Resurrection Faith

Mike Nappa did a survey of 845 Christian teenagers, The Jesus Survey, and asked them if Jesus was raised from the dead, that is, if he came back to life.

Once again, Nappa makes statements, provides answers from strongly agree to strongly disagree, and then plots the results. He also seeks to probe the issue from a positive affirmation to a negative denial in order to confirm the reliability of the first question.

How do you read these numbers and their importance? Anything surprising here?

1. 66% of Christian teenagers strongly disagree that Jesus “could not have physically come back to life” while 17% somewhat disagree; thus, 17% deny the resurrection. And this is somewhat confirmed when 60% strongly agree Jesus came back to life, with 25% more somewhat agreeing. Again, about 17% are negative on the resurrection.

2. Nappa sorts these questions through denominations and this time pushes back against some denominations represented in this teenage group: Presbyterians (64%), UMC (61%), Baptist (53%), Catholic (47%), Episcopal (40%), and UCC (36%) — strongly affirm resurrection.

3. There is a correlation between views on the Bible and belief in resurrection: The Unshakeables are at 80%, Uncertains at 48%, Unsettleds at 37%, and Unbelieving at 16%.

4. He plots by teenage age too, with the conclusion that as teenagers age the percentage who believe in the resurrection lowers.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • MikeK

    Re: Your question, “How do you read these numbers and their importance? Anything surprising here? ”

    I’m surprised that this book is getting as much attention here- even from me- than it deserves. A few negative comments deserve to be made here.

    First, there’s nothing random about the sample of teens included in this “survey”: Nappa only surveyed self-described Christians, and those who self-selected to attend the Reach Workcamps.

    On the face of it, that should scare more than a few lay people and ministers: the “numbers” represent teens who believe themselves to be already part of the Christian faith and were involved in mission at the time of the “survey.”

    Second, in my totally-non-random clicking of the 2012 Photos in the Reach Workcamp (where the survey was conducted) , I spotted a preponderance of white, plausibly middle-class, suburban teens. No teens of color. They are likely there, but, I’m not going to click every single page, either. But, you get my point:

    This “survey” is skewed to represent suburban, white teens. There’s no malice here on my part, and I’ll suggest that Nappa was unaware of the bias that he introduced to the survey methods. But, everyone reading needs to ask themselves a few questions such as:

    “What about teens who are not white: What do they believe? What kinds of mission do they participate in?”
    “What about those teens who chose not to attend the camp: what do they believe, and what can we learn from them about the decision not to attend camp, and how are both questions related to each other?”

    Finally, if there’s anything surprising here, it’s that Baker published this text. I cringe when survey results like Nappa’s get published. Moving ahead, I spotted a few comments from the previous post that expressed no surprise whatsoever in what the teens reported: I agree- I’m not surprised, either.

    We need some publications from and for youth ministry/young adult ministry that move the ball forward, instead of reworking old ground with faux methods that attempt to baptize the results for publication. The resurrection of Jesus is far too important to be reduced to a bad statistic for generating- what?- the same confessional standards, e.g., Nicaea? Homogeneous expressions of faith? Building up “the future of the church”? Those questions, relative to the resurrection, are important, but deserve better resources and reflection than this book offers.

  • Scot McKnight

    MikeK, I did point to some of your concerns in the first post… which means we have not a random sampling, but a defined group — and these are plausibly some things we can know about that kind of group. That is of use to any who ministers to that group, don’t you think?

    I see little need to examine Nappa’s own theological persuasions, apart from his near equation of this group with teens across the USA (though groups other than traditional evangelical conservatives are represented, including some Catholics — I doubt his numbers are sufficient), and he does at times push his theology and it is rather typical and conservative by instinct.

    Still, Mike, I do think these numbers say something about this kind of group.

  • Scot McKnight

    Mike, if I were a youth pastor or parent in a conservative evangelical movement I’d want to see these numbers and think about what’s happening… if his numbers are even close, there are changes underway.

  • MikeK

    Scot,
    Thanks for your generous-and unexpected!- reply.

    I would agree with you that some changes are underway: I’m not sure, though, that Nappa has indicated what those changes are. But, I’ll propose some here.

    Before I do that, I want to capitalize on your proposal, because I believe we’re on the same page here:
    “Mike, if I were a youth pastor or parent in a conservative evangelical movement I’d want to see these numbers and think about what’s happening…”

    I totally agree here. The questions that get raised, however, are more likely to fall into the same patterns of mission and tacit perceptions of how life, belief, and mission relate to each other. Faith is matter of cognition, recitation of certain convictions, and drawing some socially-safe implications of one’s beliefs. Questions regarding evangelism, service among the poor, and friendships with some one ethnically different from one’s self will rarely get attention as a crucial, gospel matters of faith in King Jesus.

    A contrast question, given the relative social/ethnic diversity (and disparity) between neighborhood, high school, and church, how do our youth/young adults live under the lordship of King Jesus?

    So, while I agree with you completely- for the audience of the defined group- sure, this book offers some illumination on the faith development of the youth, and it would benefit the parents and ministers for the youth, I resist the generalizations made within it. Even the youth of defined group, if given the opportunity to describe their social matrix, would likely observe both their own in-group bias as well as describe their lack of awareness of what the faith is like for their friends who are ethnically different from themselves.

    And, of course, I am pushing back on Nappa’s theological persuasions: plenty of us read the Gospels and observe Jesus having no reluctance to befriend, serve, or proclaim the Gospel among Gentiles- the ethnically different person. There are theological implications to what Nappa is describing: such entrench our existing ways of following Jesus and exclude us from participating in mission with people different from ourselves.

    My redundant appeal is that we move forward with addressing the ethnic composition and history of North America as followers of King Jesus. I’m guessing our youth, with all of their hormones and ambiguity and energy, want to follow Jesus in that way, too. Scot: Thanks again for your generous reply.

  • Scot McKnight

    Good points… If I were to write an interview for teens — at Christian camps no less — and I wanted to find out what they believed, I’d ask other questions too.

    Now one that is a kind of pushback against Nappa: I suspect one reason many youth waver on resurrection is because it does not matter that much in the theology and life of those they hear, but probably matters in their confession. A friend of mine examined the hits on a theological site populated by evangelicals and the number of hits on resurrection was shockingly low compared to crucifixion. I sense the same for many theological elements in our confession; they matter for the creed but not for life. Like Trinity: how often does it seem to matter to life? to how we explain ideas?

  • Patrick

    W/O resurrection, we would never have heard of Jesus. He’d have been the fake He appeared to be for those 3 days even to His disciples. That’s why they lost their faith isn’t it?

  • MikeK

    Scot,
    Those questions are the kind I would love to see Nappa use in interviews with the camp students.

    Just a word to all of youth workers, parents, and lay leaders of youth: asking those kinds of questions, and then reading the Scripture together, may move the students and yourself beyond the confession cul-de-sac that we’re in as evangelicals. We need confessions! Amen! But, we need lives that demonstrate- even fallibly- that we belong to the risen King Jesus.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X