Christian students must study their faith along with textbooks

I’m sure we have all heard those annoying preachers hurling their fire-and-brimstone ramblings at us in the Free Speech Area. This makes me somewhat sick to my stomach, and as I drown out the noise with my iPod, I wonder why more educated Christians aren’t speaking up instead. Today, I would like to share the message of one who did.

On Thursday, author and apologist Jerry L. Walls came to our campus to give a talk entitled “Why Christians Must Think or Die.” Walls is quite the scholar, to say the least. He’s earned degrees from Notre Dame, Yale and Princeton, and it would hardly be an exaggeration that he has more knowledge in his pinky than I do on the whole.

Already in awe, I listened as he explained that if we fail to think, we fail to truly live, because it is our reason and how we use it that really makes us who we are. He warned us of the dangers of diversion, because while it consoles us from our misery, it also creates more when we fail to get the really effective things in life done. I’m sure most of us can relate when we find ourselves checking Facebook for the seventh time in one day (or is that just me?).

Many Christians, Walls points out, accept the idea that faith and rationality should be separate. The Scriptures, on the contrary, say believers should be prepared to give reasons for the hope that they have, and Walls couldn’t agree more.

He spoke of five dangers for the Christian, the first being so deeply embedded in societal norms that we fail to think outside of them, which Walls calls uncritical enculturation. As an example, he spoke of how many times, students of philosophy will adapt to the secular mindset of their professors because if enough people believe that God isn’t absolutely essential for a sound framework of theories, then they will start believing it, too.

The second, fragmentation, addresses the fact that Christians often believe only parts of the Bible, abandoning the ones that don’t seem to line up with natural science. Walls views this as a tragedy, and urges us to delve deeper into the Scriptures to find out how these apparent discrepancies may actually coincide. If we take God seriously, the truths we learn in biology classes are no less His truths than the ones we learn in church.

Similarly, there is compartmentalization, the tendency to be gung-ho about Jesus during worship, but silent and even ashamed of him outside of sanctuary walls. This phenomenon is tied to stagnation, the tendency for faith not to grow. Think about it: Most of us have a university-level knowledge of math, science, history, you name it; but sadly, our knowledge of Christianity idles at a seventh-grade level. It’s no wonder so many believers find it so hard to stand up against sophisticated anti-Christian arguments when they have not taken the time to discover their own.

Finally, there is trivialization. The phrase “Jesus loves you” doesn’t mean much to people these days because so few people even begin to comprehend the scope of what it means. The apostle Paul reminds us that worship is not simply done with the mouth, but with the understanding as well (1 Corinthians 14:15).

So for all of you Jesus freaks on campus, I urge you to study your faith as well as your textbooks. Read some C.S. Lewis, ask your pastor the tough questions or do some research on a Bible passage you don’t quite understand. And if nothing else, remember to live as Jesus lived; the best symbol of your faith is not only a mind filled with intelligence, but also a heart filled with love.

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians,” says author Brennan Manning. “They acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. And that is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Natalie Glover is a psychology and philosophy senior. E-mail [email protected]