We Live at the Mercy of Our Ideas

I recently spoke with a youth worker who told me he was not teaching theology and apologetics to the students in his youth group because he was focusing on “practical Christian living.”  Certainly he’s well-intentioned but with this approach, I have no confidence much practical Christian living is going to happen in the lives of those students. This dichotomy between beliefs and behavior represents a profound misunderstanding amongst Christians and not only does it harm our young people but the church-at-large.  Here’s why.

We are what we think.  Recent discoveries in neuroscience make this clear.  Change your thoughts and you can change your brain chemistry.  In turn, these brain alterations affect how we deal with things like anger and anxiety.  False ways of thinking lead to destructive patterns of living.  When young people have false ideas about God, His requirements, the authority of Scripture or the meaning of life, certain behaviors follow.  We live at the mercy of our ideas. 

Of course, before neuroscience came along God had been telling humanity this from the beginning.  His Word is filled with instruction about the relationship between thought and action: 

  • Hosea 4:5 & 6 – You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you...my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
  • Romans 1:28 & 29 – Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness...
  • Romans 12:2 – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  • Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
  • Colossians 1:9 & 10 – For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God...
  • II Timothy 2:25 – Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.
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Questioning Evangelism

Christians talk too much.  At least, they feel the pressure to.

I have a talk entitled “Why I Am a Christian,” where I discuss the primary reason we ought to follow Christ:  because He’s the Truth.  Christianity (in the sense of C.S. Lewis’ “mere Christianity”) is true and we have good reasons to think so.  But sometimes, when people hear this they feel pressure to have all the right answers for their non-believing friends.  I hear the stress in their voices when they ask, “So what should I say to my non-Christian friends?”  I have some advice. 

First, start with questions.  Oftentimes, Christians think evangelism means we talk and others listen.  So, the believer is supposed to have a polished “Gospel presentation” and a finely tuned response to all objections.  But this approach is undignifying to non-Christians and it completely ignores the unique questions an individual might have.  And it’s why some Christians are really good at answering questions no one is asking.  Francis Schaeffer’s words are instructive here:  “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then the last 5 minutes I will share something of the truth.” 

I encourage students to start with Stand to Reason’s first two “Columbo” questions

#1 -- What do you mean by that?

#2 -- How did you come to that conclusion?

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LIVE with Greg Koukl - Wednesday 9/9 @ 10AM PT

How Can I Defend My Faith without Sounding Defensive?

 

Tired of finding yourself intimidated and defensive in conversations about matters of faith?  Want to increase your confidence and skill as you discuss your beliefs with family, friends, and coworkers?  Greg Koukl, founder and president of Stand to Reason, offers practical strategies to help you maneuver comfortably and graciously in any conversation about your Christian convictions.

Greg will be taking your questions during this Livestream event.  At the conclusion of the live event, ConversantLife will be giving away—for 24 hours only—an electronic version of Greg’s newest book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Zondervan).

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Apologetics from Tiananmen Square

This is the week that, 20 years ago, Chinese military opened fire in what has come to be called the Tiananmen Square massacre. There's a marvelous piece here, by the NYT's Nicolas Kristof. In addition, I have a personal story to tell...

It's December 23rd, 1993. I'm speaking to a gathered group of international students at a ski retreat, and one of the breakout sessions I've been assigned is titled, "Science and the Bible". I come prepared to talk about geological discoveries that reinforce my belief that the Bible is largely history. You know the stuff - stories about Jericho's walls falling down, Noah's ark being found, and an explanation for what the Bible meant when it says that the sun stood still. I, the guy who's last science class was basic physics during my first year of college thirteen years earlier, was to explain to these PHD candidates in Biology, Nuclear Physics, Astronomy, and numerous other disciplines, why the evidence is overwhelming that they should believe the Bible based on these scientific discoveries.
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God in the Salami: The Fine Line Between Faith and Fantasy

I came across a funny story earlier this week... 

A South Florida woman said she was cooking fried salami when she noticed the word "GOD" on the meat, Miami television station WFOR reported.  Nancy Simoes said she had three pieces in a skillet and flipped one of them and saw the letter G.  "Then got the O and I thought to myself how cool will it be if the third letter was a D."
Simoes realizes people may think she's crazy.  "I can't make this up. ... it's there in the burn marks." For 20 years, her family has enjoyed fried salami for breakfast. Now Simoes is wondering how she will preserve the "holy" salami. 
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Welcome to College

We know that many Christians walk away from Christ during college.  And many parents and students are desperate for guidance and wisdom on how to navigate this perilous part of life's journey.  That’s why Jonathan Morrow’s new book, Welcome to College, is a must-have resource. 

If a parent or student asked me for a single book to read before or during college, I’d give them Morrow’s book.  He has written a comprehensive guide broken into 42 manageable, “bite-sized” chapters, yet it is remarkably in-depth.  It’s definitely not your typical dumbed-down Christianity-lite. 

And Morrow deals with both head and heart.  Chapter 2 really frames the book, as he unpacks what it means to “Think Christianly.”  Next, he lays a vital foundation, clarifying issues Christians are profoundly confused about, like theology, faith and knowledge.  Then he offers clear-thinking yet gracious apologetics for the contemporary challenges a college student will be sure to face from peers and professors. 

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How Some Postmodern Kids Used Logic in Berkeley

“Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.”  So says Richard Dawkins, author of the God Delusion and godfather to the New Atheists.  This recent breed of atheist is no longer satisfied to pronounce religion as mistaken.  Believers aren't merely wrong, they're irrational.  And to such a degree that they very likely suffer psychological disorders.

But is it the believer who is irrational?  I don’t think so.

In February, I took the high schoolers of Crossline Community Church in Mission Viejo on their first Berkeley mission trip.  For students and staff, it was a rational test of Christianity’s truth claims.  It was also an occasion to humbly yet confidently demonstrate the utter irrationality of atheism. 

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The Berkeley Mission: A New Kind of Mission Trip

Here's an idea.  First, let's get a group of Christian high school students together, many of whom have grown up in the safety of the church, a Christian home or a Christian school.  Next, we'll put them in front of atheists, skeptics, gay rights activists, Unitarian pastors, college students and whoever else we can find, to talk to them about evils of religion and the irrationality of Christian belief.  A recipe for disaster, right?  

Wrong.  

In fact, I've already done it.  For 4 years now, with Stand to Reason.  And it's the most effective training I've ever done with youth.  In 2006, spurred on by my good friend Jim Wallace, founder of PleaseConvinceMe.com and pastor of The Rising Tide church, I developed an "apologetic mission trip" to Berkeley.  Here's a series of blog posts I did about that very first trip.  

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How Should Youth Leaders Prepare Students for College?

Last week I posted troubling statistics about the amount of churched youth who walk away once they're in college.   CPYU has been interviewing college students as part of their College Transition Initiative.  They've asked students, "As you reflect on your church youth group experience, what are some things you wish your youth group would have done more of to prepare you for college?"  Their answers are instructive for parents, pastors, youth leaders--any of us who teach youth in some capacity.  

Alysia at the University of Illinois said:

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