As late as 2014, 70% of Americans were still professing Christians.
In 2009, a Barna Research Study found that just 0.5% of American adults between the ages of 18 and 23 held to a biblical worldview. Some of the results of that study included:
- Just 28% of adults (and 47% of born again Christians – less than half) believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior.
- 27% of all adults (40% of born again Christian adults) believe that Satan is a real force.
- 34% of adults (46% of born again Christian adults) believe in absolute moral truth.
In an article just released on May 9, 2017, Barna wrote:
- Only 17% of Christians who consider their faith important and attend church regularly actually have a biblical worldview.
- 61% of practicing Christians embrace at least one of the following ideas rooted in New Spirituality…
All people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.
Meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is.
Karma – i.e. if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.
- 54% resonate with postmodernist views such as…
No one can know for certain what meaning and purpose there is to life.
What is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.
If your beliefs offend someone or hurt their feelings, they are wrong.
- 36% accept ideas associated with Marxism.
- 29% believe ideas based on secularism.
Based on all of the above information, it is reasonable to conclude that our culture is at the peak of a post-Christian Era.
Why the disconnect? I believe that the answer lies in generations of Americans failing to impart their faith to their children and the next generation via apologetics and intentional discipleship. This may be the result of simply taking our faith for granted, assuming that our children will follow in our footsteps.
More often than not, though, I believe it is something far more serious.
- We don’t know what we believe.
- We have a general idea of what we believe, but we don’t know why and cannot defend it.
- We don’t fully believe – i.e. we have doubts that we have done nothing to resolve, scriptures that we don’t agree with, and/or doctrines that we believe are outdated.
This is where apologetics comes in. If you are new to apologetics, it comes from the Greek word, “apologia” which means, “to give a defense” as used in 1 Peter 3:15,
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” (NKJV)
In other words, we are commanded to be prepared to give a defense of our faith to all who ask. I don’t know if you have ever noticed, as I have, how much more prepared are people of other faiths in this respect than are we who serve the one true God and the Savior of the world. Muslims, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, and others – especially atheists (yes, I consider atheism a faith) – can shut most Christians down very quickly in a religious discussion. To combat this and bring glory to God and people into His kingdom, we must study the scriptures daily and become skilled in apologetics. Read articles and watch videos produced by apologetics ministries, enroll in some online apologetics courses if you can afford it, but more than that, heed Luke’s words in Acts 17:11…
“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (NKJV)
Luke commended the Bereans because, after listening to Paul and Silas, they would go home and study the scriptures diligently for themselves, which is how many of them came to faith in Jesus. The best way that I have found to do this is to download both a Bible app (I love You Version) as well as an app with a Bible Concordance (Blue Letter Bible is a great one that is available on both Android and iPhone – ask someone for help if you’re not sure how to use it) and read and study daily.
When I am reading, if I come across a verse that I don’t understand, I will look it up on my concordance app and look at each significant word in the original language, examine other scriptures that contain the word and try to get an understanding for myself of the verse (I learned this method from Chuck Missler). If I am still confused, I will do a Google search on the topic or verse and read articles and commentaries from trusted sites. If, after that, I still don’t understand, I will make a note in my Bible app (you could do the same in a prayer or devotional journal) and ask God to help me understand. It may take some time, but you can depend on God’s faithfulness to illuminate your understanding of His Word – after all, that is why the Holy Spirit came. This process will help you to become more solid in your faith with every passing day and enable you to defend your faith instead of wavering every time a challenge is raised.
Second, we cannot be afraid to ask questions. Some are raised to believe that questioning makes us “bad Christians,” but ignoring our questions can take us down a road toward rejecting Christianity altogether. God is not afraid of our questions, but tells us time and again to ask (Mt. 7:7; 1 Pet. 5:7; Phil. 4:6-7; Jer. 33:3). The error comes when we question with the wrong motivation – out of skepticism and doubt, in an attempt to rationalize our disbelief rather than in a quest for truth. The Pharisees were somewhat infamous for this kind of questioning, but one of them broke the mold.
John 3 records a late night conversation between a man named Nicodemus and Jesus of Nazareth. Nicodemus believed that Jesus came from God because of the signs that He performed, but was still unconvinced concerning Jesus’ identity. As Jesus expounded on why He came, Nicodemus asked many questions. Jesus did not rebuke Nicodemus as He did so many others, but patiently answered every question because He knew what was in his heart. It is believed by most scholars that Nicodemus became a disciple of Jesus, most likely as a result of this discussion (John 7:45-53; 19:38-42).
Third, we have to know what we believe. As evidenced by the statistics at the beginning of this article, it is far too common for Americans to call themselves Christian while rejecting many of the core tenets of the faith and accepting worldly teachings. Often, we don’t even realize that we are doing it. We see this as aspects of Eastern religions have infiltrated the church and the majority of Christians embrace Darwinian Evolution and other philosophies that stand in direct opposition to the Word of God. Some argue that things like this don’t matter, but these are the very things that have led many astray. Once we accept one concept or practice that goes against the Word of God, whether it be the age of the Earth, the method of God’s creation or anything else, it becomes easier to accept more and more until we are far away from God and don’t know how we got there. This is what Peter was talking about in 1 Peter 3:15. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. “Sanctify” means to separate from profane things and make holy or to revere. Because God made Himself so accessible to us through the cross and the resurrection, it can be easy to forget about His holiness. Peter did not forget. Earlier in chapter 1, verses 13-16, he writes…
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
The Israelites of the Old Testament were chastised for adopting the practices of the foreign people that lived near and among them. This was not about race or ethnicity, but about the gods they worshiped and the pagan practices they engaged in. Throughout the Bible, especially the New Testament, we are called to sanctify ourselves, to behave as pilgrims and sojourners in this world, to be in the world but not of it, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, etc. Separation from the world is something that God has always called His people to and it cannot be accomplished apart from knowing what the Word of God teaches and making every word a part of our belief system. Apologetics and discipleship are an integral, but too often cast aside, part of our faith. It is not enough to go to church on Sundays. If we want to please God and to develop an unshakable faith that will sustain us through any trial or challenge, we must become engaged with His Word, find out what it says and learn how to defend it. Can you imagine having a relationship with another person who refused to listen to you, who dismissed half of the things you said as nonsense, or who allowed other people to slander you without ever raising their voice in your defense? It would be impossible and so it is with God.
Finally, and most importantly, we have to find a way to impart our faith to our children and the next generation. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (NKJV)
This verse is echoed verbatim in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 and in similar verses across all of Scripture (click here for more). Herein lies the solution to breaking through all of the competing voices that our children have to deal with on a daily basis. First, we are to love God with all of our being, with everything we have. Our children (and others that we influence) will see that and for better or worse, they have a tendency to imitate our behavior. We will never be perfect, but if they see us repent when we mess up and do what we can to correct it, then they will not see us as hypocrites but as fallen people who love God and are doing our best to serve Him.
Then, everything that we learn from God and about God, we are commanded to teach to our children continually – when we are sitting in our homes, driving to the store, out fishing or on a family vacation, before we go to bed each night and when we get up in the morning. This means placing God at the center of our lives and using every possible opportunity to talk about Him and His Word – not in a self-righteous manner as the Pharisees did, but with humility, reverence and love.
When we put all of this together – apologetics and intentional discipleship – it will give us and future generations our best shot at reclaiming our culture for God and becoming the people that He has called us to be.