How to Stay Christian in College
- Thursday, August 20, 2009
All of this gives you a clue to the main reason I lost faith in God: sheer, mulish pride. I didn't want God to be God; I wanted J. Budziszewski to be God. I see that now. But I didn't see that then.
I now believe that without God, everything goes wrong. This is true even of the good things He's given us, such as our minds. One of the good things I've been given is a stronger than average mind. I don't make the observation to boast; human beings are given diverse gifts to serve Him in diverse ways. The problem is that a strong mind refusing the call to serve God has its own way of going wrong. When some people flee from God, they might rob and kill. When others flee from God, they may do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex. When I fled from God I didn't do any of those things; my way of fleeing was to get stupid. Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that you must be highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in His arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all.
It was agony. You can't imagine what a person has to do to himself—well, if you're like I was, perhaps you can—to go on believing the sort of nonsense I believed to shut out belief in the gospel. Paul said that the knowledge of God's existence is plain from what He has made (see Romans 1:19-20) and that the knowledge of His laws is "written on [our] hearts, [our] consciences also bearing witness" (Romans 2:15). That means that so long as we have minds, we can't not know these things. Well, I was unusually determined not to know them; therefore I had to destroy my mind. For example, I loved my wife and children, but I was determined to regard this love as merely a subjective preference with no real and objective value. Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all the components that have God's image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God's image stamped on them, so the man can never stop. No matter how much he pulls out, there's still more to pull. I was that man.
How then did God bring me back? I came, over time, to feel a greater and greater horror about myself—an overpowering sense that my condition was terribly wrong. Finally it occurred to me to wonder why I should feel horror if the difference between the wonderful and the horrible was just something we humans make up. I had to admit that there was a difference between the wonderful and the horrible after all, and that meant that there had to exist a wonderful, of which the horrible was the absence. So my walls of self-deception collapsed all at once.
That was when I became aware again of the Savior I had deserted during college. Astonishingly, though I had abandoned Him, He had never abandoned me. I now believe He drew me back to Himself just in time. There is a point of no return, and I was almost there. I had been pulling out one component after another, and I had nearly gotten to the motherboard.
The next few years after my conversion were like being in a dark attic—one I had been in for a long time but in which shutter after shutter was being thrown back so that great shafts of light began to stream in and illuminate the dusty corners. I recovered whole memories, whole feelings, whole ways of understanding that I had blocked out. As I look back, I am in awe that God has permitted me to make any contribution to His kingdom at all. But He promises that if only the rebel turns to Jesus Christ in repentant faith--giving up claims of self-ownership and allowing this Jesus, this Christ, the run of the house--He will redeem everything there is in it. And He did.
Many of my students tell me they struggle with the same dark influences that I once felt in college. I hope that by writing this book I may encourage you to seek the light—better yet, to avoid the darkness altogether.
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