A Turning of the Tide

    At a Christmas party at the home of Prison Fellowship president Mark Earley, I began chatting with two of Mark's children who were home from college and two of their friends. Our small talk quickly became an intense discussion. We talked about natural law and the Christian faith, ontological arguments for the existence of God, naturalism, and the like. For half an hour, these students strained my intellectual resources to the limit, but I walked away exhilarated. That discussion was but one of many signs that the upcoming generation is finally asking the right questions. Up until now, the conventional stereotype of today's youth has been of a detached, almost blasé group of channel-surfers happily drifting through life. But this appears to be changing, and the change offers Christians an opportunity we haven't had since the 1960s. Journalist Colleen Carroll describes why this is happening in her book, The New Faithful. Carroll spent a year tracking a grassroots movement toward serious Christian commitment among America's young. Secure in the wealth and opportunity provided by materialistic parents, they're already asking: "Is that all there is?" These "new faithful" have rejected our culture's secular values and hedonistic impulses, Carroll writes. Many have had life-changing conversions and embrace the traditional morality their elders rejected. This is thrilling news. But will kids raised in Christian homes emulate them? Ironically, since these kids take their faith for granted, they may be less likely to ask the hard questions. Josh McDowell, in his new book, Beyond Belief to Convictions, addresses the concerns of Christian parents. As McDowell documents, teens -- even those who sport Christian T-shirts and WWJD bracelets -- often have deeply distorted beliefs about God. Influenced by postmodernism, they're all too inclined to absorb spiritual pragmatism, an "if it works for me, it's okay" approach. The good news is that a majority of Christian kids say they don't have any set philosophy about life that consistently influences their decisions. That is, it's good news so long as we can challenge them with the right questions and help them understand what they need to believe and why. How do we do this? My friend, Nancy Fitzgerald, from Indianapolis is living the answer. For several years, Nancy has taught worldview lessons to teenagers each Sunday night, using materials from many sources, including How Now Shall We Live? She's prepared a great curriculum. Discussion groups camp out all over her house, following an hour-long lecture in the basement. Some eighty-five kids show up each week, and they're so hungry for worldview teaching that they often don't leave until midnight. When they do go off to college, Nancy maintains a lively e-mail exchange, answering their questions and emboldening them to stand up to hostile professors. What a great example for how we need to be equipping our kids to defend their faith. Imagine what would happen if a hundred Nancy Fitzgeralds -- or two hundred -- opened their homes across America. The kids they teach would leave for college confident in their beliefs and knowing where to turn with their questions. Their faith would become rock solid -- and the secular academy would not know what hit them. For further reading: Colleen Carroll, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Loyola Press, 2002). Josh McDowell, Beyond Belief to Convictions (Tyndale, 2002). Steven Garber, The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior during the University Years (InterVarsity, 1997). Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 1999). Phillip E. Johnson, The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning, and Public Debate (InterVarsity, 2002). Candi Cushman, "Hey, Is That a Bible Study in Your Room?", Boundless, 2 January 2003.


Chuck Colson


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