18 April 2022
In a recent forum organized by The Bible Society of Singapore titled Census 2020, Religions and Youth: Parsing the Trends, Pondering the Future, the organizers note that ‘the recent findings of Singapore’s Census 2020 by the Department of Statistics showed that between 2010 and 2020, Christianity in Singapore grew only slightly. The census also saw a significant drop in the number of Christian adherents in the age groups of 25–34 and 35–44. The Census is a sobering call for us to reflect and examine whether we have effectively ministered to our young adults.’ During the second part of the forum, the youth leaders shared that Christianity in Singapore seems to be losing the intellectuals, and many youths are wrestling with doubts.
In an earlier article, I warned that megachurches which preach the ‘health-and-wealth gospel’ are repeating the mistakes of the 18th century postmillennial Utopianism which eventually contributed to the decline of Christianity in Europe. The results of the Census is an indication that we may be beginning to see the effects in Singapore already. The form of Christianity which appeals to people’s emotions and needs but does not provide intellectually rigorous answers to the Big Questions will eventually lose the intellectuals and experience such a decline. Meanwhile, many outspoken atheists are raising sharp objections against Christian Theism on the internet, and many youths who frequently access the internet couldn’t find the answers to these objections in their churches. This is a pity, because there are numerous high quality academic publications in which these objections are answered (see below for some examples). The problem is that many church leaders are not aware of the existence of these resources. They are only aware of books by popular apologists such as Tim Keller and Lee Strobel and popular courses such as Alpha. While these have continued to be helpful for many laypeople, they are simply not rigorous and deep enough to answer the questions of many intellectuals and youths, nor do they represent the best responses which Christianity can offer.
A deeper problem is with theological education, where there is still a widely held misconception that the arguments for the existence of God have been dealt a death blow by philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. Neo-Orthodox theologians such as Karl Barth and postmodernist theologians agree with this assessment. They are unaware that the objections by Hume and Kant have been shown to be fallacious by other philosophers. See, for example, Richard Swinburne’s ‘Why Hume and Kant were mistaken in rejecting natural theology’ (in T. Bucheim et al ed., Gottesbeweise als Herausforderung fur die Moderne Vernunft, Mohr Siebeck, 2012, available here: https://users.ox.ac.uk/~orie0087/pdf_files/Papers%20from%20Philosophical%20Journals/Swinburne_2012-hume-kant.pdf ) and William Lane Craig’s ‘Kant’s First Antinomy and the Beginning of the Universe’ (Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung, 33 (1979): 553–567; https://www.jstor.org/stable/20482997 ). Contrary to popular misconceptions, Hume and Kant did not successfully rebut the arguments for the existence of God, such as the Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument, Moral Argument, and the Argument from Miracles. These arguments have been around for millennia and — even in our present scientific period — are still being defended today in journals and monographs published by world leading academic peer-reviewed publishers such as Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer Nature, Routledge, Bloomsbury, etc. These publishers publish textbooks and research articles and monographs which are used by top universities around the world. Indeed, many of the examples listed below can be found in the libraries of NUS, NTU, etc.:
- Baggett, David and Jerry Walls. 2016. God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Brown, Candy Gunther. 2012. Testing Prayer: Science and Healing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Craig, W.L. and J.P. Moreland eds. 2009. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Gingerich, Owen. 2006. God’s Universe. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Lewis, Geraint and Luke Barnes. 2016. A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Loke, Andrew. 2017. God and Ultimate Origins: A Novel Cosmological Argument. Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion Series. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature.
- Loke, Andrew. 2017. The Origins of Divine Christology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Loke Andrew. 2020. Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A New Transdisciplinary Approach. London: Routledge. Open access, free download here: https://www.academia.edu/42985421/Investigating_the_Resurrection_of_Jesus_Christ
- Loke, Andrew. Forthcoming. The Teleological and Kalam Cosmological Arguments Revisited. Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion Series. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature.
- Polkinghorne, John. 2006. ‘Christianity and Science.’ In The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science Philip Clayton and Zachary Simpson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Polkinghorne, John. 2011. Science and Religion in Quest of Truth. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Ruloff, Colin (ed.). 2021. Contemporary Arguments in Natural Theology New York: Bloomsbury.
- Swinburne, Richard. 2004. The Existence of God 2nd Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Walls, Jerry and Trent Dougherty. 2018. Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- 梅尔威力斯图尔特. 2015.《科学与宗教：21世纪的问题》北京：北京大学出版社 (Stewart, Mel. 2015. Science and Religion: 21st Century Questions. Peking: Peking University Press).
Seminaries, churches and university student ministries need to be aware of these high academic quality resources which present the evidences and rigorous arguments (as well as detailed replies to the objections to these arguments) for the existence of God, the resurrection and deity of Jesus Christ, etc., and to know how to use them. They need to organize more in-depth apologetics courses and to invite scholars who are familiar with these resources to teach them. Such courses may be too deep for some laypeople and may not attract many people initially, but they will help those intellectuals and thoughtful youths wrestling with tough questions, and the effect will eventually trickle down to others and affect the culture at large. As William Lane Craig observes, “This people group, though relatively small in numbers, is huge in influence. One of these persons, for example, was C. S. Lewis. Think of the impact that one man’s conversion continues to have! I find that the people who resonate most with my apologetic work tend to be engineers, people in medicine, and lawyers. Such persons are among the most influential in shaping our culture today. So reaching this minority of persons will yield a great harvest for the Kingdom of God.”
Dr Andrew Loke is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University. He did his PhD at King’s College London which covered the disciplines of systematic theology, analytic philosophy of religion, and historical-critical studies. He is the author of The Origins of Divine Christology (Cambridge University Press), God and Ultimate Origins (Springer Nature), A Kryptic Model of the Incarnation (Routledge), and Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Routledge, forthcoming).