“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

    12 replies to "Will Too Much Information Destroy Your Faith?"

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      Cutting to the chase, what do you recommend for those who are in the midst of the storm? As the wind rages, and the waves pound, how has the Lord reached out to take you by the hand?

      What books have you read, or ministers have you listened to, or scholars have you consulted. I want to be ready when my time comes, so your suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

      God bless you.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      1 Corinthians 1:

      20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

      21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

      22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,

      23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

      24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

      25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

      Titus 1:9: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

    • David T.

      I’m in the middle of the battle right now. I sometimes feel I have to put reason on the back burner and try to just have faith. I’ve started to give up on talking to people about this because I just get quoted Hebrews 11 or the verses from 1 Cor above, which don’t really answer my doubt.

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      I have to agree with David, as would (seemingly) the auther of the original blog. The point, as I understood it, was that we are now being more exposed to hostile world views, and sopmetimes, our pat answers, even those from Scripture, aren’t enough to silence the nagging questions that we strumble upon thanks to the pervasiveness of the internet.

      I would just like to be equipped for this generation, since I have a 10 year old son, and I don’t want to be caught with my pants down.

    • John From Down Under

      Someone once told me that when you type in upper case it means you are not merely emphazing but you are shouting. So I want to shout that THIS POST IS GREAT!!!

      You truly have your finger on the pulse of evangelicalism Michael and your ability to interpret ecclesiological trends is almost pin point accurate.

    • Brandon E.

      In my teenage years I struggled with this very thing. I grew up in a Christian home, but how could I know what is true? If I were a person without bias or prejudice, would I arrive at the same core beliefs if I were born in a vastly different place? In church I saw emotional highs (induced by rock music/theatrics) being mistook for God’s presence and knew that this was not what I was after. I read Christian apologetics, C.S. Lewis, P. Yancey; read Sagan, Dawkins, etc.; studied many religions/worldviews.

      In my college years, it is very hard to describe what happened but after passing through many things, 1 John 5:20 became very real to me. The apostle doesn’t say, “we think,” “we feel,” “we speculate,” “we believe,” or “we affirm.” He says, “we know.” It was not that I was arrested by “proofs” or persuasive arguments in my mind, or some great sensation in my emotions, but I that was touching life in my spirit, like the Lord promised in John 7:37-39 and John 4:14.

    • Boz

      These idea in the article is very foreign to me. I embrace doubt, I like questioning, and I love getting rid of bullshit beliefs. My aspirational goal is to get rid of all the bulshit that I beleive. Question everything.

      On any issue, There are an infinite number of ways to be wrong, and only one way to be right. Everyone has wrong beliefs. Lets work together to discover them and get rid of them.

    • Jim Kinnebrew

      Having encountered this with a son who, like the son in your opening scenario, was persuaded by the onslaught of “New Atheist” propaganda, I have found the readily available YouTube videos and podcasts of Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Greg Koukl and others to be of immense help. Blogs like this one are invaluable as well.

      Don’t shield yourself from the current challenges, or you will be caught “with you pants down” and will probably retreat into the unsafe “fortresses” of obscurantism or emotionalism. They are the closest and easiest to get to, but they cannot withstand the storm; and your children, who have been confronted with real challenges, will see those retreats as further proof that Christianity has no answer.

      My advice: 1. Keep your fellowship with the Lord real and consistent. 2. Read a good intro apologetics book (I like Frank Turkel’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist). 3. Read the other side and then find out what some of the above named…

    • Susan

      Michael, I too have a son who will soon be confronted with opposing beliefs for the first time as he transitions from a Christian middle school to an inner city public high school. Next year he will experience significant culture shock as well as being bombarded with a completely different world view which is often hostile to Christianity.

      Michael, I think it would be so great if you would do a series of youtube talks for kids of this age (high school)….and a series for mid-elementary aged kids. It would be very easy for me to share these with my kids and it could become such a valuable resource for them as they confront various questions……or for us parents….so that we can develop thoughtful answers for our kids.

      I know you have been teaching theology to kids, yours included. Bring this to us!

      About the discussion above— we want books to read to solve our doubts, which might help, but we fail to immerse ourselves in God’s word…where the Spirit speaks to us.

    • Reagan

      This is a very important issue. And is one of the reasons why Christian apologetics exists.
      This article is about the onslaught of information. It is important to recognize the difference between relevant and irrelevant information.

      Oddly, a book that greatly helped me in this area is about the JFK assassination (Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi). If there was ever a topic for which too much irrelevant (i.e., false) information exists, it’s the JFK murder. Sorting it out and arriving at the correct conclusion is the challenge.

    • […] culture, but for example well-argued the New Atheist ideas. Michael Patton of Credo House asks, Will Too Much Information Destroy Your Faith? “As the information increases, the questions increase. As the questions increase the possibility […]

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