Creation—the ‘dealbreaker’ for today’s generation
Survey results surprise youth worker
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, August 2011
When an organization like CMI talks about how their work directly relates to the youth issues of today, it’s likely that many will think it could just be a ministry ‘pushing its own barrow’. Even friends of CMI might think that it’s understandable that a ministry tries to highlight issues that justify its own relevance or existence.
That’s why we take especial notice when a totally unrelated Christian researcher discovers this issue for themselves—and even seems surprised by it, whether or not they have yet fully connected the dots as to why.
This is what happened when Ruth Lukabyo, Church History and Evangelism Lecturer at Sydney’s (Australia) Youthworks College, conducted a recent survey. These were 208 youngsters aged 11–14 from 11 different public (government) schools around Sydney, Australia.1 In that state of New South Wales, parents (as at the date of writing, anyway) may permit their children to opt in to a Christian religious education session. Permitted, though not funded, by the state, this is called ‘scripture class’ or just ‘scripture’. The parents of these so-called ‘scripture kids’ were likely (though not necessarily) Christians.
Lukabyo says that she would have therefore expected them to be “fairly well informed about the Christian faith”. The sorts of questions which Christian youth workers like her think are important for this sort of youngster, she says, are ones like, ‘Did Jesus rise from the dead?’, or ‘Why doesn’t God want us to have sex before marriage?’. But these types of questions turn out to be surprisingly absent from the list of what the young people themselves say most concerns them.
Instead, says Lukabyo, the survey shows that youth workers “should be dealing with the more foundational questions first”. They should not assume any of the basics. She says that these ‘church children’ (this could be your children and grandchildren) can’t even be assumed to believe that there is a God. Her survey found that the four top questions in their minds concerned such basic things as God’s existence and character. Of these, a full three out of four were questions that CMI deals with directly and continually, and are featured in our Creation Answers Book, i.e.:
- How can I know that God exists?
- How can I believe in a good God when there is so much suffering?
- Doesn’t evolution prove that God doesn’t exist?
She also refers to a book2 surveying the religious beliefs of Generation Y (born after 1980), which showed that less than 50% of that group even believed that there was any sort of God, and that the single biggest reason that this generation gave for loss of faith was “doing further study, especially science” (emphasis added).
The questions listed above from Lukabyo’s survey were chosen from a list provided. But her survey also gave the young people the chance to write down any other questions they had.
She provides a list of the most popular four of these as well—questions that she said came up repeatedly. Here, too, a full three out of four are right in CMI’s ball park. These are:
Note, by the way, that the fourth question in both lists were on a similar topic; ‘How could a good God send people to Hell?’, and ‘What are heaven and hell and how do you go to Heaven’? Though these topics have been addressed by CMI on creation.com, we wouldn’t claim them as a signature part of our frontline ministry in the way that the other six are. Regarding two of the other questions, she writes that at this age,
“adolescents are being taught the scientific law of cause and effect at school as well as the theory of the Big Bang. They seem to take to heart the maxim that every event has a cause: if the cause of the universe is God, then where did God come from, who made God? If the Big Bang is the ultimate cause of the universe, does this mean that we no longer need to believe in God?”
Concerning the latter question in particular, parents and teachers who do not start with acceptance of the authority of the historical Genesis account may be easily misled into saying that you can believe in both, rather than pointing out:
- The way in which big bang belief contradicts Genesis history;3 and
- The huge holes in big bang ideas, with even many non-Christian scientists strongly opposed.
While it’s not clear from her wording that the survey’s author has yet ‘connected the dots’ about the foundational importance of taking Genesis as history, we agree with her comment that youth workers “need to clearly engage with these scientific questions of causation”. Some time ago we wrote about a major denomination’s outreach group on university campuses. When we asked their ‘missionaries’ how they answered questions similar to the ones asked above, they replied that the official position was, “We try to avoid it” (see Christians ducking and weaving on campus).
Rather than shaking our heads helplessly at the mass exodus of young people from churches as they grow up, we need to spread the word more and more that this is the issue where the ‘rubber hits the road’ today, and that we have answers to these sorts of questions.
It requires a conscious effort from parents and leaders
Our children need our prayers, but they also need to be grounded from an early age with quality information that ‘evolution-proofs’ them, with repetitive reinforcement and encouragement all along their path. I wish we could fully share from our decades in this ministry of the many families we know where this has happened. The children have grown up to adulthood on a steady diet of Creation magazine and creation books—and they now attribute their rock-solid steadfastness in the faith to that ongoing influence. For example, Nikki C. emailed to say:
I thought I should take the time to thank you. I am not one of those people who found your materials helpful after struggling with the issue of evolution and my faith. Instead, I am one of those very blessed people who was introduced to your materials as a younger teenager before evolution became an issue. I then went on to study biomedical science at university adequately inoculated against the evolutionary propaganda that masqueraded as science.
“Together with my husband I look forward to now using your fabulous resources with our growing family and we are thankful to God for your reliable well researched information.”
Every week, somewhere in the world, CMI speakers are hitting the road sharing this information, raising eyebrows for those who have never heard the information before, and most importantly, with God’s enabling, lives are being forever changed.
But this is only where we are able. The reason we say this is because, like Lukabyo who conducted the above survey, so many good Christian churches today have still not made the connection. The reality is that there is a polarization when it comes to the creation issue in many churches. The problem can be summarized thus:
- They see the creation issue as divisive. One reason is that many in the church (youth in particular) have questions in this area. When they raise it, some other folk have what they think are answers. These sometimes involve saying, “It’s not important”, or “You can believe in God and evolution.” Then when others, puzzled, ask how that can be, a debate starts, often with all parties poorly informed on the issue.
- They also often think that as Christians we do not have answers to the origins issue (and answers that strengthen faith in the very words of Scripture). This is because of their view of mainstream science.
So, these good Christian churches just don’t deal with the issue. When many of the ones who have not been given satisfactory answers leave the church, the reaction is often, “See, the creation issue is divisive.”
As you can see, this tends to be somewhat circular. In short, they avoid the tough questions because they are worried that the answers won’t be satisfactory—but fail to realize that there are people leaving the church because they don’t provide satisfactory answers.
We are without excuse
At the time of writing (2011), CMI has been operating for some 33 years (in its various forms). Yet, we still often experience frustration at the way many churches simply fail to engage the issues. Generally, we’ve found it more so in many of the larger (mega) churches we’ve occasionally ministered in, who seem to want to stay away from the issue in case they offend anyone. Another factor is that CMI and many other good creation ministries are just viewed as another ministry along with hundreds of others that want a ‘piece of the action’ in the church. But this is far from representative of where we are ‘coming from’. As a ministry globally, we don’t even charge a set speaking fee. This is extremely rare for any parachurch group, because we all obviously have overhead costs in running a ministry. But we take this approach so as to not place any stumbling block in a church’s way to having ministry, and to remove any perceptions that CMI is in it ‘for the buck’.
We trust God by faith to help undergird the ministry’s costs of having an events department and sending speakers on the road. Thus, we trust that He will honor our commitment to share the Good News about His creation via the resources that we take along with us. We know from experience that these resources get passed around and circulated via family and friends, thereby multiplying our initial outreach efforts. In the providence of God, Nick W. was affected by such outreach when he wrote:
“First off, God bless your organization. Creation Ministries has answered my question if Christianity was scientifically sound or not. … I have discovered that it indeed is! You guys have blown me away and have renewed my understanding of the age of the earth among other things. Thank you so much, and don’t ever even think about stopping this ministry.”
In considering the importance of why this outreach needs to continue, Devin S. wrote:
“I just subscribed to Creation magazine and gave a small donation to your ministry. Things are tight for me and my wife right now, I have 2 teenage daughters also, I cannot think of a better Christian ministry to support than one that takes a face-value approach to the book of Genesis and boldly proclaims the Bible as our final authority.”
References and notes
- Lukabyo, R., What questions do adolescents have about the Christian faith? Accessed at www.youthworks.net on 4 February 2011. Return to text.
- Mason, M, Singleton, A., and Webber, R., The Spirit of Generation Y, Mulgrave: John Garratt pub., 2007. Return to text.
- In big bang ideas, the sun is supposed to be there for millions of years before the earth, a total reversal of the sequence of appearance in Genesis Chapter 1. In our experience, young people can easily see through flimsy ‘accommodationist’ notions once they see such contradictions between what the Bible says and what naturalistic theories claim. Return to text.