Pastor Matt offered 6 points in his post:
- Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
- Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
- Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
- Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
- Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
- Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
In his post Pastor Matt said this:
Too many churches do in fact present a shallow faith that skips doctrine and apologetics for “how to…” sermons that are little more than self-help talks with scripture sprinkled over them. The refusal to learn theology and how to defend the faith as well as to spend the time thinking about how to present them in a clear and winsome manner is at the heart of all four of the valid objections by young people to the evangelical church. Pastors must simply take this responsibility seriously and put in the time and effort. There is no other answer.
[...]Det. J. Warner Wallace has argued that we have to T.R.A.I.N. Christian students rather than teach them but I think we need to train all of our fellow Christians (and he would agree). Training is harder than teaching. We need to remember that it takes at least seven times for the average person today to hear something before they retain it. Also, most people do not truly understand something until they put it into practice. Thus, pastors must be trained in order train congregations to truly be lay theologians and apologists. The pastors must then challenge the congregation to use their skills reach out to the lost and help each other. And all of those trained must all help to look after the young to insure they know their faith so well that they do not fall for the poor arguments for atheism. This means pastors must implement rigorous programs for the people God has entrusted to them.
Pastor Matt lays the blame squarely on pastors for at least some of the problem. And I agree with him. But Dr. Craig asserted in his podcast that pastors should not be responsible to learn apologetics, because they were too busy with all the other duties that pastors have to do. He gave some examples, but they were things like weddings, counseling children about drugs and marriage counseling.
So what I wanted to say about this is that Pastor Matt is right and Dr. Craig is wrong. A pastor should have at least put in the time to learn apologetics so that he is able to inject it into his sermon, where appropriate, and point people to where they can find answers when asked. It seems to me that if you are going to get up there and preach about a bunch of things, then you’d better know at least a little about why those things are true. And it can’t just be “because the Bible says so” or because “that’s just how I was raised”. Respect for the truth claims of Christianity has to come from the top, even if the pastor leverages the skills of people in the church to address different issues in more detail.
Pastor Matt responded to Dr. Craig in this post.
The biggest disagreement I have with Dr. Craig is that he argues pastors are too busy to be trained in apologetics. As a pastor and the son of a pastor, I strongly differ! Unfortunately, what I have witnessed (and heard from several seasoned pastors of very large churches) is that too many pastors are in fact lazy. I have heard from half a dozen leaders of churches of more than 10,000 that they cannot find young seminary grads who will put in even 40 solid hours a week! Those statements may ruffle a few feathers and certainly there are hard-working, if not overworked pastors out there but they are apparently few and far between.
Also, pastors often try to do things they shouldn’t do. As a lawyer who used to defend churches, ministers often get into trouble for counseling those with serious issues that are beyond their training and experience. A person with addiction issues needs something like Celebrate Recovery, a person with emotional problems needs a licensed professional counselor. Ministers need to recognize their limits and engage in areas that they can and must address instead of those that are already well covered by other trained professionals.
But to be fair to Dr. Craig, I think he may have misunderstood what I mean by training. I don’t mean a pastor has to earn a master’s degree or doctorate in apologetics or philosophy. There are many short but effective training programs out there such as his own Defenders class, the distance certificate from BIOLA, Frank Turek’s short but intense CrossExamined program (that I am attending this week), etc.
I agree with Dr. Craig that we should train layman to create an apologetics team in our churches (see this post) but the pastor has to take the lead. No pastor can expect his or her church to do what he or she is not willing to do. If the pastor doesn’t evangelize, the church won’t. If the pastor is not studying the Bible carefully, the church won’t. Also, any pastor working in today’s post-Christian culture must know how to meet the challenges of said culture. It is just part of the gig. So, every minister should seek some type of solid apologetics training and commit to regular study on the subject as well as subscribe to certain podcasts such as Reasonable Faith.
I wanted to add that I didn’t agree with any of the other points where Dr. Craig disagreed with Pastor Matt. It was really surprising to me, but I think Pastor Matt is right across the board. Leadership starts from the top – how are you supposed to be able to assess different people’s requests to teach apologetics or bring in speakers if you are not comfortable discerning what is good and what isn’t yourself? If the pastor is going to be making those kinds of decisions, then he has to understand apologetics to some degree. Maybe not with formal training, but as much as a typical blogger like me would. Also, don’t you find it weird – the idea that a pastor can get up there and preach on things to people and not be able to show anyone some reasons why these things are true? Christians have to be ready to give an answer, and that answer cannot just be “because the Bible says so”.