Byfield: Is a massive youth exodus from the church really occurring?

[Ted Byfield] Is a massive youth exodus from the church really occurring?

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The continuing attempt of Alberta’s minister of education to force the province’s Catholic schools to stop teaching Christian morality in their sex-ed courses and teach the government’s version of morality instead makes immediately relevant what appears below. It is a chapter from a book I am currently writing. It’s on the rooted determination of bureaucracies to silence any Christian voice in the shaping of education policy, and how they co-opted an unwitting media to help them do it. It goes a long way back, but it is certainly working. We are losing young people from the faith in frightening numbers, not in the universities, but in the high schools.

VIDEO: Interview with j. Warner Wallace on issues specifically impacting beliefs of our Christian youth

Ever since my late wife and I became seriously Christian, back in the 1950s, we heard the cry that youth were leaving the church. But were they? Were tens of thousands of young people moving massively into a religious void, abandoning the churches that their parents helped to build and maintain? Yes, but they come back later, was the usual reply. Well, based on the best statistical evidence now available, some do come back, but most do not. They’re gone for good, not just from the family’s faith, but from any role whatever in what is of late being called “institutional” religion.

The best analysis of this exodus that I’ve ever seen was composed by J. Warner Wallace, an atheist and a homicide detective in suburban Los Angeles. He applied his sleuthing skills to demonstrate the deficiency of evidence supporting the historical credibility of early Christianity. To his chagrin, he found the evidence in its favour far wider and more valid than anything he had expected. In consequence, he became Christian himself. and a gifted apologist for Christianity. However, he also concluded that the youth exodus is real, is massive, and is deeply alarming. Here were some of his findings:

  • If current trends continue, in ten years, church attendance will be half what it is today.
  • 61% of today’s young adults, churched in their teen years, are now spiritually “disengaged.”
  • Intellectual doubt and scepticism is the chief cause of student departures. (Typical comments: “It didn’t make any sense anymore.” “Some stuff is too far-fetched.” “I think scientifically and there is no real proof.” “Too many unanswered questions.”)
  • 70% of teenagers in church youth groups stop attending church after high school.
  • 63% of teenage Christians don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
  • 51% don’t believe he rose from the dead.
  • 68% don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is real.
  • Only 33% of churched youth say the church will be a part in their adult lives when they leave home.

The chief cause of their apostasy is intellectual. Young people simply don’t believe the biblical accounts. They put belief in Christ’s Resurrection and belief in Santa Claus in a trash basket marked, “Beautiful stories for children. Not appropriate for anyone over 12.” Wallace has one other immensely significant finding, notably that this loss of belief does not usually occur (as was previously assumed) in university, but in high school. A key place to look for the cause is therefore in the curriculum of the secondary schools.

The Christian writer Nancy Pearcey makes many things clear in her 2010 book, “Saving Leonardo.” One of them is this: If Christians suffer any further losses in the Culture War, their dwindling numbers will have reduced them to cultural insignificance by the century’s end. Many, if not most Christians discount such pessimism as a failure in faith. But faith does not consist in firmly shutting one’s eyes to self-evident fact. Jesus told us to “watch for the signs.” He didn’t say to hide from them. And one of the signs is the fact that the philosophy underlying modern public schools is almost wholly secularist. Thus they stand four-square against Christianity. They are not the neutral factor that they pretend to be. They are an adversary, an enemy.

Their ultimate influence is to deny Christianity any effective voice in shaping public policy, or in influencing the school curriculum. For the people of Alberta, the Canadian province I live in, shocking evidence of this is immediately at hand. We have a government that denies key parental rights, that firmly closets the identity of people creating what they describe as a wholly new syllabus for our schools. Meanwhile, it seeks vigorously to abrogate the constitutional right of Catholic schools to teach Christian morality. Instead it orders them to seek wide public acceptance of sexual conduct long regarded as depraved, threatening their constitutional right to government funding if they refuse.

This article continues at [Ted Byfield Blog] Is a massive youth exodus from the church really occurring?


  1. I have read Wallace’s book and it is excellent! A great source of material that can be used very effectively in discussions with people who are skeptical of the historicity of Jesus, His death and resurrection–presented in a way that makes it easy to relate it to modern-day policing like you see on TV, which, of course, makes it more palatable to the skeptic. Highly recommended–and, no, I don’t get a commission. 🙂

  2. Kudos to Ted for writing another book! (I can only hope that, when I am his age, I will be half as intellectually and physically spry as he is!)

    While the attack on absolute truth by the educational system is certainly a factor in a concerted effort to marginalize, if not outright eliminate, Christianity, I suggest that it is but one of the many tactics that are being use to achieve the objective.

    The ultimate objective and main strategy were clearly presented by self-declared Humanist, John J. Dunphy, who wrote an article about Humanism in The Humanist Magazine entitled “A Religion for a New Age”. In his article, Dunphy wrote, in part, “… teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool day care or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism …” .

    The doctrines of this “religion for a new age” are also clearly presented in the three Humanist Manifestos and can be reasonably itemized to include (but not limited to): atheism, a “self-existing” universe (aka the Big Bang), evolution, moral relativism; situational ethics, sexual licence, an unfettered right to abortion, euthanasia and suicide, and global governance with mandated wealth transfer between nations.

    See how closely these doctrines align with the curricula that are taught and the values that are promoted in our schools?

    So the overarching strategy is to take over the schools and proselytize Humanism. The teaching of subjective truth is one of the tactics, and is derived from the Humanist doctrines of moral relativism and situational ethics. (BTW, if someone claims there is no such thing as absolute truth, ask them if that statement is absolutely true. The whole idea is self-refuting.)

    Two other Humanist doctrines that are taught in school—taught, ironically, as absolute truths and, consequently, not open question—are the Big Bang and evolution. Both of these are intended to destroy the historicity of and, therefore, the credibility of, the first 11 chapters of Genesis and, therefore, the entire basis of Christianity.

    As one atheist put it, “It becomes clear now that the whole justification of Jesus’ life and death is predicated on the existence of Adam and the fruit he and Eve ate. Without the original sin, who needs to be redeemed? Without Adam’s fall into a life of constant sin terminated by death, what purpose is there to Christianity? …. None. What all this means is that Christianity cannot lose the Genesis account of creation … the battle must be waged for Christianity is fighting for it’s very life.”

    Or, as another atheist put it: “… evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.”

    Sadly, too many Christians and Christian churches, including, unfortunately, the Pope and the Catholic Church, have felt the need, for whatever reason, to compromise in these areas, subordinating the authority of Scripture to the authority of ‘science’. (So instead Sola Scriptura it has become Scriptura sub Scientia.) Alas, they seem unaware that the observations from science are far more aligned with expectations based on the assumption that the first 11 chapters of Genesis is real history than they are with the Big Bang and evolution and that atheists generally view such compromise, not as an encouragement to become Christians, but as confirmation that they are correct.

    The antidote to this is a sound understanding of what the scientific observations actually are and how they align with the Bible. But that’s for another post.

  3. “Intellectual doubt and scepticism is the chief cause of student departures. (Typical comments: “It didn’t make any sense anymore.” “Some stuff is too far-fetched.” “I think scientifically and there is no real proof.” “Too many unanswered questions.”)”

    “A key place to look for the cause is therefore in the curriculum of the secondary schools.”

    Here is the crux of the issue.

    None of the indicated typical comments are, in fact, correct but we do a very poor job of explaining this to or youth whether in church, Sunday school, youth group or at home. Coupled with the onslaught of Humanist doctrine that they get, unopposed, at school, particularly with respect to the Big Bang and evolution, is it any wonder that young people develop “Intellectual doubt and scepticism”.

    Interestingly, a recent survey of university students (, clearly demonstrated that a common factor amongst those students who were still attending church, was the presence of previous exposure to how scientific observations in all scientific disciplines are consistent with what would be expected if the Biblical account of creation, in the first 11 chapters of Genesis, is real history, but inconsistent with the corresponding accounts in the Big Bang and evolution.

    It is essential that we equip our youth to fulfill the directives of 2 Peter 3:15 and 2 Cor 10:5, not only with respect to the moral and theological (absolute) truths of Scripture but, at least as importantly, with respect to the authenticity of the creation account and how science supports it, while “demolish[ing] arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge [word] of God”, i.e. the Big Bang and evolution, that they are taught in school.

    I will readily admit that this can sound like a monumental task for someone without a science background, but it is not as hard as one might think. There are excellent resources available on the web to answer questions. For example, has over 10,000 articles covering all the scientific disciplines and many theological questions as well. There is a new article featured on the website 6 days a week so, just by reading this regularly, one can become increasingly well equipped.

    Also, the organization behind the website, Creation Ministries International, with offices in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and the US, provides speakers with science degrees in a broad range of disciplines to speak at local churches either in the main service and/or at youth events and/or in teams to conduct weekend conferences. There are no set fees for these speakers. You can check to see if there is a speaker scheduled to be in your area in the near future by visiting the website and clicking on the “events” tab. You can also arrange for a speaker to come to your church by contacting your in-country office. For Canadians, that office is located in Kitchener ON and the phone number is 1-877-746-3543.

    OK. I know that this sounds like a commercial—and I guess, in a sense, it is. I have been speaking for CMI(Canada) since 2011. If this has offended anyone, I sincerely apologize. However, while this issue is often expressed in terms of declining church attendance, that is not the issue. The issue is not how many people are attending church; the issue is how many people are going to be attending in heaven. This is a matter of eternal salvation for our youth and needs to be effectively addressed. I (obviously) believe CMI is an organization that can help with this but but if no one knows about it, how will that happen.

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