Friday, August 5, 2011

The Best.Story.Ever

A while ago, I made a pivotal post ("My Best Advice") about my view that it is far more important that parents know apologetics than for homeschool parents to search for the "perfect" Christian curriculum for their kids. This week, I encountered a young lady whose life and experience embodies this principle perfectly.

I spent the last couple of days in Charlotte, NC meeting with leaders at Southern Evangelical Seminary about trying to put together a new academic emphasis in Scientific Apologetics. (Be sure to "Like" the Reasons Institute Facebook page for updates.) The gal who was sent by the school to pick me up from the airport is a student at the seminary working on a graduate degree in philosophy. I asked her over dinner how she got interested in apologetics. I loved her answer: because of her dad...and a few of his friends.

Her dad was into apologetics while she was growing up. She didn't completely understand what it was all about, but she was around it enough to get the basic idea. During her sophomore or junior year in high school, she was given the assignment to write a research paper. She chose to write about the resurrection of Jesus. But her teacher wasn't keen on this idea because, in her teacher's words, there is "no evidence" for this event. This young gal didn't know the specific evidence at the time, but she had a hunch after hanging out with her dad all those years that didn't sound right. So she bravely told her teacher that if her paper wasn't acceptable, she could fail her in the class but she'd like the opportunity to try and find "some evidence" for the resurrection.

And with the help of her dad, find it she did.

Guess who he called? His friend Gary Habermas.


So Dr. Habermas sent some information her way to help her research. (All I could think as she was telling me this was, "Are you kidding me?")

Once her paper was written, her dad asked his friend Norm Geisler to read through it and give his daughter some feedback. She still has that draft with Dr. Geisler's hand-written notes.

Oh yeah, and her dad also got another friend, Lee Strobel, to read his daughter's paper, too.

She not only received an "A" on her paper but it was enough to make her teacher reconsider her unbelief a bit and read Strobel's book, The Case for Christ. Her efforts also inspired another young man to write a similar paper for the class the next year on the evidence for Jesus' birth.

This pivotal event changed this young gal's life. It opened a door to a whole new world of understanding her faith. A few short years later, she would need this solid foundation because her father left her mother and their long-time marriage for another woman. This gal could have left her faith. Her father's faith. And his friends' faith.

In spite of the circumstances, however, this young gal said she knew too much about God and the evidence for His existence to turn away from her faith in spite of all the pain caused by her dad's sinful decision. And thankfully, one of her dad's friends reached out to her in her pain, invited her to study at SES, gave her a job and a scholarship, and helped to remind her that her faith didn't depend on a human's frailty, but on Jesus' Christ's obedience.

This brings me to my point: the number one thing I keep hearing is that young people are leaving Christianity because of the hypocrisy they see in adults. That may be true, but I don't think that's the real issue.

In my mind, the REAL issue is that those adults haven't adequately grounded those young people in their faith to know that as long as there are humans there will always be hypocrisy. It's inevitable. As my friend Thilo has been known to say to his youth group, "If you see me shooting up heroin after church someday, Jesus is still God." What we have failed to do is teach them that God's truth is objective, it surpasses our frail efforts of obedience.

I highly doubt a curriculum alone would have done any of this. Saving a young person's faith is about adults bringing strategic information at strategic moments. And the only way to do that is for the adults in the equation to equip themselves with the best arguments ahead of time.


Jim said...

I really needed to read that. Thanks. I'm wrapping up 8 months of apologetics-based lessons in the 4th/5th grade class I teach at church. The bulk has been a systematic journey through the history of the bible, translation, manuscript evidence, etc. The last ten weeks has been on creation, science/faith issues. But that last part of your post was so critical and I am definitely going to share it with the kids tomorrow: the fact that so often kids struggle when they see their faith heroes fall, and that it is precisely in times like that that all that training in the evidence and arguments for a Creator who has revealed Himself through the Bible becomes to pay off and provides that steadying influence. Though I would also add that we must begin training kids early in how to seek God relationally, that it's more than just what we know factually about Him (Jim Packer's Knowing God comes to mind here, as does Dallas Willard's writings). They've got to know how to hear from God. Thanks for the thoughts!

Theology Mom said...


I'm glad you were encouraged by the story. And I'm thrilled to hear that you have the opportunity to teach these young people. They are very blessed.