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.


Misconceptions

October 10, 2011

A  few days ago a question was posed to students in a secular student alliance club  at a local high school in my area.   The question was “What will it take for you to believe in the existence of a god?”  Answers begin to come it and last I checked there was 230 comments on the question.  As I read through the answers and discussion that followed I noticed how misconceptions about God, the Bible, and Church can keep many people from having a theistic worldview and from trusting in the Christian worldview.  Here’s what  I mean.

One student answered, “To believe in the existence of an all-powerful god with the general well-being of humans in mind as most universalizing religions do, I would have to see evidence of a world with less… ‘bad’…”  I believe this student has a misunderstanding of why the world is bad.  Perhaps he thinks God is not great enough to create people who are perfect, or that perhaps God is to blame for the bad in the world.  This is clearly a misunderstanding of the free will that God gives us as humans and the sinful nature that we are born with.  God doesn’t create evil, he only makes it possible.  This is a misunderstanding of human nature.

I have already covered the misconception about faith, it you missed it you can click here to read about it.

Another student says “For me to worship that entity in addition to believing it exists, I’d also need evidence of the power of prayer, heaven, or hell”  Among other things, this student is looking at the power of prayer as a possible proof.  What do most people think about prayer?  Is it like a magic genie where God grants you whatever you want?  Do we as Christians push this thought by our words and actions?  We know God answers prayer, but we know that He doesn’t always answer them how we want.  We also know what the Bible says that we pray we must pray in Jesus name and that we must align our requests with the holy scriptures.

A student that I have been talking with recently made this comment, “The holy scriptures that people study today are translations of the originals (which we don’t have) and as we all know, things are always lost in translation.”  he went on to add “the original documents were written centuries after the stories that they depict took place. Doesn’t this make you wonder about the validity of the words that you’re studying?”  This student has received some faulty information that I have seen before.  Unfortunately there are people who want to misrepresent the truth, on both sides of the debate I might add.

There were some great questions and comments made by the students, some of them I could see are genuinely searching God and welcomed any thoughts by the Christians that interacted with them.

So what do you do to clean up the misconceptions?  Here are a few suggestions.  Know what the truth is for yourself.  Do the research, look at the evidence, and be able to communicate with others the evidence in a way that is easy and makes sense.  You should also know what others are saying against the truth and be prepared to respond to it.  Winston Churchill once said “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”   For those who know the truth and yet try to cover it up or repress it, do the most damage.

It is amazing to me how many people have already made up their mind about  the validity of the Bible, but have never read more than a few chapters of it for themselves.  I do understand why some may have difficulties with it.  Miracles for example may be one reason.  In the near weeks we will look at the miracles within the Bible.  Maybe they even read through it once completely, and think that they have a good grasp on it, that might be more dangerous.  I’ve been reading and studying it for about 25 years now and I have much to learn of it myself.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.