Arming Christian Students With the Truth

This week, we’ve been examining a strategy to stem the tide of young Christians leaving the Church during their college years. I suggest we stop teaching and start training. I’ve outlined a simple model (using T.R.A.I.N. as an acronym) to help describe the difference between training and teaching. Teaching is about imparting knowledge; training is about preparing for battle. If we want to adequately prepare students for the challenges they will face in their university years, we need to test them to expose their weaknesses, require more from them than we think they can handle, arm them with the truth (and teach them how to articulate it), involve them in the battlefield of ideas, and nurture their wounds as we model the nature of Jesus. The third step in this training process involves arming students with the truth.

In my experience as a youth pastor, I learned the importance of providing intellectual tools and training. I watched my first graduating class of seniors walk away from Christianity in large percentages before I embraced a Case Making approach with my students. After observing the struggle these seniors experienced, I changed the way I prepared my students. I began to draw upon my experience as a police officer for guidance. Young officers are given and number of tools to help us do the job, but even more importantly, we are provided with the necessary training in how to use these tools. When it comes to equipping Christian students, the evidences for God’s existence, the reliability of the Bible, and the truth of the Christian worldview are the tools we must provide (sources like On Guard and Cold-Case Christianity may be helpful). Beyond this, however, young Christians need to know how to think about these evidences and communicate them to others (resources like Tactics and How to Talk to a Skeptic may be helpful here).

When young officers train, we are exposed (some for the first time) to the reality of challenge we will be facing. Our training officers are tough. They often tell us, “The more you sweat in here, the less you’ll bleed out there.” They don’t hesitate to show us everything we might encounter in the field. In a similar way, we have to prepare students by exposing them directly to the challenges they will face from an aggressive opposition. It’s not enough to prepare them with the evidence from our side of the argument; we’ve got to address the claims of the opposition directly. This requires us to expose students to the most substantive claims of atheism we can find in the short time we have these students in our midst. We must inoculate students, rather than isolate them.

Inoculations are created from the virus doctors are trying to treat. Physicians expose patients to the virus to allow their immune systems to develop the antibodies necessary to fight the virus should they encounter it more robustly in the future. If we are trying to help students correctly process the claims of the culture, we’re going to need to prepare an inoculation that exposes them to the secular worldview. I want my students to encounter the claims of Ehrman, Dawkins, Harris, Stenger, Hitchens, Dennett and Boghossian while they are in my ministry rather than in college (without anyone there to provide balance). Students want the truth and are eager to hear the “other side”. The Christian worldview is evidentially viable and capable of withstanding any reasonable objection. In fact, a robust examination of the claims of atheism, humanism or secularism provides us with an excellent opportunity to examine the truth of Christianity with urgency and passion. When students understand the challenge, they are far more likely to listen to the affirmative case for the Christian worldview.

Don’t be afraid to examine the claims of the opposition and face your questions. Don’t avoid the books, videos or podcasts created by the other side. God’s not afraid of your doubts, and you’ll never be able to help young Christians (in your ministry or in your home) if you haven’t armed yourself with the truth and trained yourself to address the counter arguments. When we study God’s existence in this way, we worship Him with our mind (Matthew 22:37) and demonstrate our obedience to His Word (1 Peter 3:15).

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Requiring Young Christians to Raise the Bar

The Church is experiencing a crisis. Young Christians are leaving the Church in large numbers during their college years, and our efforts to address the problem have been inadequate. I suggest we stop teaching and start training. In yesterday’s post I outlined a simple model (using T.R.A.I.N. as an acronym) to help describe the difference between training and teaching. Teaching is about imparting knowledge; training is about preparing for battle. If we want to adequately prepare students for the challenges they will face in their university years, we need to test them to expose their weaknesses, require more from them than we think they can handle, arm them with the truth (and teach them how to articulate it), involve them in the battlefield of ideas, and nurture their wounds as we model the nature of Jesus. Today I want to focus on the second step in this training process: requiring more from our students than we think they can handle.

In my first year as a youth pastor, after taking over for a very popular minister who moved out of state, I struggled to find my identity as a leader. Worse yet, I was already over 40 and felt like I might be too old to be accepted by a room full of teenagers. I’m sorry to say my early season of youth leadership was defined more by games and pizza than effective training. Sadly, this seems to be common in other youth ministries as well. Many youth leaders appear to be more interested in entertaining than they are in training. It wasn’t until I watched my first graduating class walk away from Christianity in their freshman year of college that I woke up and changed direction. I began to train as I am describing this week, and I raised my expectations dramatically.

Students are far more capable than we typically believe. Many are already engaged in difficult courses of study as they attempt to qualify themselves for universities around the country. Some are taking “honors” courses and “advanced placement” classes. They are willing to work hard when they think there is a need or a tangible goal. Yet when it comes to youth ministry, we seldom require or challenge students to engage the material this passionately, and we rarely express the need, or set the goal. When I work with youth groups, I begin by demonstrating their inadequacies and establishing their need for improvement. Once this is clear to the students, they are more than willing to do whatever it takes to improve their abilities. They become eager to learn and train.

I’ve learned to teach beyond what the Church thinks students can handle. In fact, I teach the material from Cold-Case Christianity in precisely the same manner whether I’m teaching a room full of people my age or a room full of junior-highers. It’s the same information-packed presentation, regardless of age group. I will admit this requires me, as a trainer, to develop a strategy for communication capable of engaging young people with complex material. I try to take a robust approach that’s interactive, relevant, personal and visual. But I never underestimate the ability of my audience; they can handle whatever I’m teaching if they understand what’s at stake. When I first began my time as a youth pastor, my sons and daughters were 12, 10, 5 and 4 years old. None of them were old enough to be in my ministry, but they sat with me each week as I taught high school students. I was amazed to find they had mastered the material by the time they were in high school themselves. Even though I was teaching my students at a college level (to raise the bar for them as teenagers), my elementary aged children were grasping it as well. You’ll never get more from your students if you don’t expect more. Raise the bar and see what happens.

When our students have been properly tested and challenged so they understand their need, you’ll be surprised to see the passion and willingness they’ll demonstrate as they seek answers. Test your students and raise the bar.  Tomorrow we will talk more about the next step in the process: Arming students with the truth.

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A Former Pastor Tries Out Atheism

I'm all for creating spaces in which people can doubt safely. I've even written about it. But can the doubting process be pushed to an absurdity?  Well, I think it just has.  

Ryan Bell, a former pastor and adjunct professor at a Christian college and seminary, is giving atheism a try:

“I’m making it official and embarking on a new journey. I will ‘try on’ atheism for a year. For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else’s circumstances.”

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Was God Ever Lonely?

Was God lonely and wanted someone to relate to…so he made humans? Was he bored and one day got really creative and produced a universe that included people? Just why did he create human beings?

After God created the first human he made a startling declaration, “It is not good…” (Genesis 2:18). He had created everything before this, and after each stage of creation he “saw that it was good.” Yet in this perfect world, before humans sinned, God stated something wasn’t good. What was this “not good” thing? It was man’s aloneness.

Some people have speculated as follows: Since aloneness was not good even in a perfect world, God must have felt alone too and that is the reason he created humans. Perhaps he wanted or needed a human relationship, so he created human beings to remove his own aloneness. One big problem with this thinking is that it implies something is lacking in God. And yet if he is perfect, nothing can be lacking.

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The Devil Made the Serpent Do It!

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1).


Difficulty: Where do people get the idea that the serpent in the Garden of Eden was the devil?


Explanation: There are a number of reasons the serpent in the Garden of Eden is considered to be the embodiment of Satan. Revelation describes a time when Michael and his angels went to war with Satan and his angels. This is when the devil was forced out of heaven. Scripture describes him as “this great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Later in Revelation it describes a time when Satan was locked in a bottomless pit. “He seized the dragon—the old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:2).
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Is God Intolerant?

We all know that God has a serious problem with sin, but why can’t he be less demanding and more understanding of our imperfections? We may think something like Why can’t God just be more forgiving and overlook our weaknesses and failures? If he is truly loving he should be more tolerant of our shortcomings, right?


The reality is that God is merciful, but that isn’t quite the same as being tolerant. First, many people fail to understand the seriousness of sin and the great cost to God personally to forgive us our sins. When we see the combination of his holiness and justice we gain a greater understanding of his mercy. And that will go a long way to answering why he can’t tolerate sin and yet can be merciful at the same time.


There is a reason God can’t stand sin. You see, his core nature is holy and pure. There is no impurity of motive or action with him, for he is perfect and without sin. (See Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 54:5; and Revelation 4:8.) So a holy God cannot be in relationship with sin in any manner. The Bible says of him, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13 niv). He is so holy that he “cannot allow sin in any form” (Habakkuk 1:13). To do so would violate the very essence of who he is.
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A Free Bible Insert to Say Thanks for a Great 2013!

2013 was a very special year for the Wallace family as we transitioned from two full-time careers in Law Enforcement to one full-time position (my son) and one part-time assignment (as I get ready for one final case). This was the first year I was able to devote myself completely to Christian Case Making and I am very thankful for the opportunity. It’s truly a team effort in the Wallace Household. My wife, Susie, helps with all my speaking engagements and continues to be a great editor for book projects (in addition to holding everything together). My sons and daughters often help me at speaking events, and my girls continue to upload all the contact information we get at our talks (so I can send free follow-up materials). All of us would like to thank all of you for your interest in our Cold Case approach to the Gospels by summarizing the first year and giving you a “Thank You” gift (of sorts). Here’s what 2013 looked like for us:

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Is God a Jealous Sinner?

The Bible says God is a jealous God. But getting jealous is wrong. So how can that be if God doesn’t do anything wrong?


If God is anything, he is perfectly good. “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect,” the Scripture states. “Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Additionally, the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us God bound himself with an oath when he made a promise to Abraham, and these two things are based on his sinless character that is unchanging. “God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). For God to do wrong would go against his very nature and character, which he cannot do.
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Tags | Theology | God | Jealousy | jesus | sin

Testing the Gospels From John to Hippolytus

I am confident the Gospels were written early and were not corrupted or altered over time. As a new investigator of the claims of Christianity, I examined the case for early dating and became convinced the Gospels were written within the generation of the eyewitnesses. But how do we know whether or not the early accounts were corrupted over the years? One way to test the content of the Gospels as they were passed down from generation to generation is to simply compare what was written about the Gospels by those who had direct contact with the eyewitnesses. I’ve written about the New Testament Chain of Custody in Cold-Case Christianity; when testing the validity of a piece of evidence in a particular case, we need to establish who handled the evidence from the time it was first collected to the time it is presented in trial. When it comes to the Gospel eyewitness accounts, we must examine what the students of the Gospel authors said about the text, then what their students said, then what the next generation said, and continue this examination down through history, comparing the statements and quotes to determine if the message of Scripture has changed. Today, I’ll provide an example with the Chain of Custody from the Apostle John (additional “chains” can be found in Cold-Case Christianity).

John (6-100AD) was the youngest of Jesus’ disciples. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome and the brother of James. While a young man, John witnessed the life of Jesus and saw firsthand many of the amazing miracles Jesus performed. John also witnessed the Resurrection. John wrote his Gospel as an eyewitness account, accurately reflecting the truth related to what he observed as a disciple of Jesus. This Gospel is a critical piece of evidence from the “crime scene” and John taught three important students and passed his Gospel into their trusted hands. These three men (Ignatius, Papias and Polycarp) became important early Church leaders in their own right and wrote about what they learned from John.

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Enjoy Christmas Tomorrow, Even Though It’s Probably Not Jesus’ Birthday

I celebrate Christmas. Growing up as an atheist, December 25th was about a lot of things, but not the birth of Jesus. For many centuries before the birth of Christ, December 25th was similarly non-Christian. The present date for Christmas traces back to the 4th Century. When Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, he introduced the faith to a culture already deeply committed to the pagan worship of Roman gods. Christian leaders were in for a real challenge as they wrestled with prior cultural commitments to these gods. Pagan festivals and celebrations abounded throughout the year, celebrating and honoring Roman gods of one variety or another.

One of Rome’s biggest religious festivals occurred in the winter. The festival was called “Saturnalia”, and it was a celebration coinciding with the winter solstice. It occurred over a period of time corresponding to December 17th - 24th, ending on December 25th. This date, declared by Emperor Aurelian in 274AD to be “Dies Natalis Invicti Solis” (“Day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun”), was a celebration of the Roman god, Saturn. The winter solstice also occurred around this time, celebrated when the sun reached its most southerly declination (when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees from the sun). This marked the beginning of a number of pre-Roman pagan festivals and Roman holidays.

It shouldn’t surprise us this important pre-Christian holiday season would eventually take a Christian form. As a strategic consequence of those who wished to advance the truth of the Gospel, or simply as a cultural inevitability, December 25th became a Christian celebration. St. Augustine of Hippo (the early church theologian of the 4th and 5th Century), wrote about the newly adopted celebration, and said:

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