URS Youth Apologetics Ministry: Bunkers or Siege Engines

From the Editor: Ben Walker has been a wonderful colleague in ministry. His unique leadership of youth for over 20 years is an inspiration to many, and especially me. I have firmly believed for decades that an essential component of raising a new generation is preparing youth for life through strong Christian apologetics training. Ben is the exemplar par excellence in this approach. One key reason our youth program has been going strong for decades is the help Ben has personally given to us in this regard. I am especially grateful that he allowed us to “skim off the cream” from his own youth program graduates. These young men and women, well trained in apologetics, have served our youth program faithfully and imaginatively, over many years, as counselors and teachers. I am so glad he is able to contribute this essential article for the book, which also helps illustrate his great passion for youth ministry.

编者注:Ben Walker 是一位出色的宣道同工。他超过二十年独特地带领青年的经历启发了包括我在内的许多人。数十年来我都坚定的相信扎实的基督信仰辨惑学训练是教养新生代青年不可或缺的基石。Ben在这方面是首屈一指的模范。Ben亲身给我们的帮助是我们青年事工能过数十年屹立不摇的重要原因之一。我特别感谢Ben允许我们从他青年事工结业的青年身上学习他的事工精华。我们可以说是将Ben的最优秀的学生“抢走了.” 这些受过良好基督信仰辨惑学训练的年轻男女都曾在我们的青年事工里担任教师或辅导员,忠心并有创意地服事多年。我很感谢Ben为这本书写下这一篇重要的章节,这显出他对青年事工巨大的热诚。

URS Youth Apologetics Ministry: Bunkers or Siege Engines? by Ben Walker, Pastor Northern Hills Christian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio.
曾叔叔说故事青年基督信仰辨惑学事工:地堡或是攻城武器?Ben Walker,俄亥俄州辛辛那提北丘基督教会牧师著

The Lord forged my faith in a university setting that was often quite hostile to God. It will come as no surprise to those believers who’ve been through the college experience, that the Adversary often strongholds in hubs of power and influence, and the university is nothing if not a center of power and influence. I was one of thousands of Christians who entered that setting and swiftly discovered this entrenched animosity. I learned the hard way that nearly any display of my faith invited attack, and found out much to my chagrin that the church hadn’t prepared me to meet these attacks. Like so many Christians I thought I’d just cower my way from class to class, get my degree and get out. But the Lord had other plans.
主在一个多数人敌对神的大学风气里铸造了我的信仰。这对许多上过大学的信徒们并不陌生,敌人通常都稳坐于大学权力和影响力的中心。我和数以万计基督徒进入了这个环境并立刻察觉到了这个根深蒂固的敌意。我从惨痛的经历中学到我对信仰的表现几乎都会招来攻击,我也很失望地发现我以前在教会里学到的并不足以对抗这些攻击。我像许多基督徒一样想要在课业里过一天算一天直到完成学业。但是神对我有不同的计划。

“How come we never talk about this stuff in church?” One teen mused to a friend as I stood amidst a cluster of teens discussing all sorts of challenges to the Christian faith. This was more than a decade after I had finished college, but I was back on a college campus, this time at the front of a class as the instructor. I was attending an annual Christian conference for teenagers hosted by universities across the United States, having brought 30 or so teens from the church at which I was now a minister. The conference organizers, who knew of my rather specific ministry passions, offered me the opportunity to deal with difficult questions from teens, and had put together an elective class for just that purpose.
“为什么我们在教会里从来没有讨论过这些事情?”一位青少年若有所思地问他的朋友,而我正站在一群正在讨论各种对基督徒信仰的考验的青年人之中。当时离我从大学毕业已有十年,我是以讲师的身份回到校园站在讲台上。我正带着我现在牧养的教会里大约三十位青少年参加一个由美国各地大学赞助,为青少年预备的基督徒会议。主办单位知道我事工专注的方向特备让我回答困惑青少年的艰难疑问,并为这些问题设计了一门选修课。

Photo 1: Editor: engaging youth intensely and close-up in pursuit of truth
照片一:编者:聚焦于对真理的追求,深入地与青少年互动

I taught for more than an hour to a room loaded with teens in every seat, on the floor, standing in the back of the conference room, and spilling out into the hallways. Now the session was over and this was their free time, they had the run of a college campus for several hours, but apparently it was more important to resolve their philosophical, historical, emotional, and scientific conflict with their beliefs. They must have been academic elites, right? No, just typical teenagers trying to make sense of life. There were atheists, agnostics, deists, and life-long Christians. The discussion with that group of fifteen or so lasted for almost two hours beyond our session. This is not unusual, I’ve had similar circumstances dozens of times in my ministry… honestly nearly every time I’ve had the opportunity to run a session like this.
我在课堂里 讲了一个多小时 。当天座无虚席,学生们必须席地而坐并且多人站到教室外的长廊。讲习结束后就是他们的自由时间。他们有数小时的时间可以在校园里自由活动,不过他们觉得解决他们的信仰与哲学,历史,情感,和科学的冲突更加重要。你觉得他们肯定是高材生吗?不,他们只是一般在寻找生命意义的青少年。他们有些是无神论者,有些是不可知论者,也有些从小就是基督徒的人。我和大约十五个人课后又讨论了将近两个小时。这种情景屡见不鲜,我几乎在每次这类讲习结束后都会见到。

The session I had taught was titled something like “Ask Anything” and was intended as an open question and answer where I would field questions from students about anything and everything related to Christianity. In those sessions we get questions like “why did God let my grandma die in front of me?” or “Who created God?”, “There are so many religions, why should we believe that Christianity is true?” or “Why would God create people knowing they would go to Hell?” One thing my decades of ministry has taught me is that teenagers have questions. More often than you might imagine, those questions are exceedingly deep… Sometimes these questions threaten their confidence in God. Here’s another thing I know: the church has traditionally not done a very good job in encouraging students to ask those questions and then helping them to discover answers.
我的讲习主题有点像是“有问必答”。在那些讲习里我会回答学生们所有有关基督信仰的疑问,例如“神为什么让我的祖母在我面前过世?”“谁创造了神?”“世界上有这麽多宗教,我为什么要相信基督教是真的?”或者“神既然知道人要下地狱,祂为什么还要创造人?”我多年的事工经验告诉我青少年有各种各样的疑问。这些疑问的深度通常超过我们的想象。这些疑问有时会动摇他们对神的信心。我还知道另一件事,那就是教会一般并没有很有力地鼓励青少年问这些问题和帮助他们寻找这些问题的答案。

Shouldn’t we just have faith? Well… what is faith? Seems a simple question, but answering that question will radically alter how we function in the church. For many “Faith” means something like “lack of doubt” or even “belief in-spite-of the facts”. This however is not what the Bible means when it describes faith. The Greek and Hebrew expressions could best be conveyed as “a reasoned/reasonable trust”. It is not mindless belief, but rather a reasonable belief based on evidence and experience. How do you come to trust your parents? How did you come to trust your spouse? How does one find a reasoned trust in one’s children? Is it not innumerable little engagements and small actions that engender a reasoned confidence? Daily experiences that compound to make you think this trust, this confidence, this faith is as reasonable as expecting that the sun will rise tomorrow. That kind of trust comes not just from a chosen belief, but also from doubts that are thwarted. This distinction [unreasonable belief v. reasoned confidence] can make or break an individual’s encounter with Christ and His church.
我们不是理所当然应该有信心吗?但是。。。什么是信心?这个看起来很简单的问题的答案可以在根本上改变我们如何在教会里运作。对很多人来说,“信心”就像是“不存疑问”更或者是“看见与信仰不符的现实后仍然相信”。这些都不是圣经里所描述的信心。圣经里希腊文或犹太文的本意更接近“一个经过思考的,合理的信任”。它不是盲目地相信,而是通过证据或亲身经历后理性地相信。你为什么信任你的父母?你为什么信任你的配偶?一个人如何找到理由去信任他的子女?这些理性的信任不都是从无数细小事情和经历累积下来的吗?日常生活的点点滴滴日积月累成了我们所认识的信任,这份信心就像相信太阳明天还会升起一样合理。这种信心不只来自我们主观的相信,它更来自那些被推翻了的各种疑问。盲目相信和有理性的信任之间的差异可以成就或摧毁一个人与基督和祂的教会的关系。

Let us return to my college years. At one of the first classes I entered in the world religions department, the professor expressed that she’d like everyone to share why they were intending to study this particular religion. The first student volunteered that she had been part of a church growing up but that she hadn’t felt there was much to it, and so was interested in trying something else. The second student said that he’d been raised Catholic and gone to a Catholic school, but wasn’t impressed with Christianity and was searching to see what other religions had to offer. On it went like this, with nearly every student in the room expressing some tie to Christianity and then some sentiment that it all seemed rather shallow, and that they were in search of something different.
我现在回顾我在大学读书的日子。我在世界宗教系最先学习的一门课的教授叫我们每个人分享为什么我们希望研究某一个宗教。第一位举手的学生说她从小在教会长大,但是她不觉得基督教值得更深入了解,所以她想尝试了解别的宗教。第二位学生说他虽然在天主教家庭里长大并且去天主教学校读书,他不觉得基督教有什么特别。他渴求了解别的宗教。其他学生的答案大同小异,几乎每个学生都和基督教有关联但是也都觉得他们学到的都相对肤浅。所以他们都在寻找不同的宗教。

I was to be the last person answering that question and was beginning to sweat, considering what I could possibly say that would not deny my faith in Christ, but also wouldn’t make me the favorite target for my professor and this mass of people who clearly knew that Christianity was not the answer. As the moment approached, the fellow sitting to my immediate left confidently stated his name, then said without any hint of shame “I’m a Christian, and I know why I’m a Christian. I’m here to prove to myself again that my faith is the right one”. Needless to say, I found my courage and my voice, and affirmed my faith as well.
我是最后一个回答的学生。我开始冒冷汗。我在思考我应该怎么回答才不会否认我对基督的信心同时也不会让我成为这些否定基督信仰的教授和同学们的众矢之的。快轮到我的时候,我左边的同学充满自信地说出他的名字并自豪地说“我是一个基督徒,我知道我为什么是一个基督徒。我来这里是为了再一次证明我的信仰是正确的。”当然,我也找回了我的勇气和我应该说的话,也重申了我的信仰。

During the course of that semester I learned to defend my faith gently and with respect. I had discovered the ancient Christian art of apologetics. Apologetics derives from a Greek term for “giving an answer” (1 Pet 3:15). It is the endeavor to answer the challenges the world levels against Christian belief, using the best philosophy, science, archeology, statistics, history, and most every realm of academics you can think of. What began as a practical defense of my beliefs in a religion class, soon became defending the faith in nearly every classroom I sat in. So much has been written and done in this regard, that I was astonished that I knew so little about it. I had been raised in the church, why hadn’t we studied these things? What a blessing to discover that I was not being called to abandon my mind in order follow my Master, but being called to engage it! What joy to discover that my God can be worshipped with mind as well as heart.
在那一个学期里我学会了用平静和尊重人的方式保卫我的信仰。我发现了 基督信仰 辨惑学这个基督信仰古老的艺术。辨惑学这个字源自希腊文的“回答各人”这个字(彼得一书三章十五节)。它的目的是使用最好的哲学,科学,考古学,统计学,历史,或者是任何一门我们可以想到的学问来回答这个世界给与基督信仰的各种挑战。最初我只是在宗教课里务实地保卫我的信仰,后来我在几乎所有上过的课里都得这么做。这类文献多不胜数让我很惊讶自己对它们为什么几乎一无所知。我从小在教会里长大,但是我为什么从来没有学习过这些?神祝福我让我发现祂呼召我不是要我放弃理性,而是要我更深入地用理性接触信仰。知道我可以同时用我的心和我理性的思考来敬拜我的神是何等喜乐的事。

The Lord in His great wisdom provides all the evidence we need to sustain and encourage genuine belief, but not so much as to compel it. Allow me to be careful here to say that I believe the evidence is profound and strong, but not so strong that a committed skeptic can be overwhelmed (forced to believe). With that said, there are many inside and outside of the church whose experience of God will feel incomplete or inadequate unless they are engaging God in the mind. Thus the church needs believers willing to learn. Believers who will be a fountain of these philosophies and evidences, feeding the fellowship God places them in, and answering the skeptics that the Lord brings to them.
主用祂崇高的智慧给了我们足以支持和维持真正信心的确据。这些确据的数量足够却又没有多到我们必须强迫自己相信。我郑重地在这里说我相信这些确据是广阔高深并且强而有力的,但是它们没有强要强压一个坚定的存疑者(迫使他相信)。虽然如此,很多在教会里或者在教会外的人若没有通过思考去接触神,他们会觉得他们与神的交通并不完全。因此,教会需要愿意学习的信徒。信徒们将成为学问以及确据的源头,滋润神给他们的肢体团契。主将带存疑者到他们中间,而他们要给存疑者们有确据的解答。

I ended up getting degrees in sociology, philosophy, and comparative religion with the intention of becoming a professor, but was stopped short when a church asked me to apply for a youth ministry position. After some wrestling with the Lord, I decided to go into vocational ministry in the churches with a determination to make apologetic training a central feature in my work with students, particularly in preparing them for the challenges they would inevitably face in the university setting. The eldership in the first church that ordained me seemed a bit skeptical about my vision for youth ministry, as conventional wisdom said that if you want to acquire and retain students, you must give the lion’s share of attention to games and entertainment.
我在拿到社会学,哲学,和宗教比较学学位后原本计划成为一位大学教授,但是当时有一间教会邀请我其应征他们一个青少年牧师的职位。在与主挣扎一段时间后我决定投入全职事奉致力于将基督信仰辨惑学训练作为我在青少年事工的中心,为他们将来在大学里不可避免的挑战来装备他们。第一個按立我做牧师的教会的长老们对我对青少年事工的异象仿佛有一点怀疑,因为这和一般“若想吸引和留住学生就应该特别注重游戏和娱乐”的传统思维背道而驰。

The church leaders gave me six months to attempt my ministry vision, and praise God, our youth group of 4 became 40 (these were serious students from within and outside of the church with serious questions, broken lives, and challenges). While the numbers were enough to sway our leadership, I want to be careful to offer a warning here: numbers are not the goal. Consider that Jesus was not impressed by numbers and arguably drove some away in favor of working with only serious disciples (see John 6).
那教会的长执会给了我六个月的时间来尝试我对我的事工的异象。感谢赞美神,我们的青少年小组从四个人成长到四十个人(这些都是来自教会里或教会外很认真学习的学生,他们有着严肃的疑问,破碎的生命,和面对着生命里不同的挑战)。虽然这个数据改变了长执会的印象,我在这里慎重地给你们一个警告:数据不是我们的目标。要知道耶稣没有被数据动摇,我们更可以说祂把一些人驱走以便专注于认真的使徒们(请看约翰福音六章)。

I approached ministry with an agenda of forcing faith struggles with our students to occur in the context of the church, before they went off to universities and careers. To this end we make students defend their faith, we diligently study other world religions and worldviews comparing them to Christianity, and study not just evidences to support the faith, but also the best arguments against Christian belief (so that students have a ready answer when these questions hit in college).
我的事工的做法是让学生在尚未进入大学或者职场前在教会环境里与信心争斗。我们让学生捍卫他们的信仰,我们认真学习世界各国的宗教和世界观并拿它们和基督信仰比较。我们不只学习支持我们信仰的确据,我们也学习各种反对基督信仰的有力论点(这样学生们在上大学被问到这些问题前能先有答案)。

Concerning games and entertainment, these things are fantastic when they hang on the skeleton of sound and challenging training in the faith. Without that core, such entertainment is spiritually dangerous.
在青年团契里的游戏和娱乐如果是建立于坚强有挑战性的信心操练的骨干之上也是很好的,但是如果失去了中心,娱乐对我们的灵性是危险的

Witnessing this more common entertain-and-shelter strategy, I’ve found that many of the students gained and retained through these means seem to disembark from their Christian voyage at the next most entertaining stop (usually in college or slightly before). I would describe these young folks as “cultural-Christians”: someone who identifies with a Christian group and can answer some of the important questions of faith in the “right” way. That is to say they can parrot the right answer even when they can’t explain what makes it right. In creating such folks many of us in the church feel like we’ve created a disciple, but these look nothing like the disciples in the New Testament.
我发现许多学生若是在一般娱乐与庇护策略里学习,他们的基督徒旅行只是从一个娱乐港口到另外一个娱乐港口(通常是大学或者大学之前),而他们也和基督徒的旅程渐行渐远。我形容这些年轻人为“文化基督徒”。他们认同自己是基督徒群众,也可以“正确地”回答一些有关信仰的重要问题。我的意思是说他们可以重复一些正确的答案,但是他们没有办法解释为什么他们的答案是正确的。很多在教会里的人可能觉得我们教出了门徒,但是他们完全不像新约里的门徒。

Creating a cultural Christian is not unlike building a bunker. The idea is we put all the good stuff inside, and then build up fortifications outside that keep the students from being harmed or affected by the world out there. The goal is to keep these student’s “right opinions” intact until they die or the Christ returns… you know, so they can say: “look at what you gave me, I kept it hidden so no one would threaten what was yours, O’God.” (See Matt. 25:24-28: The Lord was clearly displeased with this answer and said as much)
教导文化基督徒就好像在建立一个地堡。他们把好的东西放在里面,然后建起一个坚硬的外层来保护我们的学生们不被外面的世界影响或伤害。他们的目的是保存学生们“正确的看法”直到死去或基督再来。。。我猜想,这样他们可以说“神啊,看哪,我把祢给我的藏起来了,这样就没有人危害到属祢的东西了。”(请看马太福音二十五章二十四至二十八节:主很清楚的不喜欢这个答案)

Photo 2: Editor: Sometimes thoughts need frowns to imbed deeply
照片一:照片一:编者:有些概念还是得要严师深深的思想所带来的额头皱纹来教才能扎根

By contrast, in the New Testament we see Jesus training his disciples in right thinking, not just by telling them what to think, but by asking them questions that would flip their worldview on its head (read the words of Christ with an eye on how often he asks questions, both of His disciples and of those who challenge Him). Jesus didn’t just train disciples in how to retain their faith, but demanded that they advance the faith (See Matt 10:16-17). He was in the habit of creating spiritual siege engines. Now you might be thinking that analogy seems overly aggressive… after all aren’t we sheep standing amidst wolves? Our New Testament fathers-in-the-faith call us to a war of ideas, to wage war against every idea that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we’re told that the gates of Hell will not prevail against these “sheep”. We are called to be innocent as doves but remember we are shrewd (careful/cunning) as serpents. Our Father delights in making the weak things mighty! (Eph 6:10-17, 2 Cor 10:3-5, Acts 17:22-ff, Acts 18:4,19)
反之,我们看到耶稣在新约里训练祂的门徒有正确的思路。祂不止告诉他们应该想什么还问他们能颠覆他们世界观的问题(当你在读基督的话时请注意祂多常问祂的门徒们和那些挑战祂的人问题)。耶稣不止训练门徒们如何保持他们的信心,也要求他们在信心上长进(请看马太福音十章十六至十七节)。祂惯于建造灵性的攻城武器。你可能觉得这个比方太过有攻击性。。。但是,我们不都是站在狼群里的羊吗?我们新约里的信心之父们呼召我们进入思想的争战,对一切敌对有关神的知识的思想宣战,我们也被告知地狱的们是不能战胜这些“羊”。神呼召我们要驯良像鸽子但是记得我们也要灵巧(小心/精明)像蛇。我们的父喜欢把软弱的变为有力!(以 弗 所 书六章十至十七节,哥林多后书十章三至五节,使徒行传十七章二十二节之后,使徒行传十八章四节和十九节)

So fellow believer, I leave you with this question. Are you trying to just keep kids in the church or are you creating disciples who pose a threat to the adversary in his strongholds? Are you building bunkers or siege engines?

因此,主里的同伴们,我问你们这一个问题。你是试着把孩子们留在教会里还是在装备能对敌人大本营带来威胁的门徒们?你是在建造地堡或是攻城武器?