Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Report Time!

Hey kids, it's book report time!

In Sunday School we are working through the book Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, a book which looks at why twenty-somethings that are brought up in the church are not staying in the church. Ken Ham is a well known apologeticist who focuses on the scientific proofs for Creationism, even having a creation museum (check 'em out near Cinncinnati and an excellent web site with lots of facts about creationism and apologetics ( Britt Beemer is the founder of America's Research Group, a business that specializes in market research.

Ham and Beemer wanted to find out more than THAT these twenty somethings were leaving... they wanted to find out WHY. So they put together a very detailed survey to help them discover these reasons, eventually having the survey completed by 1000 twenty-somethings (about evenly split between being under and over twenty-five). To focus their findings these thousand were all brought up in conservative churches, their assumption being that any findings would be amplified in those who attended liberal churches.

They found that most of these young adults started questioning what they were being taught in middle school and high school, whereas previously the common notion was that evil liberal college professors lured them away from their faith. Ham & co. further found that these adults were not properly equipped while in church with solid reasons why the Bible is to be taken as fact, thus making the Bible and church about FAITH but not about science, real life, or things they could touch. He even goes on to say that those who attended Sunday School as children and young adults were more prone to have erroneous thinking about creation, premarital sex, homosexual marriage, etc. than those who didn't attend.

While overall I've found the book to be intriguing it wasn't long before I flipped to the back to look at the actual survey questions and results. They are quite impressive but what is horribly, inexcusably missing is a control group. Where is a similar survey given to 1000 twenty-somethings who grew up in conservative churches that continue to attend? Would we find a similar percentage of those who stayed in church but didn't go to Sunday School also believe that premarital sex is wrong? Or before Ham states that Sunday School teachers, while good intentioned, have fallen down on the job shouldn't he first check with a control group to see if attendance in Sunday School has any correlation to staying in church? Further, his survey had over 25% stating they came from a Baptist background. Is 25% of the conservative Protestant population Baptist? If 40% of the population identifies itself as Baptists but only 25% don't continue as adults, well, that's better than 10% being Baptists with 25% not staying in the church. A control group would also show what percentage of Baptists continue in the church (just an example as the survey lists over twelve denominations) and if one denomination is unusually high then perhaps that would be a good place to start looking for answers.

Also high on the BIG QUESTION MARK HERE list is that 859 of the survey group came from public schools. Before Ham starts stating that twenty-somethings not staying in church is a problem across the board a control group would reveal if, for instance, home schoolers or those attending a Christian middle school have a higher percentage who stay in the church.

Not having a control group does not invalidate the findings but it does tend to weaken some of his arguments. For instance, I don't think the data proves that attending Sunday School causes more harm than good - there are too many other factors that a control group would have helped weed out. But then again, I'm not the head of some gigantic survey firm, though for the life of me (or some other stale phrase) I can't figure out why Beemer would not have insisted on a second control survey. Maybe it was a matter of money or maybe such a survey would have cast doubts on a couple of the "amazing revelations" chapters in the first half of the book, which would have only left the second half of the book which deals with a subject Ham covered more fully in earlier books (notably Why Won't They Listen? and Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World.) Beemer has a couple of paragraphs at the end of each chapter and especially in the one where Ham lays out the anti-Sunday School data I got the impression that Beemer was trying to distance himself in that he didn't directly comment on the contents of the chapter like he does in every other chapter.

While I'm only one chapter into Ham's solutions they seem common sense (or rather Biblical sense in that he quotes 1 Peter 3:15 "... Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have..." - teach these kids why the Bible in infallible and teach them that there is hard science behind creationism, that the evolutionary theories they are taught elsewhere have some serious logistical (and logical) problems. This will make the Bible relevant and concrete instead of just a book full of fairy-tale stories about angels and old people. Thumbing through the remaining chapters seems to show about sixty more pages of the same.

As I conclude my book report, I found the findings of the survey to be very interesting but not surprising. It has encouraged me to teach my children why we believe what we do and to help them understand that my faith is more than a "leap -o- faith" but rather something that was hammered out by researching creationism and Biblical claims, both Old and New Testament. Heck, it's even planted seed for me to teach an apologetics Sunday School class for the youth at church. Overall a decent, though incomplete, book.

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