Andy Peck is appalled at the level of teenager’s ignorance about Jesus and says it’s time for Christians to fight back
Glass half full people have clearly valued some research which the Barna group have conducted of 1000 teens aged 13-17. This recent publication of UK based results follows the worldwide study of 25,000 teens which we considered recently. See here.
Headline stats say:
One third (34 per cent) of British teens say Jesus offers hope to and cares about people.
A quarter (24 per cent) of British teens say Jesus is trustworthy and generous (23 per cent).
Almost half (43 per cent) of all British teens believe Jesus was crucified.
More than one in three teens in the UK (37 percent) report some level of motivation to learn more about Christian scriptures.
54 per cent of British teens are justice oriented; they care deeply about injustice but lack confidence and commitment to act.
52 per cent of committed Christian teens believe that Jesus advocated for justice, but are unsure about the church and its leaders’ role in justice.
Reflecting on the results, David Kinnaman, CEO of Barna Group said. “It is encouraging to see they are open to Jesus, show interest in learning more about the Bible, and are motivated toward addressing injustice in the world. But we also noticed challenges, including British teens’ lack of confidence in their ability to make an impact, and their uncertainty about Christian church’s role in addressing injustice. Our goal for this study is to help churches and Christian leaders in the UK engage, disciple, and support this rising generation entering adulthood.”
Phil Simpson, Youth Development Lead, Alpha UK also found good parts when he said, “Teens in the UK seem to have a positive view of who Jesus was - with almost a third believing that he cared for people and carried hope. The challenge for Churches, and those engaging with young people is that these perspectives are mostly past tense. Nearly half of UK teens believe Jesus was a person who was crucified, however there is a significantly small percentage who believe Jesus is active in the world today, and the perception of this for the average UK teen is lower than the global perspectives of teenagers. The church needs to help them begin to see Jesus as someone who is alive, someone who can be encountered and someone who is active in the world in 2023.”
This is appalling
It is always good to accentuate the positive. but the statistics seem to suggest that any work with non-church young people will have to start at a very basic level with just 43% believing Jesus was crucified, a fact many would say is pivotal to any understanding of his life and ministry at all. We have a major educational challenge before we get onto any ethical or moral issues.
Imagine any field of study where the very basic building blocks are not in place. How can algebra be taught if children do not know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide?, Or imagine a conversation about geography if a teen believes the earth is essentially flat. Or a history chat where people queried whether Julius Caesar was alive - a parallel ‘truth’ that is less attested than the death (and resurrection) of Jesus.
In a world where religion and faith is divorced from history and any sense of reality, is there any surprise that teens’ beliefs should be so random and seemingly contradictory? Manuscript evidence for the Gospels suggests overwhelming evidence of their veracity, compared to other contemporary documents, which scholars accept as legitimate. To see the comparison go here. There is also strong evidence outside of scripture suggesting Jesus was crucified. If teens don’t even believe in his crucifixion, it is very hard to get much further in discussing what his death might mean,and the implications for them.
Have Christians acquiesced within this by not insisting that the same principles surrounding truth and knowledge should be applied to the teaching of Christianity as they are to any other subject? This survey reminds us that it’s time to sharpen our apologetic swords and slice through the nonsense purporting to be education that leads to these kind of survey results. It is not the teenager ’s fault they’re so ill advised.
May God help them and us to turn things around