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The Bet You Can't Afford to Lose

Years after coming out of atheism, I was still making exciting discoveries about the Christian faith. It seemed to me that Christ could be known the same way that we know other things about the world—that is, objectively. If a person was diligent enough to connect the dots and follow the evidence, he/she would see Christ for Who He truly is—and believe.

My objective faith in Christ was tested in my life several years later. I was one of the best endurance athletes in the country in my 50+ age group, but began finding myself short of breath when going up stairs. Diagnosis: heart failure! I took the prescribed drugs and continued my workouts. Eight days later, I woke up in ICU on a ventilator. I had been unconscious for a week! The diseased tissue had caused a fatal arrhythmia, and I had been asystolic (without a heartbeat or blood pressure) for 40 minutes. God's providence had timed my collapse to take place in front of a trained lifeguard stepping out his front door. Against long odds, I survived with my brain intact.

One of my friends who had been disappointed in my prior conversion to biblical Christianity hoped that I had seen something on “the other side” to broaden my “narrow” spirituality. My reply to her was that I know in Whom I have believed—and that He is the same. No life event could shake me from His hand. One change did occur, however. I had an awareness that time is short, and that I should make the most of every opportunity.

In subsequent years, as I have attempted to share my faith with my unbelieving friends, I have become increasingly aware of the monumental battle that takes place in the human soul. Salvation is truly of the Lord! The Apostle Paul said that people can't know God unless someone is sent to tell them. And he said that he was appointed for the proclamation and defense of the Gospel. The two actions of sending and telling are inexorably linked. This was especially true for Paul in the Greco-Roman-Jewish world.

The Problem

Throughout those difficult times, God preserved His church from what were impossible odds from a human standpoint. Within a few hundred years, Christendom had prevailed, and that state of affairs continued for over 1,000 years. Although there were earlier rumblings, in the 17th century the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason began to take an increasing share of men's minds away from God's dominion. The Theistic God who speaks and is revealed was replaced with a Deistic God who may have started the whole thing—and perhaps wrote the moral law on the minds of men, endowing them with “inalienable” rights—but this God did not breathe Scripture or walk the earth as Christ.

By the 20th century, Darwinian evolution, the materialist dialectic of Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud's reduction of religious belief to wish fulfillment, drove the continent of Europe into nihilism, existentialism, and neo-paganism. Europe, as Francis Schaeffer would say, had fallen below the line of despair. The United States hung on for a bit longer. But the cultural revolution of the ‘60s cast off the restraints of tradition. The founders of this revolution—now grown up—have their hands on all levers of power: entertainment, education, and news flow—the things that determine our worldview. The endgame for them is the creation of a new society where traditional religion is expunged from the marketplace of ideas. Eventually, through pressure and ridicule, no one will even want to associate themselves with anything resembling biblical religion. For the next generation, it will be almost unthinkable to hold traditional concepts of the family as normative, and even the nature of truth will have been redefined.

The Prediction

Organizations like Barna Research have given numbers on the percentage of college-age evangelical youth who leave the church never to return—and they are not good. The church has failed, and parents have failed. Ultimate responsibility lies with the parents. If you send your children into the public school system with anything less than the full armor of God, you are turning them over to an evil system dedicated to turning out reliable secularists. By the time they graduate from high school, there will be many cracks in the foundation. By the time they are in their freshman year of college, science professors will have convinced many that there is nothing about the God hypothesis that is necessary to explain the world. The biology teacher will prove to them that they are simply an animal that is part of an evolutionary continuum. Moral theory will be reduced biology or “values clarification,” where each does what is right in his/her own eyes. Economics will teach Marxist utilitarianism, subverting one's labor to ends defined by the state. The God of the Bible will be taught as a primitive delusion that leads to unacceptable narrow thinking.

The Solution

The church and Christian families are realizing that once someone has made the switch away from belief in God, it is very difficult to call him/her back. As with medicine, prevention is easier than a cure. So what must be minimally done if we are to save the next generation?

First, we must recognize that relationships influence beliefs. The concept of splitting off the younger generation and turning them over to youth pastors—albeit many of them good—separates the natural continuity of passing faith along through generations. The parent-child bond in worship is broken and often the youth become alienated. This is the model the state wants to use for its purposes. Christian parents should not buy into it.

If your children must be in state schools, keep a strong bond with them. Have an established habit of communicating truth with them while they are in the process of testing out ideas of their own. The habit must be started early for both parent and child.

The good news is there is an abundance of material available for the defense of the faith. This, too, must begin with parents. From answering a ten-year-old's question, “If God made the world, then who made God?” to dealing with a school system's tenet that religion deals with faith and science deals with facts, parents need to be involved with their children in providing biblical answers. Once children buy into the premise of the argument that science is the only way to truth—truth about values, sexuality, morality, and meaning of life—the argument is lost. By the time children are ready for college, they should have some awareness of other worldviews—why they are false and why Christianity is true. They should have some ability to process what is happening around them in terms of the biblical story of creation, the fall, and redemption. But the ability to process information about the world in terms of the biblical story is useless unless our children are convinced that God exists and that Jesus is truly

God and truly man Whom God raised from the dead. They must believe that the Bible is God-breathed and is, therefore, authoritative for life and making us wise unto salvation.

A Word to the Wise

There are, of course, many in my generation who have already formed their beliefs. Because the hour is late for this generation, I have been called to write a book that I hope God will use to contend for the faith among those who fit this category. You Bet Your Life—A Toolbox for Making Life's Ultimate Decision was written for the benefit of the skeptic who might be open to rethinking his/her position or is looking for a rational way out of their unbelief.

The book starts with the indisputable—death. Since the eternal state is forever, a thoughtful person should seek the best possible outcome. I present the example of the 17th century French mathematician, Blaise Pascal. Pascal was a keen observer of his affluent countrymen who were exposed to Enlightenment modernism, much as we are today. He was outraged that his friends would be so reckless with their souls as to not consider God. He presented evidence for the truth of Christ from the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Promised Messiah. In the book, I also challenge the hardened of heart to consider what it truly wants. My hope is that the skeptical reader will apply their faculties to seeing the truth of the Christian case—in its full philosophical, scientific, historic, and existential dimensions. I want people to have their biggest question about life answered and to put their hope in Christ—for He will not disappoint.

(Paul Ernst earned his BS in chemistry and worked as an analytical chemist before moving into the financial services industry. After decades of disbelief, he found faith through a painful late-life investigation into questions of eternity. For the past 12 years, he has immersed himself in the rich world of Christian scholarship, first as a reader and then as a student. “You Bet Your Life” is his first book—a culmination of his experience and the arguments that convinced him. He and his wife Mary live in Boulder, CO.)

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20160104
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Jan-Mar 2016. CCMUSA.