The Biblical Literacy of Teenage Believers

by Richard Ross

Biblical Literacy of Teenage BelieversYouth ministry researcher Chap Clark says, “I’m convinced that the single most important area where we’ve lost ground with kids is in our commitment and ability to ground them in God’s Word.”

As a result, Barry Shafer says, “The church today, including both the adult and teenage generations, is in an era of rampant biblical illiteracy.” Duffy Robbins takes this one step further when he says: “Our young people have become incapable of theological thinking because they don’t have any theology to think about. … And, as Paul warns us, this … leaves us as ‘infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching’ (Ephesians 4:14).”

At the conclusion of the National Study of Youth and Religion, lead researcher Christian Smith reported: “Even though most teens are very positive about religion and say it’s a good thing, the vast majority are incredibly inarticulate about religion. … It doesn’t seem to us that many teens are being very well-educated in their faith traditions.”

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To illustrate his point, Smith refers to teenagers in the study from conservative Protestant churches. “About half of their teens say that many religions may be true; more than one-third say it is okay to practice multiple religions; more than one-third believe people should not try to evangelize others; more than one-third say it is okay to pick and choose one’s religious beliefs and not accept the teachings of one’s faith as a whole, and nearly two-thirds say a person can be truly religious and spiritual without being involved in a church.”

Summarizing the entire study, Smith reports, “The net result … is that most religious teenagers’ opinions and views—one can hardly call them worldviews—are vague, limited, and often quite at variance with the actual teachings of their own religion.”

Duffy Robbins considers possible causes when he says: “The church in general, and youth ministry in particular, has demonstrated more of an appetite for goose bumps than for God’s truth, more interest in how our young people feel than how they think…

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