On a recent trip down to Florida, my wife and I met up with a cousin of my mom’s, Dr. G. Lee Southard. Lee has been retired for a few years, living with his wife, Nancy, in Ft. Myers, Florida. After a successful career in pharmaceuticals, Lee has now become a Christian author. So, if you are looking for a great book, to give to a high school graduate, I can make the perfect recommendation, as I personally know the author!
The title is pretty self-explanatory, To Know With Certainty: Answers to Christian Students’ Questions Upon Leaving High School. As a proud grandfather, Lee has become burdened with what he sees is a crisis among today’s Christian youth. In his book, Lee cites a troublesome statistic, that roughly 1 out of 3 kids growing up, in Christian homes today, will probably leave the church, sometime after hitting age 18, never to return back to the church. Like me, Lee believes that most young people, in evangelical churches, are woefully unprepared, to survive the cultural pressures that exist to desensitize young Christian people from sticking with the Christian faith. Many Christian parents and even youth leaders and pastors, are either unaware of the challenges that young people face today, or they lack the resources to know how to help equip young people to face these challenges.
After taking a quick read, I am excited to say that Lee has written a most excellent book. To Know With Certainty has several features that make this such a great gift to a high school graduate:
- To Know with Certainty is unpretentious, and down-to-earth, without being shallow. Lee opens the book with a forward, by a former classmate of his, Bobby Ross, a retired college football head coach (The Citadel, University of Maryland) and retired NFL football head coach (San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions). Lee’s writing shows that he is a thoughtful writer, as you get a sense of his strive for excellence and detail, harkening back to his years getting a PhD in chemistry.
- To Know with Certainty is short, without being skimpy. At under 130 pages, this book is far from being overwhelming. But he hits all of the major topics, and challenges facing students today, in Christian apologetics.
- Want to know about the challenges to a young person’s faith, once they leave high school? Read this book. Does God exist? Who is Jesus? Is the New Testament true? How did the Christian church develop? Is America a Christian nation? What about the supposed conflict between science and faith? These and many more topics make this a very comprehensive, compact tool.
- To Know with Certainty is fair and balanced. This is what I liked the most about the book, in that a lot of books, in this genre, can sound like they have an axe to grind. But Lee is really good about laying out some facts and ideas, and encouraging the reader to do their own research, and think for themselves.
I know I sound like I am gushing with enthusiasm for To Know with Certainty, as I know the author, but it really is wonderful. Nevertheless, I would change up just a few things, if I was writing this book.
For example, Lee’s treatment of Christianity’s role in American history is very good, yet I would not make as much use of the work of populist historian David Barton, as Lee apparently did. There are much more reliable evangelical Christian historians out there, who can give an accurate reading of American history, with respect to the story of Christianity.
Also, Lee uses the terminology of “theistic evolution,” to describe the efforts of some Christians, to try to find compatibility between Neo-Darwinian biological theory and the Christian faith. A lot of “theistic evolution” advocates are all over the place theologically, and do not necessarily present the best case for reconciling the Bible with contemporary science. Alternatively, those who intentionally speak of “evolutionary Creationism,” are generally better advocates for a view of science that is compatible with conservative evangelical Christianity, a point that Lee does not bring up clearly. However, Lee does a great job showcasing some of the leading ideas, being advanced by Christians, including Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism. Nevertheless, it is clear that Lee favors an Old Earth Creationist approach, blended with arguments for Intelligent Design, which is arguably a centrist position in the Creation debate.
Lee also does not address timely, cultural issues regarding race, and particularly gender, ranging from same-sex marriage to the transgender trend, that confuses a lot of young people today. Having just a short chapter on such topics would have rounded out the book a bit more completely.
But these criticisms are minor, as the book is really geared as an introduction towards your typical high school graduate, and their parents. I just ordered several copies, to give out to some young people, who are finishing high school this June, to encourage them in their faith journey. If you want to learn more about the book, go to Lee’s website. He might even send you an autographed copy, just like I got!! Or just go over to Amazon, and order that gift to that young person leaving high school soon!