Who Cares About Truth?
with Sean McDowell
PURPOSE: This activity helps students realize that truth should be the guiding principle for what we believe, and as a result, how we live our lives
SUPPLIES: Whiteboard and pens; or a large sheet of paper for recording answers.
DURATION: 20-30 minutes
- Begin by asking students the following question, “Why do people believe what they do?” Encourage students to come up with any reasons they can think of for why we hold certain beliefs (not just about God, but about anything).
- List their responses on a large sheet of paper or whiteboard according to the columns below. Do not label the columns until they have given all their answers.
Peace of Mind
- Once you have a substantial list of reasons, go through each one and ask, “Is that a good reason to believe something?”
- If you have sharp students, the discussion might look something like this:
|Youth worker||“I see that many of you listed sociological factors. For example, many of you mentioned that our beliefs are shaped by our parents. Is that a good enough reason to believe something?”|
|Students||“No, not necessarily. Parents can sometimes be wrong!”|
|Youth worker||Okay, what about cultural factors such as tradition? Do you think people ought to believe something because it has been passed down through tradition?”|
|Students||“No, not necessarily. Traditions are not necessarily wrong, but they are also not necessarily right. Radical Muslims have a tradition of Jihad, but that can’t be right.”|
|Youth worker||“Good. Now some of you mentioned psychological influences such as comfort. Is comfort alone a solid reason to believe something?”|
|Students||“No, we’re not ‘comfortable’ with that. Just because something is comfortable does not make it true. Lies can often be very comfortable!”|
|Youth worker||“So you’re saying that truth is an important reason to believe something because there can be consequences when people are mistaken?”|
|Students||“Yes, that does seem to be the case.”|
|Youth worker||“What about religious reasons? Should we believe something because Scripture tells us it is true? Should we simply follow whatever a pastor tells us?”|
|Students||“No, because how would we know which Scripture is true? Which religious teachings do we follow? All religious leaders can’t be right.”|
|Youth worker||“Good point. So, how do we know which religion we should follow, if any?”|
|Students||“We would need some outside evidence to indicate that the claims are actually true. There needs to be some proof.”|
|Youth worker||“So we seem to agree that something is worth believing if we have reason to believe that it is true.”|
COMMENTARY: One of the challenges we face in a postmodern culture is skepticism about reason as a means of knowing truth. It is not that young people are unable to reason. In reality, students reason everyday! They reason with their parents (for a later curfew), with their teachers (for an extension on their homework), and with themselves (over who to ask to prom). But young people are often reluctant to believe that reason can lead to a genuine understanding of God. Such a misunderstanding must be corrected. While our reasoning ability is deeply influenced by our emotions and background, we are made in the image of God with the capacity to accurately understand His revelation to the world (Rom. 1-2). Reason is one means that God has chosen to make Himself known to people.
God designed us to be truth-seekers in all areas of life, which is why it is so critical to help young people understand why they believe what they believe. Few have given their religious beliefs much thought. Most of their beliefs have been shaped by sociological factors that have very little to do with rational reflection. This does not mean that their beliefs are anti-intellectual or that they are less justifiable, only that they have not been formed by weighing the merits of various options and coming to the conclusion that is most reasonable. Such lack of convictions will not maintain a life-long vibrant faith.
This activity is an important step in helping students to be aware of their lack of conscious reasons for their beliefs. The idea is to help students recognize that they themselves actually operate their lives on whether they think something is true or false (whether they realize it or not). This is critical for young Christians because without some sense of why they believe, they may hold their faith with reservation or abandon their faith completely when challenged. And this is also important for non-believers, so they can clear away misconceptions and consider the credibility of Christianity.
SUPPORTING SCRIPTURE: Hosea 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10
Sean McDowell is a speaker, author and popular high school teacher. In 2008 he received the “Educator of the Year” award in San Juan Capistrano, California. Sean graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. Learn more at: www.seanmcdowell.org Copyright 2016 © Sean McDowell Worldview Ministries All Rights Reserved