Monday, March 26, 2012
Having A Good Argument
Have you ever had the wonderful experience and privilege of the Belittling, Rebellious Antichristian Troublemaking student in your classroom? As you are delivering your wonderfully prepared Scripture lesson discussing the permutations of supralapsarianism for teenagers, this teen blithely asks the disturbing question: “How do you know any of this is true? My dad reckons it’s all……….!”
You, the ever vigilant SRE teacher pounce on the objector with “Don’t ever ask a question without first raising your hand!” As you hope that by martialling student support against the corrupting influence of this vile child’s classroom rule breaking, you may have thwarted the insidious nature of his atheistic speculations.
So the teenager raises his hand and asks the same question. And he has more classroom support for his position than before the SRE teacher attempted a gag on the question.
“To the extent that we in the Christian community insist that young adults should just accept our ‘right’ answers, we perpetuate a needless schism between science and faith” (Dave Kinnaman You Lost Me.) We undermine our own position by our behaviour.
Paul reminds us of the ‘Postmodern’ influence of relativising truth and morals.
“ preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2Tim 4:2-5)
Indifference to the Gospel through the culture’s increasing preoccupation with personal self-fulfilment of passions and desires drugs and dominates the worldview of many students. The High school SRE teacher may find that students are not argumentative, rather they just don’t care about the things we want to talk about.
Paul reminds us to be sober-minded.
Whatever it takes, we are preparing students to stand before the Judge of the living and the dead. We are dealing with the God Who appeared to His people as their Saviour! We want students to enter into His Kingdom. There is good reason to be sober. And we must also use our minds. How shall we best penetrate the indifference of selfishness to point students to the Saviour? This may mean deconstructing the worldview of the students. Norman and David Geisler suggest the kind and gracious strategy of raising questions that undermine the presuppositions upon which a student’s worldview is raised.
Questions concerning the meaning and value of materialism arise from Solomon’s instruction in Ecclesiastes. Ultimate meaning and absolute morality may be found in Jesus Christ. Everything else lacks absolute meaning.
Questions concerning the validity of scientism may be raised through attention to the experiences of love, or the failures of previous scientific truisms.; “Do you think that a scientist like … has it all together?”
Merely deconstructing someone’s beliefs and worldview can make students increasingly defensive and hardened against the reconstructing gospel message. Our conversation must “be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Col 4:6).
When deconstructing other worldviews, the student’s ability to think in abstract and principled ways must be taken into account. Piaget and Kohlberg both note that abstract and principled thinking are “higher order” activities requiring greater maturity in students than most SRE teachers will encounter.
How does an SRE teacher speak of these matters in a way suitable to the maturity level and thinking ability of the student before him?
Testimonies, storying and discussion of conversion stories may be a useful “concrete” tool in SRE classes.
Paul reminds us to do the work of an evangelist.
This may mean after deconstruction, reconstructing a student’s worldview around the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. There is true Truth, and that Truth is found In Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
As SRE teachers we need to present the message of the Gospel in a compelling and effective manner.
We need to have some apologetic tools at hand so that we can confront our hearers with Someone who demands absolute loyalty to His absolute truth.
SRE teachers and youth leaders will attempt to build a good foundation for their young people’s faith. This reconstruction process may mean admitting that we do not have the answer to every question, however we will have the answers to many questions and the tools to engage these questions constructively. This foundation should incorporate matters that confirm and establish faith rationally, experientially, morally, corporately in community, giving good and valid reasons for faith. It will primarily involve reading the self-authenticating scriptures that introduce students directly to the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I like the word “RAMP”; it has positive images of launching a response and reminds me of the good potent arguments for my faith:
The Resurrection of Jesus. Our SRE teachers and youth leaders should encourage young people to give attention to the historicity of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as foundational for faith. Ross Clifford has written a great little easy to read book titled Leading Lawyers' Case for the Resurrection.
Archaeological evidences. Yes the best scholarship continues to find in archaeological discoveries evidences for the historicity of many of the events recorded in Scripture. A few websites to visit include:
Miracles, both then and now.
Norman Geisler offers a good apologetic for miracles in "Miracles & The Modern Mind" In Defense of Miracles Geivett & Habermas, Ed. Intervarsity Press, 1997
Further useful material may be found at http://www.comereason.org/
Personal stories reflective of God’s power and presence in the youth workers’ own life can give valuable encouragements to young people to “taste and see” for themselves “that the Lord is good”. Psalm 34:8, 1 Peter 2:3
Prophetic writings of scripture that remind us of the truthfulness of the Scriptures. The evidence of fulfilled prophecy offered a powerful argument for the gospel writers presenting Jesus Christ as the Messiah in the Jewish context. Fulfilment of Prophecy also offers a powerful apologetic for the Bible as more than a humanly inspired book.
A concluding observation:
When my young student challenged me ““How do you know any of this is true? My dad reckons it’s all……….!” It left me wondering what exactly my student saying. Perhaps he was saying
“I trust my father’s opinion on religion more than I trust yours!”
Was he asking “Can you give me rational reasons to even consider your opinion?”
Was he upset because his father had recently died and he felt compelled to defend a memory of his dad?
How may we know which thought is in the student’s mind? We must learn to listen to the objections, consider the situation in life and maturity level context and answer these questions from the student’s presuppositions, not from our own.