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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Ready to Return" (Ken Ham with Jeff Kinley)

TITLE: Ready to Return: Bringing Back the Church's Lost Generation
AUTHOR: Ken Ham with Jeff Kinley
PUBLISHER:Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2015, (210 pages)

Why is the Church losing more of her young? How can the Church retreat from the rising secularization of the Church and her members? Where will the Church be in the next era? How do we bring back the "lost generation?" Despair comes with the downward struggle with sin. Hope comes with the upward perspective to build the Church based on the truth in Christ. It is only God who can preserve His Church. Before any such reformation, author Ken Ham helps us to learn from history. Every culture will go through a period of spiritual lethargy. From Jeremiah to King Hezekiah; and from Israel to the modern reformation movement, three patterns are common:
  1. God's people no longer observe and obey the Word of God
  2. They pursued other gods
  3. The shepherds and leaders lead people astray
Calling for a new reformation, Ham believes that the way back begins with us. We should be prepared for opposition and resistance. We should beware of compromising. We must beware of pride. We need to stay vigilant and watchful. These are the mission statements and values that Ham and his colleagues at "Answers in Genesis" adhere to. Ham is President and Founder of the apologetics ministry that believes in the Young Earth creationist perspective. They believe that the book of Genesis provides answers to many questions of life. In this book, the key problem is about the decreasing number of people in churches and the young leaving churches in droves. Statistics by Barna and Americas Research Group all point to a liberal generation. Anyone disconnected from the Bible will eventually be disconnected with church. Ham probes other disturbing trends and liberalism that are eating away at the fundamental faith values. Ham then shows a few steps to enable one to return to God.

First, return to the values of the Bible. Affirm that the Bible is the Word of God and not be so easily led by the secular world that prefers to doubt and deceive believers. If the Bible is the foundation of life, and if one digs at such a foundation, no wonder believers would be aimless and rootless. Moreover, the Word of God is for all people, not just people who choose it.

Second, recognize that Christianity is under attack. The new generation do not seem to make a big fuss about this. Ham claims that they have been "brainwashed from birth." Society mold their minds. Schools indoctrinate secular teachings. The culture around generally speak of Christianity with disdain to the point that being religious is not cool. With doubts and skeptical questions chipping away at the foundations of faith, no wonder the young have little desire to remain in church.

Third, teach the basics of faith all over again in a culture infatuated with feelings. Remind the young that faith is fundamental, not just a peripheral matter. Do not downplay the importance of Scripture. Ham points out with conviction that the Word of God must be central in the lives of believers. Parents must teach them to their children. Adam and Jesus are real people, not just a fiction of someone else's imagination.

Fourth, help individuals embrace Christianity as their own. Christianity is like a relay race, where one generation hands the baton to the next to continue the race of faith. The Bible should not be seen as a science book of facts. Individuals need to be equipped with how to respond to critics and skeptics. The journey from doubt to confidence needs a renewed trust and belief in the Bible. Teach them not just to accept worldly criticism but to learn to challenge them. Equip them with skills and resources. Ham supplies readers with a checklist of "renters" vs "owners." The former is a believer riding on the faith of others. The latter is about one who actually live what he believes.

Fifth, trust that the Genesis warnings are real. The building of an actual ark is a way in which "Answers in Genesis" challenge people on whether the Ark is fact or fiction. Secularists reject Noah and the Ark primarily because they believe more in evolution rather than creation. The Ark is Ham's way of challenging the teachings of evolution and the skepticism people usually pour on the events of the Bible. It helps raise practical questions that bring to the fore the questions of faith and doubt.

Sixth, be prepared for changes whether it comes in lightning speed or lava crawl. The deterioration of culture is often a slow process. Once the foundations are eaten away, it is only a matter of time before the entire structure collapses. He attacks moral relativism and other ways in which the authority of the Bible is undermined. Most of all, the dangers arise out of the poisoning of young minds about the Bible.

Seventh, reformation begins at home. The crisis of faith is essentially a crisis of leadership at home. The Church too must participate in bucking this trend. Ham gives several pointers on how to re-establish the place of the Bible in the home. In the light of an increasingly anti-Christian public school curriculum, homeschooling should be encouraged more and more.

A New Reformation is needed. For the hopeful, it is very much in the works. Going back to the Protestant Reformation landmark at Wittenburg, what Luther did back then to bring new life to the ruling but ailing Catholic Church, became a Reformation turning point. Just like Martin Luther's antics were not popular with the establishment then, a book like this is not going to be popular with people steeped in the liberal culture. Argue against gay rights, immoral behaviour, evolution, or anything secular society adhere to, will automatically trigger a fierce reaction from secular society. The more secular and liberal the Church is, the less it is going to embrace this book. Ironically, such churches are the very ones that are going to benefit from a more Word-centered perspective.

I have some lingering questions as I read this book. Is it too simplistic? Is it another attempt to bring back conservative values under the guise of saving a generation? Are there other ways to interpret the prevailing cultural struggles of this age? The gospel is simple, definitely. The willingness of individuals to embrace it is not as simple. I believe Ham is right to insist on the Word-centered perspective, to remind individuals to come back to the Bible and to build our lives based on the principles and truths stated in the Bible. Far too often, we have allowed skeptics to question the Bible more, and have failed to make appropriate challenges to such criticisms leveled against Christianity. This calls for increased training in apologetics. Parents must learn it. They must then teach it to their children. Their children must then learn and pass it on. I think the younger generation are in a mass culture of distraction. With so many attractions and idols that appear more cool and more interesting, it is not easy to encourage them to come back to the Bible. After all, their very perspective of the Bible being old and archaic runs contrary to their dalliance with the world of high-tech gadgets and technological advancements they have been enjoying. Who wouldn't want the latest and the greatest? If they can easily discard a relatively new phone to upgrade to the latest, they have no room even to consider ancient book like the Bible.

Having said that, I think Ham observes it very accurately that every societal deterioration begins when people no longer walked with God. By depending on human wisdom and worldly philosophies, it is only a matter of time before people become a god unto themselves. The faithful must continue to be Word-centered. They cannot surrender this fight so easily. As long as they keep at it, there will come a time in which the young would become bored, disillusioned, or frustrated with the present world of plastic promises and come back to the solid Rock of Christ. It is only a matter of time before the younger generation grow up and realize the fundamental truths of the Bible. When that time comes, are we ready?

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Master Books and Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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