Apologetics and Gen Y. Part 1: Understanding world-views
Written by Ruth Lukabyo, Lecturer Youthworks College
Apologetics is vital in a flourishing youth and children’s ministry but there is a common misconception that apologetics is fundamentally about working out clever and biblical answers for basic questions that young people ask. Apologetics is much more than this.
What is apologetics?
John Lennox claims that apologetics is “The defence of the Christian message against competing world-views”. (1) This definition of apologetics should alert us that apologetics is not merely answering one-off questions, but engaging with the questioner’s world-view. This should lead to a more holistic understanding of the listener including their deeply held beliefs and values. The kind of apologetic method that modern preachers such as Driscoll and Keller use so effectively in their teaching means having a deep understanding of the culture of the world around them and presenting the gospel in a way that confronts and challenges their listeners.
So how should this shape our ministry to children and youth? For a start, when we are asked questions, we need to understand the question in the light of the world-view of the questioner. Our answers should be framed in a way that challenges this world-view with the story of the gospel, God’s story. When we are teaching, we need to pay special attention to the issues where God’s story will clash with our listener’s world-view. Finally, we need to pay attention to popular culture because it is here that young people are constructing and imagining who they are (building a world-view).
What is a world-view?
A world-view is the way a person makes sense of their world. Simon Smart says: “A World-view may be understood as a framework or set of fundamental beliefs through which we view the world and our place in it.” (2) He describes a world-view as the foundation of a house. It is the basis on which we construct knowledge of truth, our beliefs and values. A world-view can also be described as set of glasses, a lens by which we see and make sense of the reality around us.
James Sire asks four questions to identify a person’s world-view:
(1) Who am I? What is the nature, task and purpose of human beings?
(2) Where am I? What is the nature of the world and universe I live in?
(3) What’s wrong? Why is it that my world is not the way it is supposed to be? How do I make sense of evil?
(4) What is the solution? Where do I find hope for something better?
In the next article, we will use these same questions to analyse the world-view of generation Y.
A world-view describes our fundamental beliefs but it is also a grid by which we test new ideas, beliefs and values. James Sire in his intriguingly titled book “When Good Arguments Fail” argues that when we answer people’s questions we need to address the underlying world-view beliefs behind the question. There may be fundamental presuppositions (background beliefs) that mean that the person cannot easily believe the claims of the Christian faith: “A person’s world-view limits the views that can be consistently held. No argument whose conclusion is obviously inconsistent with ones world-view can be rationally convincing unless the world-view itself is adjusted.” (3)
An example of how "world-views" impact Gen Y
The recent movie “Alice in Wonderland” illustrates a world-view that is very popular amongst Generation Y and is actively taught to them by their parents.(4)
We can analyse the narrative of the movie based on Sire’s four questions:
1. Who am I? Alice is an individual who has the ability to make her own decisions and create her own reality. She is on a journey of self-discovery and during the story she is asked: who is the real “Alice”?
2. Where am I? Wonderland! The world that Alice creates through her own imagination, her inner world, is more important than the objective world. In Wonderland Alice creates her own destiny, there are guides like the Mad Hatter but in the end she is alone. Everything in this world can be described without reference to a transcendent God. Alice is a law to herself, independent and autonomous.
3. What’s wrong? Alice is opposed by her family and a society that does not respect her own ability to make decisions or her ambitions for the future.
4. What’s the remedy? Alice must assert herself against those that oppose her to follow her own desires. She needs to discover “who she is”, the real “Alice” within herself rather than being told by others who she is and what her destiny will be.
Surely “Alice in Wonderland” is the story of Western secular liberalism retold for children. It is the story of the quest of the individual to create their own reality and truth, the great humanist adventure.
As you can see, world-views can be complicated. We may not even understand where our own world-view comes from, or what it is based on. For that reason, we need to be careful when challenging another's world view. In our next article, we will look at some practical ways you can engage with Gen Y and challenge their world-views.
1. Cited in Zacharias R. Ed. (2007) Beyond Opinion Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2. Smart, S., A Spectator's Guide to Worldviews: Ten Ways of understanding Life (Sydney; Blue Bottle, 2007) p. 6
3. Smart p. 93
4. In this discussion of world-views we have to acknowledge that each individual has their own unique way of seeing the world. We can make certain generalisations about a particular generation in the 21st century in Australia as long as we recognise that a generalisation is not a rule but an interpretive guide.
5. Mason, M; Singleton, A; Webber, R; (2007) The Spirit of Generation Y, Mulgrave: John Garratt pub.p.48
6. Smith, Christian(2005) Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers Oxford: Oxford Uni Press, p.5.
7. John Calvin The Institutes of Christian Religion Vol. XX, 37.
8. Keller, Tim (2008) The Reason for God New York: Penguin, p. 46.
9. Wright, D.J. (Aug. 2010) “National Study of the Spirituality of Gen Y” (online) Available: http://digitalorthodoxy.com/02-ym/research/spirituality-of-generation-y/ (Accessed 15 March 2011)
10. Brett Kunkle quoted in McDowell (2009) p. 47
11. Alister McGrath quoted in McDowell p. 103
12. Long (2004) Emerging Hope: A Strategy for Reaching Post-Modern Generations Downers Grove: IVP.p. 189
13. (Kinmann 2007, p.74)
14. quoted in Zacharias (2007) p. 44,45
15. Alex McFarland in McDowell 2009, p. 153)
Long (2004) Emerging Hope: A Strategy for Reaching Post-Modern Generations Downers Grove: IVP.
Mason, M; Singleton, A; Webber, R; (2007) The Spirit of Generation Y, Mulgrave: John Garratt pub.
McDowell, Sean (ed) (2009) Apologetics for a New Generation Oregan: Harvest House Pub.
Smart, S., A Spectator's Guide to Worldviews: Ten Ways of understanding Life (Sydney; Blue Bottle, 2007) p. 6
Zacharias R. Ed. (2007) Beyond Opinion Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
In the previous article, we looked at how to understand world-views. In this article, we will examine more closely how to challenging the world-view of Generation Y.