While traveling to a meeting yesterday I listened to a podcast from William Lane Craig, the well-known Christian philosopher and apologist. He was reviewing an article from a Christian publication that claimed that atheism is winning in today's culture. The reasons for that writer's conclusion was that many young people are leaving Christianity and that a large number of Christians are unable to effectively share their faith.
Craig did an excellent job of showing that the claim that atheism is winning is not correct. While he agreed that both of the writer's statements were true, Craig pointed to the growing number of Christians in China and elsewhere in the world. While it is true that many young people are abandoning their faith, it is also true that many others are coming to faith in Christ at the same time. Despite the best efforts of "new age" atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others, atheism is not winning. Christianity is growing around the world.
One of the reasons for this growth is the excellent material now available in the area of Christian apologetics. The old method of evangelism, what I call the "Turn or burn!" method, simply does not work today. People are asking questions and demanding answers before making a faith commitment. Many struggle with Christianity because they have questions that no one has attempted to answer or failed to answer to their satisfaction. I recently spoke to a woman whose husband cannot believe in God due to the widespread evil in the world, and this is a major stumbling block for many.
When I began pastoring in 1981 there was very little material available in apologetics, or at least I wasn't aware of them. Today, there are many such resources, and pastors and other church leaders should take advantage of them.
William Lane Craig has written several such books, but I have to admit that some of them are over my head academically. However, he recently published an excellent book, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, that he wrote for the non-scholar. I read it earlier this year and found it to be a wonderful resource. I'm currently reading The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. This is another excellent resource that addresses the questions and concerns people have about Christianity. Anything by Ravi Zacharias is also a great resource for the person who wants to effectively share his or her faith with others. I especially recommend his books Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality, Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, and Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense.
I encourage pastors to study these resources and teach the material to your congregations. We must be able to respond to the questions people have about Christianity if we want to do effective evangelism in the 21st century, and this material will help you do that. Atheism isn't winning, and it won't win because it is not based on truth. We have the truth, and it is our responsibility to learn how to most effectively share that truth with others.