Across from the table was a guy I'd known for a while, and he had heard that I liked to debate (I prefer the term "discuss", but whatever :). So he spent a few minutes looking for a topic to debate over that we disagreed on, and while we don't necessarily disagree, we paused for a moment on the book of Revelation. He voiced his opinion that the book is to be taken literally, an interpretation I don't have a problem with for the most part. But as Gregory Koukl has shaped my thinking quite a bit, I thought there was no harm in asking a couple questions.
So I sat back and casually asked him, "Why?" I wasn't too keen on a debate on Revelation, as I have no strong views about interpreting the many, many symbols and images there, but I at least wanted to know more about my buddy's view. And I'll never forget his response.
He sat back and thought for a moment, I assumed thoughtfully weighing how best to put it. Finally, he leaned forward and said, "Because it's more cool that way!" My jaw didn't drop, but mentally, I had to stop for a moment to think before saying what first popped to my lips.
I have many times wondered at the many Christian families afraid to send their children to secular colleges for fear of their children being "corrupted" by atheists or Jehovah's Witnesses. This was an eye-opening event that yes, a great number of the youth in my generation are unable to adequately defend their worldviews against even light questioning, much less aggressive questioning from someone attempting to proselytize them.
That's a problem, an immense problem, in fact. Your parents convictions alone won't get you through four years at a secular college or even four years at a public high school. Adopting our parent's, pastor's, or teacher's opinions without serious thought and consideration is setting yourself up for failure later on when you face questioning.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15) Here is a command in Scripture to, in fact, actively prepare to give a reason for our hope in Jesus Christ. This involves not haphazard adoption of our parent's or pastor's convictions, but careful personal study for the truth.
Here are some ideas that I believe are pivotal to your own personal study for the truth, a study I wish every young person I knew engaged in. We all have differing interests and levels of time, but convictions like these are what you base your life of, and it's the epitome of foolishness to shape your life around what someone else thinks and has told you rather than careful, systematic personal research.
1.) Ground yourself firmly in God's Word. You're not ready to tackle other worldviews until you have a good grasp of the Bible itself. Soak yourself in it before you go running off to delve into analyzing theologians systematic theology or Christopher Hitchens or Shabir Ally. Ready yourself spiritually before you run off to do battle.
2.) Study. I can't reiterate this enough. You will not be adequately prepared to answer objections if you have not put in the time to research your own position and analyze others as well. If you haven't done so, do it! Don't satisfy yourself with listening to Christians summarize Islam; do the homework and listen to Muslims speak from the Quran and analyze their claims. Listen to debates between atheists, JW's, Mormons, Catholics, and Christians; learn the worldviews behind other's belief systems.
3.) Question, question, question. Question everything. Ask questions, mentally question. Question everything. When you hear a sermon, don't just believe what the pastor/missionary/teacher tells you. Think about it. Critically examine it, search for holes in logic, logical fallacies, or inconsistencies. Ask questions of your parents, your teachers, and your pastors.
4.) Pray for wisdom. "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and [a]without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord." (James 1:5-7)
Pray, ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance, and for the wisdom of God as you search for truth. He offers it, and it is God Himself who led James to write these words that tells us to come before God, asking for wisdom, with faith.
5.) Use the parents, teachers, pastors, and resources you have. God has placed people in our lives who have lived longer and have more experiences for a reason. Take advantage of that by asking questions, listening to things you haven't even considered yet, and thinking them through. Don't blindly accept what they say, but listen. Learn from them.
I'd be interested to hear other's advice as well, as this was by no means an exhaustive list. :) Feel free to share your thoughts and tips below. But please take this challenge as an impetus to spur you on to a more serious, passionate chasing after truth. Don't be satisfied with simply accepting what's easiest to believe or what you always have believed. Search diligently for the truth!