This observation from the first page of Isobel Kuhn’s By Searching could have been written yesterday:
Brought up in an earnest Presbyterian home (my grandfather was a Presbyterian minister and my father an ardent lay preacher), I had been carefully coached in the refutations of modernism before my parents had allowed me to enter the University. If it had been a case of arguing the claims of modernism v. fundamentalism, I do not think I would have been shattered in my faith. But there was no argument. There was just the pitying sneer, “Oh, you just believe that because your papa and your mama told you so,” and then the confident assumption that no persons nowadays who thought for themselves, who were scientific in their approach to life, believed that old story any more.
She’s talking about the 1920s, but hordes of well-informed young people from Christian homes are still experiencing exactly the same situation. Isobel Kuhn was evidently shaken enough by the sneer that she gave up almost everything that she knew from her background in a Christian home, and it’s the same still. There are no toeholds in the smooth facade of the secular, hedonistic, modern or postmodern worldview that the Christian can readily make use of, whether the side they’re exposed to is everyday TV or university lectures or workplace mores or anything else. Its foundations, even more critically, are very rarely on public display. There is no argument. People whose attachment to Christianity is weak or immature, or only nominal, may well find themselves (consciously or unconsciously) taking the path of least resistance, ducking away from the ridicule and incomprehension that generally attends belief in anything as orthodox as heaven and hell (as it was in Kuhn’s anecdote), and capitulating to some extent or another, in belief, or practice, or both.
Isobel Kuhn spent several years as an agnostic, before being gradually won back to belief in the prayer-hearing God of the Bible (which in her case eventually developed into an increasing devotion of herself to mission work, first locally and then overseas). This doesn’t always happen, we know only too well. Our neighbourhoods are chock full of people who loyally went to church until they left home and now never look at the bible, never pray, never think about going to church. Most of them, if you asked them, would be perfectly capable of explaining what the bible teaches on heaven and hell and the way of salvation, and why they’re not atheists. But there is no argument, and so they go on – good, decent people, who would be mortified at the thought of being seen dead in church, and yet know perfectly well that if it’s a case of arguing the claims, faith doesn’t come remotely close to being shattered.