6 Signs Your Kids Will Eventually Believe “Nothing in Particular”

6 Signs Your Kids Will Eventually Believe “Nothing in Particular”

By now, you’ve probably seen the headlines from the most recent Pew Forum study on religion in America: The number of Christians continues to decline sharply, while the number of those who are “unaffiliated” with a religion continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The “unaffiliated” group includes atheists, agnostics, and people saying they believe “nothing in particular.”

I’ve talked a lot about atheism on this blog, and I absolutely believe it’s the number one threat to our kids’ faith today. But it’s also important to understand that the group growing fastest is those who believe “nothing in particular.” Most of these people believe in some kind of God, many consider themselves “spiritual,” and some pray regularly…but they don’t identify with a specific religion.

While your kids may get pulled into atheism by its vocal proponents, they may inadvertently fall into “nothing in particular” if they aren’t raised with a faith that gives them reason to believe something specific.

Here are 6 signs your kids will eventually believe “nothing in particular.”

 

1. You talk about God 50 times more often than you talk about Jesus.

OK, I can’t quantify that exactly, but the point is that faith can start sounding very generic to your kids if you almost always talk about God and rarely talk about Jesus—for example, why Jesus lived on Earth, what He taught while here, who He claimed to be, who others said He was, why He had to die, and what He accomplished on the cross.

The possible result: Your kids won’t see the need for faith in JesusChristianityspecifically. Subsequently, any view that embraces some notion of God starts sounding roughly equivalent. That can eventually turn into a distaste for religious “labels” and a rejection of Christianity’s exclusive truth claims. Your kids might hold on to a generic view of God, but for all intents and purposes, they’ll end up believing “nothing in particular.”

 

2. You mix secular and biblical wisdom to the point they’re indistinguishable.

Scan your Facebook newsfeed. You’ll see links to all kinds of fluffy life wisdom that people eat up like giant turkey legs at the county fair. “Be true to yourself!” “Be an expert on you!” “Live life to the fullest!” “Here’s what you need to do to have a meaningful life!” Many Christians don’t even realize that these seemingly innocuous pieces of self-centered advice run contrary to a Christ-centered worldview. (See this post as an example.) If you’re not consciously drawing the lines for your kids between the Christian and secular worldviews, the distinctiveness of Christian living (both the what and the why) can quickly get lost in a sea of feel-good substitutes.

The possible result: Your kids start to see Christianity as just one of many options for helping them live a better life and don’t see any need to commit to it exclusively. They take the easier route and choose to believe “nothing in particular” so they can pull life wisdom from wherever they want.

 

3. You’re leaving your kids too many “bones to pick” with Christianity.

In my experience, many people who believe “nothing in particular” have a bone to pick with various established religions. It’s not that they actually believe nothing in particular, but that they reject everything with particulars. In case you’re wondering, here are 65 of the biggest problems people have with Christianity (my book covers 40 of them). If you’re not working with your kids on understanding these challenges, the secular world will help ensure the bones pile up to the point where your kids can no longer see how Christianity can possibly be true.

The possible result: Your kids come to see Christianity as an irreconcilable mess, even if they don’t reject the idea of God altogether…leaving them with a belief in “nothing in particular.”

 

4. The “Bible study” in your home is limited to devotional reading.

Almost all kids’ devotionals are lightweight as a teaching tool for Christianity. Most focus on character development and general reminders that God loves you and you should pray more. Even the meatier ones shouldn’t be a substitute for Bible study. Yes, it’s easier to read a happy little devotional each night with your kids than set aside regular time to dive into Bible study, but we’re not called to do what’s easiest.

The possible result: Your kids rarely (if ever) encounter the meat of Christianity. They grow to see it as a self-help solution, one daily bite at a time. If that’s all it is, once again, it’s indistinguishable in value from other truth claims and can easily be set aside in favor of believing “nothing in particular.”

 

5. You treat God like a semi-abandoned Amazon Echo.

The Amazon Echo is a new tech toy that dynamically responds to verbal communication. For example, you can ask it for the weather, to play music, to give you sports scores, to create shopping lists, and to tell jokes. My husband (always the early technology adopter) bought one. We had fun with it at first, but now it sits in the corner until one of the kids asks it to tell a joke. While it’s very powerful, we just never figured out how to integrate its existence into our daily lives. Its relevancy quickly evaporated and now it sits semi-abandoned in the kitchen corner until one of us has a sudden need for a weather report.

If your application of faith at home is nothing more than a periodic acknowledgment of God’s existence in the corners of your life, your kids will find little reason to be passionate believers.

The possible result: God becomes very, very small in your kids’ eyes. They grow to see Him as an invisible sky guy you call on when you happen to think of it. Without any notion of how to integrate His existence and truth into daily life, His relevancy slips away into a belief in “nothing in particular.”

 

6. You find yourself saying, “I know what I believe, but my kids will have to figure out what they believe.”

Of course kids will have to figure out what they believe. It goes without saying. If you feel the need to point this out in polite conversation, it probably means you don’t really think there is good reason to believe that Christianity alone is true. If you have the underlying mentality that faith is a matter of untethered belief, it will be blatantly obvious to your kids. (If this is you, please check out my book recommendations to learn about the objective evidence for Christianity.)

The possible result: Your kids pick up from you that religious beliefs are part of a spiritual buffet sitting on nothing but personal opinion. If they don’t think there’s any way to be confident about truth, why would they bother making a commitment? They may end up choosing to sit on the spiritual fence of “nothing in particular” indefinitely.

Do you have one to add? Go for it in the comments!

28 Comments

  1. Jennifer on May 27, 2015 at 7:18 AM

    I agree, nothing substitutes actual Bible study. That being said, we have done some really great bible study devotions that aren’t at all fluff. The one we are doing now is called Small Talks on Big Questions. It teaches the shorter catechism and its’ meaning, and uses one biblical example, and one historical example. We also really like the Picture Smart bible products, as well as Our Twenty Four Family Ways, by the Clarksons. Around advent, we like Jotham’s Journey, and the other books in that series.



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2015 at 7:22 AM

      Thanks so much for the recommendations! Devotionals can definitely be valuable when they aren’t used as a substitute. The vast majority are NOT like the ones you mention, so I’m glad you are sharing. 🙂



  2. Peter W on May 27, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    Thanks for this post, Natasha! Always good food for thought for parents.

    I would point out that the Pew classification of people into the ‘Nothing in Particular’ category is based on people’s responses to their question about general affiliation with a religious subgroup, such as Catholic, Baptist, etc., and not with their actual religious beliefs. Thus, Pew’s Nothing in Particular affiliation is not the same thing as your title’s -believing- nothing in particular. In fact, the ‘Nothing in Particulars’ hold a wide range of religious beliefs, but are disconnected from religious institutions.



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2015 at 1:31 PM

      Thanks Peter! Yes, you’re correct that it’s based on (lack of) affiliation. I’m using “short hand” a bit in the title for ease of quick understanding of the post topic. 🙂

      But I agree with you – as I said in the intro part, “Most of these people believe in some kind of God, many consider themselves “spiritual,” and some pray regularly…but they don’t identify with a specific religion.” I think the key is what I pointed to in number 3: “It’s not that they actually believe nothing in particular, but that they reject everything WITH particulars” (i.e., established religions).

      Thanks for noting the distinction!



  3. David Fluty on May 27, 2015 at 7:56 AM

    This is a wonderful, wisdom – filled post! (actually, they all are!) I am looking for some guidance on the nuts and bolts of leading a Bible study with my family. I have no problem studying and meditating on the Bible myself but I have a very hard time turning that into a productive study for my family. (mainly my wife at the moment. I have a 3 year old son and another baby due any day) Any tips you have are greatly appreciated! (I apologize if you have a specific post on this. I probably should have looked before I typed this up ☺)



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      Hi David, Great question! I think I’ll do a blog post on that soon (I haven’t done one specifically about it before). 🙂



  4. Susan Barth on May 27, 2015 at 9:23 AM

    Excellent points all of them. A child’s faith exposure is only as deep as the parents’ faith and relationship with Christ. I would like to point out that in point number 6, you may want to add the adjective “young” to child because there comes a point in your teen and adult child’s life that they do have to figure it out. They know what you believe and they know what you’ve taught them but there comes a point when it must become their own. Just my thoughts from my own experience.



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2015 at 1:36 PM

      Hi Susan, Absolutely – every child WILL have to figure it out eventually (young or old). But in my experience, most of the time when people say that, they aren’t just stating it as a fact. As I wrote in the post, they’re saying it because they don’t think there’s any objective measure of spiritual truth and they see everyone as on some kind of ambiguous “faith journey.”



      • Susan Barth on May 27, 2015 at 2:21 PM

        Agreed!



  5. Keith Rushing on May 27, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    Natasha, wonderful blog post! My wife and I are passionate about the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus is the only way to make it out of this world alive. 🙂 Opinions will never change the truth but truth will always change opinions! Please keep fighting the good fight with your blog!

    Grace and peace, Keith



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2015 at 1:36 PM

      Thanks very much, Keith! I appreciate your comment.



  6. Thom Dick on May 27, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    Excellent blog, Natasha! There has been so much interesting (if not discouraging) work done in the US on these issues facing the Church but very few in Canada – and the Canadian Church really is unique compared to the American Church. For your Canadian followers I would recommend reading a report commissioned a few years ago by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (here’s a link to a nice summary http://www.apologeticscanada.com/2012/11/16/hemorrhaging-faith-helpful-notes/). They have identified four factors that lead to our kids leaving the Church. At our church we have worked hard to address all four of the factors – although we have seen significantly lower percentages in our church family than those in the US or nationally in Canada even before addressing the report. God bless!



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2015 at 1:38 PM

      Thanks for sharing this, Thom! I admit that from an American perspective, I assume Canada is experience the same things. 🙂 I’m really glad you posted this.



  7. Dr. Harold Burkholder on May 27, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    Very good article. I would not argue the point that atheism is a real threat to believers. I’m not sure that it is the number one threat. It could be in many instances. However, I would like to venture a thought for consideration. Something more subtle and dangerous as a threat is culture; where many Christians adopt the worldly mentality, and by doing slowly let their guard down and any biblical standards they may hold. There is such shifting that takes place in culture many fail to be discerning, and thus, consequently become easy prey for dangerous influences such as atheism. While there are some positives in any culture, there are many subtle dangers and philosophies that exert there pressure and influence to the point Christians get wore downIt is the abscence of absolute truth and replacing it with relative truth.
    Just a thought to consider.



    • Bill Regehr on May 27, 2015 at 12:05 PM

      I agree that culture is a huge threat to the future survival of the Christian faith. It is the frog in the kettle phenomenon. We go along with the fluffy words of encouragement, self centered as they are until the Bible becomes irrelevant and Jesus becomes another historical figure. Adhering to a single source of truth, God’s word, is essential to knowing what we believe. What others believe is at times interesting, but then, we always must return to scripture to see what God says and that must guide our truth system. A. W. Tozer said in his “Knowledge of the Holy”, that what comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. I find these words ringing in my ears as I watch the news, the church, and all the other cultural touch points that influence us and our families. Natasha whether we agree on all points or not, thanks for putting this very important discussion on the table.



      • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2015 at 1:45 PM

        Thanks Bill. Very well said.



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2015 at 1:44 PM

      Hi Harold, I think that’s a great point. Culture itself is definitely a major threat, in large part because it is such a subtle one. I tend to think of atheism as the most immediate threat because its proponents are so vocal and proactive. But both threats require our attention as parents. Thanks for your insight.



  8. Wanda on May 27, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    I agree whole-heartedly with this list! And I can say that since we’ve been homeschooling, we’ve had a lot more time and opportunity to actually talk about the Bible and how Jesus has impacted us. We discuss different points of doctrine and how (and why) the Bible has the final say on doctrine, not any man. We started out by just reading through the old familiar stories. We just finished Romans and are now into Galatians. Some days we only get through two verses, other days it’s a chapter, but we spend a good chunk of time in the morning getting into the Bible. My kids will definitely be able to tell people the reason for the hope they have within them.



  9. Jennifer on May 27, 2015 at 2:49 PM

    Excellent! I would add one more: Attendance at a church that does not prioritize true discipleship (we are finding that a church that does is increasingly rare). So many churches have dropped any type of “Sunday School” program in favor of large group worship and activities. A church that uses a discipleship model – for everyone – gives children exposure to those living a faith-driven life outside if the home, and teaches them early in life the responsibility of growing in their own faith in order to effectively engage others for His kingdom.
    I homeschool my kids, and we begin the day with devotions…but I agree completely on the content (or lack thereof) of most devotional books. Years ago, I discovered a series of books by Bob Schultz that go much deeper than a traditional “devotional”. I have never found anything else that is remotely close to the depth and personalization of faith that this man has infused into his writing. They are “Boyhood and Beyond”, “Created for Work”, “Everyday Battles”, and “Practical Happiness”. The books are written specifically for boys, but we use them with all our kids; as my girls – younger than my boys -have joined us, I simply change some of the pronouns as I read through. Each chapter is longer than a traditional “daily” devotional, but is well worth the extra time. I have read aloud through each book multiple times (I read through all four books, which takes about a year, then begin again) and the content is always so relevant and engaging. The questions at the end of each chapter provide an excellent opportunity for discussion and reflection!
    Beyond these, I’ve found a wonderful way to engage in daily apologetic discussion with my children is through using Summit Ministries’ and Apologia’s worldview curriculum (which could be used even if you don’t homeschool). Elementary level (Apologia’s “What We Believe” series) -Who is God?, Who Am I?, Who’s is My Neighbor?, and What On Earth Can I Do? – introduce and explain those “big questions” at a level younger kids can understand. Summit Ministries picks up at the middle school level with “Lightbearers”, and provides “Understanding the Times” for the high school (and beyond) student. The Summit materials help flesh out not only the Christian worldview with a strong apologetic content, but they also help our kids understand ALL of the major worldviews, teach them to evaluate everything they encounter for the worldview it is teaching, and help them to understand the flaws of other worldviews.
    We’ve discovered that by using these materials on a daily basis, it becomes much more natural to have an ongoing dialogue about Jesus and our faith, to realize as we walk through life how much of what we’re learning is present and applicable in our everyday lives, and it’s become easier to seize those moments to reinforce what they’re learning. We also strongly recommend Summit Ministries’ 12-day summer program for kids (ideally before they leave for college).



  10. Paul Short on May 27, 2015 at 11:01 PM

    Natasha, I’ve noticed you’ve made a lot of references to how loud atheist objections can be. But you never give any credit to how valid their objections are. Are we *only* loud? Do we have nothing else to offer?

    Just something I’ve noticed over the months. 🙂



    • Heather on May 29, 2015 at 6:57 PM

      For me, your arguments do help me think of answers for questions I did not think of. It helps me grow in my faith and knowledge and study of God’s Word. And while I cannot say your arguments are valid for me because I am wholeheartedly on the other side, it does not mean they are not intelligent, deep, and well-thought out. I just wish you saw our arguments as valid, too, instead of resisting them so fiercely. We care about the state of people’s souls and that is why we are compelled to keep arguing for the existence of God, Jesus, heaven, and hell, etc.



    • Heather on June 1, 2015 at 5:30 AM

      Paul, you have been on my heart and mind and in my prayers lately. [Not that you want my prayers. But don’t worry, they don’t cost a thing. 🙂 ] But I wanted to say something I have been thinking about. And I am saying this in gentleness and with a fondness for you, even though I don’t know you. I guess your arguments remind me of my brothers. And although we disagree about this, I am fond of them, too. So I guess I think of you like them.

      Your arguments are meant to convince us that there is no God, no eternity, that we die and go into nothingness. And a Christian’s arguments are meant to convince people that there is a God who loves us and wants a relationship with us in eternity. You offer nothingness, we offer the idea (the truth) of eternal life. Which one of us should be working harder to argue for our beliefs? The one who offers eternal nothingness or the one who believes in eternal life and consequences? If I am wrong, then nothing any of us believes will make any difference. But if you are wrong, it will matter for eternity.

      However, if I am right, then it is critical to help as many people as possible find eternal life in God. But if you are right that there is nothing in the end, then wouldn’t it seem better (or at least there would be no harm in it) to let people believe that there is a God who made them and loves them and to let them have the hope that there is more to this life than what we see, that there is a God to help them through this life and welcome them home in the end. Why fight to take away that hope and joy if we are all headed to nothingness in the end anyway? (Of course, I do not think we are, which is why I try so hard to share the Bibke’s truth with people and to pray for them. It matters immensely and eternally.)

      Of course, you could argue about how ‘religion’ and ‘God’ can be used as weapons to hurt people instead of help people, as it has been over the centuries. And this might be why atheists try to squash the idea of God, even if there is nothingness in the end and it does not matter eternally what we believe. And I would agree that it is wrong to use God, the Bible, heaven, and hell, etc., to hurt, control, or scare people. But this is man’s error and it does not accurately reflect the God of the Bible. In no way do I think religion should be used to hurt others. But if the Bible is true (as I believe it is) then it hurts people more (eternally) if we fail to share it and argue for the existence of God and eternity and the need for people to grab onto God’s hand to lift them off the path we are all born on – the path of separation from God which leads to eternal separation (hell) if we do not take the way out that God provided (Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf).

      Anyway, I am just throwing this out there. It was on my mind. And excuse any typos. I am typing on a tablet and if I go back to change anything, I lose my place and the screen will not let me go to the place I left off. So frustrating for someone who likes to clarify and change things a lot. Remember, this is all said out of respect for you, a deep desire that you might come to believe that there is a God who loves you and who wants to convince you of His realness even more than I want to. But even if nothing I say makes a difference to you, we can still agree to disagree in friendliness. But I am still going to pray for you. 🙂



      • Paul Short on June 2, 2015 at 11:58 AM

        Heather
        I hear you. But I have to respect a promise I made to Natasha to not turn her blog into a tit-for-tat debate forum. Mostly, I simply try to shine a light on how the other side thinks, since I’m reliably informed that most christians have any idea how atheists really see the world.

        For example, atheists don’t offer “nothingness”. Speaking only for myself, the mere fact that life on earth is all we have means that every day we have here is valuable. For any theistic worldview, the worldly life is but a blip on the radar, compared to an eternity in heaven. That’s why theists, generally, aren’t as concerned about things like Climate Change. (There are other reasons as well…) This is the only world we have, and the only life we have, so we should cherish it.

        And be careful about invoking Pascal’s Wager. Beliefs inform actions, so if you’re wrong about your beliefs, your actions will have a profoundly negative impact on the only life we have. That means, for example, you would likely oppose equal rights based on sexual orientation.

        All that said, I will accept your prayers, as I have accepted many other peoples’, in the warm spirit that they are intended.

        Speaking of which, if you’re interested in an atheist’s opinion about the value of prayer, and how we sometimes struggle with it, here’s an interesting letter.

        http://dividedundergod.com/2015/05/27/an-atheists-open-letter-to-those-praying-for-his-son/



        • Heather on June 4, 2015 at 7:23 AM

          Paul, I did not think of this so much as a debate (albeit a friendly one), but you might be right. Sorry to Natasha if this kind of back-and-forth is better left to personal emails and not the comment section. And I agree with you, Paul, about needing to take care of and cherish this world and people, but it is because I believe what we do here really does matter eternally. Personally, I think a lack of belief in God and eternity is a much better excuse/reason for people to be apathetic about this life and world, to mistreat other people. Why not just hit the self-destruct button on this world if everything and everyone amounts to nothing in the end? I would think that believing in God and eternity and the eternal value of people would make us try harder, cherish it more, and work for the best. Because it matters and makes an eternal difference.



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  12. Michelle on May 30, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    Thank you for this insightful and challenging article. The sign I would add is that your child is receiving antithetical messages from their education. If your child is in public school or you are using modern, secular text books in your home school, then your child may feel schizophrenic due to the constant mixed messages in the areas of science, morality, government, sociology, etc. If we encourage our children to respect their teachers (and we should), but that teacher is teaching ideas diametrically opposed to those you ate teaching them from the Bible, then the result is likely to be confusion, especially if they are in the minority of their peers in what they are learning at home.



  13. Jen on June 3, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    These are great. But after working with teenagers and young adults for 18 years, I can tell you if we don’t walk our talk as adults, we lose our credibility. As they face adulthood, they want to be their own person, different from mom and dad. So everything comes under scrutiny. And if they perceive hypocrisy, they will throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have to model for them what it looks like to walk like Jesus–the faith and the struggle, the love and the sin, the power of repentance and forgiveness.



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