While we may not ascribe much validity to the reasons we’ve studied that lead our young people to disbelief, they are nevertheless real, based on feedback given from the very people who struggle with these issues. Even when those of us who ﬁrmly believe in God, and who conﬁdently accept the Bible as His inspired communication to mankind, strive diligently to conform our words and deeds to those set out in God’s word, we sometimes still fail. David was a man after God’s “own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), yet he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered (2 Samuel 11-12). Peter loved his Master dearly, yet denied Him publicly three times on the eve of His cruciﬁxion (Matthew 26:34, 69-75).
Adding to the problem is the fact that we may be sincere in what we do or say, yet still be entirely wrong. The Israelites knew how to carry the ark of the covenant because God told them (Numbers 4:15, 19-20). Furthermore, there can be no doubt that Uzzah was sincere in his attempts to protect the ark, but he was sincerely wrong (2 Samuel 6:6-8). Because he touched the ark inappropriately, God took his life as an example of how important it was to follow instructions.
Unfortunately, throughout human history, there are several examples of those who have professed the high standard of the New Testament, yet who have committed unjust acts in the name of God.
For example, in the time period between A.D. 1095 and 1270, eight diﬀerent crusades occurred, during which armies representing “Christendom” battled Muslims in and around Jerusalem to gain control of the “holy city” and force Mohammad’s followers into submission to Christ.
In 1613, Galileo published his ﬁrst musings about the possible truthfulness of the Copernican system of planetary movements (i.e. that the earth moves around the Sun). In 1616, a decree was issued by the Catholic Church that prevented Galileo from publishing any of his supportive evidence. In 1632, he published that evidence, and one year later, he was found guilty by an Inquisition in Rome. He had to recant his ﬁndings and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
In modern times, events have been just as unsavory. In 1988, Salman Rushdie authored The Satanic Verses, a book that drew the ire of radical Iranian Muslim spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious decree) in the name of Allah, calling for the immediate assassination of Rushdie. Rushdie was forced to go into hiding in Britain for several years.
In Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants have battled each other for decades under the ﬂags of their respective religions. Innocent adults, teenagers, and children died by the hundreds — all in the name of God.
In Yugoslavia, “Christian” Serbs depart on “search and destroy” missions in an eﬀort to rout Muslim forces. “Ethnic cleansing” is carried out — again, in God’s name.
Closer to home, militants have bombed abortion clinics, maiming and killing patients and staﬀ. These same people declare “open season” on medical doctors who perform abortions, and these practitioners are then shot as they stand at their kitchen window or get in their car to drive to work. All in the name of God.
The unbeliever’s case is made for him, and the roots of his unbelief grow deeper, as he witnesses what he views as unjust, wicked acts carried out by people who are supposed to live according to the Bible. How could a good God sanction such barbaric inhumanity, and why would anyone want to serve such a God?
How should the believer respond to these kinds of actions? First, admit that such events as the brutality of the Crusades, the murder of abortionists, or the ethnic cleansing of Muslims are unjust deeds that never should have occurred. The acts committed are abhorrent and the attitudes of those responsible are deplorable. These events are contrary to God’s nature (Luke 6:27-35).
Second, it is unfair to blame God for unjust acts committed in His name by those who claim to believe in Him, yet who disobey His will. The fact that someone commits an act “in God’s name” does not mean that the act itself is sanctioned by the One in whose name it was committed (Matthew 7:21-23). For example, when law enforcement oﬃcers act “in the name of the law,” but illegally beat a suspect to obtain a coerced confession, does the law bear the blame for their oﬀenses? No! The law speciﬁcally forbade their actions.
Third, it is important to separate the real believer from the counterfeit believer. Just because someone claims to be a believer does not necessarily mean that he or she actually is a believer (Matthew 7:15-20). A counterfeit remains a counterfeit regardless of the fact that it claims (or even appears) to be genuine. Its genuineness is determined by whether or not it successfully matches the list of characteristics for what is actually real. You will know them by their fruits!
Fourth, speaking of consistency, we need to realize that it is not just the believer who should be held to a standard. The unbeliever needs to comply as well. When you examine the legitimate teachings and fruits of a particular system, ask yourself: “Which one has more to commend itself — belief in God, or unbelief?”
These obstacles that younger people to faith are important to answer logically and reasonably (1 Peter 3:15). Don’t downplay, ignore, or make them feel stupid for asking legitimate questions that explain faith in Christ and sin on earth.