The Challenges College Students Face on Secular Campuses

What is happening on the campuses of secular universities across America? Thousands of Christian students are losing their faith and non-Christian students are becoming entrenched in their unbelief. Why is this happening? Have they discovered that God, in fact, does not really exist, that we live in a careening universe with no divine Pilot at the wheel? Or does something else explain this trend?

The Intellectual Challenge
Christian students on a secular campus face a great intellectual challenge. The underlying principle of the university classroom is naturalism. Students find it everywhere, not just in biology, physics, anthropology, and geology, but also in chemistry, astronomy, psychology, political science, and so on. University faculties defend this pervasive naturalism in two ways: by banishment and by confrontation.

The Banishment Approach
The banishment approach is, of course, the more venerable and the less aggressive of the two. A science professor will state at the beginning of the semester: "Science involves the gathering and analysis of data as the basis for forming hypotheses regarding the nature of reality. It must, therefore, exclude any reference to the supernatural as out of bounds for scientific inquiry. Whether or not God exists, or angels, fairies, pixies, goblins, or the Boogie Man is irrelevant to scientific investigation. Hold to your religious or superstitious beliefs if you want to, but don't bring them up in this classroom. It is off the subject; we don't have time for theological debates here."

Students instantly get the idea that believing in God is anti-intellectual or at least one's faith should be compartmentalized and not allowed to spill over the transom into the science classroom. Be a believer elsewhere if you want, students learn, but come to science as a naturalist.

We Christians cannot accept this banishment. We have made Christ our life (Col. 3:4; Phil. 1:21), and His Lordship extends to every part of our lives. Certainly the One who created the universe at the beginning (Col. 1:16) and who even now sustains it moment by moment (Col. 1:17), has a right to enter a room where his handiwork is being examined and admired.

It is His macro- and micro-planning, organizing, systematizing, and engineering, after all, that makes all science possible. If we did not live in an orderly universe our scientists would be reduced to historians and statisticians who record the millions of haphazard events as they transpire, but can make no deductions, inductions, or educated guesses about what would happen next.

The Confrontation Approach
A more recent and increasingly popular approach in the university classroom is to take the creationist bull by the horns and attack belief in the God of the Bible by any possible means. This is the strategy of journals such as Creation/Evolution and The Skeptical Inquirer. Professors claim the mechanistic/materialistic explanation for origins removes all need for God. Naturalists in the classroom are not above using illogical arguments to win over their students.

For example, they may employ ad hominem arguments, associating belief in a Creator/Sustainer with witch-hunting, skinheads, and the Ku Klux Klan. Or they may use reductio ad absurdum arguments, such as asking how many dinosaur couples went onto the ark, or how Noah could be sure he had both male and female mosquitoes. Or they may knock down straw men, such as claiming victory if they can prove even the slightest changes occur, or limiting creationism only to those who believe the world began in 4004 BC. Or they may commit non sequiturs, such as claiming that since finches differ from one another, therefore, complex, mega-celled organisms evolved from single-celled life forms, and those from non-life.

Of course, we too must be cautious how we make our case, taking care to avoid the same mistakes. But it is difficult to wrestle with an opponent who refuses to fight by the rules.

We need Christian campus ministries because someone must stand up in our university community and affirm the biblical view of origins and of the ground and purpose for our existence.

The Bible clearly affirms these truths about our universe: (1) it had a beginning, all three persons of the Godhead being involved in its creation (Gen. 1:1-3; John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17); ( 2) at the beginning, it came into existence out of nothing (Heb. 11:3); and (3) its interdependent systems are all by God's design and under His ongoing control (Job 38-39; Ps. 19:1-6).

The Bible has a name for those whose dizzying intellects lead them to atheism. Psalm 14:1 calls them fools, referring not to the Stupids, but to self-deceived rebels against God. Just to ensure that we don't forget, the same psalm recurs as the fifty-third. Paul describes those who have given up their knowledge of God as those whose foolish hearts have become darkened and who then become arrogant (Rom. 1:21-23). In all three of these passages, the intellectual rejection of God's existence leads to a moral rejection of God's will (Ps. 14.3; 53:3; Rom. 1:24-32).

The Results of this Naturalism
This prevailing naturalism (or anti-supernaturalism) has at least three far-reaching results. First, our college students are taught that truth is relative. Without God as the everlasting, immutable ground of all reality, truth becomes little more than one's subjective perception of it. Those who hold to absolute truth are ridiculed and harassed.

In a recent speech entitled, "The Trouble with Being Open-Minded," Bruce Lockerbie said: "In today's university environment, absolutes dissolve into absolutism and are scoffed at with contempt. Ironically, however, today's students have been taught that some absolutes survive. Here is a sample of these campus absolutes, of which today's students and many of their teachers are absolutely certain! (1) I think; therefore, I am [Ren