Conversations with High School Students

October 27, 2011

Yesterday I went to a local high school in the area to hangout with some students after school.  These students are your typical students in some aspects but not in all aspects.  These 60+ students are members of the Secular Student Alliance Club at Parkview High.  These students meet every other week to discuss topics ranging from the existence of God , to the possibility of morals without God to other issues like animal rights and other social issues.  If you are new to apologetics and are not familiar with the term “Secular” it just means activities and attitudes that do not have a religious or spiritual basis.  The students members hold a variety of different beliefs or positions.  Some are atheist,  some are agnostic,  many of them are might label themselves as skeptical or searching, and there was a Christian in the group also.

I meet them about a year ago through Michael, one of the students in my student ministry, at the church where I am student pastor.  Michael had been going to the Secular Student Alliance Club each week to talk and share his Christian beliefs with the students and to jump in to the debates and discussions they had each week.  I really admire Michael for doing this, I don’t think I would have done that at his age if our school had a SSA Club like they do.  (We had to fight to even have the right to a Christian Club when I went to South Gwinnett High School 20 years ago.)  The SSA club invited me to speak a few times last school year thanks to the invite from Michael.  After Michael has graduated and gone to college I have stay in contact with the students and we talk weekly through Facebook about different subjects.

Let me first break some common misconceptions about the students in the SSA club.  They are nice, polite, smart, and funny.   Just like the average teen.  Many of them are active in community doing things to take care of environment.  A few weeks ago they held a can drive to collect food items for a local food bank in the area.  There are certain feelings that are associated or arise when you mention the word “atheist” or “skeptic”, or even “Christian” for that matter.  I think these feelings come from a past where perception was different.  Any time I have gone to talk with them I have always felt at ease and comfortable with talking to them.

Part of the reason I wanted to write this blog was to help you break down those areas of misconception and also to get a feel of what is like to have conversations with students like these or anyone else for that matter.  Yesterday I went to the meeting not really knowing what I might talk about.  I usually have an outline and prepared talk, but yesterday I just felt like being very low-key and open to where the conversation may go.  I had been in some intense discussions recently online with some of them and I really felt it was important to just be a good listener this time.  I admit, I think I have become addicted to the feeling of being in the moment with apologetic discussions.  Not knowing what questions may come up and not having all the answers, I know the best thing I can do is offer up a quick prayer for help and rely on the Holy Spirit to help me give an answer that is Biblical and is easy to understand.

As the meeting started they allowed me to open with a small discussion about some things that I have noticed through the online conversations as misunderstandings about the Christian worldview.  I talked about Blind faith vs. a Biblical Faith.  Biblical faith is based on evidence just as scientists make thesis and hypothesis based on evidence in science.   From there the conversation morphed into the different types of knowledge that we can obtain.

After I finished talking I opened it up for anybody ask questions.  They asked some really good questions that I could tell that they really wanted to know the answer to.  Some were easy to answer, some questions I had to ask a question in return to get some clarification over, and some I had to pause and think a bit before responding.  We were discussing free will, and one student asked a good question, that caught me off guard, one I had never heard before.  A student asked me if God took part of Mary’s free will when He chose her to be the mother of Jesus and to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  After a brief pause, and another silent prayer for some help from God I thought and went back to the story.  We know from the text that Mary was already a follower of Jehovah God and like most Christians today, we want God’s will to be our own will.  I made a personal reference to my life to back up the thought.  The other Christian in the room, the student,  chimed in and said that Mary still had a choice of whether to keep the baby or to accept God’s desire for her life.   In the text it says that she had been chosen by God, but it didn’t say that she was already pregnant yet.   That was an insightful question.  We ended the meeting talking about Homosexuality a bit and then finished talking about worldviews and how that there can only be one right worldview.  They can’t all be right.

One of the students I have been talking with for the last several weeks was asking a lot of questions about the Bible and I asked him if he had a Bible.  He did not have one so I asked if  I could give him one.  He agreed and took it from me.   I am looking forward to going back soon, if not to talk, but perhaps only to listen and sit in on their discussions and learn what kinds of things that they deal with and question.  One thing that I can say about this group oh high school students is that they really want to know what they believe and why.  They are looking for truth and answers for life and I applaud their thirst for knowledge and truth.  I would wish that many Christians would also have the same type of fire that these high school students do.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.

Conversational Apologetics

October 3, 2011

When you strike up conversations with people, especially for the first time it is important for you to find out where they are and what they believe.  For example, Do they believe in God?  Do they have another world view? (Islam, Buddhism, etc..)  Do they believe the Bible is true?  There are many questions you can ask them.  Each question will help you determine where you need to start in your discussions with them.

Avoid putting people in a box.  Just because some says they are Mormon or they are a Muslim doesn’t mean they will fit into the general beliefs of their religion or worldview.  You will find that people have varying beliefs or individual beliefs rather than fitting into every standard you know.   Just as someone else might assume you believe something like speaking in tongues, or predestination because you are a Christian.   Asking questions will help you determine what they believe and why?

Here are some questions that you can ask people to help you figure out what they believe and this will help you know where to start with them in your discussions.

1. Do you believe in a God?
2. Do you believe in one God (monotheism) or many gods (polytheism)?
3. On a scale 1-7 seven, 1 being total atheist and 7 being a total theist, where do you stand?
4. Are you a Deist or Theist?
5. How do you believe the world came to be?
6. Do you believe in evolution?
7. Do you think the Universe had a beginning?
8. Do you believe that humanity has Free Will or is Determined?
9. Do you believe in Absolute truth?
10. Do you believe that truth is relative?
11. Where does Evil come from?
12. Do you believe in Satan?
13. Define Evil.
14. Where do morals come from?
15. Do you believe in an Objective Moral?
16. What is Sin?
17. Do you believe that the Bible is inspired from God?
18. Do you believe the Bible contains errors?
19. Do you believe in miracles?
20. Do you believe in Jesus?
21. What do you believe about Jesus?
22. Do you believe that Jesus is God?
23. Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead?
24. What is Faith?

You can also ask them to define terms that they or you might use in your discussion.  For example: Mormons and Christians both us the word Trinity but define it by different meanings.  Christians view the Trinity as the 3 (Father, Son, Spirit) in 1 triune God who has three unique personalities but is 1 God.  Mormons view the 3 Gods (Father, Son, Spirit) referred in the Bible  who are not the 1 and same God.

Don’t forget 1 Peter 3:15:
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

As you have conversations with people don’t forget one of the most important things, to talk with them with “gentleness and respect”  You are not out there to coerce anyone into believing in your Christian worldview, you can be bold and persuasive, but don’t ever try to force someone into a relationship with Christ.  It has to be their choice.  You are also not out there to “slam” anyone or make them look stupid with your knowledge of apologetics.    In the next post I will explain a method for presenting the Gospel and simple strategy for helping other people understand your Christian worldview.