Gen Z, Atheism, and The Problem of Evil

Posted: January 26, 2018 in Apologetics, problem of evil
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Generation Z

The generation born from 1999 to 2015.  They are the successors of Gen X (born 1965-1980) and Gen Y, also known as Millennials (b. 1981-1998).  The dates are approximations and arbitrary as created by sociologists and scholars studying generational trends.  The Barna Group alongside the ministry Impact360 has conducted as study of Gen Z’ers called “Who Is Gen Z.”  A short introductory video of their study can be viewed:

 

Jonathan Morrow, director of Cultural Engagement at Impact360, wrote an article titled “Why Gen Z Is Not Prepared To Follow Jesus In A Post-Everything World” and revealed that only 4% of Gen Z has a Biblical Worldview while atheism is on the rise amongst this generation.

Gen Z and Atheism

One of the things that has come to light in the Barna study:

“Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z”

In Barna’s report they reveal:

Enter Generation Z: Born between 1999 and 2015, they are the first truly “post-Christian” generation. More than any other generation before them, Gen Z does not assert a religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations, many of whom received a basic education on the Bible and Christianity. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population.

The percentage of Gen Z’ers to be atheist has more than double previous generations: 13% of Generation Z compared to 6% of adults:

comp gen z

Gen Z and The Problem of Evil

Why is Gen Z more likely to be atheistic?  Well, Barna asked and they answered:

Teens, along with young adults, are more likely than older Americans to say the problem of evil and suffering is a deal breaker for them. It appears that today’s youth, like so many throughout history, struggle to find a compelling argument for the existence of both evil and a good and loving God.

The problem of evil is an ancient objection dating all the way back to the Greek philosopher Epicurus who formulated the problem as such:

“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to; or he cannot and does not want to.  If he wants to, but cannot, he is not all powerful.  If he can, and he does not want to, he is wicked.  But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how comes evil in the world?”

The Problem of Evil and Apologetics

Notice, this is an intellectual objection to the truth of Christianity.  Oddly, Christian philosophers, theologians, and apologists have answered this intellectual objection.  In fact, they have answered it so convincingly that even professional atheists have admitted that there is not logical problem of evil that has successfully demonstrated that God doesn’t exist.  The late atheist philosopher William Rowe, stated that “Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of a theistic God.  No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim.” Consider Paul Draper, agnostic philosopher of religion at Purdue: “I do not see how it is possible to construct a convincing logical argument from evil against theism.”

Christian scholars have gone on to differentiate between two types of intellectual problems of evil: the logical problem (as commented on by Rowe and Draper above) and the evidential problem of evil.  I won’t address the difference here (see the videos by Reasonable Faith below as well as the other resources), but just seeing the categorization by Christian scholars shows how extensively they have thought and contemplated the issue of evil.

Intellectual vs. Emotional Evil

While Rowe and Draper are referring to the intellectual problem of evil, evil and suffering has another sides: emotional.  This is an important distinction we need to make.  While one can (and has) provide answers to the intellectual problem of evil, it doesn’t mean that we won’t experience evil personally.  We still have to grapple and suffer through evil and pain.  Some of it quite horrific.  But the emotional experience of pain and suffering is not an argument, but a personal struggle.  It is a struggle that the Christian worldview can offer satisfying resources and comfort for someone who is suffering pain and evil.  Christianity can speak of the patience and mercy of God. It can mention the future perfection that awaits all who trust in Christ. It can offer the comfort that a redemptive God is working to cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It has a “good news” of hope for a broken world. The atheistic worldview denies these luxuries.

Apologetics and the Christian worldview has the intellectual and emotional resources for Gen Z.  It just needs to be communicated: which Christian apologetics does.  Not just intellectual answers, but deeply personal, psychological, and spiritual answers.

Resources:

Books:

God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain ed. by Chad Meister and James K. Dew, Jr. – one of the best collected works covering all the angles on the question of evil that “offers convincing and compelling reassurance that though we are pressed on every side with great evil and suffering, the God of the universe is greater still.”

Why Does God Allow Evil? Compelling Answers to Life’s Toughest Questions by Clay Jones – a shorter work that answer some of the common questions in a very accessible but intellectual sound manner

The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs by Jeremy A. Evans 

The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis – a classic examination of the intellectual problem of evil

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis – an examination of the emotional problem of evil

Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness–A Philosopher’s Lament by Douglas Groothuis – a new book by Christian philosopher Groothuis as he opens up personally about his wife’s struggle with dementia as he reflects on it as a philosopher and a husband

 

Videos:

The Logical Problem of Evil:

 

The Evidential (Probabilistic) Problem of Evil:

 

Other videos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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