Christian crash course for surviving the modern university

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[notice]A monthly column that reflects on living in the Kingdom of God.[/notice]

It is no secret that scores of young Christians abandon the faith in their teens and twenties. In particular, the university campus is a key battleground where some young Christians turn their back on the faith. As a former student and having being involved in a ministry that reaches students, I have witnessed this painful reality for the past 18 years. I have often wished I could meet with these young people before they get to varsity and give them a survival crash course. Here’s what I would teach: 

History 101

A brief history course is vital for anyone entering the modern university campus. Why is that? Because the frequent inference is that evangelical Christians are hard-nosed anti-intellectuals who oppose learning and education. As noted Christian academic Gene Edward Veith noted:The Christian’s belief in absolute truth and the God of the Bible is not usually tolerated in secular intellectual settings. There is generally tremendous pressure exerted by peers, colleagues, educators, and unbelieving friends to get Christians to abandon their beliefs and to accept the idea that their narrow-minded thinking is the same mindset that ultimately causes travesties like the medieval Crusades and all kinds of persecution. They are then classified as intolerant bigots who can only see things their own way and refuse to accept the views of others.”   

After the onslaught of the Enlightenment, where reason became the new god and Darwinian evolution negated our supernatural origin, the Church unfortunately went largely one of two ways: liberal theology that erased the authority of Scripture, or the ‘evangelical ostrich in the sand’ approach of believing in the Bible and the need for personal salvation, but largely ignoring the rest of human affairs. However, a longer view of history will reveal more of the opposite; namely that education and other endeavours have flourished alongside, and because of, the spread of Christianity. In fact, the vast majority of long-standing universities in the Western world that are revered worldwide were started by Christians to advance learning in theology and every other field of study, for the glory of God. 92% of US Universities before 1871 were founded on an explicitly Christian ethos. Take Harvard for example. The original motto of Harvard (now shortened to “Truth”) at its founding was “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Secondly, history would clearly show that Bible believing Christians have been some of the world’s most influential scientists, politicians, lawmakers, professors, inventors and more. They would learn about Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, C S Lewis, William Wilberforce and many more at this crash course in History. (Having done History at varsity, I would be completely surprised if they came close to learning about any of these or other great Christians.) How would this help? It would give students some much needed confidence that Bible believing Christianity, far from being anti-intellectual, can and does inspire thinking people in all fields to excel in their line of work without compromising their belief in God. And just in case you needed a Bible example, take a look at Daniel, who excelled in Chaldean language and literature in the centre of the Babylonian empire, while refusing to compromise his worship to God. 

Theology 101

Harry Blamires wrote the following in The Christian MindThere is no longer a Christian mind … the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization. He accepts religion — its morality, its worship, its spiritual culture; but he rejects the religious view of life, the view which sets all earthly issues within the context of the eternal, the view which relates all human problems social, political, cultural to the doctrinal foundations of the Christian Faith, the view which sees all things here below in terms of God’s supremacy and earth’s transitoriness, in terms of Heaven and Hell.” Simply put, for most of us, our God is way too small. Our young people must behold a God who is Lord not only over the Church, but the world, not only on Sunday, but every other day as well. Beholding a small God is particularly dangerous on the campus. A small God on a university campus will eventually lead to no God at all. We have to behold a God who is big enough to have answers for every field of study and every area of life. A God any smaller is not worthy of our worship, and not truly God of all. CS Lewis rightly declared: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” 

Philosophy 101

1 Peter 3:15 declares…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…Put differently, every believer should be trained in a basic understanding of the various worldviews that contend with Christianity, as well as being able to give a rational defence of the Christian faith. Worldviews and apologetics training are vital for any Christian, but particularly for the Christian on a university campus. As CS Lewis once again remarked: “To be ignorant and simple now – not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground – would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.” Without understanding what we believe and why, and what we do not believe and why, our faith will continually be assaulted and the young, impressionable, I-wanna-look-cool Christian will find this barrage of intellectual attacks way more than they can handle. As the Secular Humanist Charles Francis Potter boasted: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school’s meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?”

Sociology 101

But is it all about big words and philosophy? Far from it. At the core of most of modern Western Christianity is a consumerist mindset with very little interest in laying their life down to take the Gospel to their neighbour (let alone the ends of the earth) and live their life as a committed disciple of Jesus. And as for being a vital part of a local church that exists to love God and make disciples, is that really necessary? At the end of the day, it is not only an anti-Christian assault from the outside. It is not only our ignorance of our own as well as anti-Christian philosophies. It is the combination of these that assail a consumerist Christian, and the result is a modern day Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup. But it does not have to be that way. I have seen exactly the opposite as well; students who came to the campus as nonbelievers but left as committed Christians, unafraid of the marketplace of ideas, and eager to advance the Kingdom of God in their areas of family, work and play. The issue is whether we will be willing to bring our whole life under Christ’s Lordship, and if we do, no matter how long we’ve been a Christian, or where we are, we can live a fruitful, God-honouring life

2 Comments

  1. Good article, Tendai.

  2. Well said!!