Three things to remember when your faith is being questioned or assaulted

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There’s no doubt to the influence the campus has towards a student. To deny it, I think, is to betray our common experience. Or as Jonathan Morrow simply puts it, “College has a unique ability to squash you into a certain mold – and this shape is mostly determined by the people you spend the majority of your time.” [1]

To say it again, “this shape is mostly determined by the people you spend the majority of your time.” And if we’re honest, that includes our professors and dearest classmates. Thus, the only thing that is in between our conversations, and their questions and assaults to our Christian faith, is time.

Several centuries ago, while in despair and exile, the Jews cried out to God, “How should we then live?” (Eze. 33:10, KJV). In the same way, when that time (or opportunity) comes, when they throw objections to our faith, similar question should be asked, “How should we then respond?” Because as Paul instructed us, we ought not to be “ashamed of the testimony about our Lord” (c.f., 2 Tim. 1:8, ESV).

So here are three things to remember when your faith is being questioned or assaulted in your college campus. Of course, I admit, that this is not exhaustive. But at least, it’s fair to keep us going, for the sake of this short blog.

1 – Don’t panic when you don’t know the answer

It’s just a matter of time when an objection will be raised by your professors or your classmates, in which, unfortunately, you don’t know the answer. But when that happens, here’s one thing you should do – relax!

Don’t panic. Relax.

Christianity is not founded in your good responses or the lack thereof. Just because you don’t know how to respond, doesn’t mean the resurrection never happened. No no. It takes far more than that!

Just simply admit that you don’t know the answer, and they’ll be amazed by your honesty (rather than pretending to know). Because needless to say, your response will not show that Christianity is false. Not unless they’ll present the body of Jesus (c.f., 1 Cor. 15:14). Instead, it only shows that you haven’t studied the subject matter yet!

In resolution, do yourself a favor. Study. Know the upcoming and common objections to your faith. Pray that God will give you insights and wisdom in responding. In short, love God with all your mind (c.f., Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37; Mk. 12:30-31; Lk. 10:27).

Remember, we should be in but not of the world (c.f., Jn. 17:14-18).

2 – Shift the burden of proof when they raise objections

Humble yourself down. Don’t forget that your professors know various topics than you do. The issue you may discuss may have been the issue they have already discussed with their previous students. In short, they are more knowledgeable than you are (to qualify it in that context). And you don’t have to be surprised. Because you are a student and they are your professors!

When they raise objections and questions against your faith, you don’t have to be too eager to respond. Yes, I said that one. And I’m willing to say it again: you don’t have to be too eager to respond. Why? Because they’re the one controlling the classroom conversation. In short, they can cut you in the middle of your explanation. That usually happens. Because it’s not their concern to listen to your long explanation or defense. And to my experience, most of them will only allow us to explain within few minutes, and that’s all, because they can’t allow us to overtake the classroom discussion. Because they have a lot to say as professors. And the school’s curriculum is too important.

Instead, listen to their objections intently. Show them that you are really interested in listening to them. Because in that way, you’re showing them that they have been heard, that you really care about what they say. In result, they will know that they are not merely talking in the thin air. And they’ll recognize that respect.

However, instead of proving your point of view, ask them questions about what they say. Ask them about their objections. Use the questions like, “What do you mean by that?” or “How did you come to that conclusion?” or “Have you considered this alternative explanation?” etc.[2] In short, question their objections. Let them defend what they say.

Because in that way, you’ll know where they stand. And you will know where to respond, when God gives you the opportunity, because you took the time not to caricature the views, which they hold very dearly.

3 – if you’re asked for an answer, and you have it – don’t hesitate to answer graciously

Instead, thank God that they question Christianity. Thank God that the conversation went to the faith that you confess. Thank God for the opportunity “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (c.f., Jude 1:4). Because it may mean that truth still matters to them. That truth interests them.[3]

In responding, point out your points of agreements. Let them know that you’re meeting them with ideas. Recognize (and if possible thank them for) their objections. Because you’re not proving that you’re smarter than them anyway.

However, in laying out the points where you disagree – speak with grace! There’s no point of hammering them the truth, because they won’t listen that way. Or as the famous old proverb saying, there’s no point giving the man a rose to smell after cutting his nose. In fact, Jesus came down “full of grace and truth” (c.f., Jn. 1:14). Therefore, there’s no reason not communicate with both grace and truth. If you don’t communicate with grace, don’t communicate the truth either. One doesn’t work without the other (perhaps in this context). Because you’re dealing with people. Not with logic textbooks.

Another one is that, don’t be afraid! Don’t be driven by fear. “Fear is selfish and self-centered.” Rather, be driven by love. Love gives us the eyes to see that they are in need of the truth. John even said that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18).

In short, if you love them, you have nothing to prove, but you have something to show, and that is Christ’s love.

Conclusion

I understand, however, the limitations of these three points. I do not prescribe these to be considered absolutes, rather than taking them as mere principles that may work often times. I do not even pretend to close my eyes to the complexity of the issue, especially in dealing with people. For they can mock and ridicule you.

However, when that moment comes, understand that they (usually) no longer have the arguments to present, in result, they don’t want to listen to you either. Don’t be surprised. Be willing to absorb their ridicule. Our Lord was mocked. He was even innocent! They ridicule you of what you believe because you stand for the truth (c.f., Jn. 15:19). We have no time to feel offended. Jesus told us to anticipate that (c.f., John 16:33). Just absorb it. He must be proud.

I like what David Kinnaman, the President of the Barna Group said, in his book unChristian: Christian insulation and safe life are not what you and I signed up for when we said we would follow Jesus.“[4]

And to motivate us, here’s what Peter said:

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so 1 that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3:15-16, ESV).

Remember, your response is also your ministry!


[1] Jonathan Morrow, Welcome To College (Kregel Publications, 2008), 179-80.

[2] For more about this one. Please refer to Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Zondervan, 2009).

[3] Unlike the nones. These are the people who are non-religious, who don’t care about the issues concerning whether God even exists or not. They’re just not interested.

[4] David Kinnaman, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters (Baker Books, 2012), 200.

 

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