Why do people- especially young people- reject the Christian worldview?
In this blog I want to explore the reasons and excuses that people give for why they reject the Christian faith. I will look at recent research polls and give a summary of some of my opinions on why this rejection takes place. This is important so that we can recognize a growing problem and effectively counter some of the reasons that are used.
The numbers of youth rejecting and abandoning Christianity is incredibly significant. I’ve heard numbers as high as 80 percent that are leaving Christianity by the end of college. According to Barna research 59 percent of kids turn their back on Christianity between the ages of 15 and 19. This number gets even higher- 70 to 75 percent after high school. Now, many of them return to the Christian faith when a crisis hits or when they start a family, but to keep to 1 topic I will discuss their reasons for unbelief.
Reason 1: “Churches are overprotective”. Young people feel like they are not free to be themselves in the church environment. They probably feel like their parents put unfair restrictions on them. I know from experience that that is a time in which we want less and less authority over us.
Reason 2: “Church seems shallow”. Apparently, to many youth, church does not communicate the deepest and most meaningful of life’s questions. It does not challenge them intellectually. While they want to advance in certain areas of knowledge, their church does not aid them in that pursuit. Their deepest thoughts are probably expressed and discussed outside of church.
Reason 3: “Church is against modern science”. This largely has to do with the creation evolution debate. Modern science pushes evolution and assumes that’s there is no logical harmony between religion and evolution. There are cliches floating around from Modern atheists that Christianity somehow holds the world back from advancing in science. Also, to accept the Bible you have to accept the possibility for events that lie outside the explanation of science.
Reason 4: “The Christian Church is judgemental toward sexuality”. Christianity calls homosexuality a sin. Christianity calls sex outside of marriage a sin. It teaches against lust (a sexual imagination). Similar to being overprotective, Christianity puts restrictions on sexual behavior and thoughts outside of a monogamous marriage. Human sexuality is a huge temptation, and when people are told to suppress it they can get very upset.
Reason 5: They don’t like the exclusive nature of Christianity. Christianity claims to be the only path to God’s salvation. With relativism on the rise, our youth like to think that sincerity and individual pursuit is enough to warrant salvation before (their idea of) God. They would rather that contradictory things be true then to call somebody wrong.
Reason 6: Doubts were not properly addressed. Since so many have already said that Christianity is shallow, it is not surprising that this follows. Many Christians do not explain or defend their faith very intelligently. When this is the case a challenge can seem very threatening. They may respond to the challenge aggressively and unintelligently. This makes it look like the youth’s doubts do not have any intelligent solutions. They may even get criticized for even having doubts come up.
These are the top 6 reasons that the Barna research group has come up with for why young people are leaving the church. These are fairly specific reasons. I have 5 general reasons why it appears that so many young people are turning it back on Christianity:
1. False conversion. We do not do our young people any favors by giving them an easy believism, phony sort of altar call just for the sake of getting them to raise their hand during a service. Repeating after me will not save them. In fact, this can give them a false sense of salvation while their hearts still remains distant from God.
2. Doubts. We should be the type of people that take other people’s questions and doubts seriously. We may consider somebody a strong believer, while on the inside, they have not yet made that decision. When doubts are ignored and questioning is discouraged, that can cause a person to run away from coming to faith. They will assume that since the questions weren’t taken seriously that there probably aren’t real answers to the questions.
3. Distractions. Some people get so caught up in the busyness of life that they forget to think about the very most important thing. This is especially true with young people in college. They stay up late and get up early, they are extremely social, and they are constantly thinking about school work. There doesn’t seem to be a convenient time for Christian worship, prayer, teaching, and fellowship. It is extremely hard (dare I say impossible) to have our hearts set on something that we don’t think about.
4. Deception. Some people are going to fall into churches that fail to teach the entirety of the Christian message. Many will get involved in cults or churches with weak teaching. When a false teaching is associated with a church that considers itself Christian, the person attending will probably associate that lie with Christianity as a whole. If they catch the lie, they may reject Christianity all together. Others will be deceived outside of church- by their professors, by friends, by famous skeptics, by their own ideas. The hierarchy of trust is pretty twisted among our youth.
5. Expectations. For some reason everybody expects an extremely high standard among all Christians. While a significant number of professing Christians are not really Christians, much of the world is not aware of the difference. They will put an extremely high expectations for pure moral and ethical behavior on anybody that calls himself a Christian. Whether they really are a Christian or not, when they mess up or offend somebody the offense is pushed all the way up the ladder to the individuals claimed worldview. This is not the standard applied to people in general, but it is applied to Christians. People should be prepared that we will screw up and let them down over and over.
With these 6 reasons from Barna Research and these 5 reasons that form my general perspective, we should see the context in which we encounter our generation of Christians. We should prepare ourselves to reverse the trend as much as it depends on us. You ought to realize the importance of apologetics to our Christian culture. We should be equipped to give intelligent answers whether they be toward doubts, toward science, or toward the deepest matters in life. We cannot continue to sit idly by and claim blind faith in the face of this rising skepticism. If we really believe Christianity is the truth, then we should be confident in our pursuit of difficult answers to difficult questions. But as we show a willingness to take our faith and worldview to the deepest level- whether spiritual, philosophical, or evidential- the doubts and reasons for unbelief will be given very little ground to stand on.