Today I was pondering Brett’s video from a few days back, specifically, the charge by some youth pastors and other well-meaning folk that teaching youth (and adults!) theology and apologetics is “impractical.” They want to give their youth “practical Christian living.” Apologetics and theology don’t fit that, hence, they are not focused on.
I commented a bit on how this kind of thinking goes awry, but it occurred to me today that I missed something huge…I mean, geez, if it was a snake, it woulda bit me!
Think about the stats again: depending on the study, 60-80% of youth who are Christian in high school are no longer Christian by the time they graduate college. No matter which way you cut it, youth are leaving the church, big time. That is a problem. Christian Smith (the sociologist whom Brett cites) notes that the biggest reasons youth give for leaving are intellectual reasons.
Would teaching them apologetics and theology stem this tide? Yes, of course. How could it not? Then, they’d be ready when the prof. starts his rant. Then, they wouldn’t be caught flat footed when the student newspaper subtly slams the Christian worldview again. Then, they would be able to reason through the challenges they face in the student union. Then, they’d be able to wade through all the ridicule, smokescreens, and straw men that fills the air in college campuses. They would have some sort of armor besides blind faith.
That is something they can use in college. That, my friends, is the very essence of “practical.”
I recognize that some folks use intellectual reasons as smokescreen facades to leave Christ. They are really walking away for emotional or lifestyle reasons (i.e, guy sleeping with his girlfriend, doesn’t want to face up to the irresponsibility) and they are using the intellectual objections as a place to hide.
A & T training during their youth would even help in these instances. Sure, it wouldn’t solve the problem 100%, but at least the person would know, deep down, that the “rational” reasons are a shell game. Without any sort of knowledge, they would have a false justification of their reasons.
Some are also concerned of what the kids might discover in philosophical/theological study. Trust me: nothing they find in philosophical, theological, or apologetical training will re-arrange the furniture in heaven. Just ask the youth Brett takes to Berkeley. Heavens, he lets some of the sharpest atheist/agnostic minds have at his youth, and they come back more confident than ever. Look at the Christians in the audience during a debate. Many of them come without a clue, very apprehensive about how the Christian point of view is going to turn out. *Every* debate I’ve listened to and/or been to (quite a few), the Christians in that boat have come away encouraged and uplifted, with a shot of boldness in their arm. Look at the history of philosophy, theology, and history: it’s all been said before. No one’s gonna come up with a new objection. Chances are, whatever the horn the Jesus Seminar starts tootin’ this Easter, it was answered by the Church Fathers over a milennia ago.
How in the world could this *ever* be “impractical”? Look at the fruit!