How I retained my Christian faith, sobriety and chastity on a university campus

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

A couple of years ago, I was talking to a woman who grew up in a Christian home that was very focused on externals. There was a lot of bullying to get her to comply with expected Christian behavior, although the expected Christian behavior was often arbitrary, and had nothing to do with Christianity and more with just appearing “nice”. There was no discussion of the evidence, no talking through objections. No focus on truth at all. She was always very curious about me, and how come I didn’t drink, and how come I was able to stay a virgin through college, grad school, to the present day when so many people she knew who were raised in the church fell away from it in college. My answer was simple. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home so I was never bullied into acting like a Christian beyond what I was convinced of myself. I just took my time and proved everything out before I had to act any particular way. I was in the driver’s seat all the time, and that’s how Christianity ought to be. The truth-seeking comes first, and then the slow process of re-prioritizing comes after. Performing for your parents and church will not survive contact with college.

Growing up, I didn’t ever have to go to church. I didn’t go to church until I  was comfortable going. If I felt bored in church, I read an apologetics book, and I did this openly. If I didn’t like the words of a song, then I didn’t sing. My first youth pastor, Grant, never tried to get me to be like the other kids. He asked me what I was interested in. I said “arguing with people”. He gave me books by E.J. Carnell and Alister McGrath. I read them, and that was how I acted like a Christian. When I met other Christians at the church who hadn’t read anything about God’s existence or the historical Jesus or the problem of evil, I didn’t feel pressured to be like them. In school, there were lots of people who never did any studying or lab work. They could talk a lot about things they knew nothing about. But because they didn’t know anything, they failed tests and they couldn’t put anything they learned into practice, either. People can sound so smart about things… until they actually have to take a test, or put something to use practically.

To me, if you didn’t like apologetics, you were a fake and you were faking behaviors of a worldview that you had never investigated. It was really obvious to me that there was more to Christianity than just God-hollering and Scripture memorization. I did swimming lessons up until the point where I got my lifeguarding certification. At the later levels, we always had written exams as well as a practical portion including activities like treading water, swimming long distances, and rescue simulations. People who could pass the written test often failed the practical. If you fail the practical, then you fail the course. Period. No exceptions.

Knowing the truth about God’s existence and character comes before acting as if God is real and God has a specific character and will for us. From the existence of God, we move on to the accuracy of the Bible, and on to theology, and then and only then do we start the outward behaviors of a Christian. If you skip to the behaviors, that is unnatural – like pretending to be a doctor when you have never been to medical school. Everyone who comes to Christianity from the outside, like me, knows how strange it is to meet people in church who talk about feelings and experiences as the basis of their worldview. Those people would never do anything serious, like making investment choices, on the basis of feelings. They would never think that merely having feelings about auto repair or Java programming enabled them to solve problems in those areas. But somehow, this is the standard operating procedure in the church. Which is why so many kids raised in the church dump their faith in college. For me, it was apologetics that made me so resistant to alcohol, sex and atheism in college. After all, if you win the argument, then why should you act like the person you defeated? They lost. That means they’re wrong. I didn’t feel any social pressure to behave like people who couldn’t beat me in an argument.

Every single day, children raised in intact Christian homes on a diet of piety and “the Bible says” come to an understanding of what Christianity is that is fundamentally different from the knowledge they are acquiring in school or at work. And that is the beginning of their loss of faith. There should be no separation between practical areas of knowledge (e.g. – mechanical engineering) and Christianity. Christianity should not be seen as easy or shallow. We should not praise people who don’t know how to talk about spiritual things intelligently to non-Christians, which is the real core “skill” that Christianity requires. Christianity is not a religion of being nice or feeling good – that’s what all the other religions are trying to do. Christianity is about laying hold of the truth, and adjusting your actions to it.

Every Christian ought to be trying their best to learn how to speak intelligently to non-Christians about their faith, to the best of their ability. Especially when they are confronted with educated non-Christians – which is most of us living in the Western hemisphere. No Christian should be better at something else, like sports or school or music or anything. They should put maximum effort into Christianity, and do other things in their spare time. There is no one in my office who thinks that I know more about computer science than I do about my Christian worldview. Computer science is my day job – I have a BS and MS and 18 years experience in it. But my co-workers know what comes first, and where my real interest and passion lies. When we go out to lunch, I talk about Christian things. That’s what I’m the best at. I’m not trying to impress my co-workers by being the best at computer science. I’m trying to perform for my Audience of One, and show him that his honor and reputation are my top priorities. That quiet, hidden vertical relationship is what Christianity is all about. Not my will, Lord, but your will, be done. Tiny little steps backward from selfishness to communicate to the Lord Jesus that his goals are important to me.

My friend Stephen Bedard tweeted this, recently:

“Frankly, I find it hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.” – William Lane Craig

Typical Christian parents expect behaviors of their children but they put in almost zero effort to answer their questions. I hear from so many Christians who fell away in college about how they dropped their faith in high school but just kept acting to please their parents. And the parents had no idea. The parents are the ones who are closest to the problem. They are the ones who should be finding out what is in the culture and the schools, and discussing it with their children. Most pastors are in the business of saying things that people like in order to pack the pews, and collect offerings. They aren’t there to talk about uncomfortable topics. They’re no good at responding to non-Christian thought in the culture. So it really falls on the parents to do the work of answering questions and leading.

Christianity ought to be more like engineering or lab work if you want to appeal to young people – testable, repeatable, practical. Think back to math class, and how teachers would insist that students SHOW YOUR WORK, instead of just writing the answer down. Instead of just saying “the Bible says”, parents really need to show young people their work – how did they arrive at their worldview? That’s what parents need to be prepared to show their children. Not singing, not feelings, not community, not family time together. Facts and evidence. Because that is the only way we know to test knowledge claims to see if they are objectively true or false. Parents who get their worldview straight will also find it much easier to act in accordance with what they say they believe. Even when the pressure is on, they will know what is true, and be able to do hard things because they want to respect what is true. Coming through a test of your Christian convictions is much easier when you do the homework first. It’s just like any other test in that respect. It certainly worked for me in high school and college when I had to defend my faith to non-Christians. It also helped that I had no desire to fit in with people my own age, because they didn’t have jobs. I had no respect for people who didn’t work for money, which is almost everyone in high school and college.

In the church, we should respect people who are able to study these issues deeply, and then have conversations about their Christian worldview with people who don’t accept that God exists, and don’t believe the Bible. That is what followers of Jesus did (e.g. Acts 17). We should be especially respectful of those who are able to defend the Christian worldview using scientific evidence and historical evidence. Especially those who get PhDs and do research in testable areas of knowledge that matter to the Christian worldview. Jesus offered his own resurrection as evidence of his claims to people who didn’t believe him. He liked evidence, and he had a passion for the truth. And so should we, if we claim to be his followers.

Dr. Walter Bradley

By the way, the lecture that changed my life the most is this lecture by Dr. Walter Bradley, a fabulously successful professor of mechanical engineering. I got hold of this lecture from 1997, about the time when I first started working full-time. It changed my life. Our young people are being raised to look up to attractive athletes, entertaining musicians, fideistic theologians, charismatic pastors, etc. People who have never set foot in the lion’s den. Dr. Bradley is an expert in the scientific evidence relevant to the Christian worldview, and has lectured on HUNDREDS of university campuses. He is invited to speak on campus because he KNOWS what he is talking about. If parents could just start by understanding what it takes to have a career as an open, visible Christian professor on a secular university campus, that would be a good start.

29 thoughts on “How I retained my Christian faith, sobriety and chastity on a university campus”

  1. It’s articles like this one that, Lord forgive me, make me kind of glad that I was not raised in churches, except for a little bit of drop-in attendance.

    It seems that a lot of church-going Christians (certainly not all) in the West are more about living happily ever after in THIS life, versus the next one.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have another friend who is like me. Not raised as a Christian, became a Christian later gradually, by studying evidence. Had no problems staying a virgin until married,and loves to debate people about anything and everything. Sometimes I think the people who come in gradually after sorting everything out through debate seem to have more endurance, and less susceptibility to peer pressure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your rare open minded view in that being a Christian, or any faith of that matter shouldn’t be just about “going through the motions” or forcing your beliefs and worldview on others without defending your reasoning and letting them come to their own views. So many I feel don’t think deeply about what they believe and why, and simply accept what was passed down to them, or believe blindly in what other believers tell them they ought to do, rather than consult what their religion actually says to do. I’m not particularly invested or fond of the historical puritans and pilgrims, but I give them credit for saying “Hey wait a minute, does the Bible actually say that?” and try to adjust their lives accordingly instead of just following the centuries old dogma or pagan based traditions that were actually never in Scripture. It’s valuable to have a strong notion of why you are and why you are who you are in this life. For me, it’s an interesting balance. On one hand, I feel having a non religious worldview defines a lot of who I am and why I think the way I do. However, even though I’m fairly open to sharing my many opinions, I don’t often get asked, so I don’t bring it up very frequently with others. I think another difference is too, Christianity wants converts, and while I am happy to advocate for secular reasoning, the point is to come to one’s own conclusions rather than get a convert quota. I feel many people of all different beliefs (including secularism) forget that the idea is to “spread the word”, not “force” the word! :)
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was young when God revealed to me that only how he views me matters. Not friends or others in the church. It is how I can easily not give into group pressure.

      That and Christianity doesn’t ask to be accepted at the core. We believe in a truth that has signs and evidence of varying kinds. I’d Christianity is outlawed it only refines the faith and removes the chaff. It is why no secular push to destroy Christianity has or can work. There are those that will always seek the truth no matter where it leads.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. This is eye-opening. I was raised in a Christian community that was legalistic. They had to have everything broken up into smaller and more compartmentalized extra-biblical rules so that the neighbors wouldn’t think they were bad Christians. And that is where the problem lies, they were worried about appearances rather than the real issue.

    I escaped acting like many of my peers, sone of which have reassigned their identities into alternate sexualities like lesbian, bi, gay, or religions like Buddhist, atheist, etc. Like you, I waited to have sex until marriage and did not drink or do anything questionable in college.

    The reason, in part, was pragmatic. But on the whole I suspect it is because my parents didn’t try to act like devout Christians. They openly grumbled about going to church, about the length of communion services, about what an inconvience it all was. I never once heard them confess their faith outside of the creed at church or witnessed them genuinely praying.

    Because of that, I became serious about the faith. I had heard my Pastor talk about the dangers of taking communion when you aren’t repentant or serious about how it is a gift, and I did not want to disrespect it or God as my parents did. At the same time, I saw my Grandma have genuine faith where she read her bible as though it was a life line and eagerly looked forward to communion every other week.

    That combination of my parents disinterest and my Grandma’s fervent worship shaped what I did and did not want to become.

    As a last note since you like Apologetics, have you ever read Tactics? I found it interesting, but unfortunately picked it up after college. I would have loved to have read it earlier in life.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Your story seems similar to mine in many ways. I wasn’t exactly raised to be a Christian and my family rarely attended church. What I did was study the evidence for Christianity, both scientific and historical, and based my beliefs on that. That mindset that opted for enlightenment over romantic nonsense is what allowed me to become the person I am today. It’s what led me to this part of the web and regaining the masculine nature that was kept from me (hence my username). After that my faith only became stronger through my desire not only to understand what it means to be a Christian, but a man in the way God designed men to be. That’s why I don’t bother with any of the ‘Christian’ (churchian) groups on campus now: even when they do present evidence for Christianity they don’t teach how to debate it or how to use it and when confronted about something they reveal their defensive, insecure nature. Much like the rest of the church.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m from the land down under so Ratio Christi isn’t well set up here, just in one university on the east coast (and not my one). I’ll given them a look over though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hate to bring this up, but the only Bible carrying, Bible quoting “christians” who have ever stood against me on the sidewalk (and with the deathscorts, actually aiding their killing cause) was a group of young “christian apologetics” from a very solid local university, and I think it might have been a Ratio Christi group too. 😦

        They actually blocked us from reaching out to the women while they quoted the Bible to show us that “jesus” was about being nice to other people and NOT being “meanies” by standing on the sidewalk crying out against the slaughter of the innocents. They told me they saw more “jesus” in the deathscorts because the deathscorts were nicer to them than I was. Of course they were – these “christians” were doing their job for them! smh

        I told them that I was going to show them a Jesus they had never met, and turned over the tables in their filthy pharisee souls. You can be sure that the words “Hell” and “repentance” were used multiple times, since they obviously had grown up in churchianity where such “mean” concepts had never been heard.

        So, being a “reformed christian apologetic” is no guarantee of true faith.

        Like

  5. Winters Knight – I have enjoyed your blog for a few weeks now and think you are right on most things. I find you delightfully “not PC”. But I will say, as a 46-year old married mother of two, some of your opinions on marriage and child-rearing are a bit naive. It is pretty hard to raise children who love the Lord on their own – no matter how well you may think you are doing. A few years ago the Lord put a burning in my heart for apologetics and I read, study and volunteer teach Jr. High at our church monthly – but even this in addition to our solid marriage and love for Jesus does not necessarily translate to children that feel the same.

    Also – I want to repeat that I agree with your logic – but that many young people nowadays are moved with emotion and have not been taught the value of reason. I would like to debate all day with our Jr. Highers on some current topics… but reason many times takes a back seat to what they are feeling.

    I love that quote – I think it’s from John Stonestreet (Frank Turek often quotes) “Emotion makes life delicious, reason makes it safe”.

    Thanks for your blog. Keep fighting the good fight.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right. I usually just pick the ones who are already good to mentor, so it’s easy to do that. If I got assigned a child, that would be harder.
      Still I was talking to my friend Lindsay the other day and asked her if any of her four homeschooled daughters was going to be effective in areas that matter. And she said this and I’m quoting her: “They’re all going to be well-educated and conservative. I’ll see to that.”
      When she said that, it really did impress me. And I believe her. She married as a virgin and has a BS and MS in biology. She was a PhD candidate and a lecturer, before they kicked her out for being skeptical of evolution. I know it’s hard, but Ive got to say, I like that she said that.

      UPDATE: I guess what I’m trying to say is that parents ought to have a plan and execute it, even though I agree with you that children are not reasonable.

      Like

      1. It’s true though – even the best raised kids often rebel against even GOOD parenting.

        Another advantage to being raised lost. :-)

        Like

  6. I don’t believe every moral condition in the Bible are always about never do this or you go to hell etc. It is guiding us to the path of righteousness and helping us to avoid wasting out time on useless things that ultimately lead nothing but tend to enslave people and become like a master to them ( ex drunkenness and sex immorality).

    God knows best that we aren’t going to be the one that can learn to control ourselves in all ways. We can all create useless things in our lives of no eternal value that waste out time and do little to letting others learn about the truth of God. It is for these reasons I kept away from sins of the flesh and believe we need to keep evaluating how we are before God constantly. Otherwise we will live a pointless life on earth and do little to help others learn the truth

    Liked by 1 person

  7. God is good, brother. We are those from the highways and the byways, who are invited to the feast.

    I have no higher ed, but “.. one thing I KNOW” and praise God, he feeds His children. I cannot get enough of his word. Avenues to learn and discover Truth are excessively available in this age and discernment and wisdom are freely bestowed upon those who ask and diligently seek Him.

    Praise God. He fed me when I lived in darkness and though my life experiences could shock ‘the church’, they do not shock The One who loves me, anyway.

    Take heed brothers and sisters to give thanks and be humble regarding where you now stand. The road is slippery. The goal, obtainable.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m a cradle Catholic…but in all honesty I didn’t really start taking the faith seriously until 11 years ago I started making the conscious effort to pray the rosary daily. All the promises when it comes to the rosary are true.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Like you, I did not grow up in a Christian family, and I made a conscious decision to follow Christ — but it was later than you, it was at the end of my teens. As a sophomore in a well-known non-Christian college (I hate to name drop), I decided to follow Christ.

    Well, let me backtrack. After being an atheist, agnostic, and then studying through various major and minor world religions and forms of spirituality, I finally got to Christianity and decided to make Jesus my Lord and Savior after studying the evidence, the New Testament, and Jesus’ demands on my life.

    Also like you, I loved studying apologetics. If I was going to stand up for what I believed, I needed to know why.

    I’ve often thought about what I would tell college students — let’s fantasize that I’m the Registration Day keynote speaker for a second.

    Like many private universities, my alma mater has a wealth — a glut — of opportunities and extracurriculars. If it weren’t for classes, students could easily fill up their entire schedule full of extracurriculars and activities. It’s much like taking a kid into a candy shop to have a freshman arrive at campus for activity sign-up.

    One now retired administrator mentioned to me (in the mid-1990’s) that around 40% of incoming students self-described as some stripe of “Christian.” However, the minority graduated retaining that self-designation. So the interesting question is: why? what factors cause the change?

    Knowing what I know now, nearly three decades out from my first day on campus and having a seminary degree in the interim —

    College students, although some may feel the need and others don’t — if they consider themselves Christian, should try to make some attempt to develop their spirituality while in college. It’s another aspect of us that needs care and upkeep. These habits that college students develop will be formative to their spirituality or lack thereof, for the rest of their adult lives.

    Like candy, many extracurriculars are appealing. They’re enjoyable. But they won’t feed a person’s soul — spirituality.

    How should a Christian develop, nurture, advance their spirituality? Well, there are things called ‘spiritual disciplines,’ including worship, service, prayer, Bible study, study of Christian literature and apologetics, celebration, and so on.

    There are many parachurch organizations (and amusingly, the Boston/Massachusetts chapter of Hugh Ross’ Reasons to Believe is held at my alma mater, and for Ratio Christi, an alumnus turned pastor is the staff member) that can be helpful — they are affinity groups in the sense there’s a common major element (like life situation or age or interest). There’s even Veritas (http://www.veritas.org/ ) (I was at seminary at the same time as Kelly Munroe Kullberg), which sponsors lectures and debates between believers and unbelievers. (Walter Bradley’s lecture that you linked was through Veritas.)

    Then we also learn how to serve and to worship within the context of the local church. Parachurch organizations understand they are not the local church and will work within the context of a church or churches.

    Because Jesus commands us to be salt and light and that we are expected to give a respectful answer for our faith, it’s important to develop in the discipline of apologetics.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this. It is important to know what, who and why you believe. Many years I heard a paleontologist defend his faith in Christ and give his reasons why he believed in a young earth. He acknowledged that even with the proof he presented and soundest of arguments, that faith was most important because without faith, it is impossible to please God. Thanks for defending yours and the challenge you give others. Ours is not a blind faith.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is excellent!! I agree that as a Christian parent, my job is to teach my children to think and analyze, not simply accept everything blindly and blandly. I’d rather them ask me a 1000 hard questions than to have them nod, smile, and drift away. Great post!

    Like

  12. I love this post. I love to argue with people too BUT don’t know how. I am afraid to say the wrong thing. I am reading books now to help me to be able to argue or more like to speak about Christianity. I bet I would love to listen to all your insights. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s