The results of a recent Gallup poll show that only 38% of U.S. adults believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. These results mark the lowest level of belief in young Earth creationism since Gallup began asking this question in 1982. Meanwhile, the belief in atheistic evolution has reached an all-time high at 19%.
These results are disheartening, but not surprising, especially when you review the results broken down by demographic. For example, the belief in a young Earth is much more popular among Protestants than Catholics (50% compared to 37%), and it’s easy to see why. In a 2014 speech at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis said:
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so…The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it…Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
The Pope admits that a plain, straightforward reading of Genesis teaches a six-day creation, and according to him that’s simply too difficult for God to accomplish. It’s no wonder that most Catholics don’t trust God’s written Word when the visible head of their denomination publicly undermines it.
There’s also a direct correlation between regular church attendance and the belief in a young Earth. For example, 65% of those who attend weekly trust the Biblical creation account while only 45% of those who attend less than once a week believe in a six-day creation.
So doesn’t the survey itself identify both the problem and the solution? All we have to do is get more people to attend church on a weekly basis and preach messages that make the Bible more relevant to today, right? If so, then it would seem that Andy Stanley’s brand of “church for the unchurched” is the answer. We can attract both the soccer moms and the young adult crowd if we just turn the local church into equal parts coffee bar and rock concert, and we can bring in the husbands by preaching Valentine’s Day sermons about how to spice up your sex life. Done! Problem solved.
Not so fast. According to a 2016 study done by Lifeway Research and sponsored by Ligonier Ministries, 51% of those who self-identify as Evangelical Christians and who attend church at least once per week agree with the statement that “An individual must contribute his or her own effort for personal salvation.” That means that half of the people who regularly attend these evangelical megachurches probably aren’t even saved (see Gospel Objection #11).
Even more frightening is the fact that two-thirds of young people who attend church regularly will leave the church by the time they reach college age, and that Sunday School is actually contributing to the problem. That’s another strike against Andy Stanley’s methodology since many churches have adopted his Orange curriculum in their Sunday School classes.
I think Ken Ham hit the nail on the head in his book Already Gone, when he said that we need to supplement our preaching of the Gospel with apologetics to strengthen Christians’ faith in God’s Word. That goes for all ages, too. No more treating the Bible like a book of Aesop’s fables that we can strip-mine for principles on how to live your best life now. We can’t let our children spend five days a week learning scientific-sounding arguments for molecules-to-man evolution and then 1 hour a week watching cartoon vegetables and learning life lessons from storybooks.
Instead, parents and pastors need to broach difficult topics, ask tough questions, and present plausible explanations from well-educated apologists like the staff at Answers in Genesis. Presenting the Gospel in a way that appeals to both the heart and the mind, both the conscience and the logic, helps people to remain strong in their faith when they’re challenged by secular arguments.