One of the privileges of being a pastor is youth ministry. Er, let me rephrase that so “ministry” doesn’t seem to take precedence over people. I am blessed to have friendships with young people connected in various ways to my church community. Although not a youth pastor per se, I get to be a pastor to youth who are not just faces, but people. People who I know. People who I get to sing and pray and discuss and play with. I know their names and their families. If they will trust me, I will know their hearts, their struggles, their hopes, their questions, and their doubts. Being invited into such a place in someone’s life is a precious experience, and I try not to take it for granted or to abuse it impersonally calling it “ministry”. Every now and then I have the opportunity to answer sincere questions they have about their faith. This is the pastoral task of apologetics: giving a reason for the hope we as Christians have in the gospel (1 Pet 3:15). One resource I’ve found that is especially helpful in communicating truth in love with young people is William Edgar’s book You Asked: Your Questions, God’s Answers (hereafter YA).
This is not an ordinary book of Q&A about the faith. YA deals with young people as whole persons as they are maturing physically, emotionally, mentally, and yes, even spiritually. And it is a brutally honest book. Christian parents will want to review its subject matter because Edgar deals with the ambiguities of living and believing the gospel in a post-modern pluralistic culture. If you want your teenager to simply believe what you’ve told him since childhood because I SAY SO, then beware putting YA into his hands. But if you want to graduate from Nursery School Christianity and help teenagers begin to process the difficulties and challenges involved in a life of faith, then you won’t go wrong with reading and discussing YA together.
Chapters 1-4 deal with the issue of identity. Young people are entering into the dialectical stage of intellectual maturity, and on their way to the rhetorical stage where they will learn to persuasively articulate their beliefs. The question of identity (Who Am I?”) is crucial for crossing the threshold of mature adulthood. As teenagers begin to see injustice, contradiction, irrationality, and sin in the world around them and also in their own hearts, the fundamental worldview questions naturally arise. Chapters 5-11 address the questions of the nature of God (Where is he, What is he like, Does he love us?), the existence of sin (What went wrong with the world?), and the person and nature of Jesus (Did Jesus exist, Is Jesus God?). Chapters 12-16 tackle some key questions people eventually ask about the Bible and religion. Is the Bible trustworthy? Is Christianity a downer? What about other religions? What about the interaction between science and faith, particularly regarding the topic of Evolution? Why is there evil in the world? Beginning in chapter 17, Edgar discusses some of the questions that arise out of practical Christian concerns. Note the kinds of questions posed are typical of those asked by young people today. Can I have real friends? What about love and sex? Does God love gay people, racial minorities, and women? The main part of the book concludes with questions about the future (When will the world end?) and why the practice of Christian apologetics is especially vital today. As a bonus, YA includes other chapters in an appendix that address questions about New Age beliefs, whether Islam and Christianity are different, the Crusades from Europe to Palestine, what is behind the current cultural obsession with vampires, and whether we even need God to be good people.
I found myself intrigued by Edgar’s prose and tact in every chapter. It is obvious he is experienced when it comes to befriending and providing pastoral care to young people. YA is an up-to-date book on apologetics. Current hot topics in youth culture include Christianity vs. other religions, Evolutionary science vs. the Bible, Same-sex marriage and homosexuality, whether God is a moral monster, and why we should even trust such an ancient book like the Bible for guidance on progress.
YA gives answers that are accessible but by no means juvenile. Edgar has helped me and others in my church think carefully and biblically about homosexuality. The author does not give the kind of one-sided advice that was typical of yesteryear when homosexuals were condemned and shunned as deviant enemies of normally and decency. Instead, Edgar shares how his close circle friends includes one practicing homosexual who he listens to, learns from, dialogues with, and loves. But his friendship is not excusing sin. YA details the balance the author strives to achieve to be faithful to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual practice as sinful behavior contrary to God’s will for his creatures, and to love sinners as people who desperately need a Savior. Evangelicals would do well to listen to the experiences of those who struggle with same-sex attraction so we can better love, talk to, befriend, and challenge everyone to answer God’s gospel call for faith and holy obedience.
Regarding the topic of Evolution, YA examines Darwinism and the neo-Darwinian that dominates the scientific establishment today. Edgar does a good job questioning the assumptions (after all, he is a presuppositional apologist!) behind evolutionary theory, and laying out the case for the Bible not read as a mine to unearth modern scientific truth (it’s not trying to be a science textbook). At stake is the unhindered discovery of truth in both natural and special revelation (God’s world and God’s word). Doing true science as the pursuit of truth wherever the evidence leads should lead to a harmony of the Bible’s theology and scientific theory. In other words, Christians who believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible should have no fear of science. Thus young people should seriously consider whether God is calling them to pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.
At the end of each chapter, YA contains several discussion questions. To get an idea of the kind of thought YA seeks to spur, here are the questions at the end of the Homosexuality and Evolution chapters.
- Why is the issue of homosexuality so volatile?
- What are some of the mistakes conservative people have made in relation to gays?
- Where does the Bible prohibit homosexual practice?
- What is the Christian’s responsibility toward gay people?
- Should all gays who become Christians get married to someone of the opposite sex?
- How should the civil law treat gay people?
- Why do some people think there are only two options, Godless evolution or 24-hour days in the creation week?
- What is the difference between Darwinism and neo-Darwinism?
- What are some of the weaknesses with neo-Darwinism?
- Could the creation week described in Genesis 1 be longer than 144 hours? Give reasons.
- What are the non-negotiables from the Bible?
- Is science our friend or our foe?
YA is a one-stop-shop for practical, respectful, humble, engaging, and cutting-edge apologetics—not only for young people—but also those who want to sharpen their witness and relevancy with young people.
Best of all, at the very end of the book, YA includes a practical apologetics guide for young people in the form of a list of recommended books. Some of those that struck me as particularly relevant include:
- G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man.
- Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods, The Prodigal God, and The Reason for God.
- Goheen & Bartholomew’s Living at the Crossroads.
- Lesslie Newbigin’s Foolishness to the Greeks.
- James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom.
- N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian.
- Theodore Turnau’s Pop-ologetics.
For audio resources by William Edgar, click here.