I am pleased to publish an article by my friend, Don Hank, the Editor in Chief of Laigle’s Forum. Though he and I have different tasks set before us, we have a shared concern about the state of the Church and many shared concerns about the threats that are arrayed against Her, and this country. This article represents some of Don’s thoughts about Christian apologetics.
Isolation versus insulation for Christians
by Donald Hank
Imagine a mother and father who kept their children indoors in the coldest winter months and never allowed them to leave the house until they were 18, but then when they came of age, sent them out on their own, barefoot and in short sleeves in January.
What would you think of such parents who first isolate, then fail to insulate their children?
You’d probably say they were dysfunctional at best.
Yet this is tantamount to what many well-meaning Christian parents do when they insulate their children from the world, sending them, for example, to a Christian school, and then, with no further preparation, send them to a secular college without the intellectual means to ward off attacks on their faith.
Barna polls have shown that the vast majority of young people who have received a biblical education in isolation as kids lose their faith at some point during their college years, and ironically, the more biblical the upbringing, the more readily they lose their faith. I believe this is because the more orthodox, traditional Christian families isolate their children more than others.
After all, American colleges are specialized in using the latest psychological secular rising techniques, originating in European psychological laboratories. They have been so wildly successful that losing one’s faith has become a regular rite of passage on campus.
But you don’t even have to go to college to lose your faith. Though raised in a good Christian home, I lost mine before college, because I avidly read National Geographic, which regularly refers in its articles to the evolution of man from lower life forms.
After all, I reasoned, the writers of these articles were more highly educated than my parents and pastor. Surely they would know. Thus, the Bible began to look like mythology to me.
I spent 40 years in the cold Narnian winter until I saw with my own eyes how the general breakdown of morality in America, with the drug culture, abortion, rampant immoral hedonism, the breakdown of education and virulent political correctness, was destroying our culture. I vaguely realize that the loss of faith in God had something to do with this.
God allowed me to suffer personally, including the death of a child under surrealistic circumstances, graphically illustrating how law and order had been totally lost and how violence to the innocent is protected in a secularist society. Though no longer professing the faith of my fathers, I could not stomach the consequences of its loss.
It gradually dawned on me that America is being secretly overthrown — violently — with only limited public awareness of the overthrow.
And whereas in the Christian America prior to the 60s, I had found it hard to believe in Christ, I now found it impossible to live without Him. My faith grew in proportion to the decay of society.
It was the best and worst of times.
What had gone wrong? Why couldn’t I foresee all of this?
The answer is that ours has become a culture of unintended consequences — on purpose. We are taught, subliminally, that history leads inexorably leftward, according to Marx’s theory of the historical imperative. Though otherwise seemingly rational, campus intellectuals tell us we must not fight this leftward trend. Those who do so are branded reactionaries and made to feel inferior, stupid and even immoral. The revolution is our new god. To defy it is a mortal sin.
Make sense? Of course not. There is absolutely no moral authority for this hypothetical historical imperative. But our ability to think and to perceive objective truth has long been hampered by the media, Hollywood, public education, academe, politicians and the ACLU, to name but the main influences. Jesus had said “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Nowhere has this been so beautifully illustrated than by the loss of freedom in America and the attendant simultaneous loss of truth. Lo and behold, they go hand in hand, as Jesus had said.
Reading the Bible and praying with one’s family and attending church are helpful in preparing the heart. But most pastors and families lack the preparation to provide the vital protection for our children’s vulnerable minds.
Writing to the Ephesians, Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God, and mentions the shield of faith.
But how do we acquire and maintain this faith?
Actually, Paul doesn’t tell us. Instead, he shows us by example. While reminding in Corinthians that not many wise men after the flesh (innately intelligent man) have been called, he modestly omits mention that he himself was a conspicuous exception to this rule. Since it was Jesus himself who called Paul, Jesus Himself obviously knew that at least one intelligent man was needed to lead the leaders.
Significantly, Paul was the first, and certainly the most brilliant, apologist for Christ in those times. By example, Paul told us how important the role of the apologist is, using non-religious arguments (Romans 1: 19 ff) and references to Old Testament prophecies to convince seekers of the truth.
Thus Paul was in fact the founder of the discipline of apologetics.
Yet few Christians today even know what that is, much less learn these vital techniques of wrestling with unbelief.
So let us pause here to define apologetics. In the simplest of terms, apologetics is a means of teaching people how to believe by appealing to their intellect, as opposed to ordinary preaching that appeals only or mostly to the heart.
If Christianity could not be founded without a Paul, how can it survive without one today?
Paul did not isolate himself from the challenges of the world, but his knowledge of the facts underlying his faith insulated him from their effects.
The fact is, every pastor needs to be highly skilled in Christian apologetics today. Yet very few are, because so few understand the importance of this discipline, in particular in transmitting the faith to the next generation. In a pitched battle against tanks, bombers and machine guns, church leaders are returning fire with peashooters. Or worse, with white flags.
Aware of this situation, I was particularly struck, over a year ago now, by a press release regarding A. R. Horvath’s apologetics ministry and his website reaching out to all seekers, even the “lostest” of the lost — atheists, such as I had been.
Having himself graduated from a private Christian school and studying to be a pastor in college, Anthony, like myself, had seen his faith collapses under the assault of secularist ideas.
It was he who introduced me to the idea that Christians need insulation, namely a strong background in apologetics, i.e., the skill of defending the faith by appealing to the intellect, rather than mere isolation, that is, keeping young people away from harmful ideas.
Like Laigle’s Forum, his ministry is not just to the unsaved in general but also to those who have succumbed to secularist ideas, mistakenly believing, as I once did, that a belief in Jesus Christ betrays a lack of study and understanding of the universe, while atheism is the mark of intellectual superiority.
In my case, it took years of anguish to learn the truth, and I can think of nothing more satisfying than to see others learning these same lessons without experiencing the excruciating anguish of separation from God.
That is why I am anxious to see Anthony’s ministry, Athanatos Christian Ministries succeed. Their new online academy aims to equip Christians young and old with the information about their faith that will help them stand up to challenges to their faith.
Any pastor who finds it difficult to deal with the questions of particularly recalcitrant unbelievers can benefit from the lessons and courses it offers and certainly it would be a good place to direct inquisitive young students in the congregation.
In this pitched battle raging around us, consequences in society can be readily detected. However, it is not merely society we wish to save, but the souls of the lost. The Church can help, not by isolating itself, but by insulating those who must soon fight on the front.