Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church Part 3

The Barna Group, a leading Christian research and resource company that focuses on the intersection of faith and culture, published the article last September entitled, “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church.” This is the third in a series of articles in which I give my take on Barna’s conclusions.

Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.

The creation / evolution battle has been front and center in the culture war that rages in America.  Those opposed to the Bible and Biblical Creationism have been very successful in redefining the conflict between evolution and the Bible’s teaching on creation as “science vs. religion.” This fallacious concept has infiltrated the thinking of much of the church.  Evolution is not science; it is an anti-Christian religious philosophy disguised as science.  Unfortunately, most Christian leaders do not understand this distinction.  Many recognize that atheistic evolution is incompatible with the Bible, but because they lump evolution and science together, many Christian leaders and pastors are also suspicious of science.  Then, this misinformed, anti-science attitude is preached from the pulpit and taught in the Sunday School classroom.  There should be no tension between Christianity and science; the conflict is between Christianity and evolution.

How should the church address the concerns expressed in the Barna study?  Over a third of those surveyed stated that, “Christians are too confident they know all the answers.”  Perhaps many in the church have a problem with pride?  I know I do not have all the answers.  But, I know where all of the answers can be found – in the Bible.  This is the message that the church must communicate:  the church does not have all the answers; pastors do not have all the answers; ministries like Answers in Genesis, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, and Focus on the Family do not have all the answers; only the Bible ultimately has the answers to all of the important questions of life.

The other issue with the perception that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” is the post-modern, relativistic belief that truth is ultimately unknowable.  Many young people have been indoctrinated with the idea that truth is relative, that whatever one believes is truth for them.  This illogical, fallacious belief has also infiltrated the thinking of many church leaders.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NKJV), and “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32 NKJV).  Absolute truth exists; Jesus Christ is absolute Truth; and the Bible communicates the absolute truth.  Church leaders need to get this concept firmly ingrained in their thinking, and they need to communicate this clearly to their congregations.

How can the church change the perception that it is anti-science and out of step with the scientific world?  First, we need to properly frame the issues.  The church should not be anti-science.  God gave us science so that we can better understand and utilize the world He created for us.  Science has given us medical advances to cure disease, agricultural advances to produce better crops, and technology that allows us to share the Gospel to wider audiences in more diverse ways.  The philosophy and pseudo-science of evolution are anti-Christian; science is a gift from God.

Secondly, the church needs to stop teaching spiritual truth in isolation from the rest of reality.  Truth is truth; there is no distinction between spiritual truth and scientific truth.  Rather than avoiding scientific discussion, the church must embrace it.  Pastors and teachers need to be informed about the current scientific issues, and teach how to apply Biblical truth to these issues.  Young adults would have far less problem “staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries” if they were taught why there is no conflict between Biblical truth and real science.  1 Peter 3:15 tells us that we need to be prepared to defend the Gospel.  The church needs to equip science-minded Christians to stand up for the Gospel, and all Christians to defend the Gospel against the attacks of evolutionary pseudo-science.

The Age of the Earth and the Character of God

When taken at face value, without consideration of any extra-Biblical information, the account in Genesis 1-11 clearly describes the creation of the universe in six regular, 24-hour days, only a few thousand years ago.  Until recently, this is how it has been understood by the vast majority of Biblical scholars, and most critics of the young-earth position will concede this point.  Within the last couple of hundred years, however, an increasing number of scholars have reinterpreted these passages, in a variety of ways, to incorporate notions from other sources that would indicate that the universe is billions, not thousands, of years old.  This concept of a universe that is billions of years old does not come from the Bible itself, but rather from extra-Biblical philosophical, scientific, and historical sources.

How should Christians understand the question of the age of the earth?  Numerous books, articles, lectures, videos and websites have been created to debate the pros and cons of the various views.  Rather than rehashing the specifics of these views, I would like to focus on what the old-earth view held by many Christians today says about God’s character and nature.

If we presuppose the existence of God, and that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), there are some serious theological problems if the earth is actually billions of years old.  How can the Word of God describe a universe that is only a few thousand years old, if it is actually much, much older?

Some have suggested that that the Bible was never intended to be a book of science, but rather a book of spiritual truth.  They would claim that Genesis 1-11 was written so that primitive people could understand spiritual truth in the context of their unscientific culture, and that we, as advanced people, must reinterpret the text to fit science.  If this belief is true, it means that God was somehow unable to communicate spiritual truth to so-called primitive people while at the same time describing the creation of the physical world in a scientifically accurately way they could understand.  This means that God is neither all-knowing nor all-powerful.  He didn’t know how to accurately communicate both spiritual and scientific truth at the same time.  He couldn’t explain both, so He picked spiritual truth over scientific truth.  Such a god is not the omnipotent and omniscient God presented elsewhere in the Bible.  A god that can only explain spiritual truth at the expense of scientific accuracy would be a very limited god, and not a very good writer.  Such a god could not be the God Who parted the Red Sea, saved Daniel from the lion’s den, and raised Jesus from the dead.

Another option is that God knew how to communicate both the spiritual and the scientific truth accurately, but for whatever reason, He chose not to do so.  This would mean that God deliberately communicated scientific inaccuracies.  God is then a deceiver and a liar.  Again, such a god is not the God of the Bible.

If the universe is actually billions of years old, then Genesis 1-11 is wrong, and if it is wrong, then God is either a limited being with poor writing skills, or else He is a liar and deceiver.  Neither of these options is an acceptable description of the omnipotent, omniscient, and holy God of Christianity.  Yet, this is exactly what an attempt to cram billions of years into the Genesis text necessitates.

Understand, I am not saying that Christians who believe in an old-earth also believe that God is limited or a liar.  They believe in the same all-powerful, all-knowing, holy God as those who hold to the young-earth position.  However, when they do so, they are being inconsistent and foolish in their beliefs.  They must ignore the logical implications of their understanding.  They hold two mutually exclusive views to both be true, and since two mutually exclusive propositions cannot both be true at the same time, one of these beliefs must be wrong.  A belief in the character and nature of the God of the Bible, and a belief in a universe that is billions of years old, are incompatible and contradictory, and to hold both beliefs simultaneously is irrational.

An omnipotent, omniscient, and truthful God could not have inspired Genesis 1-11 to describe the universe being created in six literal days a few thousand years ago, unless it is historically and scientifically true.  God’s nature and character demand it.

Governmental Attacks on Religious Freedom

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

~ The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America

The First Amendment has been under attack for a long time.

The First Amendment contains two clauses pertaining to freedom of religion.  The first, known as the Establishment Clause, reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”  The second, known as the Free Exercise Clause, reads, “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

The Federal Government has been gradually stripping away the rights of most religions, including Christianity, while at the same time granting and establishing special protection for other religions, especially Secular Humanism.

The U.S. Supreme Court cited Secular Humanism as a religion in the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins (367 U.S. 488).  This allows Secular Humanists the same rights as any other religious people under that Free Exercise Clause.  Secular Humanist organizations are tax-exempt as religious organizations.  Followers of Secular Humanism cannot be required to take oaths to God, and can file for conscientious objector status based on their religious beliefs, and are otherwise free to exercise their beliefs free from governmental intervention.

Yet, in Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School Dist., 37 F.3d 517 (9th Cir. 1994), the 9th Circuit Court ruled that Secular Humanism is not a religion under the Establishment Clause.  This means that Secular Humanism can be taught in public schools.  Public school teachers can actively attempt to convert students to Secular Humanism during instructional time, but are prohibited from initiating any discussion of other religions.

The courts have absurdly determined that Secular Humanism is a religion for free exercise clause purposes, and it is not a religion for establishment clause purposes.  This, in effect, allows the government to establish Secular Humanism as the de facto state religion, which it has done.

This is why evolution is taught in public schools, but creation and intelligent design cannot be; why relativistic morality is taught, but absolute morality cannot be; why teachers can assign readings from Darwin, Freud, Dawkins, and Asimov, but not the Bible; and why commencement speeches can be on any topic, except belief in God.

The recent Obama administration ruling requiring all employee health care plans, including religious organizations, to cover birth control, including drugs that induce abortion, is another example of the attack on religion by the government.  This ruling is a direct attack on both the Establishment Clause – the government is establishing access to birth control as a right – and the Free Exercise Clause – the government is forbidding religious organizations from freely exercising their belief that providing birth control is immoral.  In effect, the Obama administration is usurping the free exercise of certain religions by establishing the values of the religion of Secular Humanism as law.

Some people would like to frame the attacks on religious freedom as a conflict between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives.  I disagree.  It is a battle between God‘s people and the Devil:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12, NKJV

I do agree that, as Christians, we must use the political process to defend our rights under the Constitution of the United States.  The pressure from religious organizations and from constituents in both the Republican and Democratic parties seems to be forcing the Obama administration to back down from its policy of mandating coverage for contraception in the health care plans of religious organizations.  However, when the fickle winds of public opinion blow in a different direction, there is nothing to prevent this administration – or another – from reinstituting this policy in the future.

I believe that it is far more important to remember that, ultimately, the problem is not political, but spiritual.  Satan has declared war on God’s people.  In order to halt the attacks on religion and reverse the decline of Christianity in America, Christians need to be on their knees, in repentance and supplication before God, and must actively and persistently work to change the hearts and minds of those around us, to lead people to a relationship with Jesus Christ, and to help them become His doctrinally sound, mature disciples.  This is the only viable, Biblically-sound solution to the attacks on Christianity.