Is creation education vital to a healthy Christian faith? What do statistics show?
We recently received a question about the impact of creation education from a gentleman who teaches in Christian school. This school claims neutrality on Genesis though the teacher is a strong young-earth creationist. His question was specifically geared toward whether creation education was effective in keeping young people from leaving the church, as he wanted to present such data to his administration. As far as we are aware, no survey has ever specifically addressed this question. However, in our survey we did with America’s Research Group back in 2014, we studied five different denominations and found that exposure to biblical creation teaching did have a significant impact on the doctrinal orthodoxy of those who received it as a child.
The average church has one service a week, plus Sunday School, plus potentially some form of children’s ministry. Usually this will be about three hours a week of a child’s life.
It is important to emphasize that church has a much smaller impact on young people’s lives in general than school does. This is not the fault of the church entirely (though sadly many churches have rejected the book of Genesis as their foundation); it is merely a question of time. The average church has one service a week, plus Sunday School, plus potentially some form of children’s ministry. Usually this will be about three hours a week of a child’s life. Even in a church that has a Sunday night service and a potential youth group during the week, the maximum amount of time a child will spend in church is five hours a week. Even if the child attends from birth the maximum number of times a week until they leave home for college at 18, they will spend a mere 4,680 hours in church over their first eighteen years of life. Clearly this scenario is unrealistic and assumes children can digest sermons and lessons in church from birth but this is deliberately trying to build a best possible outcome scenario.
Schools have, at minimum, 3 times more time to teach children than the church does.
Conversely, if a child attends a public school, they will spend roughly (district dependent) from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. in school, five days a week. Even if a child does attend church for five services a week for an hour each service, schools have five times as much time per week, thirty hours, to indoctrinate children into secularism. Thirty hours a week during the school year of 36 weeks from the time a child is five until they are 18 works out to over 14,000 hours over that time period. Dividing 14,000 hours by the best case scenario of the amount of time spent in church, 4,680 hours, yields a ratio of about three. Thus schools have, at minimum, three times more time to teach children than the church does.
It is worth pointing out at this stage that public schools are hardly neutral venues. Graphic sexual education is being pushed even at the lower grade levels. Evolution is taught as fact and is seeping into fields other than science classes. There are still a few Christian teachers in the system, but even in Bible-belt areas, the curriculum is thoroughly Darwinian and teaches a worldview that explicitly contradicts the biblical worldview.
This is not to discount the influence of the church. It simply demonstrates that schools have a much greater opportunity to influence young people. However, the 2014 survey found that theological orthodoxy correlated strongly to what people were taught in their church as young people. The survey examined members of five denominations and asked them their opinions on various Bible topics, as well as what they were taught about biblical creation as children in church. For the purposes of this article, we have labeled the denominations as X, Y, Z AA, and AB.1
In Table 1, the things that the various denominations were taught as children are summarized. As can be clearly seen, denomination X was the least likely to be taught incorrect ideas on Genesis in general, and the most likely to have been taught correct theology on Genesis as children. In fact, in only one case was denomination X not the best of the five on the question of whether their pastor taught millions of years. In all other areas, denomination X was best on the teaching of Genesis, and their average was nearly ten percent better than their nearest opponent.
|In Sunday School at Least Most Sundays||78.2||64.3||67.7||60.6||53|
|Sunday School Classes Improved Faith||84.7||67.3||68.8||77.3||68.5|
|Teacher Defended Bible||67.5||47||47.1||46.4||43.5|
|Pastor Spoke Against Darwinism||30.3||13.3||20.8||14.4||27|
|Pastor Preached About Adam and Creation||81.6||73.5||76||67.3||77|
|Taught to Defend Faith||55.9||48.5||47.5||45.2||43.0|
|Pastor Did Not Teach Millions of Years||70||60.7||73.2||55.8||55.0|
|Pastor Taught 24 Hour Day Creation||80||74||74.9||66.3||76|
|Pastor Did Not Indicate Genesis Was Myth||88.1||80.1||76.5||75||61|
This pattern holds in table two as well. When asked their view of Genesis today, denomination X was the most likely to be orthodox. Only on dinosaurs living with man, and a global Flood in Noah’s day did another denomination perform better. Even on something foundational like Adam and Eve’s sin, denomination X performed ten percent better than their closest rival. On average, denomination X performed ten percent better on Genesis than any other denomination in this survey. Unsurprisingly, they were also ten percent more likely to be taught the truth about Genesis.
|Believe in creation not evolution||92.4||75||78.1||72.1||68|
|Adam and Eve were real||91.6||82.1||77.6||69.2||79|
|Adam and Eve sinned||92.4||82.1||79.8||71.2||78|
|Global Flood and Noah’s Ark||91.9||82.7||89.1||94.2||86|
|Earth is 10k or less years old||61.3||41.8||50.8||51.9||43|
|God created universe in 24 hour days||79.5||61.2||64.5||59.6||67|
|Believe dinosaurs lived with man||21.6||17.3||24||20.2||18|
|6 24 hour day creation||83.2||65.8||70.5||65.4||61|
|God did not use evolution in animals||79.2||65.3||66.1||56.7||53|
|Man did not evolve from apes||84.9||75.5||70.5||62.5||67|
Denomination X also performed better when it came to church attendance and understanding orthodox doctrine. As shown in table 3, denomination X is the most likely to have a biblical understanding of salvation, and is the most likely to believe the Bible is the only inerrant, inspired Word of God. They also have the best average by eight points above their closest rival.
|Has been baptized||88.1||81.6||74.9||78.8||77|
|Consider Self Born Again||73.8||71.4||55.2||59.6||44|
|Feel Confident Defending Faith||87.0||86.2||82.5||84.6||83|
|All Bible Books Inspired by God||96.8||90.3||97.3||95.2||89|
|Other holy books not inspired||75.1||74.5||52.5||51||75|
|Read Bible cover to cover||32.4||31.1||21.3||14.4||24|
|Church is Relevant||84.9||86.7||80.3||86.5||78|
|Bible True and Historically Accurate||84.1||66.3||70.5||69.2||65|
|Sodom & Gomorrah and Lot’s wife real||86.8||73||72.1||63.5||64|
|Isaac born when Abraham 100||86.6||76.5||87.4||82.7||72|
|God inspired authors of Scripture||94.6||82.1||89.1||89.4||91|
|Attend church at least most Sundays||74.9||61.2||56.3||46.2||59|
|Believe people need to go to church||76.5||73.5||62.3||58.7||69|
|Good people don’t go to heaven||48.1||36.7||33.9||26||27|
|Must receive Christ to be saved||74.9||51||54.6||60.6||55|
|Bible is God’s Word||88.1||76.5||76.5||67.3||71|
This belief about Genesis extends to social issues as well, as shown in table 4. Denomination X is the most likely to believe abortion should be outlawed, by far the most likely to believe homosexuality is wrong, and by far the most likely to believe premarital sex is wrong. On average denomination X is over ten percent better on social issues, which, coincidentally, is about the same likelihood that they were taught a biblical view of Genesis.
|Gay Marriage is not ok||69.5||45.4||40.4||51||43|
|Homosexuality is sinful||74.6||51.5||51.9||60.6||44|
|Abortion should be illegal||67.3||43.9||42.6||50||51|
|Premarital sex is wrong||68.1||44.9||44.3||53.8||50|
|Public School problems correlate to removal of God||75.9||64.8||59.6||76||62|
While none of these things directly address the education issue, it should be clear that there is a correlation between a biblical understanding of Genesis (i.e., God created the universe in six, literal, twenty-four-hour days a few thousand years ago) and the orthodoxy of those taught that understanding on other biblical and social issues. There is, however, some school data that indirectly address this issue as well.
While our 2014 survey with America’s research group did not ask about the impact of a creation-based education, it did elucidate some results of an evolutionary based one. As shown in table 5, denomination X was the least likely to attend public school at any stage,2 as well as the second most likely not to be taught evolution and millions of years in school. Potentially as a result, they were the least likely to graduate believing the Bible was less true. As a side note, the person most likely to convince those from Christian homes that the Bible was less true was their high school teacher. This was true across every denomination.
|Didn’t Attended public school (elem)||15.1||10.7||5.5||5.8||14|
|Didn’t Attended public school (high)||13.5||9.7||4.9||2.9||13|
|Science teacher didn’t teach millions of years||16.8||11.2||12.6||6.7||25|
|Science teacher didn’t teach human evolution||29.7||24.5||33.9||15.4||36|
|Didn’t graduate believing the Bible less||83||77||70.5||60.6||71|
|No errors in the Bible||79.7||51.5||62.8||56.7||43|
|If graduated believing Bible less true, high school teacher was the cause3||59.6||59||41.3||48.6||76|
Based on the afore-presented data, there are some very obvious correlations that can be drawn. Having a pastor/leader/elder teaching creation in church better equips young people to remain in the faith down the line, as well as remain active in church. Further, the most likely people to convince young people the Bible is untrue or less true are their high school teachers. While this does not explicitly address the question of what creation-based education could do, it does imply that creation education could help keep young people in the church, particularly since schools have three times more time to teach young people than the church does.
It is very important that children are taught the truth of Scripture from the youngest age.
It is very important that children are taught the truth of Scripture from the youngest age on upward. Just hearing it in church significantly increases the likelihood that they will remain in church when they get older. Our Christian schools need to be teaching this as well if we want keep our churches from dying. If our Christian schools would stop pretending to be neutral (though there is no neutral (Luke 11:23)) and teach what the Bible says about creation, the potential to keep young people in the church is fantastic. Given just exposure to church teaching on creation correlates nearly percentage point to percentage point with the likelihood of young people remaining orthodox, consider how much better an institution with three times as much impact could have.