My father and I recently updated his classic book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict. A handful of people have asked me why we even bothered. After all, don’t we live in a “post-truth” world dominated by feelings?
It certainly is true that this generation tends to see the world through the lens of their feelings. When discussing the meaning of a biblical passage, or a current cultural issue, I find my students increasingly saying things like, “I feel that…” or “It feels to me…” And especially on issues of sex, marriage, and gender, feelings tend to trump science.
Have students therefore abandoned truth? Does the focus on feelings mean we should give up teaching evidence for the faith? For two reasons, this would be a colossal mistake.
First, young people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). And part of being made in the image of God is having minds that are designed to understand and navigate the world. This is a universal truth about human beings. In a talk I do called “True for You, but Not True for Me,” I try to help students see that they base their daily decisions (sometimes even moment-by-moment decisions) on what they think is true: What time does class start? What assignments are due? Where is practice after school? And so on. As image-bearers, young people are designed to live their lives based on what they think is true.
Second, research shows that this generation cares about evidence. Unsurprisingly, teens today are confused about many issues. For instance, according to the recent Barna Gen Z study, 58% agree with the statement, “Many religions can lead to eternal life; there is no one true religion.” And 33% seem to believe that sincerely believing something makes it true.
Nevertheless, nearly half of teens say, “I need factual evidence to support my beliefs” (46%). Let me say it again to be sure it sinks in—nearly half of teens today desire factual evidence to support their beliefs. Of course, this doesn’t mean half of students are on an earnest spiritual quest for truth. But it does indicate an openness to (and recognition of) the importance of evidence and truth.
So, what issues plague this generation in particular? According to the Barna study, there are 7 big barriers to faith for non-Christian teens. And these are some of the same issues Christian kids wrestle with as well:
- Evil and suffering
- Christian hypocrisy
- The Intersection of science and faith
- Christianity is viewed as a fairy tale
- Injustices committed in the history of Christianity
- Church is no longer important
- A bad experience with church or a Christian
Interestingly, these factors are a combination of truth-related issues and relationships. Students struggle with their relationships with Christians and their experience of church, along with difficult questions about the faith. That’s why effective ministry today must be intentionally relational, but also deeply concerned about providing thoughtful answers to tough questions.
How to Use This Video Study
This amazing evidence for the reliability of the Bible and much more can be found in the new Evidence that Demands a Verdict video curriculum, taught by Josh and Sean McDowell. It’s an ideal resource for a church to teach foundational beliefs to their congregation. God never intended our faith to be a blind faith, but rather an intelligent faith based on evidence. The video sessions and study guide have been specifically created to help Christians know what they believe, why it is true, and how they can communicate biblical truth to a skeptical world. Make it a key part of your new members’ or believers’ classes and small group strategies.