How Should Students Respond to Anti-Christian Sentiments in the Academy?

Animosity toward both the Gospel, and those who profess it, are hardly recent phenomena. On the contrary, they have been the norm for two-thousand years. The Apostle Paul explicitly warns his protégé Timothy (and by extension, all of us) that:


“…There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (2Tim. 3:1b-4)


If that isn’t an apt description of the “spirit of the age”, I don’t know what is - so to be forewarned is to be forearmed! Christians should expect to be treated with skepticism, ridicule and even contempt, but as Jesus himself taught us:


“Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21:17-18)


In those simple words of reassurance, Jesus reminds his followers that it is he the world rejects, not us; and that as his ambassadors, he will equip us with “words and wisdom that none of (our) adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” (Luke 21:15)


In fact, I would contend that the academy offers believers a unique opportunity to share the Gospel, as it is “wisdom” above all else that genuine scholars prize. As my friend Professor Andrew Briggs (Oxford University) and his co-author Roger Wagner explain in their marvelous work on the relationship between science, art and religion, entitled: The Penultimate Curiosity (OUP, 2016), it is the “penultimate curiosities” of science and art, that have forever “swum in the slipstream of an ultimate metaphysical curiosity", that can only be answered by philosophy and religion.


If academics genuinely seek “truth”, they should be willing to seek it from sources beyond the constraints of their own disciplines, and the prejudices of contemporary culture. Likewise, if Christians seek to serve the one who is the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), they should be willing to do so “in season and out of season” and with every form of “patient instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

 

Kenneth Barnes, Ph.D. is the Mockler-Phillips Professor of Workplace Theology and Business Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary


For more of Professor Barnes' work:

Barnes, Kenneth, Light from the Dreaming Spires: Reflections on Ministry to Generation Y