Young People Leave the Faith Because They Believe Christianity is ANTI-Science
David Kinnaman is the president of the widely known research organization Barna. One of his primary areas of work deals with research regarding Christianity. In his book You Lost Me. Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church…and Rethinking Faith he detailed several of the main reasons why 18-29 year-olds say they leave Christianity. In his list of six broad reasons young people leave their faith, the third reason he listed, based on the vast amount of research Barna has done on the topic, is that 18-29 year-olds believe Christianity is anti-science. He wrote:
Many young Christians have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible. Yet they see the mostly helpful role science plays in the world they inhabit—in medicine, personal technology, travel, care of the natural world, and other areas. What’s more, science seems accessible in a way that the church does not; science appears to welcome questions and skepticism, while matters of faith seem impenetrable.1
He further noted that the research showed that 29% of 18-29 year-olds said that churches “are out of step with the scientific world we live in, while one-quarter (25 percent) described Christianity as anti-science.”2 He related the story of a Catholic man named Mike who became an atheist. Mike said: “It was tenth grade. I started learning about evolution. It felt like my first window into the real world. To be honest, I think that learning about science was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I knew from church that I couldn’t believe in both science and God, so that was it. I didn’t believe in God anymore.”3 Kinnaman summarized the research by saying: “Issues of science are one of the significant points of disconnection between the next generation and Christianity.”4
At Apologetics Press, we have known for over four decades that this is the case. We have listened to countless, heartbroken parents tell us how their faithful Christian children abandoned their faith in God for the more “honest, intellectual” approach presented by modern atheistic science. In truth, this tragic problem is one of the primary reasons Apologetics Press exists. Furthermore, this issue should cause every church leader, elder, preacher, parent, grandparent, and church member to ask themselves what can be done. Let’s look at several ways to approach the situation.
1. Recognize the Need to Teach on the Subject
Many people in the Lord’s Church grew up without being challenged by questions about how science and the Bible interact. Because of this, they do not recognize the fact that young people in the Church today are bombarded with information on a regular basis that demands that Christianity and science stand at opposite ends of the truth spectrum. The simple question that needs to be asked by every congregation of the Church is: What are we doing to help our young people understand the relationship between science, the Bible, and Christianity? What classes are scheduled to deal with the subject? What curriculum materials have we diligently assessed to be the most robust to deal with the issues? What special seminars or video series have we used (or plan to use) to help our youth through this very serious challenge to their faith? If the answers to these questions are, “nothing, very little, not much, and we don’t know,” then there is a good chance that many of the young people of that congregation will have trouble with their faith because of this unanswered challenge.
2. Teach the Truth: Science and the Bible are Compatible
The primary sentiment expressed by young Christians who leave the faith based on “science” is that science and the Bible cannot both be true. This is a false statement designed by Satan to force our young people to make a choice that should never be made. You can quickly see how sinister this approach is by comparing it to other false dilemmas.
- Do you want to be a thinking intellectual or do you want to be a Christian?
- Do you want to care about people and their rights, or do you want to be anti-choice on the abortion question?
- Do you want to love and be kind to people, or do you want to teach that God only saves those who believe in Jesus?
Each of these ideas is presented as if only one can be true. When addressing the question of science and the Bible, we discover that real science and a proper understanding of the Bible always agree with each other. Dr. Michael Houts, who holds a Ph.D. from MIT and works for NASA, has written an excellent article on this subject titled: “True Science is the Christian’s Friend.”5 While most young people are taught by secular education institutions that science and the Bible are incompatible, they have not been equipped with the truth that shows this idea to be false. An honest look at real science will always increase faith in the Bible.
3. Not All “Science” is Equal
The quote David Kinnaman included from Mike, the atheist, gives us insight into the real conflict. He stated that he started learning about evolution in 10th grade and that is when he realized that “learning about science was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” He equated evolution with science. Unfortunately he was not given the truth about the aspects of evolution that are unscientific.6 Often the information that young people are being told is real science, is nothing of the sort. It is our job as Christians to show our youth the difference and give them the tools to distinguish between truth and error. We should be determined to send our young people into the world knowing that they must “test all things” and “hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We cannot let them leave our congregations being so naïve as to think that everything an atheistic professor calls “science” is true science. There is a vast difference between legitimate science and false theories such as organic evolution, abiogenesis, and the inflationary Big Bang model.
4. Does Modern Science “Welcome Questions and Skepticism”?
Many of the young people who left Christianity in Barna’s research did so because they believed that “science appears to welcome questions and skepticism, while matters of faith seem impenetrable.” It is imperative that we show our young people the truth about this false idea. The brand of atheistic, evolutionary science that is taught in most educational systems today in no way welcomes honest inquiry. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Young people need to be shown the truth that all scientific discoveries and research that even mention the idea of intelligent design are rejected immediately.7 Valid scientific research that calls into question the billions-of-years timeframe of modern geology is dismissed. Scientific discoveries that disprove the Big Bang model are “cancelled” quickly.8
In 2007, the world’s leading atheist—Antony Flew—published a book in cooperation with Roy Varghese titled: There Is a God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Became a Believer. Flew noted several times in the book that his life’s mantra was to “follow the argument wherever it leads.” He further confessed: “I reached the conclusion about the nonexistence of God much too quickly, much too easily, and for what later seemed to me the wrong reasons.”9 Flew proceeded in the book to document all the philosophical and modern scientific findings that drove him to the conclusion: “I have followed the argument where it has led me. And it has led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being.”10 How do you think the atheistic, “scientific” community accepted Dr. Flew’s conclusion? In the preface of the book, Roy Varghese discussed the responses of those in the scientific community who once lauded Flew as a champion. He wrote: “Curiously, the response to the AP story from Flew’s fellow atheists verged on hysteria…. Inane insults and juvenile caricatures were common in the freethinking blogosphere…. The advocates of tolerance were not themselves very tolerant. And, apparently, religious zealots don’t have a monopoly on dogmatism, incivility, fanaticism, and paranoia.”11 Our young people need to know that the modern atheistic, “scientific” community is extremely welcoming and open to questions, as long as you arrive at exactly and only the conclusions that they have decided are “scientific.”12
5. They Will Have to Make a Choice
While our young people will never have to choose between real science and the Bible, they will have to make a choice. In today’s secular culture, the majority of educators, professors, politicians, and world leaders believe and teach falsely about the Bible and science. The vast majority of university professors are openly atheistic and many have made it their personal goal to destroy the Christian faith in their young students. Young people will be forced to decide if they love the truth more than error, and if they are willing to stand for the truth even when such a stand will cost them something. The modern geological community has adopted a billions-of-years time frame that does not rest on robust science. If a young person wants to be a geologist today, he or she will be pressured to adopt this same time frame, in spite of real, scientific evidence that militates against it. If young people do not toe the modern “scientific” party line, they may find that universities and jobs that offer geology degrees and opportunities will not even let them into their programs. Ultimately, our young people will have to choose between believing the truth, and sacrificing the truth because they want something more, such as recognition, acceptance, academic advancement, or to be viewed as part of the intellectual elite.
The New Testament gives us an excellent example of this dilemma. In the book of John, the author presents many evidences that prove that Jesus is the Son of God. The miracles He performed and the prophecies He fulfilled verified the truth of His claims. So convincing were these evidences that the text says, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him” (John 12:42). Their “belief,” however, was of little value to them. The text continues, “but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
Our young people will be faced with a choice: not the choice between science and the Bible. The choice is between truth and error. Have we given them the foundation that adequately prepares them to stand for the truth when the rest of the world pressures them to believe a lie? As Jesus bluntly put it: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, therefore it hates you” (John 15:18-19). Let us not be so naïve as to think that Satan has infiltrated politics, sports, business, and most media outlets but somehow has left modern “science” alone.
1 David Kinnaman (2011), You Lost Me. Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church…and Rethinking Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker), pp. 92-93.
2 Ibid., p. 136.
3 Ibid., p. 138.
4 Ibid., p. 132.
5 Mike Houts (2011), “True Science is the Christian’s Friend,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/true-science-is-the-christians-friend-3572/.
6 Mike Houts (2007), “Evolution is Religion, Not Science,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/evolution-is-religionnot-science-part-i-2299/.
7 Kyle Butt (2008), “The Catch-22 of Peer-Reviewed Journals,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/the-catch-22-of-peer-reviewed-journals-2508/.
8 “An Open Letter to the Scientific Community,” https://www.plasma-universe.com/an-open-letter-to-the-scientific-community/.
9 Antony Flew and Roy Varghese (2007), There Is a God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (New York: Harper Collins), pp. 12-13.
10 Ibid., p. 155.
11 Ibid., p. viii.
12 Kyle Butt, “Freethought: Not so Free After All,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/freethought-not-so-free-after-all-926/.
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