“Where did you come up with that Ben? I thought I taught you better than this,” Fred says to his son being disturbed by the new way of thinking that he has never encouraged. “You need to quit reading all those books. They are not good for your faith.” Ben’s behavior as of late has caused Fred to be greatly discouraged, but he has always taken heart knowing that his son has been taught THE truth from a very early age. But with this conversation, there arises a thought in the mind of this well intentioned father. Today it is a fleeting thought, tomorrow it will be more secure. In a year, it will be reality. The thought is this: Maybe Ben does not believe what I taught him anymore. This can’t be. I remember when he was a kid and as sure as me that our truth was THE truth.

“But dad,” Ben continued, “Haven’t you ever asked that question? Haven’t you ever wondered? How can you be so sure?” “No Ben, I have not,” Fred responded, hoping that his own naked confidence would serve as a stepping stone for his son’s faith, “Never. I know the truth and that is why I can spot a lie. And, as sure as I live, what you are talking about is a lie from the pit of hell.” Ben quiets down as his dad suddenly sinks into an abyss of irrelevancy in the marketplace of ideas.

Things are different today. I know we all know this and we talk about it quite a bit. Technology, information, relationships, Facebook, and the break-neck speed of society is taking its toll on everything. There are good effects and bad effects. Information is a good thing. We all need it. We want to be informed about what is really happening. We want to know what actually is. We don’t want to be naive.

In times past, we were very sheltered. Our limited communities determined so much of who we are. Our morals, practices, and beliefs were all shaped in a sanctioned and sacred environment of tradition. This was positive and negative. It was positive because it gave us more confidence and stability, less doubt and depression, and no conflict and disillusionment. There was no intercom from other societies. There was no megaphone being heard from those who think differently. We had less fear and fewer problems to shoulder. Most importantly, for the purposes here, we had less information that would conflict with what we “knew” to be the truth. The “New Atheists” could only disturb those with whom they had immediate contact. YouTube videos of people denouncing our beliefs were not available. There were no distant heroes that let us down as they fell into sin or walked away from the faith. If those people did exist, it was much easier to write them off without even the slightest consideration.

But now we live in a time of consideration. We can hear the pulpits from other societies and communities just as easily as we can ours. And they are just as loud as Dad’s voice. We are no longer sheltered. Unless we are willing to become Amish we cannot avoid the challenge that is out there. It is a challenge that is ready, willing and more than able (in our current condition) to bring into serious question everything we hold dear. 

This does not mean that the challenge is a legitimate contender for our minds. Some are, some are not. The problem is that most have no idea how to face and process these challenges. Often, because of the well-intentioned sheltering from the outside, the smallest most feeble contender scores a KO in round one.

You would not believe the amount of correspondence I get from people who are falling apart. You really would not. More specifically, everything that they believe is falling apart. All those things that they took for granted for so many years during their sheltered upbringing is no longer intellectually sustainable in this new world. The conflict of information is driving them into both despair and depression. They think that in order to retain the faith they hold dear there are only two options at their door: 1) Turn off the TV, turn down the radio, filter the internet, and close the books or 2) resort to a purely emotional based faith that is present regardless of what seems to be conflicting information.


Option one is called “Obscurantism.” The idea is that we obscure, filter, and sensor all “bad” information. “Bad” information is defined at this point by that which conflicts with already established beliefs. The problem is that it is virtually impossible to be an obscurantist any longer. It is certainly not feasible to think our kids will carry this legacy. Most importantly, it is not godly. Who is to say that your obscured world possesses THE truth? Obscurantists don’t really know.

Cognitive Dissonance:

Option two is not any better. While it is more comforting for a time, this process will eventually break. While emotions are very strong, so is the mind. Propping up your faith on the shoulders of your emotions inevitably leads to a battle with your mind. Cognitive dissonance is the formal technical term for this way of thinking. This describes a life lived where you are committed in practice and emotion to some way of thinking that you are not really intellectually convinced of.

The father above started with number one. Once he realized that the real world today would not allow it any longer, he resorted to number two. The problem is that with people who are unprepared, too much information can destroy a very vital part of their faith.

In Evangelicalism today we are going through a crisis. The pews are filled with people who are in the middle of this battle. They are fighting for their beliefs and many of them are losing. Some leave the church believing it is naive and archaically denying reality. Some are in a mind/spirit/emotion battle, not knowing how to sort out the conflict. Others are doing their best to live on the high of their emotions. All the while the church itself is falling way behind and losing its relevance and voice.

As the information increases, the questions increase. As the questions increase the possibility for doubt increases. As doubt increases, faith comes to a crisis point. There is simply nothing we can do to stop the increase of information. As well, we should not want to. Even if we could, we should not seek to shelter people from information or convince people that the mind does not matter. We need to respond in kind. We need to be ready to give an answer for our faith. And Christianity does have answers. I don’t believe that too much information can destroy the Christian faith. On the contrary, I believe that it will sustain it. I am not saying that everything gets wrapped up in a nice little bow and we move along without any more struggles. I am not saying that we have a perfect understanding of all the issues. What I am saying is that Christianity does not need to fear the rise of information, but to learn with it, integrate it, and to teach people how to process their faith when it is bombarded by contenders, both legitimate and illegitimate. We even need to teach people that it is okay to adjust and nuance our faith along with it. This is not unbiblical. After all, all truth is God’s truth. Biblical truth is God’s truth and we need never fear contention, but we must be ready for it and we must disciple our people and our children in such a way that they are not so shaken.

Sadly, the church today has responded to this information overload by increasing the availability for people to numb their minds with experience and emotional charges and manipulation, believing that the faith produced from this is enough since they believe God is in charge. Most churches are ignoring the mind. Rarely do you find a pastor on staff of a church that is committed to learning, studying, and helping people work through the real challenges they face. Check it out yourself. Pastors today are taught to deal with the felt needs of their people through countless programs that bring in big numbers. But they fail to nurture the real need: people need to believe, not be entertained.

I met with a guy recently at my home who shared a story not unlike that mentioned above. His child is questioning many things for the first time. The father was falling apart because of this, wondering what he did wrong. More than this, after some time now, his son’s battle is becoming his own and he does not know how to process the same questions.

Sometimes the emotions will pull the intellect into submission. Sometimes it will be your spirit. For the Christian, we don’t necessarily need to say this is a bad thing. But we have to realize the power of the intellect. It often pulls both our spirit and our emotions. And this is not bad either. Jesus tells us that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul (spirit), and mind. To neglect the latter is simply self-defeating for the Christian. We are to be wholistic in our approach to faith.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    22 replies to "Warning: Too Much Information May Destroy Your Faith"

      • kym121

        Religion is more than an emotional manifestation of what we represent. God created humanity with an intellectual mind- one that is infused with the power to reason, analyze, create science, philosophy, and have enough faith to believe in an entity that cannot be seen. My closest friend is an Athiest and we have regular discussions about God and why people continue to hold their faith. If revelation, like one ones given in visions to the prophets was to be considered too much information (as it would be form a source that is presumed to be the All Knowing God), why do we strive so hard to get closer to the truth of what God’s purpose is for us? Most religions have similiar ideals for what that means, but none completely agree with one another either. This is to say, if you were approached by a prophet of today who could tell you about the mysteries of The Almighty, why we were created, and what happens when we die, would you reject it for fear of knowing/ having too much information?

    • john alan turner

      Thanks so much for this post. As a pastor, I work really hard to make sure I’m not just holding a pep rally on Sunday mornings but am actually helping people live better lives by re-examining what they really believe.

      As for the story you start the post with, it’s perfectly normal and healthy for an adolescent to go through what is known as the inquisitive stage of faith development. In fact, it’s the only way for someone to actually own their own faith. Parents ought to welcome this phase (even though it’s really tough and can create some anxiety in us) and walk through it with our kids.

      As my friend Ken Boa and I say in a book about this very topic (sorry for the plug), Christianity is an anvil that has been wearing out hammers for nearly 2,000 years now. It’s not afraid of your questions.

    • I strongly agree that for too long we have tried to deal with these kind of issues by protecting and insulating people form the world rather than dealing with intellectual issues. I started as an agnostic as I have mentioned before and came to Christianity because it was in my opinion the only thing that made sense of the world. What we need is not less information but more information from the right perspective.

    • Brian

      I’m thankful that I was not totally isolated growing up. I went to a private Christian school through fifth grade, but since they only went through 6th at that time, and I would have had to start public school anyway in the 7th, my parents went ahead and transitioned me to public school when I was 11 so I could make some friends for a year before starting to change classrooms every period.

      I’m very thankful for those early years where I had Bible class every day. I feel that helped give me a foundation that I could stand on when I entered the public school arena. But I’m also glad I went to public school in Jr and Sr High. That helped me become conversant with unbelievers and other worldviews in preparation for college. I hate to think what it would have been like to move from a sheltered Christian education all through high school and suddenly be dropped into a secular university. I was going to major in computer and information science, and one of the best schools in the state for that was right here where I live (plus, going off to a private Christian college was out of the financial question, especially when considering the full academic scholarship available locally, and the low cost of continuing to live at home those 4 years).

      Now, I’m looking at going back to school, this time for an M.Div., because I see the importance of helping provide my daughters and their peers with not just the opportunity to have an experience with God, but also to have their intellects formed by the Word. I want them to have those soul-shaking encouters with God at an altar, but also have the factual knowledge of God’s Word to stand on when their emotional well is empty or when dealing with those of other religions who are convinced that their beliefs are correct because they also “feel it” in their soul.

    • Chris S

      Excellent! Michael. If Christians don’t heed this message we are going to continue to “drop like flies”. The Christian message will stand up to scrutiny. Not every traditional idea we have regarding truth (some true , some not so true) will.

      This is when we have to identify the non-negotiables of our faith and realize that the core of our faith, God’s truth will stand. It is defendable. But we must realize that some of what we are trying to defend will not stand up to the same scrutiny.

      My 20 yr old son has modified many of the conservative christian ideas he was taught since leaving home for college, but the core of his faith remains. There are now some issues that we strongly disagree on and yet I must remind myself that many if not all of these things are not written in stone in God’s Word. Some I have held to for years because of the filter I use to read & study God’s Word.
      I have really tried not to “freak out” on him and we have been able to have some great (sometimes heated) conversations that we both have learned from. At the end of the day I since that he loves Christ more than when he first went away to college.

    • Random Arrow (Jim)

      Michael, great blog. Engaging buoyant style. Interlaced optimism and criticism. Fair nods to your critics. Nice touch.

      You wrote – “I don’t believe that too much information can destroy the Christian faith …. Christianity does not need to fear the rise of information, but to learn with it, integrate it, and to teach people how to process their faith (and on).”

      I agree. At least with this verbal formulae. Your nod to cognitive dissonance plays to factual/empirical questions about how and whether believers really do (or do not) integrate new information into existing convictions.

      My comment here (next) is not adversarial. Nor argumentative. It’s descriptive.

      Empirical/clinical studies of active, practicing, confessing Calvinists (just one e.g.; could apply to Arminians too) reveal no correlation (no effect) between theological conviction/confession and real-life attribution to God’s action. Theological convictions (i.e., for Calvinists, God’s sovereignty) which should commit Calvinists to assert God’s direct control in real life attributions are simply not upheld. A slew of studies upholds the trajectory of such findings (for one e.g., see Miner, M. H. and McKnight, J. (1999). Religious Attributions: Situational Factors and Effects on Coping. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(2), 274-287).

      I’d suggest the reasons for this failure of the “integration”of life into theology are as numerous as the purposes of Ecclesiastes 3 multiplied to their own power. On orders of magnitude. There is no single reason.

      But again, cognitive dissonance is a factual matter. Not a theoretical nor theological one.

      The father in your hypothetical above may not be making any strategic move at all. Nor even responding. Merely exhibiting the already-existing internal state of the non-sequitur between theology and real life.



    • Laurie M.

      This is excellent, very helpful. Thank you.

    • Joe Tipton

      My story goes like this and starts similarly to Brian [#4]. I grew up going to a Lutheran school through the 3rd grade, and then went to a public school for the 4th through college. My parents are divorced and I lived with my mom. I didn’t/couldn’t “really” believe since I never opened the Bible. I went through High school thinking I was a good person. But during my sophomore year at college, I prayed to God, I think truly for the first time. I had been taught the “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord…,” but it’s amazing how quickly you can run through prayer when you’re reciting only for conscience’s sake. In college, I’d been feeling pulled in different directions; did I want to party the rest of my life or do something significant with it? That night, I prayed “God, do you exist?”
      It wasn’t intellectual, but it was honest and from my heart. A few months later I was hit by a drunk driver and put in a coma for 10 weeks. I woke up with a shattered left arm, 7 broken ribs, and couldn’t walk, talk, or think.
      My story isn’t finished, but don’t want to bore people. I eventually went to Calvary Chapel’s School of Ministry where I was flooded with more information than I could handle. But was also given sufficient answers to the questions I had about God. I was also shown my sinful state and need to be forgiven, and led to want to believe that God’s wrath was poured out entirely on His Son, so that I could be forgiven, and God would be glorified.
      So now I know Jesus is the Savior of the world, and came to show us the love God has and is for this fallen world.
      To God be the glory!

      So my response to the statement about too much information; good information cannot be exhausted, bad info spreads like cancer. You may have to work to come to the good info, or could let the world flood you with lies. If you truly want Truth, Jesus will reveal Himself.
      God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

    • Mike

      Thanks for a great post. One of the reasons I found this blog is that I was looking for answers after my 16 year old daughter began asking questions that I could not answer intelligently. I am now study theology so I can defend my faith.

    • Ken Pulliam


      I enjoyed your post. I think you are right, the information explosion is bad news for most believers. Even as the printing press was instrumental in bringing about the Reformation and breaking the hold that the RCC had on Europe, the internet is and will continue to be instrumental in breaking the hold of strict religous or political systems that try to tell their followers that only they have the truth. Knowledge is power. Strict systems can only remain in power as long as their people are ignorant of the rest of the world. That is why China wants to filter the internet and why some Christian schools filter the internet. You can’t suppress the information though forever. It will get out. People need to learn to think critically and be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads but of course that requires work and a lot of people are lazy and it also requires courage and a lot of people are afraid of where they might wind up if they really allowed themselves to question.

    • Michael T.

      I don’t know personally of any Christian schools that filter the internet more then public schools do (meaning porn and such).

    • Ed Kratz

      Ken, once again, though on different worlds theologically, we meet methodologically! It is a start my friend. Hopefully not an end.

    • Ray

      Wow Mike, its like looking at an instant replay. . . and Random Arrow, you raise a good point, but the dissonance is just our way of saying TMI! For the believer, new info always slows us down, the same way tall grass will slow a mower; but we chew it up and spit out and go roaring off again, I think the real problem is the obscurantism. I have met many brothers and sisters who just shrug their shoulders, and mutter something to the effect, “I guess I’m just not that smart”, rather than saying, “Tell me more about this.”

    • HornSpiel

      Could it be that questions tell us more
      Than answers ever do?
                                    Michael Card

      You shall know the truth
      And the truth will set you free.
                                    Jesus Christ

      What does it mean to “know the truth?” Is it with secure confidence like the father in the story above. Is it with the ironical humility of the Christian mystic balladeer? Is it something else?

    • ScottL

      It is harder for the previous generation to relate to the more post-modern generation. For the dad in this scenario, questioning is really not healthy. But, in today’s world, it is ok. And we can see questions are ok in places like the poetic-wisdom literature of Scripture (Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes).

      I believe that questions can help challenge what needs to change and help confirm what needs to stay. So questions are good, even healthy. But, without other certain healthy aspects in our lives, those questions can lead to a tailspin of despair, depression and other such things. Those aspects I mention are things like a healthy church body that believes in really relating not just meeting, shepherds that really believe in relational shepherding, strong family, strong spouse, some solid Scriptural foundation, etc. Of course, we don’t always have each of these. But having some of these can be helpful in times of questioning, hurt, pain, etc.

      Thanks CMP

    • JoanieD

      Excellent post, Michael.

    • […] Can TMI destroy your faith? […]

    • John

      It would be just a bit overreaching to say that Christianity never had to deal with other views around it. It grew up in Paganism, and many Christians since the 7th century have had to live surrounded with Islam. Surrounded with Athieism is a new thing though I’ll grant.

    • Boz

      I don’t understand how a person can justify accepting a claim on faith.

      Take for example: bucharest is the capital of romania, the holocaust killed ~6m jews, jesus died by crucifixion. These are all considered to be factual due to the preponderance of evidence supporting these claims. No faith required.

      Take also for example: Muhammad flying to heaven on a winged horse, Methuselah lived to 969 years of age, the miraculous healing waters of Tlacote, Mexico. There is insufficient evidence to support these claims being true. So, some people accept that they are true because of faith.

      It seems like faith is used to inappropriately accept claims with insufficient supporting evidence.

    • Brian


      I don’t know Greek, but I do know Spanish. In Spanish, there are two words for the English verb “to know.” Saber is the verb used for knowing facts. Conocer is the verb used for knowing a person, or knowing a city because you have been there and walked its streets. The verb used in John 8:32 in Spanish translations of the Bible is conocer.

      Knowing the truth isn’t just knowing a list of true statements. It is knowing the Truth personified in Christ. It is Jesus Christ who sets us free, not knowledge of a list of theological assertions.

    • […] Michael Patton on why too much information won’t destroy your faith. […]

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