Monthly Archives: February 2015

Fathers & Faith

New Poll on Struggles with Dads and God

Father and son reading Biblehttp://www.leestrobel.com/
Two findings emerged in a new national poll that I commissioned on fatherhood and faith: the younger the generation, the more people report having difficult relationships with their fathers. At the same time, the younger generation reports the highest percentage of people who are struggling with belief in God.

I’m wondering: are these findings related?

The poll itself can’t prove or disprove a direct correlation between those findings. Certainly, there are a lot of factors that influence a person’s belief in God. But in my case — and in many others I’ve seen through the years — a person’s relationship with their earthly father can influence whether they’ll be receptive to a heavenly Father.

I commissioned the Barna Group to conduct the poll in conjunction with my new book, The Case for Grace, in which themes of faith and fatherhood are intertwined. In the book, which came out this week, I describe my own rocky relationship with my dad, which was one of the factors that moved me toward spiritual skepticism. I was an atheist for much of his life, until a nearly two-year investigation of the evidence for Christianity prompted me to become a Christian in 1981.

Among the findings of the poll:

• The younger the responder, the more likely they are to report difficulties in their relationship with their fathers. Among the Elder generation (ages 69 and up), 15 percent said they had a poor or below average relationship with their dad while growing up. For Baby Boomers (ages 50-68), the number was 17 percent; for Gen X (ages 31-49), it was 22 percent. And for Millennials (ages 18-30), the number grew to 26 percent — or one in four.

• More than one-third of Millennials are struggling with belief in God, compared with one-quarter of Gen X and one-fifth of Baby Boomers and Elders. Put another way, 62 percent of Millennials are certain God exists, compared with 74 percent of Gen X, 82 percent of Boomers, and 79 percent of Elders.

So two findings can be identified. First, a higher percentage of Millennials report having subpar relationships with their fathers than previous generations. And second, a higher percentage of Millennials are uncertain or doubtful that God exists, compared to older Americans. While this particular survey can’t establish for sure whether there’s a correlation, I think these findings are definitely worth further exploration.

Some findings by other researchers are also relevant:

• In his book Faith of the Fatherless, psychologist Paul Vitz of New York University showed that many well-known atheists through history — including Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Arthur Schopenhauser, Ludwig Feuerbach, Baron D’Holbach, Volatire, H.G. Wells, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and others — felt abandoned or deeply disappointed with their fathers.

“That a child’s psychological representation of his father is intimately connected to his understanding of God was assumed by Freud and has been rather well developed by a number of psychologists, especially psychoanalysts,” said Vitz. “In other words, an atheist’s disappointment in and resentment of his own father unconsciously justifies his rejection of God.”

by Lee Strobel

Don’t Leave Home Without It

Don’t Leave Home Without – What?

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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

~ Joshua 1:9

Most people will recognize the title as the product of a Madison Avenue ad shop; it’s a slogan written for American Express and used in their television and magazine commercials. A committee of copy writers and ad executives decided we need to have an Amex card with us whenever we leave the house. But Madison Avenue is in the business of lying for money. They want to make something look better than it is, so that people who don’t need it will pay money for it, and then they can have a big salary, a summer house in the Hamptons, an ulcer and a second wife

Lies are expensive. The truth is free. There are people who do try to make a lot of money selling it, and some who succeed, but it’s free. Or at worst, you can get it used for $4 on amazon.com.

And the truth is, you can leave home (at least sometimes) without a credit card. But there are three things that you cannot leave home without: Love. Joy. Hope. If you have been a Christian very long, you will recognize a common theme among these three traits, which is, that they are all fruits of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us that these three abide: Faith, hope, and charity. So for convenience sake, let us bundle faith with joy and see them as two sides of the same coin.

“Abide” means, of course, “live”. And in the parlance of the New Testament, we live only by knowing Christ; as we are learning in Galatians, the essential state of salvation is that we die and are reborn in Christ. He lives in us, and (using the preposition “in” with a different twist) we live in Him. And to live in Christ boils down to our possessing the three cardinal attributes of faith/joy, hope, and charity/love.

Faith and joy are the root of belief, the beginning, the key, to knowing God. Faith means that we are so sure that God exists and has told us the truth in His Bible that we bet everything on Him. It is almost impossible to define, because it occurs in a different way than anything else we experience. It is a realization that there is something very powerful that we cannot see, hear, or touch, something more powerful than the visible reality around us. Faith is the trait, and joy is the resulting emotion, when we realize through our spirit that we have a God, who made us and knows us.

Hope is the assurance of something unseen. It has a different meaning than when we use it in everyday language, meaning that we wish for something that we are not at all sure will happen. It does not mean that we “hope we go to heaven”. It is tied to faith, but with a different emphasis, and emphasizes certainty, not contingency.

Hope is the absolute knowledge we receive, through faith, that Christ was the Son of God and that, by His sacrifice, we belong to God and He is going to look out for us. When all is said and done, we know that we will live, in peace and perfect happiness, with Christ in heaven. We have already crossed the finish line and we have won the race. It’s all over but the shoutin’, as the saying goes.

And to keep this short: read 1 John. Love is the result. It is the sign, the proof, that we are actually living in Christ. When we are careless of our faith and hope, our love recedes in proportion to how much we are living in the world. The best thing is to divorce ourselves from the world, even as we live in it, and take our love with us wherever we go, whatever we do.

Faith. Joy. Hope. Love. Don’t leave home without it.

Heavenly father, let me always live in the spirit and show Your love before all the world. Amen.

~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer