What does Gen Z believe about God, Jesus, and the Bible?
Based on the sheer number of Gen Zers who claim to be atheists, at least a third of you reading this are probably raising a child who embraces atheism. Not only that, most of the 63 percent of Gen Zers who profess belief in God also say that the God of the Bible is the same as Allah in the Quran. Yet the God of Christianity is not the same as Allah of Islam.
But just because many Gen Zers reject religion, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not spiritual. Spirituality (what some once labeled as the New Age movement) is trending again among young people. One student told me she dabbles in New Age practices because they calm her down when she’s stressed. Another Gen Zer commented that New Age meditation helps bring balance to his life. I asked if he ever prays while meditating. “Sometimes,” he said, and then clarified that meditation isn’t about talking to a deity as much as finding peace in the universe.
We need to help Gen Zers repair and rebuild their trust in the church and pick up the broken pieces of their faith.
At least 40 percent of Gen Z identify as Christians, yet very few Gen Zers feel confident enough to publicly express their personal faith in Christ. Of all the generations in America today, Gen Z is the one most likely to believe that Jesus was only a man and certainly wasn’t God. In some academic circles, there’s a growing movement that suggests Jesus didn’t even exist.
Gen Z is living in a time and place heavily influenced by YouTubers such as The Atheist Experience, The Thinking Atheist, Cosmic Skeptic, and Paulogia. These channels (and lots of others) reduce Christianity to nothing more than a copycat religion, and they paint Jesus as a simple Jewish peasant who ruffled a few feathers back in the day and was eventually killed.
Gen Z’s growing uncertainty about Jesus is concerning. There are two primary issues with Gen Z’s attitude about the Bible. First, many Gen Zers deny the credibility of Scripture. Second, because they don’t see the significance of the Bible for their everyday lives, many Gen Zers never pick it up and read it.
Take a moment to consider your children.
Do they think logically? How do they process and analyze information? Are they good at diagnosing problems and formulating solutions? Are they gullible, or do they ask probing questions to uncover the truth?
The rushed way that much of Gen Z retrieves information today doesn’t do much to advance their learning process. In fact, the ease with which they can access information is hindering Gen Z’s ability to think for themselves. They are now accustomed to simply asking virtual assistants such as Siri or Alexa to tell them only what they want to know, and not a bit more. They have access to all the facts without any of the thoughts. As a result, many Gen Zers lack even the most basic critical thinking skills. Without logical and critical thinking, how can we expect anyone to reach any well-reasoned conclusions about what is true or false, right or wrong, wise or foolish? Developing necessary reasoning skills can help safeguard your children by teaching them to sniff out unfounded claims and discern the truth more clearly.
Christian parents in general tend to assume that their children have a proper understanding of God, but that’s not always the case. Many teens and college students have a distorted or negative view of God. Maybe they haven’t received proper teaching about God, or perhaps they’ve picked up a few wrong opinions along the way. Others feel distant from God because they feel unworthy. The first thing I want to say is that we should all try to be patient and avoid making assumptions about our kids. Second, you don’t need a theology degree to talk to your kids about God. If you do want to sharpen your knowledge, there are lots of resources available for parents, as well as plenty of passages in the Bible about the nature of God.
Third, a great way to start the conversation with your kids is by asking them some simple questions to get a feel for what they know (or don’t know) about the topic:
• “Who do you think God is?”
• “What do you know about God?”
• “What does the Bible say about God?”
• “Why can’t we see God?”
• “Are there ways we can know that God is with us?”
In a church survey I conducted, seventeen-year-old Caleb expressed his view of God in these terms: “God, to me, is like a mighty being who I feel is never pleased with how I live my life.”
Jessica, an eighth grader, described God as a “distant and cold deity who cares nothing about us.”
What might be a few good questions to ask a young person like Caleb or Jessica? Here are a few suggestions:
• “Caleb, why do you feel that God is disappointed with you? Has something happened to make you feel this way?”
• “Jessica, what do you mean when you refer to God as a ‘cold deity’?”
• “Caleb, have you ever read through the Bible to learn what it teaches about God? Would you like to know what the Bible says about Him?”
• “Jessica, how and why did you develop the belief that God is distant?”
Most Christian children are taught that God is love (1 John 4:8). But God is also holy, righteous, and just (Psalm 22:3). They need to know that God is both infinitely loving and unlimited in His goodness. He will never do something that goes against His nature. God cannot lie or do evil things.
Fourth, look for regular opportunities to continue discussions about God. For your older Gen Zers, go deeper with them by examining proper theology about God. For example, bring up how the Bible teaches that God is one in nature (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6-8), yet He is also revealed in three distinctive (yet united) persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. According to Hebrews 6:17-18, God is perfect and unchanging. That means God doesn’t need to improve on who He is. He doesn’t need to get better.
If your Gen Z children claim to be atheists, here are four proofs for them to consider about the existence of God. These are not exhaustive and are somewhat abbreviated for the sake of space. (Consider consulting some additional resources in the Notes at the end of this book.11)
1. The first proof is divine design.
Paul writes in Romans 1:20, “His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Elsewhere, the Bible speaks to the universe’s vast splendor and complexity, pointing to a magnificent Creator who made all things (Psalm 19:1-4).
2. The second proof is that God has revealed Himself through human conscience.
God, who created the universe and placed the earth in orbit, also designed human beings to fulfill His purpose and gave us moral standards to live by. The Bible states that God’s law is written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15), which explains why we instinctively know right from wrong and have a moral obligation to do right.
3. The third proof for God’s existence is the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came into the world to not only reveal His love for humanity but to restore us to Himself by laying down His life for our sins (1 Peter 3:18) and rising from the dead on the third day (Luke 24).
4. The fourth proof for God is found in the Holy Scriptures.
Composed over a span of about sixteen hundred years, across three continents, and with forty different authors writing in three languages, the accuracy and continuity of the Bible are unmatched.
WHAT ABOUT EVIL?
Concerning the problem of evil, parents need to be able to give a reasonable and biblical defense. Here are three points you can use to make a case for the coexistence of God and evil.
1. Teach your kids that in the beginning, God created everything good.
And because free will is a good thing, this means that mankind had the potential to choose wrong— to choose evil. It was Adam and Eve who freely chose to sin, resulting in evil entering the world. Therefore, God is not the author of evil. No, evil is the absence of good. Good and evil are like light and darkness. Darkness, simply put, is the absence of light.
2. Help them understand how inconsistent atheism is.
For instance, what is an atheist’s basis for morality? How can the atheist believe in objective right or wrong without some underlying standard of justice? If there is no God, then the atheist’s beliefs about morality are subjective, not objective. You are not putting down the atheist, just merely revealing his or her inconsistent reasoning.
3. The final point is that God (despite what atheists believe) is omnibenevolent— possessing perfect or unlimited goodness—not malevolent, and He will eradicate evil from the world one day.
God knows the finality of sin and has His reasons for allowing it to run its course. For instance, as Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (emphasis added).
Thus, for an atheist to say that evil exists because God is malevolent is simply a false proposition—one that doesn’t deal with who God is nor recognizes that giving His children the free will to choose their own actions essentially guarantees the existence of evil. At least the Bible explains exactly how sin entered the world and how God will remove it someday (see Acts 3:21, Romans 8:18-22).
Jason Jimenez is the founder of STAND STRONG Ministries. He is a pastor, apologist, and national speaker who has ministered to families for over twenty years. He is the author of several books, including Abandoned Faith, Stand Strong America, Stand Strong in Your Faith with Alex McFarland, and The Bible’s Answers to 100 of Life’s Biggest Questions with Dr. Norman L. Geisler. Jason’s newest book, Parenting Gen Z, will release on October 3rd from Focus on the Family. Jason travels and speaks in churches and at conferences all over America. He and his wife, Celia, live in Charlotte, North Carolina, with their four children.
Taken from Parenting Gen Z: Guiding Your Child through a Hostile Culture by Jason Jimenez Copyright © 2023. Used by permission of Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.