How to Stay Christian in College
- Thursday, August 20, 2009
COLLEGE AS ANOTHER WORLD
Why Is This Book Necessary?
One day a student approached me after class. She seemed to be close to tears. "In lecture today, you mentioned that you're a Christian," she said. "I've never heard that from any other professor, and every day I spend at this university, I feel my faith is under attack."
I knew just how she felt. Modern institutions of higher learning have changed dramatically in the last half-century, and from the moment students set foot on the contemporary campus, their Christian convictions and discipline are assaulted. "Faith is just a crutch," they hear from friends and teachers. "The Bible is just mythology." "Christianity is judgmental and intolerant." "Morality is different everywhere." "Everyone must find his own truth." "I can be good without God." "Jesus was just a man who died." No wonder so many lose their faith! Soon after my own entrance into college I lost my faith myself, and I didn't find my way back to Jesus Christ until a dozen years later. This experience, along with more than twenty years of teaching, has given me a heart for the struggles of all Christian students on the modern campus. But here's the good news: Higher education doesn't have to be a wasteland. With a little help, Christian students can find college a means of God's blessing instead of a spiritual snare.
Thousands do. In fact, during their college years, thousands of students rediscover Christ or find Him for the first time.
That's my wish for you.
My Own Story
Twenty-four years ago, I stood before the government department at the University of Texas to give my "here's-why-you-should-hire-me" lecture. Fresh out of grad school, I wanted to teach about ethics and politics, so I was showing the faculty my stuff. What did I tell them? First, that we human beings just make up our own definitions of what's good and what's evil; second, that we aren't responsible for what we do anyway. For that, I was hired to teach.
I hadn't always believed these things. At the age of ten I had committed my life to Jesus Christ and was baptized. As a teenager I had not been a mature believer, but I had certainly been an enthusiastic one. Why had I fallen away from faith? For many reasons. One was that I had been caught up in the radical politics popular among many students in the late sixties and early seventies. I had my own ideas about redeeming the world, and my politics became a kind of substitute religion. During my student years I had also committed certain sins that I didn't want to repent. Because the presence of God made me more and more uncomfortable, I began looking for reasons to believe He didn't exist. Then again, once I lost hold of God, things started going wrong in my life, and disbelieving in Him seemed a good way to get back at Him. Now of course if God didn't exist, then I couldn't get back at Him, so this may seem a strange sort of disbelief. But most disbelief is like that.
Another reason I lost my faith was that I'd heard all through school that human beings had created God in their image and that even the most basic ideas about good and evil are arbitrary. During graduate school I had fallen under the spell of the nineteenth-century German writer Friedrich Nietzsche, the originator of the slogan "God is dead." If anything, I was more Nietzschean than Nietzsche. Whereas he thought that given the meaninglessness of things, nothing was left but to laugh or be silent, I recognized that not even laughter or silence was left. One had no reason to do or not do anything at all. This is a terrible thing to believe, but like Nietzsche, I imagined myself one of the few who could believe such things—who could walk the rocky heights where the air is thin and cold.
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