My first reaction was to disagree with him and cite examples of churches all over the country (and world) that openly engage difficult questions/issues and are thriving largely because of, not in spite of, that fact. I could immediately think of a dozen prominent pastors and theologians who are incredibly intellectual and would put his theory to rest. I took what he was saying to be "Christianity cannot stand in an age of information." But upon reflection, I realized that I was probably thinking too broadly. Sure, there are some churches in California, New York, and a smattering of other urban areas that fit the description that I just gave. They have existed in largely skeptical, post-Christian communities for decades. That is why it is not uncommon to hear someone like Tim Keller (a pastor in NYC) say something insightful like:
I’ve heard plenty of Christians try to answer the why question by going back to the what. “You have to believe because Jesus is the Son of God.” But that’s answering the why with more what. Increasingly we live in a time in which you can’t avoid the why question. Just giving the what (for example, a vivid gospel presentation) worked in the days when the cultural institutions created an environment in which Christianity just felt true or at least honorable. But in a post-Christendom society, in the marketplace of ideas, you have to explain why this is true, or people will just dismiss it.
But that is generally not how people think out here (where I live) in the "Bible Belt." Once you get 40 miles or more outside of an urban area, you are in "God's country." You can throw a rock in any direction and hit a church. There are more than a dozen churches within a couple miles of my house (7 of them Baptist). But there is one thing that you will be hard pressed to find in any of these churches: apologetics. My atheist friend was just telling it like he sees it, and he sees it clearly. Having attended more than a dozen churches in our area over the past 15 years for some length of time, I can testify that not one ever gave any attention to answering the "why" questions. I went to church for more than 20 years without even hearing these questions raised (I didn't actually get a lot in the way of "what" questions answered either). When I attended a small Christian college for my undergrad studies, there was only one class even remotely addressing the "why" questions, and that class was just a broad survey of worldviews. The truth claims of Christianity were never really examined. They were mostly just held up alongside other views and asserted as "this is what we believe, not that." I had to "discover" Christian apologetics for myself. I am confident that I am not alone.
In the Bible Belt, I think a lot of churches tend to take for granted the fact that, at least until the last decade or so, the community has largely been "Christian". Even the people who weren't practicing believers generally felt guilty for "living a life of sin." They grew up in church and knew they ought to be following Jesus, they just fell off the wagon somewhere. Sure, there have always been a few people here and there who held other beliefs, but even they tended to embrace the general Christian mood in town. Believe it or not, in our little town, we actually still have a nativity in front of City Hall during Christmas (at least we did 2 years ago, I didn't look this year). I imagine that some of my friends who live in other parts of the country are laughing at how long it has been since something like that was considered acceptable where they live. Things are changing, even around here. The bubble is getting ready to burst.
Like my atheist friend said, it has to do with the way information travels nowadays. The internet, and social media in particular, has brought the world to us. The types of questions that people in areas like mine didn't ask until college (and even then, only if they went to the big secular university) are now being asked by kids in elementary school. I can speak from first-hand experience. I had 11 year old students come into my room in years past and ask things like "Why is Christianity true?" and "If God is loving, why does He allow so much evil?" They are seeing things on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc and they want answers. They don't want someone to hand them a piece of pizza and say "don't doubt, just have faith." They want answers (and that is a good thing). Josh McDowell said it well,
The unlimited amount of online information that people have access to has caused an increase in skepticism that will only continue to become more pervasive. If you don't believe me, go around and talk to young people in colleges and in junior high. Go and make 'truth statements' and you'll hear them say, 'How do you know that's true?' There's so much out there. [For] every kid, even Christians, the age of the Internet is wearing down their convictions because they think tomorrow they'll find something else.
Are churches in the Bible Belt ready? Unfortunately, by and large, I don't think so. Generally speaking, we have not been equipping Christians, especially young Christians with answers to the "why" questions. Is it because there are not good answers? Is it because faith is opposed to reason and evidence? No. Christians have been answering the same questions that are showing up now in memes and videos for more nearly two thousand years. Philosophers have been answering some of the same objections for a lot longer than that. I would not agree with my atheist friend if he was insinuating that Christianity cannot stand in an age of information. Even so, I think he is right that many churches have been living in a Bible Belt Bubble that is about to burst (or maybe it already has). Are we just going to sit around, shake our heads, and gripe about how everything is "going to Hell in a handbasket?" Or are we going to take the task of discipleship seriously and start equipping people, especially young people to engage a skeptical, post-Christian culture? We need to way up and realize that we have an opportunity to train a generation to be actual ambassadors for Christ, as opposed to previous decades when we may have been lulled to sleep because it seemed like every kid was a youth-grouper. The good news of Christianity will stand the test of time because it's true. But churches that refuse to address tough questions and be a place where people feel comfortable asking questions--churches that just keep trying to duct tape the holes in the bubble probably won't. I don't mean to sound harsh, I am just trying to be intellectually honest here.