Howard: "Science ... can testify to the wisdom and ingenuity of God."
After growing up in a Christian home and spending most Sundays in the safe confines of a church pew, Jeremy Howard felt prepared to defend his faith when he went off to college.
Instead, he discovered that the scientific data and information that his non-Christian professors presented to the class made more sense than he had anticipated. They also didn’t seem to be fronting some vast hate-filled, anti-religion agenda. They simply presented scientific data to the class week after week, and some of it conflicted with common Christian views about science and Earth history.
It didn’t take long before Howard began to question his Christian faith. According to a 2007 LifeWay Research study (see LifeWay Research uncovers reasons 18 to 22-year-olds drop out of church), more than two-thirds of students who attend a Protestant church for at least a year in high school will stop attending church for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22. A lack of preparedness, Howard contends, is a big part of the problem.
“Too many young Christians are going off to college unprepared to deal with college professors and peers who do not believe in biblical truth,” said Howard, managing acquisitions editor of Bibles, reference books and commentaries at B&H Publishing Group, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources.
“Since college I’ve come to see that science, when done carefully and kept within its proper bounds, can testify to the wisdom and ingenuity of God,” he said. “It can also keep us from interpreting the Bible incorrectly. Consider, for instance, the question of whether the sun revolves around the earth.”
Howard’s college experience fueled his desire to provide practical tools that equip today’s young adults to defend their faith. Howard is the publisher of a new study Bible called, “The Apologetics Study Bible for Students,” released this spring by B&H Publishing Group.
The Bible features study notes and more than 100 articles dealing with tough biblical questions such as: Are there contradictions in the Bible? What does it mean to have faith in God? Why pray if God supplies what we need? How do we know God is real?
“We targeted the top questions young people are asking and elicited 50 experts in those fields – youth pastors, teachers and speakers who understand how students think, understand how to communicate with them, and know how to motivate them,” said general editor Sean McDowell, a Christian speaker, author of apologetics material, and son of another well-known Christian leader: Josh McDowell.
“When kids can answer those tough questions,” he wrote in a released statement, “they begin to build conviction, to have courage to step out of their comfort zones and get out there and make a difference. Apologetics helps develop believers who are passionate and self-confident.”
The study Bible also includes “Twisted Scripture” notes that address ways various religious movements distort God’s Word. And there are “Bones & Dirt” notes that showcase important archaeological discoveries that support the Christian faith.
Students also learn a variety of tactics to better articulate their faith when challenged by skeptical statements that include: There cannot be just one true religion. There is no truth. You can’t prove God exists. A loving God would never let people suffer.
Simply believing without critical reflection isn’t enough to prepare students for college, said Howard, who authored “Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Jesus” and edited “Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Creation.”
“Some students think they will keep on believing no matter what facts or arguments come against them,” Howard said. “That’s a noble commitment, but it’s not a defensible faith. To equip our students with defensible faith, church leaders must teach them to think critically, to probe and dig deeper, and even to question some of the standard apologetics answers we’ve heard so often.”
In addition to distributing this study Bible to their students, Howard encourages student ministers to use its articles as material for weekly study groups. “For instance, you could take six weeks and zero in on a study of the best tactics for defending your faith,” he said. “This study Bible provides that kind of material and format.”
Though the core of the Christian faith remains the same and must always be defended, defending the faith on some of the peripheral issues is an ever-evolving task as people learn more about history and science, Howard said. He pointed out that Martin Luther once called Galileo a fool for saying the earth revolves around the sun. “Today we know better, and so our apologetics answers are different from Luther’s.”
Young people now live in a world of information where they can go online to Wikipedia and find critical comments and information on anything, including Christian beliefs.
“Frankly, I believe that is a good thing,” Howard added. “We need to be pressed and challenged. This helps us remove error from our beliefs and purify the core message that we must defend: Christ as risen Savior.”