It’s a faith-building booster shot called apologetics.
In my blog series The Top Ten Ways to Spiritually Prepare Your College Freshman for Campus, I proposed that way number two was building confidence for the truth and evidence of Christianity and a biblical worldview through the study of apologetics. Let’s delve into that topic.
Just like when you took your kids in for their immunizations, you wanted the part that hurts over as soon as possible. So I’ll make this quick. The stats aren’t good for Christian kids’ faith to come out intact after they hit the college campus or even after high school. (If you want the facts, just read a summary here.)
And as much as you hated the hurt, you did it for how much it helped in the end. So, here is the help and the hope for what is ailing our Christian youth. It’s a booster shot if they’ve been exposed to apologetics before. It’s a potential immunization if not. Answering doubts and building confidence about Christianity can help protect them from the infection being spread on campus by other worldviews. In what is being called “age of apologetics” there is no shortage of supplies when it comes to resources to answer every question about Christianity that could ever be asked. There are more benefits to teaching and learning how to defend the faith than the obvious ones. Apologetics enhances worship, fosters discipleship, promotes evangelism, and develops critical thinking.
- Enhances worship. As students explore the reasons why Christianity is both true and good, they will learn much more about the character and nature of God. That increases their love for Him because they now love Him with their minds, not just their hearts. It also increases their trust when His involvement in their lives might not be as easily traced. By learning that He is immaterial, timeless, spaceless, powerful, intelligent, purposeful, morally perfect, and personal, they can’t help but worship Him.
“I feel like my faith has become more substantive since I began studying apologetics. It has taught me much more about the scriptures, history, and philosophy. Apologetics has also made my personal devotion more exciting and qualitative.”–Marcus, Sam Houston State Univ.
- Fosters discipleship. Digging in to apologetics develops relationship and therefore discipleship both between the teacher and the student and between the student and the Word. That discipleship multiplies to others relationally as students share what they’ve learned. We are called to both be disciples and make disciples so learning apologetics is a way of fulfilling God’s purpose for us.
“It is important for both students and parents to learn apologetics. If my dad didn’t talk about it, I may never have heard of it. Parents greatly influence their children.”–Luke, West Virginia Univ.
- Promotes evangelism. Let’s be honest. There is a problem in the church—we’re not sharing our faith like we should. The statistics from Barna are downright embarrassing: evangelicals have among the highest rates of failure in follow-through from conviction to action when it comes to sharing their faith. Many of us do not share because we are shaking in our boots that we are going to get asked questions we can’t answer. Are you with me? Therefore we never open our mouths. Learning the reasons for our faith is like taking an evangelism vitamin. It also boosts our immunity to fear. And that should also help our students spread the gospel.
“What apologetics has done is encouraged me to listen more intently to the beliefs of others. There is a certain freedom in knowing why you believe what you believe, liberating and even motivating you to share it with others. Rather than respond defensively to critiques of Christianity, I have learned to give a defense by honestly evaluating and engaging my friends’ actual claims with gentleness and respect. There is no better way to kickstart evangelism than through good apologetics training that organizations like Ratio Christi offer.” “I’m not sure if I would still be a Christian without the influence that apologetics had in my life.”–Caitlin, Univ. of Virginia
- Develops critical thinking: Studying apologetics is also a great exercise in critical thinking. Learning the reasons for and against Christianity and how to refute the deficiencies of other worldviews is a spiritual warm up exercise for the academic environment they are about to enter. It will help them listen more carefully, think more clearly, and speak more accurately.
“Apologetics is a great continuing exercise in critical thinking. Whatever you hear, even from your own pastor, it teaches you to at least hold something in suspended belief until you have conclusive evidence. It teaches us to be less impressionable, but at the same time gives us a clearer picture of who to trust and in what way.”–Grant, Univ. of Alabama – Huntsville
How to Get Started
Ask your kids where they have doubts or what questions they grapple with or feel ill-prepared to talk about. Their faces are already buried in their phones, so why not start there and have them dig into a treasure lurking in their Apple.
Apps–Get them just as familiar with the great apologetics apps as they are with their college apps. Many of the best Christian apologists and apologetics ministries now have them. Remember doing flashcards with your kids in elementary school? You’ve just graduated to the digital form. Some of my favorites are:
- CrossExamined—especially the “Quick Answers.” There’s even a “start here” section followed by four main content sections covering the basic questions Christians come up against: Truth. God. Bible. 4Es (Evolution/Evil/Ethics/Eternity).
- Stand to Reason Quick Answers App—includes several hot topics icons where you get a brief written overview of the topic and a link to a podcast for more depth. Includes morality, other religions, tolerance, same-sex marriage, and abortion.
- Cold-Case Christianity—check out especially the Free Bible Inserts covering the cases for the Bible, God, Jesus, Heaven or Hell, and Related to Evil. Printable, some with great visuals.
- One Minute Apologist—research by topic/question and see 1-5 minute interviews with experts on the topics.
- Reasons to Believe—great science related site (Old Earth position on creation), check out especially RTB 101 for a quick overview of science terms and issues and then links to podcasts for more info. For a Young Earth position, see Answers in Genesis, and their “Get Answers” section on their app.
Podcasts—Have them develop an apologetics playlist and plug in to words that will be music to their soul and their mind.
Social Media–Have them like/subscribe/follow the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts of these various people and ministries for thoughtful memes and updates on apologetics that will get them thinking.
Books and Bibles. Lots of books. Great books. And for those millennials who haven’t cracked one open in a while, many are available as eBooks readable on their device of choice. Some classics are I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, On Guard, and more. For developing critical thinking about worldviews check out Finding Truth. Don’t forget The Apologetics Study Bible (with a free online Bible study). Make sure it’s in their backpack when they head to campus.
Michael Sherrard, pastor and director of Ratio Christi College Prep, sums it up well: “When tough topics aren’t addressed, many come to think that Christianity is nothing more than a fairytale. They think we don’t speak about tough issues because we have nothing meaningful to say and have no answers to tough questions. This is the experience of so many teenagers. For example, after an apologetics conference a young man told me that for first time in his life he saw that Christians weren’t dumb. It was encouraging for him to see that you can love God with your mind and that Christians have reasons for their belief.”
When your kids realize the benefits of this booster shot to their faith, they will not have to be dragged kicking and screaming. And as you engage in apologetics with your kids, you might just get the shot in the arm your faith needs as well.
Julie Loos is a writer and speaker with a passion for prayer for college campuses and apologetics training for our youth. She is currently the Director of Prayer at Mama Bear Apologetics and was a contributing author for our first book. Julie is in her eighteenth year of leadership with Moms in Prayer International, and she worked for five years on the national staff for the campus apologetics ministry Ratio Christi.