A little while ago I stumbled on a blog post about how some Christians tend respond to the doubts of their fellow believers and how that may actually be pushing doubters away.
My [the author’s] students say they encounter both reactions. One teen who is struggling to decide what she believes is discouraged because her parents’ primary response is, “Why can’t you just have faith, like we do?”
Another teen who is exploring alternative worldviews says his parents’ response is to denounce them: “You can’t prove that! You have no evidence.” As he tells me, “I need my parents to think ideas through with me, not just judge them.”
When parents and leaders react to questions by shaming or blaming, they may well drive their teens away. Both of my students have recently announced that they no longer consider themselves Christians.
Fuller Theological Seminary recently conducted a study on teenagers who become leavers in college. The researchers uncovered the single most significant factor in whether young people stand firm in their Christian convictions or leave them behind. And it’s not what most of us might expect.
Join a campus ministry group? A Bible study? Important though those things are, the most decisive factor is whether students had a safe place to work through their doubts and questions before leaving home.
The researchers concluded, “The more college students felt that they had the opportunity to express their doubt while they were in high school, the higher [their] levels of faith maturity and spiritual maturity.”
A 2009 study in Britain found that non-religious parents have a near 100 percent chance of passing on their views to their children, whereas religious parents have only about a 50 / 50 chance of passing on their views.
Clearly, teaching young people to engage critically with secular worldviews is no longer an option. It is a necessary survival skill.
Even though it sounded encouraging and pro-critical thinking, I felt it necessary to respond with a former Christian’s point of view:
The expectation that seems to have been left out of this post is that while believers should encourage honesty and critical examination, the only acceptable and “right” conclusion must be to re-affirm one’s faith and choose Christianity.
But what if the doubter has the courage to say “I’ve examined the evidence, prayed, searched, and discussed my doubts. The only reasonable conclusion I have come to is that Christianity is false.”
Will these parents, teachers, and pastors still encourage and support the reasoning and thorough examination of the faith when it leads to someone choosing something other than Christianity? Or does the support stop there because the desired outcome wasn’t achieved? Let’s be honest; believers only want someone to embrace doubt just long enough to come back to Jesus. Any other result is considered unacceptable and wrong.
What do you think about my take on it?
Some of the other replies made me chuckle:
… But Biblical faith is not irrational; it is based on reason: God did something and because of that we can believe he will do something else. That is reasonable. God said “Come, let us reason together.” And he often used reason to convince people. And he offered miracles as evidence. We need to realize that reason is the most wonderful gift that God gave mankind and use it. –Roger McKinney
… For you guys who need a scientific opinion on Scripture, check ANSWERS IN GENESIS. Pay a visit to their museum in Kentucky; get the books and videos. It is fascinating! –SF