Victor Reppert: Let the conversions and deconversions fall where they may.
Ed's Response: We know where the conversions fall, statistically speaking, which tells us that the continuance of Evangelical Christianity depends heavily on adolescents who "accept Christ" before they reach the age of 18. And adolescents do not know much about the Bible, history, science, psychology or religion; they are far from having peaked in their acquisition of worldly wisdom; and they are not known for their emotional maturity. Therefore, we have reason to doubt that such "decisions for Christ" are well informed. Yet Evangelical Christianity relies heavily on such decisions in order to continue at all.
Below is the statistical data, shared from articles that appeared in Christianity Today:
"85 percent of all people who accept Christ do so before the age of 18.
". . . through surveys, personal interviews, and statistical analysis, I compared the faith experiences of more than 3,000 believers from 31 states and a dozen denominations.
"84.5 percent of evangelicals accept Christ before the age of 18. However, the statistic only holds true if they were raised in a home where both parents were [Evangelical] Christians with either a high or moderate level of spiritual activity. If, however, they were raised without that benefit, the percentage drops by two-thirds.
"My final discovery was that, of those Christians with an unchurched background, most (56 percent) report coming to faith in the midst of a significant transition or crisis. Most often it's family-related—either transitioning into parenthood or coping with a marriage crisis. But other times the crisis may relate to addiction, illness, death, finances, even world catastrophes. The transition may be into a new relationship, a new community, or a new career."
How Outsiders Find Faith: What I discovered was different from what I had always been told. By Mike Fleischmann (Christianity Today's website)
"In the late 1800s, Edwin Starbuck conducted ground-breaking studies on conversion to Christianity. Ever since then, scholars, attempting either to verify or disprove his findings, have repeatedly demonstrated them to be accurate. Most observers agree that what Starbuck observed is to a large extent still valid. From these studies we learn two significant things: the age at which conversion to Christianity most often occurs, and the motivational factors involved in conversion. Starbuck noted that the average age of a person experiencing a religious conversion was 15.6 years. Other studies have produced similar results; as recently as 1979, Virgil Gillespie wrote that the average age of conversion in America is 16 years.
"Starbuck listed EIGHT PRIMARY MOTIVATING FACTORS:
(2) other self-regarding motives,
(3) altruistic motives,
(4) following out a moral ideal,
(5) remorse for and conviction of sin,
(6) response to teaching,
(7) example and imitation, and
(8) urging and social pressure.
"Recent studies reveal that people still become Christians mainly for these same reasons.
"What conclusions can be drawn from this information? First, the average age of conversion is quite young. Postadolescent persons do not seem to find Christianity as attractive as do persons in their teens. Indeed, for every year the non-Christian grows older than 25, the odds increase exponentially against his or her ever becoming a Christian.
"Second, the reasons people become Christians appear to have at least as much to do with sociological factors as with purely 'religious' factors (for example, conviction of sin)."
The Adult Gospel: The average convert to Islam is 31 years old. Why does Christianity attract mostly teens? By Larry Poston (Christianity Today's Website)