Three Reasons Your Students Need a Defense for their Faith
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You picks up where its prequel left off, with high school sweethearts Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky in the midst of the teenage relationship most of us used to dream about. Everything seems to be moving along merrily until Peter is hours late to a coffee date with Lara Jean, who obviously (and rightly) feels taken for granted. Her doubt of the relationship begins to snowball as she finds out that Peter has been talking to his ex-girlfriend, Gen, and that doubt finally turns into an avalanche when she sees a picture of Peter and Gen embracing one another. At this point, no matter how good Peter’s explanation is, it won’t be sturdy enough to stand in the way of Lara Jean’s doubt.
Doubt is an odd thing. It’s similar in matters of faith to doubt in matters of relationships. It gains momentum as one question leads to another, and to still another. The farther down the mountain this snowball rolls, the harder it is to stop until, sometimes, doubt turns into unbelief and then into hardness of heart. Doubt goes all the way back to the Garden, beginning with the seemingly innocuous question, “Did God really say…?” Our students need the tools to stop this snowball before it gains momentum. They need a strong and robust apologetic, or defense, that speaks to their doubts and strengthens their faith.
There are, of course, many reasons why our students need an apologetic for the Christian faith, but there are three that stand out as particularly relevant in this cultural moment.
Reason #1: God tells us that we need a strong apologetic.
In 1 Peter 3:15, the Holy Spirit through Peter says that Christians should “regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” God wants all of His people to be able to give a reasonable defense for the hope we have in Christ—and this certainly includes our students. Our students must know what the Gospel is, why it’s credible, and why can we believe, not just with probability, but with certainty that what the Bible says is true.
What’s more, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 that Christians must “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Paul is saying here that at least a part of taking every thought captive to obey Christ involves destroying the arguments and answering the objections that come from non-Christians as well as from within our own minds. In order to take every thought captive, our students need the tools to answer the arguments which come from both inside and outside the faith. God calls His people to be “rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7), and certainly a part of that is preparing our students to defend that very faith with the tools to answer unbelieving arguments in whatever form they present themselves.
Reason #2: Challenges to faith come from all sides.
Of course, students need to be ready to deal with the scientism that emanates from their tenth grade biology classroom or the naturalistic philosophy professor who says Jesus didn’t rise from the dead because “dead people don’t come back to life.” But challenges to their faith no longer come simply from the classroom. Now these challenges come from formerly well-known Christians who have left the faith, like Josh Harris, who force our students to ask, “What did they find unfulfilling in their faith? Am I missing something?” They come from popular YouTube channels, where hosts like Rhett and Link publicly walk their viewers through their own “deconversion” stories, which push their viewers to try to answer the objections they seemingly could not.
The sheer volume of challenges to Christian faith in this cultural moment means that the apologetic our students employ must be stronger. Weak apologetics may suffice in times of faith, but this time of increasing challenge to Christianity requires something a bit more substantive than what we can pull out of some popular Christian movies.
Reason #3: Challenges and doubts can develop over the course of students’ lives.
It’s almost a guarantee that at some point in the lives of each of your students, a tragedy will occur. Perhaps it will be the death of a parent or, later on, of a spouse, or it might be a debilitating chronic illness that they themselves contract. Your students will come face to face with the evil of a fallen world, and they will need a strong apologetic for God’s goodness to lean upon in the midst of that. The tragedies I have in mind are the ones which push people to think that even if God exists, He most certainly isn’t good. How could a good God allow so much evil to exist in the world? When I was in high school, a friend of mine suffered an overdose and passed away. God used the steadfast preaching and teaching of my youth pastor to keep me afloat, with his emphasis on the goodness of God and His promise to make all things new.
Our students need to be equipped not only with the tools to defend God’s existence, but with the tools to defend the existence of the distinctly Christian God, the God who works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28), even if it does not seem so in the moment. In fact, during that Friday afternoon on Golgotha, surely all the disciples struggled to work up a defense of God’s goodness, and yet, on Sunday morning, they were provided with one. The God your students believe in is one who brings life from death—and a robust apologetic for this point in particular is crucial in speaking to the internal doubts which they will experience throughout the course of their lives.
By the end of P.S. I Still Love You, Peter has managed to stop Lara Jean’s snowballing doubt, but it wasn’t easy. It required all the romance and authenticity he could muster, in addition to a legitimate explanation which quelled all of Lara Jean’s concerns. However, one wonders if he had explained himself on the front end, whether or not all that work would have had to take place at the end of the movie.
Youth Pastor, give your students the tools to stop that snowball before it starts heading down the mountain. Teach them to doubt their doubts. Help them learn to destroy unbelieving arguments. Don’t forsake the apologetic element of your preaching and teaching. Christ’s little ones are under your charge, so protect them and teach them to protect themselves.