tragedy that the Christian parents and Christian churches don’t do a good job of challenging and guiding young Christians to study the things that will allow them to have an influence. Most Christians I talk to have a negative view of steering young Christians towards advanced degrees, or towards making a lot of money, or towards positions of cultural influence, etc. Instead of focusing on being effective, they tell me “I will do what I want to do, because God has a mysterious will for me to be happy”. I don’t buy it. I am happy to consider alternative plans that serve God better, but I don’t think that the “I’ll do what feels good” view is interested in producing a return for God in terms of money and/or influence. Crazy plans do not work out just because we want them to. There are costs to every plan, and not every plan is as likely to lead to influencing the culture as any other plan. This is reality.

I also think it is important to steer children into positions where they can be prosperous and/or influential. Again, many Christians disagree with guiding children that way. In my experience, it is assumed that children need to be happy, and that they are the best people to decide what they should be doing in life. Well, I’m not a heavy-handed bully, but I am not letting my children do whatever they like, because they don’t have enough wisdom and experience to know what to do. For example, I am not letting my children study ballet in university. It doesn’t pay the bills, and it isn’t likely that they will have an influence compared to other choices. Money is important because money can be used to fund Christian scholars, apologetics ministries and apologetics events. Marriage is a great way to have an influence, but marriage costs money, and that means that marriage-minded people should have a plan to pay the bills before they consider marriage. We do not have the right to do whatever we feel like, because we have a boss who expects a return on his investment. If a person is capable of doing hard things that produce a better return (money or influence or children, etc.) then he should do that.

We have a problem in this country as it is with young people borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to study things that either don’t pay off, or that don’t allow them to have an influence. It’s not unloving to tell children the truth about the choices they make. Especially when the cost of having a child is over six figures per child. You can have a huge Christian influence with that kind of money if you spent it on other things, like apologetics scholars, their ministries and their events. So, if you are going to have children and spend it on them, you’d better have some sort of plan, and look for a spouse who is on board with that idea of providing God with a good return on his investment. Everything we do – including the choices to marry and have children – should be focused on serving God. If people shy away from the idea of steering children to have an influence, I don’t think it’s a good idea to get married at all. Save the money and use it for the kingdom somewhere else. Marriage is about making the best decisions you can in order to serve God, and you can’t marry someone who puts their own happiness over the need to produce that return for the boss.

Having said that, if you are already married, stick with it. I am advocating for making smarter decisions before you commit. And before you go off to college, ask yourself: is what you are thinking of studying worth it? Trade school is an excellent option that will give you an income that can support a family AND give to apologetics ministries, with less exposure to debt. If you must go to university, then it’s generally wiser to stick with STEM degrees, so that you can get a job and actually pay off those loans. Marriages and children are NOT free. Retirement is not free. Health care is not free. Christian apologetics ministries do not run on wishes and hopes. Christian scholars do not get their degrees for free – they need support. I think another good plan is to have one person do philosophy or history and then be supported by other people with jobs in STEM fields. That’s what I do – I help out Christian scholars on my team to finish their graduate degrees in fields related to apologetics. Those non-STEM degrees are the best way to have an influence, but it’s easier to get them as a multi-disciplinary team effort. Everyone has to pull their weight!

And one last point. The most amazing thing in the world is when I meet people who are very very skeptical about mentoring young people and steering children towards prosperous and influential areas, even though they themselves may be facing the results of their own poor decisions. You would think that someone who has burned $60,000 on a degree in Women’s Studies and can’t find a job would be on your side about helping other young people to make better decisions, but they are often not on your side. Why is that? Somewhere along the way, this culture stopped liking the Mr. Knightleys who were praised for loving people by telling them the truth about their bad decisions. Now we think that the Emmas can do whatever they want, and no one should be giving them any guidance. How sad.

If you’re going to be a Christian, you need to be as smart as you can be

C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you
C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you

I guess I will start this post by linking to something a friend of mine named Joel Furches wrote about an atheist engineer. (link is dead)

He writes:

As an Aerospace Engineer for the U.S. Navy, Jason Pratt is not inaccurate when he describes himself as a rocket scientist for the government. He has flown F-14 Tomcats and the F/A-18F Super Hornet. He was a test pilot of the FA-18B and D Hornet, the FA-18F Super Hornet, and the T-45 Goshawk. His pedigree with all things aeronautical is well established. As was his atheism.

Pratt grew up in a single parent home. He and his sister were raised by their mother, who felt it was her duty to introduce them to church in their teenage years. The church Pratt attended was a religious shell: a ritualistic facade with little reference to actual scriptural teachings. He went through the ceremonial steps as a matter of form, and the moment he was confirmed by the church, he confirmed himself an atheist, and left the church in his dust. His family took this with barely a nod, and as soon as she was confirmed, his sister followed his example.

After High School, Pratt entered college to study engineering. Academically, he proved himself quite brilliant, and flaunted that brilliance at every opportunity. He describes himself as very much a “self-righteous atheist” in college.

He found his atheism very freeing, morally, living by the code of “do whatever you want as long as nobody gets hurt.”

Says Pratt:

“I started to meet other students, and some of them were claiming to be Christians. I even had some of them as roommates. Having had some church background, I knew the type. They were hypocrites, deluded by the silly book that they claimed they believed in. And so I frequently took pleasure in ridiculing them. I would mock them. I would look for any reason to bring out things that they would claim they believe and I would just make fun of them, and mock their God and the Bible that supposedly guided them.

“I generally enjoyed playing the intellectual superior, and I enjoyed challenging what they believed.”

Not much surprise to Pratt, most of the Christians he met had no ability to defend their faith against his ridicule.

[…]One day, however, Pratt met a fellow engineering student named John Thatcher. Thatcher had a perfect GPA, which was somewhat intimidating to someone like Pratt, who took such pride in his own intellect. Thatcher was a very likable guy. He was also a Christian. This made things difficult for Pratt.

At the same time, Pratt discovered that his Academic Adviser – a leading authority in the field of Thermodynamics – was a Christian. This discovery was made when Pratt went to his adviser’s office one day in order to request some help from the brilliant man. As Pratt approached his office, he was shocked to find a scientific article, arguing Thermodynamics from a Christian perspective, hanging from his office door. Pratt was so infuriated, he stormed away and never spoke to his adviser again.

Confused and upset that these two very intelligent men would believe in superstitious nonsense, Pratt made it his goal to truly examine the claims of Christianity for the first time.

This reminded me of a quote from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel.

He says this:

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

I think in general, it’s a good thing when Christians strive to be different from the culture around them. Obviously, that means having different moral values and different goals than what’s popular and acceptable for non-Christians. It means not openly engaging in activities that are forbidden to Christians, like not getting drunk, not having premarital/extra-marital sex, etc. And I think it also means being as smart as you can possibly be about about areas that touch on your Christian worldview. Why? Because like the story above says, being informed and having the answers is attractive to people who are searching.

It doesn’t help God for you to be wild and stupid

In my life, I have sometimes tried to lead other Christians to study harder things and to get better jobs. Most of the time, this works. I can get young Christians to not study English or Drama or Art History, and instead get them to study Engineering or Computer Science or Nursing. And if they already are studying hard things, then I encourage them, I buy them books, I play games with them and ask them how things are going. Once they have the degrees, I encourage them to get jobs, to work in the summers, to open investment accounts, and pay off their loans.

The point is this – what you study and what you do for work and how good you are at your job plays a massive role in whether you will get into conversations with non-Christians at all. It is not good service to God to bungle your education and career because you were more interested in feeling good, having fun and seeking thrills. You will lose opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others that way.

Managing your money – paying off debts and investing early and often – is part of that signal of maturity that you send to others. And don’t underestimate the importance of marriage and children – something I don’t have. If I had a successful marriage, and lots of well-behaved children, that would help a lot as well. Especially if people could come over to a warm and happy home. It sends a message. However, if you’re going to stay single, then keep your self-control and be content with it. That sends a message, too.

Life is short. Don’t do what feels good. Do what works.