In the first part of this series about Hope For America’s Youth we presented the conflict – millions of young people are leaving churches during or after high school. The statistics are staggering and sobering. How could this happen? How could parents and church leaders invest 15-18 years teaching a child about Christianity only to see that child abandon the Christian worldview for another belief system (e.g. atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism)?
If Christianity is true and every other worldview is false (which it is), parents and church leaders are faced with the dilemma of how to deal with young people’s rejection of the truth. Suggestions?
“… be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you …” 1 Peter 3:15 (KJV)
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
Remember when your son or daughter started asking the “why” question?
Parent – Time to go to bed!
Child – Why?
Parent – Because you need your rest.
Child – Why?
Parent – Because sleep is good for you.
Child – Why?
Parent – Because you’ll wake up strong and ready for a new day in the morning.
Child – Why?
Parent – Because I said so!!!
Child – Okay, Daddy. I love you.
Parent – Sigh
Children do not outgrow the need for answers to questions. The questions will change, but your child still needs answers.
The Greek word Peter used that is translated “answer” in 1 Peter 3:15 is apologia – hence the name “apologetics.” Some English Bibles translate apologia as “defense” (e.g. NKJV, NASB, HCSB).
“… always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” NKJV
The ministry of Christian apologetics is providing answers, giving a defense, for the Christian worldview. Young children look for answers – older children and teens look for reasons. That, I submit, is where many parents and churches can improve.
Young people are looking for “reasons” for what their parents and church leaders say is true about Christianity. The exciting thing is that Christianity was founded on reason; the Church was built on reason!
“Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” Acts 17:2
“Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.” Acts 17:17
“And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 18:4
“And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” Acts 18:19
“And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.” Acts 19:8-9
“Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!’ But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.” Acts 28:24-26
The Greek noun Peter used translated “reason” in 1 Peter 3:15 is logos. It is the same word the Apostle John used in his Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Greek reads – “εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος.” John wrote that in the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God. In case there were questions about the identify of this logos who was God, John wrote – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth … For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 17) John’s powerful statement is that the Word (logos) who is God became flesh and lived among men. That logos (reason) is Jesus Christ.
The Greek verb Paul used translated “reasoned” and “reasoning” is dialegomai – “converse, address, preach, lecture; I argue, reason.” The usage of the verb in ancient Greece was “getting a conclusion across.” It was used in the context of a discourse between two or more people who held different viewpoints about a topic and wanted to come to the truth through reasoned arguments. The English word “dialogue” comes from dialegomai.
The ancient idea of dialegomai was different than what we might term “dialogue.” It was more than just passing time by talking about the weather. To dialegomai with someone was to use logic and reason to get across their point about the truth of a matter. They used dialegomai to “persuade” the thinking of another person.
That’s what Paul did when he “reasoned” with people about the Christian worldview – “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” Paul’s purpose was to persuade people about changing their beliefs about God and truth and become Christians. Watch what Paul does and says when he has the opportunity to present his apologia before King Agrippa –
“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.’ Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!’ But he said, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’ And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:19-29
King Agrippa understood what Paul was trying to do – persuade him to become a Christian. How did Paul respond to that? He admitted it! “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” Paul’s purpose in presenting his defense before the king and others in the room was to persuade them to become Christians!
I remember hearing that term, “conflict resolution,” decades ago in the context of management. Managers learned how to help resolve conflicts in the workplace through communication and moderation. If a manager was successful in resolving conflicts, employees saw that management valued them and their ideas and would do their best to come to the best resolution for the good of the team.
The conflict many Christian parents and church leaders face today is the attack of non-Christian worldviews on the minds and hearts of their children and youth. Paul also wrote about another kind of persuasion – the kind that leads people away from obeying the truth of Christ –
“You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.” Galatians 5:7-10
We need to be ready at all times, in every circumstance, to provide answers and reasons to our children about the truth of the Christian worldview. We also need to prepare young people to deal with people who will attempt to hinder them from obeying the truth.
There are many ministries doing a wonderful work in this area of providing answers and reason to young people in high school and college. In the next part of our series about Hope For America’s Youth, we will share with you one of the best Christian organizations currently doing this vital work of “conflict resolution.”
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.