How prepared are your children for college? I don’t mean academically, but spiritually. Are they solid in their Christian world view? Do you have concerns that some new friends might suggest Christianity should not be taken seriously or the Bible is full of contradictions? Or worse, actually point out some good reasons why Christianity fails as a religion? Could someone possibly point out some of those errors in the Bible? I mean, the Bible can’t be error free, it was written by men whether or not the original text was inspired by God.
Do you worry they will hear from some intelligent, likeable instructors that religion is for the weak minded and nothing more than a crutch? Or an articulate academic professor, who very persuasively and passionately lays out the case for evolution? How about a sharp teacher that asks why shouldn’t a woman be allowed to do what she wants with her own body? Who are you to tell another adult what they can or can’t do in the privacy of their own home? Or a college faculty member who questions why can’t people just marry who they love – the Bible says love is the 2nd greatest commandment.
Once they are away from home and the influence of their family, friends, and church, will the world begin to socially engineer them away from their faith? If you doubt this, you are in for a shock. Are they to rely on feelings? Does their faith run on emotion that lasts till the next uplifting worship service? How will they reply to some of the teachings at a liberal college? Have you ever discussed some of the most pressing social issues with your teens? Do you have a response to homosexuality, transgender issues, abortion, religious pluralism? Come on, all religions are basically the same, Christianity does not have the monopoly on love. Do you see any Buddhists blowing up Planned Parenthood locations? Will they have encountered any anti-Christian rhetoric before, or have they just been enjoying pizza and games at youth group for the last several years?
What is the focus of your youth group? Is it to have fun in a safe family friendly environment? Do they dig into the Word and explore who God is, or is it more about experiencing and hearing from God, worship, hanging with peers? When they leave after a Wednesday night, have they learned something that will provide an answer to the questions they will hear or will they just remember the good times, ice cream, pizza, and laughter with their friends?
They will not only hear tough questions at college, but be directly asked by others about their faith. What will be their response? Any youth leader ever role-play someone asking the tough questions to see how the youth would respond? Quickly they will begin to see that in high school or college they can hang out, have ice cream, pizza and laugh with new friends, all without God. Very quickly they will be talked out of God. Why? Because as Frank Turek says, they have never been talked into it.
Two of my three daughters have moved away to college in Northern California. One of my daughters is taking a comparative religion class, and after flipping through her text book I found some interesting claims of the the author, Theodore Ludwig.
Ludwig wrote, “In the earliest gospel, that of Mark, Jesus is not reported to have claimed to be the Messiah or the Son of God – though others speak of him in that way. But the gospel writers, telling the story at least a generation after the time of Jesus, certainly knew the belief of the earliest Christians that Jesus in fact was the Messiah.”1
This is a common claim: that the gospels were written well over 40 years, if not hundreds of years, after the death of Christ. What Ludwig is pointing out is that since Mark is the earliest gospel, closest to the time and life of Christ, any legendary element would not have developed or influenced the text yet. In other words, Mark does not mention Christ making claims to be the son of God because He never made those claims, and since Mark’s account is the closest to the actual event, it is therefore the most reliable. He says we can dismiss the other gospel accounts because generations have passed and legendary accounts will have distorted the text.
Critics claim that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of accumulated myths or legends, which at one time may have had some elements of truth, but after centuries of re-writings and translations they have little or no historical factual evidence held within their pages. Ludwig puts it this way, “The historical facts of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution cannot be clearly and accurately reconstructed, for the Christian story is more interested in the theological meaning of this happening than in historical detail.”2
What would your son or daughter do with this? What would you do with this? Sounds reasonable does it not? We all know that the earliest testimony to a particular event is often the most accurate. Nearly all historical Biblical scholars, (liberal or conservative), agree that Mark is likely the earliest written. If Mark does not mention Christ making claims to be God, could it be because Mark’s account is the most accurate and Christ never made those claims?
Let’s look at some passages of Mark that suggest Ludwig is mistaken.
In Mark 1 John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[g] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
In Mark 2 we find Jesus healing a paralyzed man, but first forgiving him of his sins, something only God can do.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”(NIV)
In Mark 9 we find the following account of the transfiguration.
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.(NIV)
Finally in Mark 14 we find Jesus before his accusers.
53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”(NIV)
It is clear that just the opposite is true. Mark does contain passages that report Jesus to have claimed to be the Son of God. Yet, how many teens would actually research this on their own and not simply believe the text book or the word of the instructor in front of their room?
In the textbook chapter titled, The Christian Sacred Story and Historical Context Ludwig writes:
“Those who accepted Peter’s words were baptized (some three thousand that day, the story says)…”
“The Christian sacred story tells of the trials of the early church in Jerusalem.”
“In this Christian story…”
“The Christian story really is not interested in the question…”
“The Christian story tells how Jesus’ body was taken…”
“Thus ends the story of the earthy Jesus…”3
I quickly lost count on how many times the author referred to the writings of the New Testament as ‘the story’. The underlying message is that the Bible is a collection of bed time stories suitable for young children at Sunday school, but any thoughtful student should not take them seriously.
Do the teens in your house take the gospel accounts seriously, or do they consider them simply stories of a great man and wise teacher? I know of several young men and women who have walked away from their faith despite being raised by God loving, God fearing Christian parents. More often then not, the departure coincides with their moving away and attending college. Just last month, the Pew Research published a study as to why some leave their religion. The study, and others like it, should give you cause for concern if you are the parent of a teen.
Nearly 80% of those who consider themselves non-religious were raised in religious homes.4 What is also significant is since 2007, the percent of those who are not religiously affiliated has jumped nearly 20%. In 2007, those who considered themselves non-religious was 36.6%, and in 2014 the Pew Research reported it to be 55.8%.5
This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.
Common examples for reasons people gave for walking away from their faith include:
-Learning about evolution when I went away to college.
-Too many Christians doing un-Christian things.
-“Religion is the opiate of the people.”
-Rational thought makes religion go out the window.
-Lack of any sort of scientific or specific evidence of a creator.6
As a parent of a teen, are you ready to wrestle with some of these ideas? If not, then how can you expect your child to? I spent a few minutes putting a sticky note or two in my daughter’s text book referencing the above passages in Mark to point out the misleading information in the comparative religion text book and pointed out the claim of the author in the Gospel of Mark.
Later this September, my wife and I are taking our youngest daughter and two of her friends to the apologetic Re-Think conference in Southern California. This is just one way we are exposing our daughter to some ‘reasonable faith’, before she can be talked out of her faith; she is being exposed to some of the counter Christian ideas. If you have a teen at home, I encourage you to expose them to reasons, not just feelings, for their faith.
The Gospel accounts are early and accurate testimony to the life of Christ. If they aren’t, for the Christian ‘story’ as Ludwig calls it, to have taken hold and impacted the world as it did seems astounding. Martin Hengel wrote, “If Jesus never possessed a messianic consciousness of divine mission nor spoke of the coming, or present, ‘Son of Man, ‘nor was executed as a messianic pretender – as is maintained by radical criticism untroubled by historical arguments – then the emergence of Christology, indeed, the entire early history of primitive Christianity, is incomprehensible.”7
1. Ludwig, Theodore M. The Sacred Paths of the West. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006, Print.
4. Lipka, Michael. “Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind.” Pew Research Center. Pewresearch.org, 24 August 2016. Web. 9 September 2016.
5. Lipka, Michael. “A closer look at American’s rapidly growing religious ‘nones’.” Pew Research Center. Pewresearch.org, 13 May 2015. Web. 9 September 2016.
6. Lipka, Michael. “Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind.” Pew Research Center. Pewresearch.org, 24 August 2016. Web. 9 September 2016.
7. Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008, Print.
The road away from Faith by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.