I’ve heard D.A. Carson once say to this effect that for the first generation the gospel is believed, the second generation the gospel is assumed, and the third generation the gospel is lost.  Now, I’ve seen both positive and negative signs that gives me hope concerning the next generation of Christians.  That can be saved for another post.

But, something I read from C.S. Lewis in a book called God in the Dock, which is a collection of essays by him, made me pause and reflect.  In short, I think he hits the topic of passing the Christian faith to the next generation right on the head.  Let me offer a few quotes from what he wrote.  It was a preface to a book by B.G. Sandhurst called How Heathen is Britain?  The book was examining the views of young men that have come out of WWII concerning Christianity.  What was found among these men was that they were highly skeptical of Christianity and did not believe in Christ.  C.S. Lewis observes,

“Firstly, that the content of, and the case for Christianity, are not put before most schoolboys under the present system…”

He describes that the reason for the next generation not believing is because they were never taught in the first place.  He writes,

“If we had noticed that the young men of the present day found it harder and harder to get the right answers to sum, we should consider that this had been adequately explained the moment we discovered that the schools had for some years ceased to teach arithmetic… If the younger generation have never been told what the Christians say and never heard any arguments in defence of it, then their agnosticism or indifference is fully explained.”

Lewis then points blame not at the young men, but the generation before.  He writes,

“I allow, of course that the explanation which our author has discovered merely puts the problem a generation further back.  The young people today are un-Christian because their teachers have been either uwilling or unable to transmit Christianity to them… The outlook which they have – until they are taught better – is a backwash from an earlier period.  It is nothing intrinsic to themselves which holds them back from the Faith… This very obvious fact – that each generation is taught by an earlier generation – must be kept very firmly in mind.”

But if you think Lewis is arguing for schools to start teaching Christianity, he would argue against it saying,

“A society which is predominantly Christian will propagate Christianity through its schools: one which is not, will not… We are often told that education is a key position.  That is very false in one sense and very true in another.  If it means that you can do any great thing by interfering with existing schools, altering the curricula and the like, it is very false.  As the teachers are, so they will teach… even if we were permitted to force a Christian curriculum on the existing schools with the existing teachers we should only be making masters hypocrites and hardening thereby the pupils’ hearts.”

So where does Lewis place the blame, and the solution for passing Christianity to the next generation?  The adults, and more so I would say, on the parents.  He concludes,

“To blame the schoolmasters of the last ten years for it would be ridiculous.  The majority of them failed to hand on Christianity because they had it not: will you blame a eunuch because he gets no children or a stone because it yields no blood?… I do not, therefore, think that our hope of re-baptising England lies in trying to ‘get at’ the schools.  Education is not in that sense a key position.  To convert one’s adult neighbour and one’s adolescent neighbour (just free from school) is the practical thing… If you make the adults of today Christian, the children of tomorrow will receive a Christian education.  What a society has, that, be sure, and nothing else, it will hand on to its young.  The work is urgent, for men perish around us.”

And that is true, the work is urgent.  In light of God’s order, the youth are under leadership:  the parents.  If the parents are Christian, they will see there is no greater task, no other sense of urgency, than to give them Christ.  Oh, I pray that parents will see this and my heart breaks for this truth to be grasped by parents today!  I pray that parents see this as their central and most important job that is not just 9-5 but a 24 hour job.  May we as parents see the glorious mandate of the ministry God has called us to.

 “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4