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Children at the edge of unbelief

February 2006 | by Jonathan Skinner

The greatest agony for the Christian parent is seeing their children walk away from the faith. The sense of helplessness and feelings of guilt are often overwhelming. As children mature into adults they pass along a dark and convoluted road where they struggle to find their own identity. Somewhere along this track many young people stand at the edge of unbelief.

They become uncomfortable with their parents’ religion and start to doubt its truth – even reacting against its moral constraints. Other perspectives seem more attractive. Into a corner of their minds sneaks an imperceptible thought: ‘this is not for me’.

Barrage of questions

When we see this happening, what are we to do? We can become defensive and start preaching at our children, or we can watch helplessly from the sidelines with a growing sense of quiet despair. Of course we must pray, but practically we must do more than that – but what?

Many parents feel unable to answer the barrage of questions their teenagers throw at them. College students can become disdainful of their mum or dad’s attempts to give reasons for their beliefs and sense they are being short-changed.

Young people who proclaim ‘this isn’t for me’ seem unstoppable in their drift to unbelief. How do you argue against their personal preference in an individualistic and relativistic society?

Why we can be confident

I have wrestled with this conundrum for years – in discussions with my own children, school children and university students. In my church I have seen parents mourn as their children skirt the edge of faith and fall over the precipice of unbelief.

As a pastor and parent I have struggled to know what to put in young people’s hands to show them in a way they can understand that faith in Jesus is believable.

After years of searching I decided to put pen to paper myself. All through this project I have felt God’s hand upon me. I drew from my experience of working with school children and university students, and of writing for the media.

I tried to start from where they are in their thinking and set out why we can confidently believe in God, trust the Bible and put our faith in Jesus Christ. The resulting book is called The edge of known reality.

Metaphor

The title may strike you as strange but I have deliberately employed a metaphor that has worked again and again with young people – one that fascinates their minds and grips their imagination.

I take the reader on a journey to the edge of known reality – and beyond. It is the metaphor of Alice following the White Rabbit down the burrow into Wonderland – brought up to date by science-fiction films that speak of an alternative reality.

In the film The matrix, as Neo sets out on a voyage of discovery, Morpeus tells him to ‘follow the White Rabbit’. And later he is told that he will be shown ‘just how deep this rabbit hole goes’.

The world around us is embedded with clues, left there by God so that we can piece them together and find the meaning of life. The trail of clues is like the burrow – and at the end of the burrow is another reality. In both the original children’s tale and the science-fiction film, the characters follow a trail from their world into another.

Cause and effect

Within this ‘burrow’ of the universe, everything is caused by something else. Even the laws of science point to some ultimate cause. As we follow the burrow of cause and effect we see that it leads inevitably to just such an ‘uncaused cause’. This is consistent with a belief in God.

We then note that our universe appears to be wonderfully designed. The burrow must have had an architect. This is also consistent with a belief in God.

But this burrow also has a message etched upon its walls. The ultimate Cause has acted and spoken in the history of humanity – and that history has been recorded for us to read. The God who made the universe has revealed himself in a written message, the Bible.

As we stand pondering the writing on the wall, we begin to realise that it records something both phenomenal and shocking. The ultimate uncaused Cause has emerged from the dark end of the tunnel and stepped into human history!

It gradually becomes apparent that God the Creator has come out of his ‘totally other’ supernatural domain and actually entered ours: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’.

Queerer than we can suppose

This book is a journey of discovery, piecing together the clues embedded in our universe and ending with the most remarkable of conclusions – the Bible and its claims are true.

As the British biologist J. B. S. Haldane once wrote, ‘The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose’. And he was an atheist!

This book is something to put in the hands of doubters, those on the edge of unbelief. It is also something to give to those who have no belief, as we seek to lead them to the edge of faith.

Editors’ note
It is unusual for us to allow an author to personally promote his book through the pages of Evangelical Times but we feel it right to make an exception in this case because of the unusual approach and special target audience – children at the edge of unbelief.

The edge of known reality is published by Evangelical Press and has a dedicated web site, www.theedgeofknownreality.com where you can read the first chapter, hear four interviews with the author, and ask him your questions by e-mail. The book can be ordered online.