Depending on the study, 70-80% of students who are Christian when they graduate high school are no longer Christian when they graduate college. They just aren’t prepared well for the whirlwind of the secular university.
I was just about a statistic. There go I, were it not for the grace of God.
I began my Christian life at the tail end of high school. Like a lot of American teenagers, I went to church some before then, but I was definitely just a pew sitter. It simply wasn’t that important to me. I seriously did it to bolster my spiritual resume’. Some hairy events my junior year of high school shook me up and changed all that. I started attending the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (thanks, Mr. Wenger!), and it was there that I encountered the gospel for the first time. It was the first time I had heard about a relationship with Christ, and the first time I had heard the biblical message that my good deeds would get me nowhere with God. I already owed God 100% obedience, so since I fell far, far short of that, my deeds were the problem; you can’t pay for bad deeds with good ones! For the first time in my life, I pondered the reality of hell.
It took me about 8 months, but I finally decided that message was true right around the spring of my senior year of high school.
Fast forward to college…wide-eyed freshman at Ohio State University (go BUCKS!).
I literally ran into a God-send my first few days on campus. His name was Darwin (which, now that I think of it, is highly ironic), and he, with his friend Yohan, helped me get acclimated to college life, introduced me to my church for the next 6 years (Vineyard Columbus), and took me to Intervarsity, a campus Christian group. Over time, I also was introduced to Campus Crusade for Christ and Athletes in Action.
Meanwhile, seeds of doubt were being sown in the dorm halls and classrooms. My roommate was a very astute agnostic. He was also gay. There was many a night that we talked about everything under the sun. I don’t even remember the specifics of the conversations, all I remember is that a few of them shook me up. I knew nothing of Christianity. Somebody had to show me where the book of John was. But my roommate, man, that guy asked me some challenging questions! I was confronted with a challenge that every Christian college student faces: is the Christian faith blind, or is it real? After all the heartfelt songs were sung, after all the gut wrenching prayers and inspirational testimonies were given, after all the self-assured, Mormon-like “I know he lives because I feel him in my heart” statements, it came down to that. It came to the point where it was “sink or swim”: either I find answers to his questions, or I give up my faith. I did not want a faith that was a placebo, something that had little to do with reality.
So I decided to seek. I asked questions of men I trusted. I read books. I searched the web. I attended debates. I took a philosophy class or two. What I found was very solid. When I compared the worldview of Jesus to all other worldviews, His take on reality stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Then something strange happened: the philosophy classes began to grow on me. My prof for my 101 class said I had a knack for it, and he encouraged me to take more…so I did. Then slowly, it turned into a minor. Then still more slowly, it turned into a major, alongside my English major. Even more strangely, after all this, I couldn’t just “put it down:” I entered a Master’s degree program in philosophy a year after graduation; this took me from Ohio to Southern California, where I reside today.
Well, nothing I’ve encountered thus far has upset the furniture in heaven. I’m not holding my breath. I’m still just as much a follower of Christ (nay, more!) than I was twelve years ago. Studying philosophy, history, science, etc has only increased my confidence in Christ.
Throughout the whole process, I have inquired a boldness and confidence that I never would have even approached had I not ventured out in a life of study and inquiry. At times, in my youthful energy, I have gone too far, spreading more heat than light, but I am infinitely thankful for the fruit my studies have borne. The life of the mind is absolutely crucial to discipleship unto Christ. Without it, in the words of J.P Moreland, one is only a 2/3 disciple at best.
It’s been quite an adventure. There’s never been a boring moment, and I can confidently attribute that adventure to Christ. Through all the ups and downs (by all accounts I’ve lived quite a blessed life, even after you take into account the ups and downs), it’s been quite a ride. Intellectually, of course I still have my doubts and unanswered questions (the more I think the more questions I have!), but God has brought me light years from that wet-behind-the-ears freshman that stepped onto OSU’s campus in the fall of 1997.
Looking back on it all, I’m glad I rubbed shoulders with my roommate. I’m glad I made friends with students from Students for Freethought, the secular student group on campus. I’m glad I had those atheist professors with axes to grind. I’m glad I had the agnostic and atheist professors without a beef to pick, but who still taught things that had the potential to slowly erode my faith. I’m glad I met the Muslims who absolutely wrapped me around the axle with their own attacks on Christianity. I’m glad I made acquaintance with those steeped in the party and hook up culture. It was good for me; it’s not good for everyone, mind you; the difference in my life is that I had the support and structure such that I was mentored through all that. If one does not have many strong men and women in Christ who also possess sharp minds, and if one does not have access to the proper resources of study, such an atmosphere is disasterous.
I often wonder where my former roommate is today. He was a good guy. Had a great sense of humor. The running joke between us was that if I went on a date, he could tell me if my belt didn’t match my shoes. He knew where I stood, and we got along just fine. If any of you see a man named Rocky with an exquisite sense of style and mean talent for cooking (no joke…I’m seriously not stereotyping. The guy cooked for me and my suitemates a few times. I don’t know what it was, but I loved it.), send him my way.
If you told me back then that in the near future I, a small town boy from Missouri, would be getting an M.A in philosophy, teaching in Compton, California, coaching the wrestling version of the Bad News Bears, blogging, while betrothed to a black woman from Texas, I’d point and laugh….well, God has a funny way of making things turn out interestingly.
I seriously won’t be surprised if my first child turns out Asian.