Category Archives: Apologetics

The Atheist Delusion

Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.

Why Prophecy?

Dr. Ed Hindson, a guest on The John Ankerberg Show recently said,

“Bible Prophecy is not written to scare us.
Bible prophecy is written to prepare us.”
 

I have never felt we need to be prepared more that I do now.  People I talk with are afraid and uncertain about the future.  Because I believe studying prophecy is essential to our living with hope and certainty in uncertain times, I wrote a brief article entitled Why is prophecy important? that I would love to share with you.

Many people are scared to study prophecy, while others just simply don’t see the importance of it.  Did you know that of the 31,124 verses in the Bible, 8,352 contain prophetic material? That means that 27% of the entire Bible contains prophetic material.

I would like to encourage you not to be fearful of Bible prophecy but instead, choose to be prepared in these uncertain times.  Please take the time to read this article – it will only take a few minutes.  I believe you will benefit greatly from it. 

Click HERE to READ Why is Prophecy Important?

Albert Mohler Blog: “How Will We Live Now? Francis Schaeffer’s “How Should We Then Live” After 40 Years”

In this essay, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. reflects on Francis Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then Live? forty years after its initial publication. Mohler writes:

“Schaeffer perceived the presuppositions of the looming humanistic and secular worldview as showing up first in art and high culture. He was right. While most evangelicals were watching Gunsmoke and taking their kids to the newly opened Walt Disney World, Schaeffer was listening and watching as a new worldview was taking hold of the larger culture.”

Click Here to Read More

Why you Should Watch The Atheist Delusion by Ray Comfort

the-atheist-delusion-dvd_3d-1Ray Comfort recently released a new movie, “The Atheist Delusion” which is free on YouTube. The movie is an hour long and is a response to Richard Dawkins’ famous book The God Delusion.”

The movie’s description states:

Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.

The Atheist Delusion is a mix of interviews on college campuses, television clips, beautiful sceneries and more.  There is a great structure to the movie and it progresses nicely to a final goal. It is tremendously interesting and it really does a good job of keeping interest throughout. It would be a fantastic movie to watch with the family, the youth group, Bible study or even the entire church. There are several reasons why watching movies like these are great for believers, here are some that come to mind.

It glorifies God

This movie encourages the watcher to be amazed by God and his creative power. It continually glorifies God and His beauty.  It is very informative about how the world is designed, how the body works and how the mind rejects Him despite the fact that He is so obvious. It causes confidence in the believer, and it evokes praise in their heart to the Lord. It also makes the believer thankful to the Lord for salvation and it pushes the believer to long for heaven. All this glorifies the Lord.

It’s encouraging to believers

I believe that ultimately apologetics ends up being more for believers than for unbelievers. What I mean is that God saves people not through evidence but through the preaching of the Word. Archaeological discoveries, scientific discoveries, and movies like these, can’t convince an unbeliever only scripture can (Romans 10:17) but it can have a great effect on the believers confidence in the Bible. In turn that believer is encouraged and more likely to share the Gospel. 

It shows that atheists aren’t as confident as they let on

Talking to an atheist can be intimidating, they seem so certain about their position, they throw science at you as if it proves evolution and Christians run away scared. This movie and others like this really have a way of giving confidence to believers. Movies like these show that atheists, and really all unbelievers, have so much doubt and are on time to time they rethink their “certainties”. There is no such thing as an atheist, and the Bible is completely true when it says that the fool says in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 14:1) and  when it says that all people know God exists but suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).

It teaches you to ask good questions

Ray comfort is a master of asking questions. We all know how to lead someone to Christ. As many preachers have said, if you know enough to get to heaven you know enough to help someone else get there. What we are not very good at is asking good questions. Ray Comfort really does a great job of making people think and he does it by asking great questions.

It encourages evangelism

I can’t write a blog post without mentioning evangelism. This whole movie is about sharing the gospel, and to do so confidently. The movie has the effect of not only making the believer more confident in the truth found in Scripture, but it makes talking to atheists less intimidating. Everyone thinks about eternity. Everyone knows death is around the corner, and we all know that we have serious issues when it comes to our sin. Movies like these tend to remind the believer that people don’t have life figured out, and when you can get them away from others who encourage them in their unbelief, you find that you can have very profitable conversations with even the staunchest of atheists.

I highly encourage you to watch this movie and to share it with your families, and churches. I am very thankful for Ray Comfort and how the Lord has used him to encourage thousands of Christians to be confident in the Bible and to be motivated to share the Gospel.

Source: Why you Should Watch The Atheist Delusion by Ray Comfort

Ravi Zacharias: Does God Condemn People From Other Religions?

Ravi Zacharias is a well-known apologist who is not afraid of tough questions. Originally from India, Zacharias is used to thinking outside of our American-church box. Which is perhaps why he is able to answer the following question as well as he does:

Isn’t it vastly unfair to claim that all the people who don’t believe in Jesus are condemned to hell?

Zacharias starts by addressing the myth that since Jesus came only 2,000 years ago, everything that came before him (including our beliefs) would take precedence over him and the religion his life inspired. But 3,000 years before Jesus, we see Abraham, who grew up in a polytheistic society, yet found the one true God.

In Genesis 18:25, we are told “the Judge of all the earth will do that which is right.” This verse is in context to the judgment that was coming upon Sodom and Gemorrah as a result of their disobedience. Zacharias claims the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham show us that God “speaks through our consciences. He speaks through creation. He speaks ultimately through his word and then in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.”

Additionally, Zacharias claims “God doesn’t really send anybody to hell. We make our choice.” Ultimately, the decision to submit to our heavenly Father or not is our choice. Because, as Zacharias explains, “he will not violate our wills.” God is very concerned with our freedom. “That sacred gift of my freedom is given to me by God,” Zacharias says.

CS Lewis has a pertinent quote that Zacharias draws on: “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who bend their knee to God and say to Him, ‘Your will be done;’ or those who refuse to bend their knee to God and God sys to them, ‘Your will be done.’” Zacharias uses this quote to make the point that God will let us make our own choices—even if those choices land us in hell.

Zacharias ends his discussion by saying God’s “will is the most beautiful thing you can pursue.”

For other Ravi Zacharias Question and Answer videos, check out the following:

Does God Favor a Particular Gender?

Does Suicide Send You to Hell?

Is It OK to Just Follow Christ’s Commands?

The post Ravi Zacharias: Does God Condemn People From Other Religions? appeared first on ChurchLeaders.com.

What makes a religion false?

Christians believe that Christianity is the only true religion; thus all other religions are false. What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith found in the pages of Scripture?  In other words, what must an individual believe in to be saved?  There are 5 essentials.  Can you rattle them off? In this piece over […]

The post What makes a religion false? appeared first on Berean Research.

How Can We Convince a Nonbeliever That the Bible Is the Word of God?

Before I try to answer that question directly, let me make a distinction that is important at the outset. There’s a difference between objective proof and the persuasion or conviction that follows. John Calvin argued that the Bible carries both persuasion and conviction in terms of its internal testimony—the marks of truth that could be found just by an examination of the book itself—as well as external evidences that would corroborate that substantial evidence to give solid proof for its being the Word of God.

Yet the last thing people would want is a book telling them they are in desperate need of repentance and of a changed life and of bowing in humility before Christ. We don’t want that book to be the truth. Calvin claimed that there is a tremendous bias and prejudice built into the human heart that only the influence of God the Holy Spirit can overcome. Calvin distinguished between what he called the undicia—those objective evidences for the trustworthiness of Scripture—and what he called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary to cause us to surrender to the evidence and acknowledge that it is the Word of God.

But I think this is a critical issue upon which so much of the Christian faith depends. The Bible makes the claim that it is the unvarnished Word of God, that it is the truth of God, that it comes from him. God is its ultimate author and source, though indeed he used human authors to communicate that message. In speaking with people about this, we have to go through the laborious process of showing first of all that the Bible as a collection of historical documents is basically reliable. The same tests that we would apply to Herodotus or Suetonius or any other ancient historian would have to be applied to the biblical records. The Christian should not be afraid to apply those kinds of historical standards of credibility to the Scriptures, because they have withstood a tremendous amount of criticism from that standpoint, and their credibility remains intact. On the basis of that, we come to an idea. If the book is basically reliable, it doesn’t have to be inerrent or infallible; it gives us a basically reliable portrait of Jesus of Nazareth and what he taught.

We move from there in linear fashion. If we can on the basis of general reliability come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ did the things that history claims he did, it would indicate that Jesus is more than an ordinary human being and that his testimony would be compelling. I would move first to a study of the person of Jesus and then ask the question, what did Jesus teach about Scripture? For me, in the final analysis, our doctrine of Scripture is drawn from the teaching of Jesus and from our understanding of who he is.

”How does one convince a nonbeliever that the Bible is the Word of God?“ and other questions can be found in our Questions Answered section. To learn more about this topic download R.C. Sproul’s free Crucial Questions booklet Can I Trust the Bible?.

Why Would A Good God Allow Evil? – Part 2 (Cold Case Christianity Broadcast #73)

In this episode of the Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast, J. Warner Wallace completes his talk on the problem of evil. Are there good reasons why an all-powerful, all-loving God would allow his creation to suffer, or does evil demonstrate that God doesn’t exist? This presentation was excerpted from a talk given at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills.

Source: Why Would A Good God Allow Evil? – Part 2 (Cold Case Christianity Broadcast #73)

UPDATED: Are Young People Really Leaving Christianity?

58(Updated on September 30th, 2016)

Much has been written about both the illiteracy of teenage believers and the flight of young people from the Church. Many have observed this trend, and I too have witnessed it anecdotally as a youth pastor (and shamefully, I contributed to the trend for some time before I changed course). Some writers and Christian observers deny the flight of young people altogether, but the growing statistics should alarm us enough as Church leaders to do something about the dilemma. My hope in this post is to simply consolidate some of the research (many of the summaries are directly quoted) so you can decide for yourself. I’m going to organize the recent findings in a way that illuminates the problem:

Research Related to Spiritual Life of Teenagers:

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Oxford University Press, 2005

Book Findings: The majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, religious beliefs and practices, and its place in their lives. The de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what they call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’: A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth; God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions; the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; and good people go to heaven when they die.

Book Findings: Dean affirms what Soul Searching called ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’ “If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation.”

Book Findings: More teens are embracing a nebulous belief in God. Yet there’s been an “explosion” in youth service since 1995 that Lewis attributes to more schools emphasizing community service.

Research Related to the Attitude of College Professors:

Study Findings: “Nearly three-quarters” (72%) of faculty members describe themselves as politically liberal, according to 1999 data from the North American Academic Study Survey (NAASS), up from 39 percent in a 1984 survey by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Study Findings: About 25% of college professors are professing atheists or agnostics (5-7% of the general population is atheistic or agnostic). Only 6% of college professors said the Bible is “the actual word of God”. 51% described it as “an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts.” 75% believe religion does not belong in public schools.

The Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty
The Institute for Jewish & Community Research Review – Staff (2007)

Study Findings: The study revealed several findings related to the political and religious views of professors, including the following key discoveries:

Most Faculty Believe in God, but Atheism Is Significantly More Prevalent among Faculty Than the General Public
The proportion of faculty who self-identified as atheist is over five times the proportion of people who self-identified as atheist in the general public.

Faculty Are Much Less Religious Than the General Public
The American public is much more likely to say that religion is very important in their everyday lives and to attend religious services more frequently than faculty.

Faculty Feel Warmly about Most Religious Groups, but Feel Coldly about Evangelicals and Mormons
Faculty have positive feelings toward Jews, Buddhists, Catholics, and Atheists.

Faculty Feel Most Unfavorably about Evangelical Christians
This is the only religious group about which a majority of non-Evangelical faculty have negative feelings.

Faculty Are Almost Unanimous in Their Belief That Evangelical Christians (Fundamentalists) Should Keep Their Religious Beliefs Out of American Politics
Faculty who are secular/liberal are more likely to favor separation of religion and government, and those who are religious and conservative are more likely to advocate a closer connection between religion and government.

Although Faculty Generally Oppose Religion in the Public Sphere, Many Endorse the Idea That Muslims Should Express Their Religious Beliefs in American Politics
Faculty are far less likely to endorse Evangelical Christians expressing their beliefs in American politics.”

Compromising Scholarship; Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education
George Yancey (2011)

Book Findings: “Religiously conservative academics are at a distinct disadvantage in our institutions of learning, threatening the free exchange of ideas to which our institutions aspire and leaving many scientific inquiries unexplored.”

Research Related to the Decreasing Christian Population in General

American Religious Identification Survey
Barry A. Kosmin, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keysar (2001)

Study Findings: The number of people who identify themselves as Christian has dropped from 85% in 1990 to 76% in 2008. About 52% of American adults identify themselves as Protestant or other non-Catholic Christian denominations, according to the. That’s down from 60% in 1990.

Research Related to the Flight of Young People from the Church

Southern Baptist Convention Data
Pinkney, T.C., Remarks to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, Nashville, Tennessee (2001)

Study Findings: Data from the Southern Baptist Convention indicates that they are currently losing 70-88% of their youth after their freshman year in college. 70% of teenagers involved in church youth groups stop attending church within two years of their high school graduation.

Study Findings: The results indicate that teens are more religious during their early teen years, and that religiosity begins to decline as teens near adulthood. When asked, “How important are your religious beliefs?”, 63% of 13- to 15-year-olds answered “very important,” compared to 52% of 16- to 17-year-olds. Church attendance also drops during the teen and young adult years and begins to climb as adults age. Fifty-four percent of teens aged 13 to 15 reported having attended church in the past seven days, as did 51% of 16- to 17-year-old teens. The figure drops to 32% among 18- to 29- year-olds but rises again to 44% among 50- to 64-year-olds and 60% among those aged 75 and older. 69% percent of 13- to 15-year-olds report being members of a church or synagogue, compared to 59% of 16- to 17-year-olds, 60% of 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 80% of those aged 75 and older.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Family Life Council
Southern Baptist Council on Family Life report to Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (2002)

Study Findings:  88% of the children in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18

Revolution
George Barna, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, IL (2005)

Book Findings: If current trends in the belief systems and practices of the younger generation continue, in ten years, church attendance will be half the size it is today.

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Oxford University Press (2005)

Book Findings: Students leave faith behind primarily because of intellectual doubt and skepticism (page 89). “Why did they fall away from the faith in which they were raised?” This was an open-ended question there were no multiple-choice answers. 32% said they left faith behind because of intellectual skepticism or doubt. (“It didn’t make any sense anymore.” “Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe.” “I think scientifically and there is no real proof.” “Too many questions that can’t be answered.”)

Study Findings: A majority of twenty-somethings – 61% of today’s young adults – had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged.

The Last Christian Generation
Josh McDowell,  David H. Bellis, Green Key Books (2006)

Book Findings: 63% of teenaged Christians don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of the one true God. 51% don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead. 68% don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is a real entity. Only 33% of churched youth have said that the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home.

Assemblies of God Study
Dayton A. Kingsriter (2007)

Study Findings: At least half and possibly over two-thirds of Christian young people will step away from the Christian faith while attending a non-Christian college or university. Between 50% and 66.7% of Assemblies of God young 
people who attend a non-Christian public or private university will have left the faith 
four years after entering college.

LifeWay Research Study
LifeWay Research and Ministry Development (2007)

Study Findings: 70% will leave the faith in college. Only 35% eventually return. 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 – both evangelical and mainline – who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23. 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church. “The most frequent reason for leaving church is, in fact, a self-imposed change, ‘I simply wanted a break from church’ (27%).” “The path toward college and the workforce are also strong reasons for young people to leave church: ‘I moved to college and stopped attending church’ (25%) and ‘work responsibilities prevented me from attending’ (23%).”

Unchristian
Barna Research Group director David Kinnaman, Baker Books; (2007)

Book Findings: Christians in their 20s are “significantly less likely to believe a person’s faith in God is meant to be developed by involvement in a local church. This life stage of spiritual disengagement is not going to fade away.”

Rethink: Is Student Ministry Working?
Steve Wright, InQuest Ministries, Inc. (2007)

Book Findings: 63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God. 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths. 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. 65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity. 68% don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real entity

Book Findings: Among American adults, emerging adults are significantly less religious.
Generally speaking, the importance and practice of religion declines among young adults. No more than 15% of the total emerging adult population, embrace a strong religious faith. 30% tend to customize their faith to fit the rest of their lives. They often have strong religious upbringing but tend to be more discriminating about what they will adopt. A smaller group, about 15%, believe in some higher power but are not sure what that is or means. About 25% of the emerging adult population may claim to be religious or even appreciate religion—but it simply does not matter. 5% of all emerging adults have had little to no exposure to religious people, ideas, or organizations. 10% of emerging adults are  skeptical of religion and reject the idea of personal faith. They tend to hold critical, derogatory, and antagonistic attitudes towards religion.

Book Findings: 90% of youth active in high school church programs drop out of church by the time they are sophomores on college.

Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do tostop it
Ken Ham, Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard, New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (2009)

Book Findings: Church youth already are “lost” in their hearts and minds in elementary, middle and high school – not in college as many assume.

Book Findings: “Unless religious leaders take younger adults more seriously, the future of American religion is in doubt.” The proportion of young adults identifying with mainline churches, is “about half the size it was a generation ago. Evangelical Protestants have barely held their own.”

“Spirituality in Higher Education”: The Higher Education ResearchInstitute at UCLA
Alexander W. Astin, Helen S. Astin, and Jennifer A. Lindholm (2010)

Study Findings: 52% of college students reported frequent church attendance the year before they entered college but only 29% continued frequent church attendance by their junior year.

Study Findings: Current data seems “to suggest that about 40-50% of students in youth groups struggle in their faith after graduation.”

Book Findings: The departure of young people from the Church is acknowledged and several categories of “leavers” are identified, including “Post Modern Leavers”, “Recoilers”, “Modern Leavers”, “Neo Pagans”, “Rebels” and “Drifters.

Book Findings: Nearly three out of every five young Christians disconnect from their churches after the age of 15.

Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood
Christian Smith with Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson and Patricia Snell Herzog, Oxford University Press (2011)

Book Findings: Young adults are unable to think coherently about moral beliefs and problems. Young adults have an excessive focus on consumption and materialism as the good life. The prevalent lifestyle of young adults includes routine intoxication and drug usage. The sexual encounters of young adults are not practiced in an environment of physical, mental, or emotional health. Young adults appear to have an inability to care about, invest in, and hope for the larger world through civic and political participation.

Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity
Larry Taunton, Fixed Point Foundation (2013)

Study Findings: Taunton interviewed members of atheist college groups (the Secular Student Alliance and Freethought Societies). “These college groups are the atheist equivalents to Campus Crusade: They meet regularly for fellowship, encourage one another in their (un)belief, and even proselytize. They are people who are not merely irreligious; they are actively, determinedly irreligious.” Taunton eventually recognized an emerging pattern in those he interviewed, and he identified several characteristics of young “determinedly irreligious” college students:

1. They had attended church at one time
2. The mission and message of their churches was vague
3. They felt their churches offered superficial answers to life’s difficult questions
4. They expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously
5. Ages 14-17 were decisive
6. The decision to embrace unbelief was often an emotional one
7. The internet factored heavily into their conversion to atheism

America’s Changing Religious Landscape
Pew Research Center (2015)

Study Findings: “The percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time… One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33)… As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46.4 By contrast, the median age of mainline Protestant adults in the new survey is 52 (up from 50 in 2007), and the median age of Catholic adults is 49 (up from 45 seven years earlier).”

Choosing a New Church or House of Worship
Pew Research Center (2015)

Study Findings: In this seemingly unrelated study, researchers surveyed religious “nones” (78%) who said they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood, and asked them to explain, in their own words, why they no longer identified with a religious group. They discovered the following themes:

About 50% said a “lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention ‘science’ as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said ‘I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.’ Others reference ‘common sense,’ ‘logic’ or a ‘lack of evidence’ – or simply say they do not believe in God.”

About 20% said they were in “opposition to organized religion in general. This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.”

About 18% said they were “religiously unsure. This include(d) people who (said) they (were) religious in some way despite being unaffiliated (e.g., ‘I believe in God, but in my own way’), others who describe(d) themselves as ‘seeking enlightenment’ or ‘open-minded,’ and several who (said) they are ‘spiritual’ if not religious.”

About 10% said they “may hold certain religious beliefs, but they (were) not currently taking part in religious practices. And most of them simply (said) they (didn’t) go to church or engage in other religious rituals, while others (said) they (were) too busy for religion.”

Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back
Betsy Cooper, Ph.D., Daniel Cox, Ph.D., Rachel Lienesch, Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., Public Religious Research Institute (2016)

Study Findings: “Today, nearly four in ten (39%) young adults (ages 18-29) are religiously unaffiliated—three times the unaffiliated rate (13%) among seniors (ages 65 and older). While previous generations were also more likely to be religiously unaffiliated in their twenties, young adults today are nearly four times as likely as young adults a generation ago to identify as religiously unaffiliated. In 1986, for example, only 10% of young adults claimed no religious affiliation. Among young adults, the religiously unaffiliated dwarf the percentages of other religious identifications: Catholic (15%), white evangelical Protestant (9%), white mainline Protestant (8%), black Protestant (7%), other non-white Protestants (11%), and affiliation with a non-Christian religion (7%).”

“In the 1970s, only about one-third (34%) of Americans who were raised in religiously unaffiliated households were still unaffiliated as adults. By the 1990s, slightly more than half (53%) of Americans who were unaffiliated in childhood retained their religious identity in adulthood. Today, about two-thirds (66%) of Americans who report being raised outside a formal religious tradition remain unaffiliated as adults.”

CARA National Study
Mark M. Gray, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (2016)

Study Findings: (While CARA only surveys young Catholic believers, their results parallel the findings of Christian surveys as reported in this article). “The first CARA study, commissioned by Saint Mary’s Press, involved a survey with a random, national sample of young people, ages 15 to 25, who had been raised Catholic but no longer self-identified as such. The second CARA study, made possible through funding from the John Templeton Foundation, involved a survey of a random sample of self-identified Catholics, ages 18 and older, and focused on matters of religion and science.” Most young people said they left the Church by the age of 13: 63 percent said they left between the ages of 10 and 17. 23 percent say they left before the age of 10. Those who left cited the following reasons:

“Because I grew up realized it was a story like Santa or the Easter Bunny.”

“As I learn more about the world around me and understand things that I once did not, I find that the thought of an all-powerful being to be less and less believable.”

“Catholic beliefs aren’t based on fact. Everything is hearsay from back before anything could be documented, so nothing can be disproved, but it certainly shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

“I realized that religion is in complete contradiction with the rational and scientific world, and to continue to subscribe to a religion would be hypocritical.”

“Need proof of something.”

“It no longer fits into what I understand of the universe.”

While this survey of books and studies is less than complete, it does provide us with powerful cumulative, circumstantial evidence supporting the claim that young people are leaving the Church in large numbers. In addition, it appears that many of these young people are leaving based on their experiences in college. Studies related to the attitudes of University professors may account for this, and many ministries have tried to develop a response to the dilemma. Some studies have attempted to isolate potential responses that can be employed by parents and Church leaders:

Research Related to Potential Responses to the Flight of Young People from the Church

Book Findings: There appears to be no shortage of teenagers who want to be inspired and make the world better. But the version of Christianity some are taught doesn’t inspire them “to change anything that’s broken in the world.” Teens want to be challenged; they want their tough questions taken on. “We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake,” Churches, not just parents, share some of the blame for teens’ religious apathy. “…The gospel of niceness can’t teach teens how to confront tragedy. It can’t bear the weight of deeper questions: Why are my parents getting a divorce? Why did my best friend commit suicide? Why, in this economy, can’t I get the good job I was promised if I was a good kid?”

Book Findings: Parents are the most crucial and powerful socializers in the lives of their adolescents. The adolescent years are not the time to disengage as a parent. Growing adolescent independence often necessitates negotiation. If adolescents experience parents who are religiously withdrawn and functionally absent, then the faith of an emerging adult likely will also be vacuous, directionless, and empty. The more adults involved in the lives of adolescents, the better off they will be. This will mean that ministries to youth and families must find ways to incorporate loving, agenda-free adults into the lives of the ministry. Ministries to youth matter now more than ever. With the breakdown of the family and the systemic erosion of adult support, congregational youth ministers are more necessary than ever before.

Book Findings: Parents of students who did not leave the church emphasized religion twice as much as those who students who left the church. Students who stayed in church through college said that the first thing they do when they have doubts or questions was to talk to their parents and then read their Bibles.

Book Findings: Nearly 25% of the 18- to 29-year-olds interviewed said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” most of the time. 22% also said the church ignores real-world problems and 18% said that their church was too concerned about the negative impact of movies, music and video games. 33% of survey participants felt that “church is boring.” 20% of those who attended as a teenager said that God appeared to be missing from their experience of church. Many young adults do not like the way churches appear to be against science. Over 33% of young adults said that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” and 25% of them said that “Christianity is anti-science.” 17% percent of young Christians say they’ve “made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” Two out of five young adult Catholics said that the church’s teachings on birth control and sex are “out of date.” 29% of young Christians said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and feel they have to choose between their friends and their faith. Over 33% of young adults said they feel like they can’t ask life’s most pressing questions in church and 23% said they had “significant intellectual doubts” about their faith.

There you have it; a short summary of some of the research being done on the exodus of young people from the Church and some of the reasons they give for their departure. Can a case be made that young Christians are leaving the Church in record numbers? Yes. Can a case be made that many of these young people are leaving because the culture around them has impacted them deeply and caused them to question the truth claims of Christianity? Yes, again. So, what are we going to do about it? What can be done? That’s a topic for my next post.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Source: UPDATED: Are Young People Really Leaving Christianity?

Evolution Just Got Harder to Defend

Dr. Stephen Meyer explains in his book “Signature in the Cell” why this may be Darwinism’s Achilles heel. In order to begin evolution by natural selection, you need a self-replicating unit. But the cell and its DNA blueprint are too complicated by far to have arisen through chance chemical reactions. The odds of even a single protein forming by accident are astronomical. So Meyer and other Intelligent Design theorists conclude that Someone must have designed and created the structures necessary for life.

There’s an old story about a chemist, a physicist, and an economist stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat but a can of soup. Puzzling over how to open the can, the chemist says, “Let’s heat the can until it swells and bursts from the buildup of gases.” “No, no,” says the physicist, “let’s throw it off that cliff with just enough kinetic energy to split it open on the rocks below.” The economist, after thinking a moment says, “Assume a can opener.”

There’s more than one trade that deals in assumptions. The way Darwinists approach the origin of life is a lot like that economist’s idea for opening the can. The Darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection explains everything about life, we’re told—except how it began. “Assume a self-replicating cell containing information in the form of genetic code,” Darwinists are forced to say. Well, fine. But where did that little miracle come from?

A new discovery makes explaining even that first cell tougher still. Fossils unearthed by Australian scientists in Greenland may be the oldest traces of life ever discovered. A team from the University of Wollongong recently published their findings in the journal “Nature,” describing a series of structures called “stromatolites” that emerged from receding ice.

“Stromatolites” may sound like something your doctor would diagnose, but they’re actually biological rocks formed by colonies of microbes that live in shallow water. If you visit the Bahamas today, you can see living stromatolites.

What’s so special about them? Well, they appear in rocks most scientists date to 220 million years older than the oldest fossils, which pushes the supposed date for the origin of life back to 3.7 billion years ago.

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Cult Warning Signs

ABOUT WHOM THIS IS WRITTEN

This post was written to deal with the sub-Christian sect and organization known as “Abolish Human Abortion (AHA),” but can apply to virtually any number of such sects that fit the definition of “cult.” As time progresses and as our Lord tarries, many such cults will arise and Christians would be wise to apprise ourselves of their tactics and strategies.

TERMS

The word cult has several definitions. The term itself invokes thoughts of black-robed and hooded mystics conducting midnight ceremonies deep in the forrest glen. And although that might be accurate of certain cults, most of the time it isn’t that dramatic.

The first and most benign definition of cult is that it is simply a system of religious belief directed toward an object or person of worship. In other words, a cult is basically just a religion, and Christianity qualifies.

Another definition of cult is that it is simply a system of religious belief directed toward a mortal man. In this case, Christianity wouldn’t qualify because Christ is the immortal God-Man. Those cults that would qualify in this definition typically include stand-offs with the ATF and drinking poisoned Kool Aid.

A third definition of cult would be a group that holds to beliefs that are aberrant, false and damnable. This definition of cult isn’t always helpful, because it’s completely subjective based upon who is doing the judging. To Christians, cult might apply to Islam, Buddhism, Animism or any false religion on Earth.

A fourth definition of cult is used in a specifically Christian context, and is determined by historical orthodoxy, and would include those groups ruled heretical or schismatic by church council or creed. For example, this might include Montanists or Judaizers.

A fifth definition of cult is similar to the fourth, but includes any group that claims to represent the Christian Church, but is clearly not, whether or not the belief is ancient enough for historical orthodoxy to have officially denounced it. This definition includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, who even though they weren’t condemned by any historic council, practice the Arian heresy and so they’re to be considered a cult. It might include the Hebrew Roots movement, who even though they weren’t addressed by historic creed or council, practice the Galatian heresy and must be considered accursed.

In this helpful guide that provides warning signs of cult behavior, the characteristics below fall under the fifth definition of a cult. But for for the sake of clarity, instead of using the term cult, we’ll use a term that’s more precise and less confusing (not having four other definitions to contend with), sub-Christian sect. The fifth definition of cult is a sect (a group holding to heretical beliefs that put them outside Christianity) and it is sub-Christian, meaning that the group professes Christ and claims to be Christian.

THE WARNING SIGNS

If you want to discern sub-Christian sects, watch for the following warning signs (these are numbered so you can list the Warning Sign Number when you see the behavior demonstrated in social media; for example, “Cult Warning Sign #8).

PLEASE NOTE: Sub-Christian sects do not necessarily have all the warning signs as listed. Likewise, the presence of a single warning sign does not mean the practitioner is by necessity part of a sub-Christian sect. Orthodox Christians can sometimes fall into these practices, whether due to zeal or foolishness. If more than just a few are present, however, you might just be dealing with a sub-Christian sect.

1. Sub-Christian sects often purport to be the only authentic believers, and characterize all others as sell-outs, compromised, or watered-down imitations of the real Church or of real Christians. This tactic has been particularly powerful since the Restorationist Movement in the mid-19th Century. They will speak of “restoring” the church and going back to the “real church” that was lost in the Apostolic Age. This belief eventually causes them to reject the Visible Church.

2. Sub-Christian sects focus on proselytizing believers rather than evangelizing the lost. The false teachers the church was warned about in Acts 20:30 come into the church, appearing to be disciples, only to “draw men after themselves.” Satan desires to destroy Christians, and typically leaves the pagan alone. Sub-Christian sects, like their lord and master, Satan, spends most of their time trying to proselytize professing, church-going Christians rather than win the lost.

3. Sub-Christian sects spend an inordinate amount of time lobbying for approval of the church-at-large, desperately asking (or demanding) acceptance. Of extreme strategic importance to the schismatic is having established churches lend the sub-Christian cult credibility or to embrace them as orthodox. A massive amount of time and resources of the sub-Christian sect will be spent trying to project themselves as orthodox. Those within orthodoxy simply don’t have to spend much – if any – time desperately trying to gain acceptance by the established church, but sub-Christian sects have to.

4. Sub-Christian sects engage in victory-by-victimhood, projecting themselves as virtuous and long-suffering victims of marginalization or mistreatment. These sects “cry foul” at every given opportunity, clinging to the status of victimization in order to signal help from unsuspecting Christians who are drawn in at the accusation of mistreatment, playing on the good but naive intentions of believers. It could be called the “Servetus Syndrome,” in which five-hundred years after the death of a heretic, people still give sympathy and credence to one who (although he should not have been burned at the stake) was still a heretic and should have been marked as a schismatic and shunned from society. Every accusation against the sect is met with charges of “slander” or “persecution,” a martyr-syndrome that manifests itself in crying for help from well-meaning believers.

5. Sub-Christian sects engage in double-dog daring “are you saying I’m not a brother in Christ” strategy designed to force the critic to anathematize or accept them. A very popular tactic, these schismatics will demand that you call them a “Brother in Christ” or a “fellow Christian” or dare you to say they aren’t. If you concede they seem to be a fellow Christian because the confess orthodoxy on certain soteriological matters, then their charge is that you’re “attacking fellow Christians” and YOU will be made out to be the schismatic. If you say they aren’t Christians, then they’ll demand you explain why, given they agree with this point of theology or that point of theology. They’ll then make you to be an uncharitable curmudgeon. Don’t fall for this. You are not obligated to affirm or disavow anyone’s salvation based upon their profession alone (heretics lie).

6. Sub-Christian sects make their beliefs as nebulous and ill-defined as possible, so as to confuse their opponents and make them harder to discern. They claim “straw man” at virtually every criticism, yet don’t define their convictions clearly enough to be properly understood. Schismatics do not like confessions or exhaustive faith statements, because they like to have beliefs that are fluid and ill-defined. Because their goal is achieving for themselves their own disciples, they find that a wide and shallow theology is more conducive to accomplishing their goals, as it is less exclusive as to who can follow them.

7. Sub-Christian sects commonly twist words and phrases from their intended meanings (also known as ‘equivocation’) to make themselves appear orthodox. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses advertise celebrating Easter, but only speak of the crucifixion because they don’t believe in a bodily resurrection – and yet, people seeing their fliers at Easter time assume they believe in the resurrection. AHA speaks of their protests (which include picket signs and disrupting church services) as mere “exhortation.” Andy Stanley claims he believes in “inerrancy,” but means that term far different from the way others understand it. Again, this is to fool people into assuming their orthodoxy.

8. Sub-Christian sects are dishonest about the details of how their organization or ‘fellowship’ operate. They want to purport that their sect is just another church, but in order to continue the charade, have to conceal the real truth regarding the details of their organization. Those who follow after them will find out the details after they’ve already been inducted. Pay close attention as to how many people leave the organizations once they’ve joined. Often, the sub-Christian sects have “large back doors” through which a sizable proportion of their converts leave after being within them long enough find out their real beliefs.

9. Sub-Christian sects portray their beliefs as common or ordinary as a means to deflect criticism. Theonomists – those who believe the Mosaic judicial law (including penology) is obligatory for all nations and times – will say that the term “theonomy” is limited to its etymological definition of “God’s Law,” when in fact it means far more than that. AHA claims that the organization is synonymous with abortion abolition, when in the fact the majority of its work is directed towards converting Christians to Sectarian Minimalism and following after their leaders. These sects reduce their beliefs to a simple, often-repeatable mantra that lacks controversy, hiding their actual beliefs and intentions.

10. Sub-Christian sects prefer to project themselves as movements or ideologies rather than as organizations, in order to insulate themselves from criticism. Almost every sub-Christian sect in the last 170 years (since the Restorationist Movement) has claimed that their sect was just a grass-roots or “organic” movement, repudiating “organizationalism” or “insitutionalism.” They repudiate the label of organization (or denomination, etc…) even though they fit the qualifications of such. This way, they can argue that it is a move of the Holy Spirit and not the subtle guise of spiritual schemers. This also insulates the organization from criticism regarding the claims of more honest members, who are sure to be radicalized and ostracized for their unorthodoxy.

11. Sub-Christian sects have a tendency to rove in packs in social media, and they call for help from fellow sectarians in the event of argumentation.  Infiltrating one social media group at a time, the sect targets seemingly vulnerable subjects and strategically “run together” to intimidate, annoy, or in some way coerce Christians into either following after them or risk being abused, shamed or shunned if they speak out against them. This is a very successful and common strategy, as it appears the movement is far larger, when it only has a small handful of highly motivated adherents.

12. Sub-Christian sects often try to win arguments through a victory-by-volume approach to argumentation. The schismatics produce an over-abundance of blogs, articles, books, videos and (in 2016) Internet memes to simply repeat over and again the same talking points. Schismatics, because they are by nature law-oriented and works-focused (as opposed to being Gospel-focused) are highly motivated (their righteousness depends on it), deeply fanatical, tireless individuals who will dedicate the many hours upon hours necessary to win a single argument. Their goal, after all, is building up their organization. Schismatics often believe they’ve won an argument simply because they’ve used more words.

13. Sub-Christian sects often apply ecclesiastical pressure to their critics, taking advantage of orthodox church structure (which they themselves often lack) to silence the opposition. These sects will find out information about their critic, and use it to call their church, pastor, or ecclesiastical authorities (using Sub-Christian Sect Warning Sign #4), accusing them of slander, violating the 9th Commandment, or mistreating of a “fellows Christians.” Often, the threat of controversy alone is enough pressure to silence opposition.

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