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: