It has been my observation that the next generation of Christians commonly finds themselves between a rock and a hard place. We’ll call the rock Nominal Christianity. We’ll allow the hard place to be Skepticism.

Nominal Christianity

Nominal means in name only. Nominal Christianity then is an inauthentic faith that is only associated with Christianity in name only. Nominal Christianity is in attendance most Sunday mornings if it wakes up on time, or wasn’t out too late the night before. Nominal Christianity never deals seriously with sin, hasn’t opened the Bible in years, hasn’t shared the gospel, well, probably ever, and almost certainly would never be a part of any intimate fellowship with other believers. Its faith is privatized and kept at arms length.

Unfortunately, this has been the model for many, if not most young Christians from what I can observe. It seems so common place that Nominal Christianity simply is authentic Christianity in the eyes of many, including the next generation.

However, the next generation believer cannot maintain this image of their faith for long. One of two things will happen. Preferably, they will come face-to-face with a genuine faith that takes Jesus seriously and actually has the power to transform a life. That is what I hope for. However, it seems pretty common instead for a young believer to come face-to-face with skepticism.

Skepticism

Skepticism isn’t necessarily bad. It is good to be skeptical and it is good to ask questions. What isn’t good is being faced with skepticism and having no idea what to do. This is the problem a nominal faith creates. The young Christian has never seen faith taken so seriously that it can actually withstand skepticism. The nominal Christian doesn’t seek answers to difficult questions, they simply “take it on faith” (whatever that means). Their Christianity doesn’t stimulate the intellect, it merely panders their emotions and makes them “feel good”. This pseudo-faith isn’t serious enough to answer any objections.

So what does the young Christian do? Well, hopefully they have enough sense to look for answers. However, they are surrounded by a nominal faith, so who will they turn to? They must reach outside of their immediate context, something not all are willing to do. Luckily, with the growing interest in apologetics (it seems to be growing anyway), a simple Google search could land you on a good apologetic website. Nonetheless, you see the problem. The young Christian’s nominal faith is challenged, there are no answers in the immediate context, and they are left to make a decision. If the statistics are any indication, many choose to walk away.

A Solution

Enter: apologetics. Apologetics is the area of theology that seeks to provide rational answers to common objections of the Christian faith. At least, that definition will work for now. I’m proposing that apologetics can help fix the above dilemma. There are many reasons young people are walking away from their faith and they aren’t all intellectual reasons. For that reason, I’m not saying that apologetics can save the day and keep all young Christians from walking away from their faith. However, it can help.

Apologetics obviously takes the faith seriously, so it is immediately juxtaposed to Nominal Christianity. Where nominal Christianity keeps the faith at arms length, apologetics is a welcoming embrace. Learning rational reasons for the existence of God, resurrection of Jesus, and validity of the Bible as God’s word causes a young Christian to realize the reality of it all. They no longer have to “take it on faith” which I guess really means “blind faith”. There are actually reasons to believe these things and that makes it real. It makes faith more personal. I suppose this is what we mean when we say, “My faith became my own.” This is the effect apologetics can have on a young believer.

Apologetics also serves to fend off skepticism. I would say that someone familiar with apologetics, and more so philosophy, becomes skeptical themselves, but in a way that serves a good purpose. Perhaps, the correct word here is actually critical, and not skeptical. It is good to think critically and someone who is interested in apologetics and philosophy learns this early on. But in the case of being faced with difficult objections by skeptics, apologetics exists for this very reason. It is the very purpose of apologetics to answer the critic.

In summary, if the next generation finds themselves between the rock of Nominal Christianity and the hard place of Skepticism, apologetics is a tool that can help. Apologetics takes the faith seriously and serves the purpose of answering tough questions. Strengthen the believer. Answer the critic.

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Posted by Haden Clark

Children's Minister / B.A. Business Administration / M.A. Theological Studies / M.A. Philosophy

17 Comments

  1. We are in a time when a Christian has to keep himself informed on a wide variety of topics, be it theological or scientific, to be a strong Christian. Christians tend to eschew syllogistic reasoning altogether. That is not going to help Christianity. We need to read and keep ourselves well informed. We need to engage in intellectual debates, and for that we would first need to know a lot of information. Paul, the apostle was a well read man. He knew the Jewish law and also about many secular works. That is lacking in today’s Christians. We are too lazy to learn.

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    1. Very, very true. Christianity is being drowned out because Christians are not taking part in such discussions. To help, http://www.discuss-life.com blog, which is in its infancy (really – just launched), hopes to facilitate both such discussions as well as helping Christians to learn about the word of God, both within its own context and its Hebrew context. The apostle Paul also knew the Word of God extremely well. Thanks for pointing this out. – Yosef

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    1. I appreciated your thoughts on nominal Christianity. Thank you.

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  2. Reblogged this on Bob's Opinion and commented:
    This needs reposting. Once a week might do. A great post by Haden Clark, Haden uses “Nominal Faith” as “In name only,” I use it (In Name Only), for Liberal Theology, (Liberal Christianity) Christian in name only. Thank you Brother Haden for giving us a more understandable phrase.
    Reblogged on Bob’s Opinion

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  3. Excellent summary of nominal Christianity and the role of apologetics in reaching our young people. Thanks so much.

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  4. Reblogged this on An Odd Look At Life and commented:
    My wife and I work very hard to ensure our son has a solid foundation in his faith. It is unrealistic to believe that he will stay faithful to Jesus throughout his life if we haven’t given him solid answers to the questions that inevitably arise from nonbelievers. This article gives a wonderful summary of the problems Christian parents and those in youth ministry face along with a good solution for some of these difficulties.

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  5. Great read! And a necessary read!

    Like

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  6. Yes! And so many good and easily accessible resources exist. Podcasts, Youtube Channels, websites.

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  7. Apologetics are a great way to get some to renew their interest in God and His word. I have visited many churches over the years, and listened to many sermons, and one thing stands out: the lack of God’s word. The youth (and others) are leaving the church as the church’s message has become simply one of many in this world, and one based on man’s understanding and thoughts and is being drowned out as irrelevant. Why? Because the word of God has been thrown out! Not in word as no church would admit that, but listen to the sermons. How much of God’s word is actually read? Very, very, little. It is God’s word that is unchanging. It is his word that must form a foundation of our life. It is not the preacher’s clever sermons and homilies that keep people in faith, but God and his word alone. How many of us know the 10 commandments? How many of us know what is in Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount?’ Let’s start with repenting of turning away from His word, and let apologetics be a (big) part of our renewed interest in Him and his word! – http://www.discuss-life.com / Yosef

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  8. Beautifully aritculated. This is the dillema my generation faces. We are in search of clear, logical arguments to defend dthe faith and find it hard to embrace the reality of our faith along with truly living a life of faith. I’m thankful some have access to thorough apologetics who love God and His People. Listening and praying through this with Christ truly helped me fight doubt and unbelief. God bless @helpmebelieve. We need more writing on this. 🌻

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  9. I agree that we need more apologists to check and correct adulterated versions of God’s word confusing the heart of many. The Christian faith is threatened in the hands of nominal Christians, as the truth is daily being seen as the false; the false is now being imbibed as the truth. A great read! Do I have your permission to reblog?

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  10. You laid this out really well, Haden. Very astute.

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  11. Haden,

    Very good blog post and organized website. I will pray for our youth to use critical thinking in their spiritual quest. May God bless your blog and your ministry. Thanks much for stopping by my blog and following it.

    Betsy

    Liked by 1 person

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