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October 20, 2008


I was just talking to a friend about this same topic last week. She recommended a book that she is currently reading that helps answer this question: Why Christian Kids Rebel, Dr. Tim Kimmel. I have it ordered and can hardly wait to learn more.

I've heard a lot about the problem of young people leaving the church after leaving home for college, and usually I hear the solution is to get into church youth groups and teach the kids that there are good reasons to believe in the claims of Christianity. While I agree that more needs to be done, I'd like to suggest that the problem is less about knowledge than it is about our basic sin nature.

I grew up in a Christian home, read Josh McDowell and knew all the reasons why Christianity was true, yet when I left for college (in 2000) I stopped going to church entirely. Why? Because I wanted to run my own life and do what I pleased (which incidentally didn't include drinking or sleeping around.)

I recently returned regular church attendance, not because I learned any knew reasons shy to believe, but because I was finally truly convicted (intellectually and emotionally) of my depravity and need for Christ's redemption.

I guess this is a long way of saying that it's not always about the mind; more often it's about the heart. So, in addition to teaching apologetics, I would suggest a lot of prayer for Christian youth.

In my experience the seriousness with which people intellectually engage with issues related to their faith is often massively disproportionate to the way they intellectually engage with their non-religious specializations, whether academic or otherwise. The curriculum of Bible studies for college-aged people usually seems to be about 10 grade levels behind their concurrent university studies. It is perhaps no wonder that their faith and their church begin to look silly, post high school graduation. STR is to be commended for attempting to correct this trend. However, the intellectual standards found here are still quite far below what one encounters at a research university in the average upper division undergraduate course.

Would you rather have a large group of unbelieving youth in your church who everyone thinks are Christian or a much smaller group that is in most part born again? Calvinists, of all people, should know it really is not a battle for the mind but instead a battle for the soul which God has already secured.


As one of the large percentage that went to church before college but doesn't attend now that I'm here, I wanted to comment as an "insider" into the issue. Many college towns attract idealistic, trendy, modern churches; on the flip side, they often have old churches led more by tradition than by the intellect and the spirit.

My fiancee and I, both strong Christians, have visited about 12 churches; we've had some horror stories, let me tell you (I won't get into details, but rest assured that it runs the gamut of crazy theology). We're talking everything from Presbyterian to Church of God. In the end, I found the best worship and Christian growth in a group of like-minded college Christians. We meet twice a week, study the Bible, pray, and hold each other accountable. We're working our way through The Abolition of Man now (third time reading it and it's still incredible).

My hunch is that college towns attract intellectually dead churches, and thus many college Christians find small groups to take their place. Once they move past college they likely will move to an area that once again has healthy Christian growth.

That's my shpeel, anyways. Thoughts?

That is a very interesting perspective Zack, and frankly one that never even crossed my mind. It very well may be the case that many students form small-groups because of the lack of a strong local church in the respective college towns.

My observations and experiences, however, have been quite different. I think there is a twofold problem that plagues young Christians. First, families and churches fail to provide a foundation for the student to place their faith. And second, the college world of academia seems to strongly advocate anti-Christian thought. Of course I am speaking in generalities and am aware of outstanding families and churches who prepare the student for the world they face and also professors who intelligently and masterfully present Christian thought. Unfortunately, these are the exceptions to the rule.

The problem seems to be that these secular professors often confront and even attack Christianity and systematically tear apart the faith of many students who were standing on a very poor foundation inherited from the church and their family. Many times students are left without answers to the problems presented to them.

Also, I think the college environment is not very conducive to younger/weaker Christians. Many Christian students are faced with peer pressure and worldly activities they normally would not engage in yet find themselves partaking. Combine this with the already dwindling faith and you add gas to the fire!

Anyways, just my thoughts as a recent college grad and a present grad student.

They say you write (talk) about what you know best... so at least I know I can give my own witness accurately.

I grew up in the church coming from a fairly devout family; my father's side is extremely devout (Protestant) and my mother's side being somewhat mixed Jewish and Christian with a grandfather that got into the Freemasons (very bad indeed), came out kinda confused but all together Methodist.
I "knew" Christ all growing up. I did not know really what it meant to call Him "Lord" though and that be the case in all aspects of my life. I knew the Word backward and forward, but didn't live it when it came to the crunch. Not sure I had the maturity to.

So, in my twenties I essentially went AWOL. I still professed being Christian, but it sure wasn't by my life that it showed. Church became sporadic if not at all. The funny thing is, and Shane Claiborne talks about this in one of his books, "The Irresistible Revolution," I didn't really see real Christianity around me, the real Jesus didn't evade me, I had simply not met the Lord that I'd read about. As committed as my family, and esp my father was, as a youth I naturally sought excitement and adventure and I was never shown what an absolute radical Y'eshua had been. Modern American Christianity bored me.

Christ should do anything but bore us. He didn't get crucified because He bored the people to murderous riot.

So by His Mercy I was slowly brought back to really seek Him - not before hearing so much "Historical Jesus" and secular teaching and sinning in *every* area of my life, breaking, if not in deed then certainly in heart every single one of the Ten Commandments - saying little of the 613 Mitzvah! I finally knew what it was to live in excitement - one, in the fear of God and two, to ride the wave of His absolute power to do anything in our lives once we let Him!

Like John proclaiming in the desert for all to come and repent, I had little respect for God before I knew how much I needed Him. Arrogance and pride run deep and only die when we do. Like an Amish boy let to wander, or the prodigal son, I came back with a great affection for the God who saved me.

I wish that I had known His love without ever breaking His heart, but I think the reason Christ tells the story of the prodigal son and the reason it bears such weight to us is that we are each prodigal sons and daughters - the story is not just to Gentiles and Jews, but to each and every one of us.

When a youth steps away, be sad, yes, but pray and leave them to God. Say what you will; few listen. Say it anyway; remember though, especially to youth, "there is a great power in words, especially if you don't string too many together."
In the end, let them go.
Rejoice when they return and offer thanks to God for the finding of the lost coins and sheep.

*"The Abolition of Man" is by far one of the better books written in our modern era. Most of Lewis' stuff should be ranked right up there with the Church Fathers, I think.

I'm not sure if we want them all back; they might be reprobates who may contribute to the downfall of some churches and be a cause of stumbling for true believers.

I'd like to see follow-up studies at regular intervals, to track how many of these folks return to the church after college.

I dropped out of church in the 60's because of the church’s “killing commies for Christ” stance on the Vietnam War. I journeyed through several Pentecostal guitar churches who were less political. Only to leave after hearing the definition on Limited Atonement accurately presented as they taught against it. I heard the truth on the atonement for the first time. I remain outside of the political churches till this day, studying Reformed Theology on my own. I still shy away from church because of the religious right’s “killing everyone but Israelis for Christ”and the rampant Arminianism.

It's always unsettling to me when I see these figures, and then it always leads my mind to the topic of the sovereignty of God and the doctrine of predestination, specifically the Augustinian variety (that subscribed to by Aquinas, Luther, Edwards, Calvin - as opposed to the semi-Pelagianist view of the doctrine).

I think this topic - the percentage of young people reportedly leaving the church in the context of the Augustinian view of predestination - could warrant a deep effort in terms of study. Bypassing all of that said study with all due respect, I think I'd have to say (as a subscriber of the Augustinian view of predestination) that in the end, God sovereignly saves whom he saves and yet it is still our responsibility (as parents and as shepherds of young people) to do our best to teach them the truth well.

While I do think it's very important to give every young person a healthy dose of reasons as per 1 Peter 3:15 (in other words, apologetics), something someone mentioned above rang true to me. In many cases, the best evangelistic tactic someone can perform is simply living a good and righteous life. I'll bet a lot of us can think of a person we've known who never uttered a word of formal apologetics yet had a powerful testimony just by virtue of how virtuous they were.

My wife's Grandmother comes to mind as an example for her. The kind of woman who never uttered a negative word about anyone else, at least not to anyone but her husband in private. The kind of woman who managed the balancing act of being kind to all people, particularly those that have a penchant for riling up our sinful nature, yet not allowing herself to get entangled in the worldly and sinful messes of gossip and disgust for another soul.

A quote from a book I just read, In God's Underground, comes to mind. Paraphrasing: "If Jesus is like you, even better as you claim he is, then that's all I need to know to become a Christian."

"Calvinists, of all people, should know it really is not a battle for the mind but instead a battle for the soul which God has already secured."

So if that which we are battling for is already secured, what is it we're battling for? Granted, if we're willing to surrender the mind, perhaps needn't worry about hard questions.

Matt said:

"Calvinists, of all people, should know it really is not a battle for the mind but instead a battle for the soul which God has already secured."

Anonymous said:
"So if that which we are battling for is already secured, what is it we're battling for? Granted, if we're willing to surrender the mind, perhaps needn't worry about hard questions."

I don't know if its as simple as that. It seems to me that putting up such a high and strong wall between one's mind and one's soul is not correct. I believe the interaction between mind and soul is much more intricate than that, demonstrating a kind of distinctness for each but also a kind of coupling between the two.

I may be approaching a part of the topic that requires more in-depth study, but I suspect there to be a non-contradictory kind of paradox going on here. On the one hand, solid, reasonable, scriptural arguments exist for the Augustinian view of predestination. On the other hand, we are also instructed by scripture to prepare ourselves to defend our faith and spread the gospel.

It seems reasonable (at least for the laymen and in the context of this conversation - that is, without the many hours of deep study that may be required to get us farther) to suspect that this is something we can apprehend, yet not fully comprehend, much like the trinity.

Hi Bryan, paradoxical it is, the Reformed doctrine of predestination. Worth all of the struggle needed to gain understanding of it though. Not only the ends described here:

Eph 1:4 "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

Eph 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,"

were ordained, but also the means to obtain those ends.

This is most clearly defended by the Westminster Confession of Faith where this statement is found:

"God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

Brad B

I would be interested to see if there is a correlation between those who do leave and they type of education they received prior to College: Public School/Christian School/Homeschool. Is anyone familiar with information along these lines?

I tend to equate "mind" and "soul" (psyche) in meaning. I'm curious as to precisely what you all mean by a differentiation of the two.

As for the subject of youth, I was one who fell away for a time. I can testify as to the sovereignty of God that brought me back. However, the second causes that contributed to my earlier failure included a healthy dose of not being discipled very well.

I knew all my old Sunday School lessons. It's not that college kids need a seminary-level education with an emphasis in Christian apologetics in order to stand against the false ideologies they will encounter. Rather, a godly adult willing to spend time with each one one-on-one in learning God's truth is more important.

My church is growing such a ministry. We currently have an apprenticeship-type program where youth can learn from staff members by working with them and helping them. For biblical studies and life lessons, we are expanding this for other godly members of the congregation to sit down and go through the Bible with them and talk about life issues and how the Bible relates to them.

I expect God will use this approach to dramatically help our youth as they face challenges to their young faith.


I'm not sure I can provide an in depth theological answer to your question about mind vs. soul, but I can think of something right off the top of my head that can at the very least demonstrate they are not equal, that is, they are not the same thing.


I *think* with my mind. I do not *think* with my soul.

On the other hand, as is pointed out in Psalm 107:9 (For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.), the soul is capable of *longing* - feeling a strong desire or craving for something.

I will acknowledge though that for the soul to be capable of doing something like longing, the mind must be available to interact with it simply so coherent thoughts about what is being longed for can even be processed.

Hi folks. I have really enjoyed this post and the many perspectives you have to offer. I think there is more than one right answer here, and I would like to share with you my experiences. I’m not the best at grammar, and I am using a word editor, so please forgive me. This is what I have found so far, just by simply asking the youth.

The church doesn’t fit in with the outside world. It is weird and everything in it is third rate and boring.
The conversation is boring and no one is willing to give the answers to “Why does God allow evil”. “Why did my mom die of cancer”?
Going to church is like watching Barney the purple dinosaur for adults.
People think Christ is a pushover like a character out of a children’s story book.
We are embarrassed because we don’t know how to answer people’s question when they know we go to church.
My parents don’t go to church, but they want me to go.

The last one I hear a lot. I just thought I would drop a few lines that I have heard over the last few years.


I think you bring up some fair points but I also believe you're introducing a bit of a double edged sword.

I agree with you 100% that we need to be able to answer the toughest questions and represent Christ's character properly instead of with attributes like 'being a pushover.'

In short, I think we need to be able to competently and accurately present Biblical Christianity to anyone and everyone. This is the good edge of the sword where we can make progress.

The bad edge of the sword can grow out of the notion that we need to fix Christianity because it isn't hip, cool and is boring. It's quite possible - and in fact has happened numerous times - that the purity of the gospel message and the entire redemptive plan gets completely distorted in favor of something more marketable in these times.

The Bible and the message it conveys is true, radical and offensive in its own right when presented and understood properly. In my mind, having the express goal of making Christianity 'not boring' is quite dangerous and a bit misguided. Our goal ought to be to not dodge the difficult questions and equip ourselves with the knowledge and skill necessary to accurately present the same message that is given in scripture.

Dr. Voddie Baucham was one of the first to bring this to our attention. Check out his message at the Southern Baptists of Texas Evangelism Conference 2 years ago.

"Is that acceptable? And if not, why are we losing them and what needs to be done?"

It's not acceptable - I can admit - I was one of those youth that left about 9 years back.

The church is becoming irrelevant to society - and keeps itself limited. You become knowledgable enough to question the institution and it's leaders - pack your bags. In a world more open the church has remain quite closed.

Youth are noticing this - the church from 30 years ago has not changed enough to speak into society anymore. It's actually appearing to fall behind in it's basic moral stances - and looks quite staunch. Top that off, with all the people of high Christian positions that have 'fell off' in the past 20 years - and there you have it - the church does not seem like a 'great place' anymore.

The church has an image problem - a huge one. What seems to stand out is the church is against gay marriage, abortion, and whatever else and we very rarely see what it's 'for'!

"I'm not sure if we want them all back; they might be reprobates who may contribute to the downfall of some churches and be a cause of stumbling for true believers." (Alberto)

Oh yeah - and this attitude right here (and thought process) sicken good people in churches to their stomach. The church is elitist.


"I'm not sure if we want them all back; they might be reprobates who may contribute to the downfall of some churches and be a cause of stumbling for true believers." (Alberto)

Oh yeah - and this attitude right here (and thought process) sicken good people in churches to their stomach. The church is elitist.


A view one does not need to worry about under the Augustinian view of predestination where God sovereignly chooses to show mercy to whom he chooses to show mercy.

At times I believe we get a bit too caught up about how important we are in God's plan. If God wants it to be and has from the time the very foundations were laid, it will be so. This being said, I have to acknowledge that one must be mindful of the fact that God does instruct us to be prepared to defend the faith and to spread the gospel and genuinely care for the salvation of souls, so this doctrine should not therefore prevent us from obeying in this regard.

"Dr. Voddie Baucham was one of the first to bring this to our attention. Check out his message at the Southern Baptists of Texas Evangelism Conference 2 years ago."

Ronny, I'm glad you brought up Voddie Baucham's name. He seems to be one of the individuals the article was talking about who use fudged statistics to create alarmism in his material. His resolve: home-school only; family integrated churches (not age-segregated classrooms-that's pagan); choose your children's spouse; little or no higher education for your daughters; sin to limit the size of your family... all as an extra set of biblical rules to live by to keep your family isolated from the evils of the world & to pass on spiritually to your children. Voddie is just another form of Bill Gothardism.

I would be interested to know, from which churches do we see the highest drop out rates.

I have veen concerned and tried to be involved in outreach to young people since my college days in the late ninetenfifties, in Dallas in the earl sixties, down to date living in a state university town. A few raised in good churches stay with it, but even most of those tend not to attend during college and beyond.

Relatively very few of the upcoming young generation of children and young people have ever really even been exposed to churches, and the younger children may not even recognize a picture of one, so this is getting worse.

I think the whole predestination and call thing is a cop-out. How could someone be called if no human being invites them? I wish I were good at outreach and evangelism, becuse chilren and young people are a special concern of mine, but that is not a gift I was given.

Afew churches do have active college age groups. I wish I could find out or duplicate this.

A ayoung lady working for me through the school, which subjected me to certain restrictions, suddenly said "I guess there's a God, I just don't know anything about him." I probably violated somebody's foolish idea of "separation of church and state" that day, but don't know if she ever actually hooked up with a church or not.

Peter: "I think the whole predestination ... thing is a cop-out."

With all due respect, scripture says otherwise. You're free to have whatever opinion you want, but be mindful that it stays in line with what scripture teaches, otherwise, your opinion becomes nothing more than your subjective opinion, founded on nothing solid or objective.

Also note that every time I've mentioned the doctrine I've also said that it in no way relieves us of our evangelistic responsibilities. At the end of the day though, it is God who saves, not Peter S. Chamberlain by virtue of the conversation he had with a person.

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