Reading Time: 8 minutes

The upper grade students, (6th, 7th, and 8th grade), went to a science camp recently. This particular camp is located on the coast, not far from Santa Cruz, and its focus is oceanography and the impact humans have on this coastal resource.  This science camp is one we have enjoyed before and probably will again. 

One evening, the students were to role play the views of tourists, environmentalists, and fishermen and debate the use of local marine wildlife sanctuaries. The question pitted to each group asked how they would want to manage each wildlife sanctuary. Obviously each represented group had their own agenda, with some printed information to aid their arguments. Admittedly, the instructors favored the view of environmentalists, which happened to be the group who won the debate. No surprise.

In another class, the students went on a night hike along the shore learning about sharks and the impact humans are having on this top of the food chain predator. The instructor made a comment that last year we killed over 300 million sharks. The moment I heard that, I thought it sounded extreme. Dare I say it sounded ‘fishy’ to me. Three hundred million?  

I did some research the next morning and found out the number our young instructor, (24 years old), was quoting probably came from some researched published by Earth Negotiation Bulletin, “It is estimated that between 63 and 273 million sharks are killed per year, the range of the estimate portraying the lack of sufficient data.”1 The report itself points out the questionable range of data. I am guessing our instructor just rounded up because 273 was the highest estimate I could find. Several other estimates I found put the range closer to 60 to 100 million per year, others much lower in the 40 million range.   

The next morning I shared this information with a couple of other adults that were attending the trip with our school. They had the same impression that the number sounded extreme.

I share these examples to show that we all have our own agenda and those with a secular world view are no exception. They concern themselves with sharks, others look to the unborn. In the U.S. we have roughly 3300 abortions every day; world wide it figures to be over 40 million per year.2 Which do you care more about?  

Now don’t misunderstand me. Should we care that we are killing sharks in the tens of millions every year? Certainly, but I will never put the life of a human being below that of any animal.

It is no surprise that the topic of evolution was mentioned more than once in the course of some of the class sessions. During one of the classes, I was chatting with Joe, (one of the dads on the trip) about evolution, science, and apologetics. His son, who was also attending the science camp, may have overheard some of our conversation. He turned to me and quietly asked, “Mr. Glazier, doesn’t science make religion harder?” I shared with him that science confirms our faith and told him never to be afraid of science in light of his faith.  

This question of his highlights what our children are being fed by the secular media and in the educational system today. The idea that science conflicts with religious beliefs, and that in many cases our youth have to make a choice between the seemingly blind faith of their parents or the indisputable facts of science.  Do any of you remember a time when you could not explain your faith, the reasons you have for believing in God, or that Jesus is the Son of God? Imagine a setting in a secular classroom where the majority of students, often backed by teacher, don’t believe in God and your son or daughter is asked:

  • You really believe the earth is only 6000 years old with the overwhelming evidence of evolution?
  • You believe in God? You only believe that because your parents raised you as a Christian.
  • Jesus is the Son of God? Is that the best God can do to save us?
  • If God is all powerful and all loving, why is there evil in the world?
  • So you think I am going to hell if I don’t believe in Jesus? How tolerant is that?
  • With so many different religions, what makes you think you’re right and everyone else is wrong?
  • The Bible has so many errors, how can you believe it is the word of God?
  • You believe in a God that created everything? So why did He create evil? 

Does your church train youth to answer questions like that? Do your youth group leaders engage youth with material that is prepares them for the questions friends or classmates are going to ask them? Does your youth group train to engage the culture, or to disengage from the unbelievers because of the sin in their life. 

Sean McDowell wrote the book Apologetics for a New Generation, and encourages church and youth leaders to keep conversations culturally relevant. He also shared, “…when non-Christians and non-churchgoers give their opinions about those of us who are committed to the truth of the gospel, 87 percent believe the church is judgmental, 85 percent believe the church is hypocritical, and 86 percent believe Christianity is phony or unreal.”3 With numbers of counter Christian views or opinions approaching 90%, churches and youth group leaders should be doing all they can to impact youth today before they move out into the real world and are impacted themselves. 

Sure, we all want our own children to have friends or relationships that reflect their own beliefs, but continually preaching to our youth about love, grace, and forgiveness will not prepare them for questions that will rock their faith. After a few years, some just walk away with a ‘positive message’ and the idea that church and Jesus makes them a better person. If you want them to impact the culture and not be impacted by it, they must be exposed to the difficult questions before round one starts and they are knocked out.   

I can think of many teens and twenty somethings in our own community that no long attend our church, or any other for that matter. I see some Facebook posts, or hear 2nd hand what they are doing, (usually through my own children), and it is obvious following Christ is no long a priority in their life. Some have even gone on mission trips and shared with the congregation about their ‘experience’, but a few years later where are they?  

According to David Kinnaman, president of the Barna research group, “…59 percent of young people with a Christian background report that they have ‘dropped out of attending church after going regularly.’”4 Kinnaman also explores the reasons young people are leaving the church and he lists six, but for my purpose I want to focus on one. The idea that young Christians think the church is anti-science. I have explored why we lose so many young adults before in Missing in action twenty somethings, but considering the question from my 8th grade student, this post is quite suitable.  

Our young men and women are surrounded by science and technology. Answers to just about any question our youth would have can be found on the Internet. In fact, it is more likely that young adults will consult the Internet, (where everything is true), than their youth pastor, pastor, or parents.  Science and technology surround our everyday life and if anyone even hints at being anti-science they will be regarded as backward, uneducated, and ignorant.  

Science and technology put men on the moon, exposed millions of distant galaxies outside our own Milky way, allows us to travel world wide in a day, has cured countless diseases and suffering, and can even manipulate the human genome. Need to know how to fix a computer? YouTube. Need to ask someone from another country a question? Facebook. Need a new gluten free healthy recipe? Pinterest. I even heard that Cracker Jack caramel popcorn is replacing the little toy inside each box with a digital code to be used online. For those over 40 years of age, that borders on heresy, but they are keeping culturally relevant. 

Kinnaman writes, “Many young Christians have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible. Yet they see the mostly helpful role science plays in the world they inhabit – in medicine, personal technology, travel, care of the natural world, and other areas. What’s more, science seems accessible in a way that the church does not; science appears to welcome questions and skepticism, while matters of faith seem impenetrable.”5  

Earlier this school year, we had career in science day and the upper grades had a chance to view and experience new and different developments in science and technology. Fields included engineering, health, and agriculture. We even ate some cookies made from 100% cricket flour. They were quite good and are sold on Amazon.  

Over 50% of teens today plan on a career in the sciences, yet this is rare topic to hear from youth leaders or pastors standing in the pulpit. Kinnaman reports that less than 1 percent of youth pastors have talked about science in their sermons, but this is exactly what our youth want to hear about and see how it relates to their faith.6 One teen told me they can see how much he, (their youth pastor), loves Jesus, but it gets boring. Youth pastors all over America struggle with dwindling numbers. The youth get the love part, ad nauseam, but someone needs to explain if the earth is only a few thousand years old, how we can see galaxies millions of light years distant or how a loving God created evil.  

Science and faith in God are not at odds. Jonathan Morrow co-authored Is God Just a Human Invention and in chapter 2 he tackles the mistaken belief, but widely accepted view, by both believers and non-believers that science is at odds with Christianity. In 2006, when Dawkins published the best seller, ‘The God Delusion’ three other books published the same year were met with little fanfare. Harvard astronomer Owen Gingrich’s God’s Universe talked about how one can be a scientist and a believer in intelligent design. Then Paul Davies, a physicist known world wide, published Goldilock’s Enigma, also arguing for intelligent design. Finally Francis Collins, who was head of the Human Genome Project published in 2006, The Language of God.7 Have you read any? Ever heard of them? 

Mark Mittelberg surveyed a large number of Christians for his book, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, and several at the top had to do with God, evolution, and why do people rely on religion in an age of science and knowledge. He writes, “Whether it comes from…an acquaintance at work, a family member, or a young person who is confused by questions that come up in a science class at school, this is an issue that pervades our culture, one we better prepare for because it is not going away any time soon.”8 

How about starting the next youth group with communion and then share that the ‘bread’ was cookies made of cricket flour? Then talk about three movers and shakers in the field of science who just happen to be Christians. Talk about Copernicus, Newton, Pascal, Kepler, Pasteur and a host of others, but make sure you include some ‘living’ scientists today. Brilliant men and women who live, work, and breath science, but are lovers of Jesus because they understand what He has done for them. Maybe ask a guest speaker who is in the sciences, but a believer. They are not hard to find, and my guess is the youth would be engaged and impacted in a positive way.  

 

Sources:
1. “Summary of the Second Meeting of Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks.” Earth Negotiations Bulletin. Volume 18 Number 67. (2016): Web. 19 April 2016.
2. “Abortion Facts” Abortion No. The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. Abortionno.org n.d. Web. 19 April 2016
3. McDowell, Sean. Apologetics for a New Generation. Eugene: 2009. Print.
4. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. McDowell, Sean. Morrow, Jonathan. Is God Just a Human Invention? Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2010. Print.
8. Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2010 Print. 

 

Creative Commons License
Doesn’t Science make Religion harder? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

Pin It on Pinterest