Ever since its origin—some 2,000 years ago—questions and objections have been raised against the Christian faith. As followers of Jesus—and as parents, educators, and pastors of the next generation—part of our calling is to have some awareness of and responses to these objections. We are called to provide reasons for our faith to our teens, those we mentor, and those we teach (1 Peter 3:15-16). And just as important, we are to speak the truth with love. As the apostle Paul writes, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).
Summit Ministries takes these questions, doubts, and objections very seriously; in fact, we welcome them! This coming fall, we invite you to join our latest Summit Basecamp, entitled: Exploring Faith: How to Question Your Faith Without Losing It. Here we will equip you with the tools to engage with your teens’ questions and doubts. We will learn from Alisa Childers and Joel Roberts, among others. Register for free today! This event will inspire, motivate, and empower adults like you to take that crucial first step in guiding and nurturing the faith of your Gen Z students and children.
What are some of the most common objections to Christianity that you or your teenager may be wrestling with? Let’s unpack a few of them with some bite-sized answers and suggestions for additional resources if you want to dive deeper!
Objection #1: Christianity Is Homophobic & Transphobic
Unfortunately, some Christians have acted unlovingly towards the gay and transgender communities. Jesus demonstrated just the opposite in his own life and still calls his followers to imitate him in sacrificial love towards everyone (Luke 6:27-36). Insofar as Christians fail to follow Jesus in this way, they are acting contrary to the way of Jesus.
However, the biblical narrative also demonstrates a consistent theme that marriage is a comprehensive union between one man and one woman, a union that is to be exclusive and permanent (Matthew 19:4-6). This is the God-given design and purpose for marriage and for intimacy. Anything outside of these parameters, according to God, is part of a broken world and outside of God’s will.
God also has a vision for sex and our identities. From the very beginning of creation, God creates man and woman, male and female, two sexes, as his image-bearers (Genesis 1:27). Sadly, some believe that we are allowed to alter and mutilate our bodies if it does not match our self-perception. Mutilation of a healthy, working body is outside the bound of God’s design.
- Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story by Christopher Yuan
- Our Bodies Tell God’s Story: Discovering the Divine Plan for Love, Sex, and Gender by Christopher West
- God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say about Gender Identity? by Andrew T. Walker
Objection #2: How Can a Good God Exist with All the Evil and Suffering in the World?
The reality of sin, brokenness, and darkness in the world is undeniable. Often, what the person who is raising this objection needs most is someone to listen to them, to hear their story, to let them share their pain. Sometimes the answer is to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15) rather than offering an intellectual response.
But what about the actual problem of where evil and suffering came from? Christians have long pointed out that God wants humans to have a significant degree of free will. Without this freedom of the will, one could argue that genuine relationships marked by love, loyalty, and faithfulness would not be possible. But with this free will God gave to humans, this opened the possibility to rebel against him. This choice to rebel brought with it brokenness, evil, darkness, and suffering. To revolt against God, the source of love, abundant life, and light, is to push back against all that is good. Still, God values human freedom to the point where he allowed humans to rebel and sin against him and initiate the first human sin.
But why does God not just eliminate all suffering and evil which is present now? One response is to point out that we, given our finite understanding and vision, are simply not in a good position to judge whether God has justifiable reasons to allow and permit certain sinful, evil actions. God may have good reasons to allow certain acts of evil to accomplish some ultimate good, like growth in character and virtue, the possibility of free will, and a maximum number of people being saved. For example, God allowed Satan to persecute Job to showcase Job’s faithfulness (Job 1-2); he allowed Paul to have a thorn in the flesh, “a messenger of Satan,” to keep him from being prideful (2 Corinthians 12:7-9); and he allowed Satan to help instigate Jesus’s death (Luke 22:3-4), so that Jesus could be resurrected as the conquering King. What humans or evil spiritual beings mean for evil, God can use for good (Genesis 50:20). At the time of suffering we might not be able to see the larger picture, but we can know the just and loving God is working through all things in history “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
- The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
- Cultural Apologetics: Renewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World, chapter 7, by Paul Gould
- Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard
Objection #3: Christianity Has Offered Nothing of Value to the World; Religion Poisons People and Communities
There are a number of ways this objection is raised. Some people think religion of any kind is a psychological crutch with no factual basis. Others think religion only takes from individuals and society, giving nothing back. It takes one’s money and time, for example, with nothing to show for it. However, these objections are misguided. People of faith, specifically Christians, have quite literally transformed the world. There are a plethora of examples showing this: Christians have been champions in protecting the unborn, in pro-life movements; they have advocated for the abolition of slavery and the equal rights of all image-bearers; they have been pioneers in science and art, to name just a few.
If reality is infused by God with design, meaning, and purpose by God, as Christian believe, then we would expect to find order, beauty, and truth out in the physical world. God calls humans, his image-bearers, to rule over and care for creation, to be fruitful and multiply, to fill and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). Making exquisite art, building strong families, doing excellent work, stewarding resources responsibility, caring for the environment are all examples of what it means to be image-bearers of God. All the beauty you bring to the world is part of God’s design for the Christian life and all these things add value to the world. Far from being poisonous, the Christian way offers abundant life and reasons to cultivate, explore, and showcase God’s good creation. On the other hand, if we think creation is purposeless and meaningless, it is hard to be motivated to offer any value to the world.
- Truth Changes Everything: How People of Faith Can Transform the World in Times of Crisis by Jeff Myers
- The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark
Objection #4: There Is No Evidence for God or for the Claim That Jesus Rose from the Dead
The question of God’s existence is incredibly important as we construct our worldview—but does God actually exist? Just as important are the questions: Did God reveal himself in the resurrected Jesus Christ? Was Jesus really resurrected from the dead in a physical body in history some 2,000 years ago?
Christian thinkers have long argued that there are several compelling reasons to think that God exists. For example, the physical world around us could have been an ugly, chaotic, unintelligible, haphazard mess. But this is not what we see. What we encounter is a surprisingly ordered, structured, intelligible, and beautiful universe. And it didn’t have to be this way. What’s fascinating is that these elements of order, structure, intelligibility, and beauty seem to be marks of design, which suggests a Designer. If we were hiking on the beach and saw what looked to be a phrase written out with beautiful sea shells, we would naturally think a person put together the shells. Things which are ordered, structured, intelligible, and beautiful, tend to be designed. Chaos, on the other hand, is not usually the mark of design or a designer. And the universe has these marks of design, pointing to a Creator. There are many other arguments, from the beginning of the universe needing a Cause, to it being finely-turned and therefore having a Designer, to the moral landscape pointing to a good Lawgiver, and so on.
What about the historical resurrection of Jesus? Consider just a few of the reasons for thinking this happened: (1) We have early, independent testimony from individuals and groups that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared physically to them. These appearances were to friends, foes, and skeptics. (2) After being killed and placed in a guarded tomb, the tomb was later found empty by a group of Jesus’s women followers. If the tomb was not in fact empty, the enemies of Christianity could have merely pointed to the correct tomb and dragged out the corpse of Jesus. (3) The followers of Jesus who preached the resurrection were willing to die for that belief. Liars do not typically make great martyrs! All of this (and much more) points to the fact that Jesus was in fact resurrected from the dead, just as he claimed he would be.
- The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas & Michael Licona
- Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World by Josh & Sean McDowell
These are just a few of the objections and questions raised against Christianity. Some of these may be issues your teenager, or someone you teach or mentor, may be wrestling with. Navigating the faith journey of teenagers can be a challenging task. Especially when they have questions about faith that you may not even be aware of. Embracing questions and uncertainties is a natural part of maturing in one’s faith. It takes bravery to confront these questions and search for answers.
We have a unique opportunity as leaders and parents to walk with our students through seasons of doubt. Encourage your teens to ask questions. Show them how to find answers to the questions that make them skeptical. We highly encourage you to check out our free Basecamp event, entitled: Basecamp: Exploring Faith: How to Question Your Faith Without Losing It.