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Keeping the Faith at College

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in Saworship.com.

There are Christian parents out there who send their children off to college, praying that the godly values instilled in their young adults will blossom into a life of service to God. Some of the students might even have been active in their local churches and have grown into strong Christians. And for some of those parents, perhaps nothing can be more heartbreaking than to hear their children say some of the following things:

“Mom and Dad, I don’t believe in God anymore.”

“I’ve decided to convert from Christianity to Islam.” (Or Hindu, Buddhism, Hare Krishna or some other faith)

“I don’t think the Bible is the inspired Word of God. What I learned in comparative religions class has disproven that.”

“The Bible is a pro-slavery, misogynistic, homophobic piece of hate literature and should be banned.”

I attended a Christian college, so I never dealt with these issues. But I know there are readers out there who are either parents of college-age students or who are college-age student themselves. How can a Christian survive at a state or public university? I’ve asked a close friend from high school, Texas A&M graduate Bob Jackson, some questions that I pray will be beneficial you:

Richard Zowie: Tell me about your salvation. When did you come to know Jesus Christ as your personal savior?

Bob Jackson: I got brought to a King James-only church in Beeville, Texas, by you in high school. I wondered why I hadn’t heard that salvation stuff in my normal church. I got saved but still smelled a bit like sulfur when I started college.

RZ: What made you choose Texas A&M?

BJ: Two grandfathers and my dad attended. Plus, the fans were way, way classier than University of Texas’s fans. And the price was right.

RZ: Did you have any professors that seemed hostile toward Christianity? What types of arguments did they make? How did you respond to that?

BJ: In Intro to Archaeology, my professor had a gripe about doing archaeology with an agenda. The professor didn’t seem to think that an ancient document called the Bible should be assumed to be true on anything. He had some points on bad science, but didn’t have much luck pointing out good science when it presented itself. (They used the Star Presentation.)

RZ: What types of Christian student services were available to you at college? Student unions, chapel services?

BJ: Intervarsity Christian Fellowship – They got me discipled and helped rid me of much sulfur. Got me around Christians from other backgrounds, which was a good thing.

Intervarsity Graduate Group – Got me around international Christians.
Emmanuel Baptist Church – Intercity ministry, it was a good thing for me.
Westminster Presbyterian – Also helped get rid of sulfur, it put me around a healthy Christian family atmosphere. It rubbed off on me.
Brazos Community Church – Introduced me to the Holy Spirit, and it got rid of the breadboxes I was trying to put God into.
Calvary Community Church in Houston – Showed me much of God’s character.

RZ: Did you ever have times at college where you found yourself questioning your faith? If so, how? If not, why not?

BJ: After my Dad died, I was pretty messed up. It took a year to a year and a half before I was a properly functioning human being again. I received a lot of TLC from the folks around me during that time. It’s scary how much engineering school you can do while emotionally messed up.

RZ: What are some of the more unusual religions or faith systems that you encountered at college?

BJ: Baha’i – Everyone is supposedly right except those who say that someone is wrong. (Do you see any logical fallacies in that statement?) Sad group to meet.
Muslims – Nice enough people but their religion has problems.
Atheists – Generally seemed to either a) Want there to be no God or b) Be angry at God but on the surface denying his existence.
Homosexuals – Very tight knit group of people. They form a community based on their sin, and when they get messed up, they alter their thinking in strange ways to avoid concluding they’re doing something wrong. We must love them, but how is tricky. And as a group, they’re not that different than a religion.

RZ: How do you think college changed you in your walk with God or your approach to spiritual matters?

BJ: Being around the right people showed me that being a Christian doesn’t make you an idiot, and it moved me forward in my walk with God. It also made me a harder target for that other guy.

RZ: For students trying to decide on a college to attend and are concerned about their faith being challenged, what resources should they check out at college when they get there?

BJ: Student Groups can be good. Some are even attached to churches.

a) GO TO A CHURCH where you get small group fellowship. Having older people and married people and children around helps you learn about life. Guys, work nursery. It’ll make you think about your future.

b) Get advice from Christian Professors so they can give you the proper perspective about college.

c) Intervarsity and Navigator press has some very good books on why belief in God is not unmerited. The real question is, “where is your faith?” Sometimes faith is looking at a scientific report and someone’s claim that invalidates God and telling them “God sure did a good job there, didn’t he?” Our faith needs not to be in proofs, but in God. Faith is about believing, not about seeing. And God, being who he is, can’t be put in a breadbox. All of the “scientific proofs” against God aren’t worth their weight in oatmeal and miss the point.

RZ: What advice would you give to Christians about to head off to a state or public university?

BJ: a) Find the good Christian people. Preferably, with a diverse background. BUT FIND A GROUP OF CHRISTIANS AND MEET WITH THEM. I feel the need to digress here. When a hurting girl (who slept with the football team to get attention because she hurts) offers to sneak off with you, it’s much easier to respond properly and in love rather than give in if you’re in the right group. We are sheep, we are pack animals. Part of our defense is connected to remaining in the pack. Things are easier to deal with if you’re in Christian fellowship. And it’s scriptural.

b) Go on missions. This is the easiest time to go to Where’s-that-istan for three months. Once you get a job, it’s harder, and you might even find a calling out there.

c) If someone is helping you going to college, honor them by working hard, getting good grades, and maybe getting skills/experience/degree etc., that brings home a paycheck.

d) Being a doctor/lawyer/nurse/rocket scientist can open doors to otherwise closed countries. Don’t sneer at getting a job that requires getting a degree.

e) Your faith needs to be in the God who created all, not in proofs, or theories of how he created it, or etc. The thief on the Cross was a smart guy. He knew Jesus and he knew he had done wrong, and he knew Jesus was the way. No theology, science, etc. The healed blind man, when questioned by the Pharisees about Jesus, didn’t have in-depth theology but he had faith and out-argued the Pharisees. Faith is a simple thing at its core.

f) God is not only real, but he can also be experienced. If you experience God, silly arguments don’t matter much. You can argue that elephants don’t exist, but if you go to India and ride one, the theory doesn’t count for much. Find the right group and EXPERIENCE GOD.

For more information about maintaining your Christian faith even when at a secular university, here are some books written by J. Budziszewski to consider: Ask Me Anything: Provocative Answers for College Students and How to Stay Christian in College.

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