What Good is Christianity?

What Good is Christianity? resourcesAccording to a study by Barna Research, 61 percent of twentysomethings who were once active as teens in churches "are now spiritually disengaged."

Why is it that so many young Christians eventually "disengage" from the faith? There are likely a number of contributing factors. One of them may be a lack of facts when it comes to understanding the many positive contributions Christianity has made to the world. Also, with so many contemporary challenges to the Christian faith, from hostile skeptics to competing religious beliefs, many Christians aren't sure how to respond.

With these points in mind, Sonlight recently completed development of What Good is Christianity? This is an exciting and stimulating 18-week, upper-level high school curriculum designed to equip teenagers as they prepare to graduate, pursue college studies, and begin their adult lives. Along with Sonlight's president, Sarita Holzmann, I worked hard to bring together the finest resources to make What Good is Christianity? the best that it could be.

Although the primary emphasis is on the facts of Christian history, noting Christianity's many positive influences, What Good is Christianity? also covers a lot of related ground. For instance, we address criticisms of the so-called new atheists, as well as the relationship between Christianity and the fine arts, literature, science, charity, democracy, social justice, and more.

We've brought together seven wonderful resources (six books and a DVD set), plus our detailed Instructor's Guide that includes numerous notes, suggested assignments, discussion questions, and bonus articles on important topics.

As a father of four homeschooled children, I want to do whatever I can to keep my kids from becoming one of the 61 percent who will ultimately "disengage" from their faith. Are your high school children ready to face the many challenges to their faith? Help prepare them with What Good is Christianity?

Why do you think so many Christian youth eventually "disengage" from the faith?

Robert Velarde
Product Development
Sonlight Curriculum

Robert

About Robert

Robert Velarde serves as a curriculum creator with Sonlight's product development team. He’s author of The Wisdom of Pixar, A Visual Defense, Conversations with C.S. Lewis, The Golden Rules of Narnia, and more.
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21 Responses to What Good is Christianity?

  1. Sarah says:

    I don't really have an answer to the question at the end, but I just wanted to say that I love the idea of this course! I'm actually tempted to buy it for myself and my husband, although we wouldn't need it for our kids for another 12 years or so. But it's a fantastic idea, and I do really look forward to going through it with our kids when the time comes.

  2. Robert Robert says:

    Thanks for your comment, Sarah. I should add that What Good is Christianity? is definitely suitable for Christian adults interested in learning more about the positive Christian influence on history, so in that sense it's not really limited to just upper level high school students.

  3. Christine says:

    My dd14 has already put this on her High School 'to do' list.

  4. Ann Barndt says:

    I just finished the Dinish D'Souza book and thought it would be great for my 15-year-old to read. Deep, yet so accessible (and even entertaining), I found my 11-year-old reading it out of curiousity!

  5. Christie says:

    When I was expecting my oldest son our pastor spoke one Sunday specifically to parents on a related subject. He talked about New England and how at one point in our nation's history it was full of deeply devoted followers of Christ. He suggested that the changes did not happen overnight in this area of the country...or in families across our nation for that matter. He talked about the changes over generations. One generation was deeply devoted. Maybe the next respected that and held to the same standards without the intensity of the relationship with God. Small things began to creep in, but on the exterior they were going through the same motions as their parents.....and their children, who were watching perceptively as kids do saw the discrepancy in what was said and what was actually done. Maybe they saw little hypocrisies ( if that's a word) here and there. So the next generation maybe kept a form of what was important to the parents' parents, but they did not have the foundation or even grasp what it was all about. They only saw empty tradition and meaningless rules....and understandably rejected the watered-down version of the truth. So small generational shifts have happened in many families over time. Of course this is not always the case. Some generations are more faithful than the previous and so many factors are at work. This message our pastor shared SO gripped me as a new, expectant mom. I definitely think that not seeing a real, deep, abiding faith in the previous generation plays into the equation for many. Isn't that challenging as parents! ...It challenges me to be sure I am not just going through motions, but really and truly giving a reason for the hope that is in me to the next generation in my family! Of course, there is an enemy at large in the world who wants to keep us and our children from experiencing abundant life...who has been at it since the garden of Eden...using our weaknesses against us....

  6. Robert Robert says:

    Christine - That's great! I hope your daughter enjoys the curriculum.

    Ann - That's exciting to hear! You can thank Sarita Holzmann for the addition of What's So Great About Christianity? I had heard of the book, but for some reason it didn't get on my initial list of books to review for the curriculum. Sure enough, Sarita brought in a copy for me to look over and we decided to include it.

    Christie - You make some good points. One reason Sonlight emphasizes history is because of the value there is in knowing about the past events that shaped our world. Biblically speaking it's also important to remember God's works in history, which is why What Good is Christianity? emphasizes the many positive influences Christianity has had on the world. I'm reminded, for instance, of Psalm 78, which is largely about remembering what God has done ("we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD," verse 4).

    • Christie says:

      I can't wait to check this study out with my four boys! Psalm 78 is one of my very favorite passages of Scripture! I was definitely impacted by hearing my parents tell about God's mighty acts...in the Bible, in history, in situations in their lives, in our church and in their hearts. I think this posting just inspired a Father's Day card for my dad!! Thanks!

  7. julius says:

    The formerly spiritually engaged, active young people I know that have drifted from their faiths, almost without exception, point to hypocrisy within the church as a primary component of their departure from church.

  8. Robert Robert says:

    Julius, yes I think hypocrisy definitely influences young people away from the faith. Remember all those times Jesus spoke against hypocrisy? See, for instance, Matthew 23:13-29. Hypocrisy is something we all need to guard against.

  9. Have you read The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization written by Vishal Mangalwadi? I think that it would make a wonderful addition to Sonlight. I had the privilege of reading and reviewing this book recently and will definitely have my daughter read it. What sets this book apart from many others, in my opinion, is that it is written by a converted India with a Hindu background.

    • Sorry-typo meant converted Indian not India. I hope you will look into this book if not for this curriculum maybe as part of a biblical history core? Thanks!

      • Robert Robert says:

        Thanks for the post, Melissa. Sarita Holzmann enjoyed Mangalwadi's book Truth and Transformation. Unfortunately, the book you mention wasn't in print when we were working on What Good is Christianity? but we'll definitely get a copy to look over. It looks like it would make a great supplement to our new curriculum.

  10. Caleb says:

    As a highschool student, I think that the main reason that so many people "drift away" from Christianity is because it doesn't mean anything to them. There's plenty of other "good people" who aren't Christians. In short, Christianity is just another religion, with few - if any - characteristics that set it apart from the rest of the world. Christians in general content themselves with being better than those people. But in actuality Christians are supposed to be completely and utterly different from the next person. So utterly committed to Christ that our lives are considered foolish by others. The hypocrisy of the majority of Christians leaves the minds of today's Christians filled with a distorted and tainted picture of what Christ's bride should look like

    • Robert Robert says:

      Thanks, Caleb. It's helpful to have insights from high school students on this question of why young people often "disengage" from the faith.

      The issue is that too many people view Christianity as a religious lifestyle choice based on whether or not it helps or "works" for them rather than viewing it as a truth question. Christianity makes truth claims and, by doing so, stakes out areas of reality and says they are true. When it claims "Jesus is Lord," for instance, he either is or he isn't.

      What many tend to do is overlook the truth claims of Christianity and focus on other issues, such as hypocrisy in the church or claiming that Christianity is narrow-minded, etc. I'm not saying these sorts of questions aren't important, but fundamentally they avoid the core truth claims of Christianity. Whether or not a professing Christian is a hypocrite or whether or not Christianity is really "narrow-minded" don't speak to the truth claim, for instance, that Jesus rose from the dead.

      You're definitely right about Christians needing to stand apart from the world and be utterly committed to Christ, so stay the course!

  11. DT says:

    What Good Is Christianity?

    Well, that all depends on each individual person. To treat the entire human race as if they should all be Christians is just downright unchristian.

    There are many who are damaged and have lost faith in everything, including themselves. There are many who require faith in something greater to be able to pick themselves up and continue through life with their head held high. There are also many who take this faith as an excuse to hold their head higher than others.

    Christianity is good. Christianity is bad. It is what it is and should be taken as a grain of salt by some and as a way of life by others.

    I am far from religious. I don't have any hate towards religion of any kind. I just don't need it, that's all. I have enough faith in myself to live happily and I also find happiness in helping others. Others need religion. Some need to lay off it a little.

    It's all dependent on the person.

    • Robert Robert says:

      Thanks for your comments, DT. To clarify a bit, we're not treating the entire human race as though they should all be Christians. What Good is Christianity? is a curriculum intended for Christians in order to offer historical perspective on the many factual and beneficial contributions Christianity has made to the world.

      While I respect your right to believe in what you want to believe, your statement that you "just don't need it" does warrant a brief comment. Christianity isn't simply a pragmatic religious system. It is based on truth. The only reason anyone should believe in Christianity is because it is true. If it's not true, then it doesn't warrant our attention. It's not so much a matter of "need," then, as it is a matter of truth. Did God reveal himself through Jesus? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is the New Testament record of Christ accurate? If so, what do we do with the person of Christ?

      In your case it may be helpful to begin earlier on, so to speak. Questions to ask include, does God exist? If so, what kind of God exists? Is this God interested in his creation and in individual people? If so, how? Has this God revealed himself to us in any way? If so, how? Can we arrive at metaphysical truth of any kind? And so on.

      While everyone's spiritual and non-spiritual journey is different, you might want to read a brief overview of my journey from atheism to faith here.

      Again, thanks for your comments. I do appreciate hearing from those with differing perspectives.

      • DT says:

        The issue with what you have said is that it *is* based on need.

        Whether or not it is true has nothing to do with it. True or not, if Jesus had risen then how would it have an affect on me? Christian or not, that would change nothing for me and how my life progresses. It may or may not have happened, but, regardless of what events took place, my life will continue in whatever way it's going to continue. The realization of a truth does not change the path of time.

        The only reason why historical truth would matter is for it to bolster someones faith and the point of faith is to overcome truth, to place your trust into something greater than truth.

        When it comes to matters of the present, the truth may have a little more impact. Does God exist? Maybe, maybe not. I shouldn't let that dictate how I live my life. For me, there's no fear of God, no fear of consequence once I pass. There's no tug towards one moral choice over the other due to a possible reward at the end of it all.

        I do not need Christianity. I follow my own strict set of values. Sure, many of them intersect with the majority of Christian values (as far as the Bible is concerned, not the plethora of extra ones that slip in based on personal opinion), but that does not mean I need Christianity to further my morals.

        And that is just concerning the morals set out by the Bible. All the stories and history written in the Bible (back to the truth issue) are from the past. Like with any piece of history, the only things that really matter are the lessons learned, but those lessons can be learned no matter what events took place or didn't.

        In case I've just seemingly rambled, here's the basic point of my post:
        History, true or not, does not shape the present and whether or not God exists should not be what makes you a good or bad person. God will judge you based on who you truly are, not just what you have regardless of it being in his name or not.

  12. DT says:

    And at the end of my post, I meant to say "not just what you have done regardless..."

    There is no edit button. :(

  13. Robert Robert says:

    Thanks for the follow-up post, DT. I appreciate your clarifications. I think we're at an impasse regarding the nature, meaning, and relevance of truth. On that see the book Truth Decay by Douglas Groothuis. In short, truth is what corresponds to reality. If Christ did rise from the dead (i.e., that is true), then it lends significant credence to his claims. Even his early followers recognized this, as you'll see in 1 Corinthians 15 where they grant that unless Christ has truly risen, their faith is in vain.

    You wrote, "I follow my own strict set of values." That's commendable, but where do these "strict set of values" come from? From where are they derived?

    Thanks again for your comments.

    • DT says:

      I shall take a look at the suggested book, but in regards to my set of values, I have to say that I can't specifically name a source other than from within myself.

      I've always had a great understanding of choice and free-will. I have never taken someone telling me something is wrong, or right, to heart. I've always understood that I choose what I think is right or wrong. My beliefs just grew out of my experiences and emotions based on those experiences.

      Neither of my parents told me something someone had done was flat-out wrong until I was in my teens (even then, it was apparent that when it was said, it was their own opinion). Before that, they would always say something along the lines of "Some people believe this to be wrong", or, "I always thought this was right, but you may find that you don't agree", but never, "This is wrong and you will not do again!"

      There was very little moral influence from my parents. My two siblings and I were allowed to grow however we wanted, which has made three very different people.

      Because our TV would only get Fox (just Fox Entertainment, not Fox News), I watched mainly The Simpsons and I'm sure I'd be a pretty wacky, messed up person if that's what had shaped my values.

      My beliefs and values have just come from inside, just from my feelings and experiences.

      All I can really say about it all is: It's just who I am.

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