CMI speakers often minister to churches with few young people.1 We often meet anguished parents whose adult offspring have abandoned the faith in which they were raised. Yet many churches do have vibrant youth programs, so what could have gone wrong? Plenty! If the programs concentrate on entertainment, then kids might find they can be entertained better by the world. Or else they concentrate on emotional commitment, but emotions are fickle. But what about training kids in what Jesus called “the great and first commandment”: to “love the Lord your God with all your … mind” (Matthew 22:36–38). This must include helping them think through questions they often raise.
Questioning is a good thing
Some parents and pastors think that this abandonment starts with their children asking questions about the faith. However, without thinking how can they develop “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16)? Rather, we should be more worried if they are not asking questions. As we have discussed previously,2 this is a likely sign that the children are just borrowing their parents’ or church’s faith. But a borrowed faith will not last long after leaving home.
Unanswered questions are a bad thing
According to one of the leading Christian apologists outside CMI, Nancy Pearcey:
Studies find that the main reason people abandon their Christian upbringing is unanswered intellectual questions. The researchers were surprised; they expected to hear stories of relationship issues—people saying they’d been hurt or emotionally wounded. But the reason given most often by those who de-convert is that they could not get answers to their doubts and questions.3
We know this from countless letters. E.g. a while ago, a teenage girl wrote to CMI:
I would ask questions about absolutely everything around me, and that naturally spread to asking questions about the Bible. My family couldn’t answer me when I asked where ‘Mrs Cain’ came from, or how all the animals fit on the ark. … They discouraged me from asking questions about the Bible, telling me to ‘just believe’. … So I learned that the Bible was a nice storybook … over time, I became more of an agnostic, though I called myself a Christian to keep my family happy. Faith was fine for less intelligent people who needed that crutch, but I considered myself above that.4
Answered questions really make a difference
However, she continues
[I] found the URL for CMI in a book I was researching, and browsing your Q&A page, I was surprised to find the answers to the questions I had been asking for over ten years in literally the first day I was at your site. … I found myself with no excuse to disbelieve. A few months later, I became a Christian. God has used your ministry to affect so many lives, mine among them.4
And over a decade later, she is still going strong, working as CMI’s New Testament specialist.5 But many teens in her position are not so fortunate. As Nancy Pearcey says, many church youth groups still ignore intellectual development:
Youth groups rarely encourage young people to grapple with tough questions. Instead the goal seems to be to engineer events that ratchet up emotional commitment. But emotional intensity is not enough to block out questions. If anything, it leads teens to redefine Christianity in purely emotional terms—which leaves them vulnerable when they finally do face their questions.3
We have answers—but they must get out there!
Now we have more creationist answers than probably at any time in history. But what use are they if people are not exposed to them? The same goes for defenses of Christianity in general, as Pearcey says:
The good news is that in recent years, apologetics resources have become far more available. The bad news is that many churches continue to ignore those resources, treating Christianity as though it were primarily emotional.2
Creationist and general Christian apologetics are connected, since creation is foundational for Christianity, as shown in the new commentary on Genesis 1–11, The Genesis Account. This also shows that Christianity is a system of Total Truth,6 making objective claims about history, the future, and morality, as well as providing the basis for science. So Christianity is not limited just to a privatized belief with no effect on the real world. But likely thanks to our ministry in churches, which is possible thanks to your support, our material is getting to unexpected places. One example is a recent debate between Christian apologist Frank Turek and atheist Michael Shermer, Is Morality Better Explained by God or Science? Although Turek opposes biblical (‘young earth’) creation, he used a clip from our DVD Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels on the Darwinian basis for the Nazi Holocaust.7
Once again, thank you for standing with us.
References and notes
Sometimes this is not a bad thing, e.g. sometimes these are churches in country areas, and the young adults have simply moved to city churches, but still kept the faith. Return to text
Turek, F., Turek–Shermer Debate: Is Morality Better Explained by God or Science? crossexamined.org, 25 April 2015 (about 42:15 into the video). Amusingly (but truthfully), Turek refers to my comments as “a Jewish man explaining what Hitler did.” Return to text
Sometimes this is not a bad thing, e.g. sometimes these are churches in country areas, and the young adults have simply moved to city churches, but still kept the faith.
Nazworth, N., Young Christians spiritually failing in real world because youth groups depend too much on emotional high, says Nancy Pearcey (interview), Christian Post, 14 April 2015.
The title of a fine book by Pearcey (2004).
Turek, F., Turek–Shermer Debate: Is Morality Better Explained by God or Science? crossexamined.org, 25 April 2015 (about 42:15 into the video). Amusingly (but truthfully), Turek refers to my comments as “a Jewish man explaining what Hitler did.”
The Bible starts with the basis there is a God. Evolution starts with the basis of no God. Atheism starts with the basis of no God.
Questions are invariably answered by evidence the young person will accept based on their worldview.
So, the rules of interpreting evidence or the Bible are what's being disputed when it comes to Christianity. Young people will always interpret the evidence within their worldview. So, evidence given as answers by itself will not cause a young person to reconsider their worldview. The young needs to know how to validate a worldview before considering evidence, especially their ever-changing worldviews and interpretation of Scripture.
There are many unique things about the Bible such as, the Biblical worldview accounts for rationality (logic,etc.), science, and absolute morality Colossians 2:2,3 "namely, Christ,... 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.". Whereas evolution, atheism, etc. cannot.
Scripture also interprets itself. Once the young has a fundamental understanding of this, they are in a much better position when asking questions, because then they can see through false or borrowed answers wrapped in a particular worldview that cannot justify the fundamentals of rational reasoning.
Peter H., Canada, 28 January 2016
My son was exposed to creationist teachings for years while being home schooled, and still turned away from the faith as a university student. His three siblings, raised in the same home, are believers today. Even when answers to intellectual questions are offered, not everyone is willing to accept them. Like Darwin and contemporary evolutionists, many would prefer not to acknowledge God as Creator and author of life because it requires surrender of the will. This is a spiritual problem. This is not to deny the value of the work that CMI is doing, which I continue to appreciate.
I also thank CMI for answering so many questions that I've had over my 64 years. I was once a meek witness as I felt unarmed to answer questions that I knew would come. I am now better armed and supremely confident in my witnessing. I thank God daily including for CMI.
R. F., United States, 28 January 2016
I firmly believe that churches need to start teaching apologetics to youth at an early age. What I have found is that often times the response to questions asked in church boils down to "Because the Bible says so." If people are lead to believe that the only reason they believe something is because a book told them to and the world is providing a plethora of scientific arguments (valid or invalid) against this belief, then the clear choice is to abandon the book in favor of science. However, if we were to start showing that science is on the side of the Bible then this could have a major impact on the number of people who abandon the Bible after leaving home.
Gian Carlo B., Puerto Rico, 28 January 2016
One of the things that 'bores' me or irritates me is the old-canard that Christianity has no evidence for their beliefs. Well, that nonsense should be debunked even at universities because it is tiresome, even my social science professor (for in case you didn't know, it's a postmodernist!), says there is no evidence for God nor any religion thus it is all subjective. We not only need to give an answer to questions like Noah's Ark, creation, and geology, but we also need to give an answer to the Exodus, the Chronicles of the Kings and our crucial Resurrection of Yeshua; and defend it with facts. It is also embarrassing that most history professors don't know about the crucial historicity and evidence of Christianity is, it is not 'just another religion', it is a history, like Judaism (except they need to accept Jesus as Christ), they rely on the evidence from history and eyewitnesses, not on ideas from a central figure (like Buddhism).
I also thank CMI for informing me on the crucial questions so I can defend the JC worldview cogently, and of course not fall into fallacious claims against it, including from postmodernists.