A new school year has commenced and young people are engaged in their various studies. It strikes me that most young people I know spend more time involved in their school work than in any other activity or endeavor. Not only do they spend seven hours per day every weekday in school, but they then come home and spend another two to four hours on homework for a total of nine to eleven hours per day on their school work. Most, if not all of that work is secular in nature even in the context of a Christian school (though there are significant exceptions in that context). That reality raises the question, "How much time, in comparison, do our young people spend in the Word of God?" With days like those mentioned above, it is doubtful that more than a few actually spend time in the Word daily, let alone in anything approaching an equivalent amount of time. Is it any wonder that some have estimated that nearly 80% of Christian young people fall away from the faith when they get to College?
College is that context in which children are expected to act like adults without the life experience or reasoning power of adults. Open dorm rooms, fraternity parties, the multicultural environment, peer pressure, and new found freedom all combine to drive most students to decadence. To be unaware of or ignore the reality of this context, particularly on the part of the Christian, is to not only have one's head in the sand but to be completely buried in the sand. At the same time, we must ask whether or not our young people are philosophically equipped to say no to the ungodliness of this present age (Titus 2:11-14).
Moreover, our young people are not only confronted with an approved and even promoted lifestyle of decadence, but they are confronted by professors and peers alike with competing worldviews and a castigation of their own Christian worldview at the same time. Are our young people philosophically equipped to cling to the faith once for all delivered to the saints without wavering (Jude 3; Heb. 10:23)?
Two critical questions in view of the foregoing are raised by this line of thinking. First, are most of the young people in our Christian homes and church youth groups actually born again? Second, are we teaching those young people to think, and think biblically, and in such a way that they won't be tossed about by every wind of doctrine and/or philosophical argument (Eph. 4:14)?
How grieved I was a few years ago when a close friend was engaged to be married to a young woman who claimed to be a Christian. In fact, she would have told you and demonstrated evidence that in reality she was a committed Christian. Obviously my grief did not come as a result of this engagement. My grief came when this young woman in her senior year of college took a trip to Alaska. As she interacted with the Eskimos, she began to question the exclusivity of Christ. Sadly, she apostatized from the faith in the Hebrews 6 sense of the term. In other words, because she was never saved to begin with, and, because she had no answer for the Eskimos when they presented her with their futile but humanly attractive religion, she rejected the Christ she claimed to love and walked away from His gospel and salvation. She had no philosophical answer to the question of how anyone could be so arrogant as to claim that their God was and is the exclusive way of salvation. She knew the facts of Jn. 14:6, but she had no ability to give a reasoned defense for the hope she professed (1 Pet. 3:15). Without that ability, she was unable to hold fast to that hope without wavering and she ultimately walked away (Heb. 10:23f).
Sadly, the experience of my friend is not unique. Every year brings fresh heartbreak to parents who send their children off to prepare themselves for life. Unfortunately, because they are unprepared for life and the philosophical onslaught in which they enter when they wave goodby to their parents from the dorm room stoop, in so doing, they actually take that first big step toward apostasy. They do so because a human decision at nine years of age cannot withstand the pressure applied by a philosophical tidal wave rushing in upon a mind that has not been taught a rational defense of the faith. The levee of spurious faith breaks under the pressure of the deadly flood of postmodern propaganda.
When leaders in a Christian school in our area did not understand what I meant by saying the school did not integrate a Christian worldview into their curriculum and teaching, my point was made. When evolution was taught in freshman biology with no biblical answer, my point was driven home. When humanism was taught in sophomore history with no critique from the Christian perspective required or offered, my point was sealed. Our young people are dying for a lack of knowledge: the knowledge of God and the knowledge as to why one cannot make sense of reality apart from Him.
Teaching our children to think will not save them. Only the gospel applied by the Holy Spirit will save anyone. Yet, if our children reject Christianity on philosophical grounds prior to their conversion, what hope may we cling to when they no longer listen to or contemplate a gospel they now find to be intellectually objectionable? Yes, our God is sovereign, but we are responsible. Biblical faith is not a leap in the dark. The mind will not embrace that which does not seem to make sense. We must give our children the intellectual and philosophical rationale for the faith that they might continue to consider it as legitimate that the Holy Spirit might use that gospel to bring about a spiritual birth unto eternal life in Christ.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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