The main reason people abandon Christianity is unanswered intellectual questions, yet many churches treat faith as a mostly emotional experience, philosopher Nancy Pearcey argued in an interview with The Christian Post. Her new book, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes, provides five practical strategies to help Christians think about issues that challenge their faith.

Pearcey is a best-selling author whose previous works include Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, and, coauthored with Charles Colson and Harold Fickett, How Now Shall We Live?

Following the Apostle Paul’s example in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, Finding Truth provides readers with a progression of five principles to help them identify unbiblical ideas and articulate a response to those ideas. These principles are useful for both speaking to non-Christians and for addressing unbiblical ideas that have infiltrated the Church. Each of the core chapters deals with one of the five principles, and there is a study guide in the back of the book.

Those principles are:

  1. Identify the idol.
  2. Identify the idol’s reductionism.
  3. Test the idol: Does it contradict what we know about the world?
  4. Test the idol: Does it contradict itself?
  5. Replace the idol: Make the case for Christianity.

Pearcey said the book was motivated, in particular, out of a concern for young Christians. Church youth groups are often good at establishing an emotional commitment but are failing young Christians intellectually. Parents and church leaders need to encourage their youth to grapple with difficult questions and help them learn to think through those issues, she argued, or else they will be left unprepared when their views are challenged.

Pearcey reports, “studies find that the main reason people abandon their Christian upbringing is unanswered intellectual questions. The researchers were surprised; they expected to hear stories of relationship issues — people saying they’d been hurt or emotionally wounded. But the reason given most often by those who de-convert is that they could not get answers to their doubts and questions.”

That is my own story as well. Raised in a Lutheran home, I started asking questions in high school: How can we know that Christianity is true? Is it just an emotional crutch? None of the adults in my life gave any answers. I asked a college professor why he was a Christian, but all he said was, “Works for me.” A seminary dean said, “Don’t worry. We all have doubts sometimes” — as though I was just going through a psychological phase.”

“I am especially concerned,” Pearcey continues, “about a generation of young people who are not being prepared for the challenges of growing up in a secularized culture.Recently a mother told me, with tears in her eyes, that her son had lost his faith at a state university. The teen was a psychology major; and ever since Freud, most psychological theories have treated Christianity as a symptom of neurosis, an infantile regression, a projection of an imaginary father figure in the sky. The student came from a loving family and strong church, but he was not prepared for the barrage of critical theories he was learning in the classroom. Within a semester, he had abandoned his Christian upbringing.”

“The good news,” she concludes, “is that in recent years, apologetics resources have become far more available. The bad news is that many churches continue to ignore those resources, treating Christianity as though it were primarily emotional.Youth groups rarely encourage young people to grapple with tough questions. Instead the goal seems to be to engineer events that ratchet up emotional commitment. But emotional intensity is not enough to block out questions. If anything, it leads teens to redefine Christianity in purely emotional terms — which leaves them vulnerable when they finally do face their questions.”

To find out more about this book, click here.