What Do The Numbers Say?
If you have been following Tent Making Christianity, you’re probably aware of why young people need apologetics training. Christian students are leaving their faith behind in massive numbers when they go to college. “Data from the Southern Baptist Convention indicates that they are currently losing 70-88% of their youth after their freshman year in college. 70% of teenagers involved in church youth groups stop attending church within two years of their high school graduation.”
This is just one among dozens of similar studies, all pointing to a simple conclusion: Christian students are being sent into an arena for a fight they were never trained for and did not even know was coming. Maybe you are a parent concerned about the challenges awaiting your child. Maybe you are a student yourself, wanting to know what to expect. Either way, I’d like to spend a few weeks sharing stories and lessons I learned over the past few years in college that might give you a better idea of what to expect and prepare for.
The Problem: Subtle Attacks from Nice People.
To kick this off we’re going to look at one of the most important, yet often overlooked, challenges Christian students face. You’re going to get push back, but it won’t be as obvious as you might expect. You are probably never going to be pressured into saying God is dead by an angry professor. Those kinds of stories do happen, and there are certainly faculty with that sort of agenda, but it is unlikely your experience will be this direct. This will vary depending on the school you attend and which major you go into, but from my experience, and other’s I’ve talked to, it is often much subtler.
That subtlety actually makes this far more difficult. It is much easier to stand strong when the attack is direct. I was never called to stand up and defend the good news of Jesus to the angry masses. Instead, the attacks came quickly and indirectly. The history professor making jokes about the absurdity of Christians in history or Biblical reliability. The intercultural professor treating all religions as equally true. The English professor discussing social issues in a way that portrays your worldview to be wrong. If you notice the statement fast enough, you probably won’t have a good way to engage the issue without sounding stupid. Even if you have a good point to make, you might find yourself keeping silent so the other thirty people in the room don’t get mad at you for derailing a class because of an offhand comment made by the professor.
Nice People That Create Problems
All of this is made even more difficult because professors are often really nice people. Even calling these statements attacks may not always be accurate. More often than not the biggest challenges were with my favorite professors who happened to come from different worldviews. You grow to like them and learn a lot from their insights, which makes those tiny offhand comments so much more dangerous. When someone you trust and have learned a great deal from thinks views you hold dearly are outdated or harmful, it hits deep. Is my Christianity outdated? Are miracles in the Bible laughably absurd? Am I arrogant to think Jesus is the only means of salvation? It can rock your world, and if you aren’t paying attention, change your views without you even noticing.
Are You Ready For The Challenge?
There is a fight coming for every Christian student. If you or your child are not properly trained, they are going to get thrashed. But like a real fight, it probably won’t be a single punch and they’re out. Instead, dozens of pokes and jabs wear them down until they collapse. The problem is big, and it is only getting bigger. Thankfully, we have solutions, which I’ll get into next time.
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