Beneath The Surface, An Editorial Comment -- By: Gerald Culley
Beneath The Surface, An Editorial Comment
He was about 13. I had just finished one of my PowerPoint presentations at Indian Lake Christian Camp and was turning to shut my computer down; and suddenly, there he was: small, but standing straight, meeting my eye and holding out his hand. “Dr. Culley, I want to thank you for your talk. I’ve had some questions about my faith for a while now, and you helped me answer them.” A formal handshake, and he was gone. That was three years ago, and I’ve not seen him since. But it’s the kind of thing one doesn’t easily forget. How many sub-teens seek out a septuagenarian for a personal greeting?
The best thing about it, though, was that it was not unique. There have been many such exchanges since I took on this apologetics ministry to young believers.
It all began when the chapel coordinator for our church’s associated school asked me to visit twice a month and talk about reasons for trusting the Bible. I was reluctant; the university students I’d taught for decades were a very different audience from these kids. But I tried it, expecting reluctant compliance in return. To my puzzlement, their reaction was enthusiasm—an enthusiasm that held, session after session.
Then, however, I put together that experience with a book I was reading: Already Gone, by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer. Concerned by the statistical fact that some two-thirds of young believers will abandon their faith by age 20, they undertook an in-depth study of a thousand young adults who fit that profile. They found that the common wisdom—which says that anti- Christian teaching in colleges or bad company in the workplace are to blame—is wrong. About half of the ones surveyed reported having had doubts in middle school and the rest, in high school. Though still attending church and active, they were already gone. I realized that the kids I spoke to were beginning to deal with private doubts, and the topics I brought were resonating with them. Contrary to all my expectations, a new ministry was born for me.
All parents have seen that the teen years are challenging, and, to be sure, many factors can lead to a break with parents and with the parents’ church. But the Ham/Beemer study showed that high on the list was a growing doubt that the Bible was really reliable. Too much of what they heard in church seemed to be just “Bible stories with nice moral messages,” while the world outside gave them the solid facts of history and science. They found themselves believing that there were two kinds of truth, and the secular kind seemed the more practical and trustworthy.
Everywhere I’ve gone in these past five years I have seen the validity of the Ham/Beemer analysis. Young Christians want to continue to believe, but t...
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