Marvin Olasky: Defending the faith

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, July 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham.

Last year, New Growth Press published a book compiling the best of WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky’s columns over the last 25 years. It’s called World View.

And today he has an adaptation of one of those columns.

It originally ran in WORLD Magazine back in 2013.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: I’m beginning this commentary about apologetics with a confession: I’m no master of defending the faith. Any successes I’ve had in helping others to focus on what’s most important have been accidental (seems that way to me) and utterly foreordained (by God).

What I can report, based on everything I’ve heard from students, is that things have changed. Back in the 1950s and 1960s most Americans had only three television channels to choose from and, in essence, three worldview alternatives—Christianity, atheism, or apathy.

From the late 1960s through the early 1990s, UHF and then cable television emerged. Meanwhile, existentialism became more than a French fancy and nihilism more than a German nightmare. Eastern religions made inroads. Americans suddenly had dozens of TV channels from which to choose. And Francis Schaeffer contrasted biblical approaches with dozens of other worldviews.

Schaeffer proposed that months of study and discussion could lead students to truth, by God’s grace. He showed how biblical objectivity is true and reasonable, and the alternative is nothingness and despair. Schaeffer was God’s instrument in changing the lives of hundreds of thousands in person and through books and films.

The past two decades have brought still more change. Hundreds of channels for specialty interests and millions of different religious choices. That’s because “Sheilaism” has become our national religion. In the book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah and Richard Madsen quoted “Sheila” saying, “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. . . . It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice. . . . It’s just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself.”

Bellah and Madsen called Sheilaism “a perfectly natural expression of current American religious life.” It created the logical possibility of each person having his own religion. No more creeds or confessions.

Now, when many young Americans yearn for freedom, talk about objective truth may swim right by them. That’s why some of the most successful pastors with young people start out not by talking about truth but about freedom. Tim Keller in Manhattan tells his youthful audience: “You may think you’re free, but you’re not. In shunning Christ you have made yourself a slave to money, or sex, or to a particular body image, or success, or . . . something.”

The University of Texas at Austin and many other institutions have carved onto administration buildings words from John 8:32: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” But they ignore the verses that follow: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin,” and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

We need all those verses. And we need to get the order right, because truth leads to freedom— yet freedom does not necessarily lead to truth.

Sadly, college professors and students typically advocate freedom and skip over the means by which we gain it. That leads to an apologetics question: Is it unproductive to talk about Truth with those who don’t think it exists? Why not talk about our shackles and how Christ breaks them?

For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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