How to finish college with your faith intact.
| posted 6/21/2011
With these observations in mind, you might assume that the best way to secure your Christian faith is to attend a Christian college. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Christian and secular colleges present different challenges for Christian students. But I can tell you from experience that it's just as easy to lose your faith on a Christian campus.
The great strength of a Christian college is also its primary challenge: Christianity is everywhere. The first week or so might bring the excitement of a perpetual summer camp. Over time, though, the daily small doses of faith and religious language you receive can make you numb to personal faith. A friend of mine calls this process "inoculation against the gospel." A flu shot introduces enough disease into your system that your body can develop a resistance to it. Christian colleges can do the same thing with faith. The big challenges to faith on a Christian campus, then, are nominalism and hypocrisy. You'll feel pressured to seem like a faithful Christian, so you might act like one and talk like one. It was pretty common at the Christian college I attended for people to sleep in on Sunday morning and then put on their dress clothes to eat lunch in the cafeteria. That way they looked as if they'd been to church when they hadn't. Witnessing this sort of behavior—and doing it yourself—can lead to cynicism. It is easy to assume every other so-called Christian is a hypocrite, just because many are clearly faking.
You can find the "wrong crowd" anywhere. You tend to form relationships quickly in college, especially in your first year. And because the campus is "Christian," you might not think to look for Christian friends. Instead, you might assume that everyone is a Christian. Moreover, a Christian campus is like any other in the sense that students form social clubs, special interest clubs, and honor societies. You might arrive assuming all of these will affirm and encourage Christian commitment. They won't. Students have to be discerning about the company they keep, sometimes especially so on a Christian campus.
New ideas can also be a threat to faith at a Christian college. This is true even—or perhaps especially—if you major in Christian studies. I majored in biblical studies. And even though my professors were godly men who aimed to strengthen us in the faith, their teaching sometimes contradicted what I had learned growing up. Regardless of which major he chooses, a student is bound to encounter teaching that undermines the opinions of his parents or home church, whether they be about political, social, or theological concepts. In short, challenges to the faith at Christian colleges are much less obvious, but no less serious.
Don't lose hope! As I mentioned before, I faced a crossroads in college. Thankfully, my college experience strengthened my faith. It can do that for you. Below are just a few suggestions for ensuring that happens.