One thing that has troubled me in the past months is my growing awareness that many Christians don't feel any need to understand the basis for their beliefs. These people seem content to hold their beliefs, but they can't really tell you why they believe what they do. If someone challenges or questions them on why they believe, they simply respond with "I just believe what I believe".
While this may not seem to be a big deal on the surface, this attitude of "I don't care to know why I believe" appears to be having a significant impact on our young people (and I know of at least a few examples where this lack of knowledge has caused adults to lose their faith). George Barna has conducted several studies which offer some unsettling conclusions.
In a 2006 survey, the Barna Group found that while 60% of people in their twenties had been involved in spiritual activities during their teens, only 20% of those were still spiritually engaged at the same level they had been in their high school years (1).
Another study by LifeWay Research, described in USA Today, showed that 7 out of 10 Protestants who attended church regularly in their teens had quit going by age 23. And of that group, 34% had not returned to church by age 30. What's even more disturbing about this study is that 52% of the "dropouts" indicated they had "religious, ethical, or political reasons for quitting." (2)
These statistics should concern all of us. They should cause us to ask why so many of our young people seem to be losing their faith. While I don't think this is the only reason that our youth wander away from their faith, I believe one of the contributing factors is a lack of spiritual depth when they are challenged with the hard questions of life.
Think for a minute about how your kids would answer questions like these:
- How can there be a good God when there's so much suffering in the world?
- How do you know that you're right and all of the other religions of the world are wrong?
- How can you believe in a God that would order the slaughter of women and children in the Old Testament?
- Isn't belief in God the same as believing in Santa Claus?
These are the exact types of questions our children are being asked in high school and college. And if they're not prepared to deal with them, the result could be devastating to their faith. Even we as adults often can't answer hard questions like this. How would you respond if someone posed any of the questions above to you?
In case you doubt that these challenges await our children in college, consider this statement from an unnamed college professor that was recently cited by Ravi Zacharias. On the first day of his class, the professor is said to have told his students:
"My goal in this course is to knock God out of you. And if you don't like it, I will give you a pass to drop the class."
There are other similar examples that members at Greenville Oaks have reported to me in recent months. This should tell us all that the threat is real and that we must be prepared to answer these challenges. Further, we must be preparing our children so that they are equipped to deal with scenarios like this.
For those of you interested in a bit of further reading on this subject, I highly recommend an article and a presentation by Dr. William Lane Craig, one of the world's leading Christian Apologists. He has taken the time to offer his thoughts on why an understanding of the Christian Apologetics is important. The links below lead to this material:
- In Intellectual Neutral (article drawn from Dr. Craig's book "Passionate Conviction")
- In Intellectual Neutral (audio presentation of his article. It is found within the "Talks" section of the linked page - this presentation is #19 down on the list)
Hopefully this brief discussion will be of some assistance in understanding the importance of studying Christian Apologetics, and being able to answer why we believe what we believe.
1. "Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years," The Barna Group, Sept. 11, 2006, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/16-teensnext-gen/147-most-twentysomethings-put-christianity-on-the-shelf-following-spiritually-active-teen-years
2. "Young Adults Aren't Sticking With Church," by Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA Today, Aug. 7, 2007, http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/life/20070807/d_churchdropout07.art.htm