Randal Rauser: How Evangelical Christian Children Can Have Their Faith Shaken on the First Day of College

Let’s consider the first morning at university for one hypothetical 18-year-old raised in a typical evangelical church subculture. His name is David.


Getting ready for university

David’s Christian leaders were seeking to grow his faith strong. And so, as he grew up in the church he was taught a deep suspicion of many views contrary to his evangelical Christian convictions. For example, he was taught that the Neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution is wrong. But not simply that it is wrong: he was taught that it is a lie, that it is a theory on its last legs which is sustained by little more than the anti-Christian animus of those who propagate it. He still remembers the sober words of his youth pastor: “Don’t let the evolutionist make a monkey out of you.”

David was also warned about atheism. Atheists, he was taught, are godless people who hate God and repress a deep anger toward him. They don’t want to live in accord with God’s law and that’s why they reject belief in him. So they are merely fools, as it says in Psalm 14:1.

With that background, David faces his first morning as a new student at a large public university, a school with more first-year students than people living in his hometown. When he arrives David encounters a bewildering number of cultures and languages, to say nothing of the staggering number of life philosophies on other. The Christian subculture in which he was raised is now inundated by a tsunami of alternative perspectives he hardly knew existed. And these are not mere abstractions on the page of a Christian worldview textbook. These are beliefs and practices held by real flesh and blood people that he meets everywhere he goes, from the dorm to the SUB to the classroom.

Biology 101

David arrives early at his first class: Biology 101. Having been warned for years of the absurdity of evolution, he is gritting his teeth, seeking merely to endure the class in the hope of becoming a medical doctor someday.

Immediately David is surprised by Dr. Smith. She seems friendly and very intelligent and she conveys a deep love for the natural world as she projects various images of nature on the PowerPoint screen. With surprise, David realizes that she also coauthored their textbook, a formidable five hundred page tome full of diagrams and pictures and charts. As she talks, Dr. Smith provides an overview of the syllabus, noting how they will study the properties of life, the differences between plants and animals, the flow of genetic information, and … here it comes … how life evolved on earth. Dr. Smith ends the class with a humorous story of her time doing postgraduate research on the dental evolution of shark teeth.

As class ends and David gathers his books, he experiences a degree of relief. Dr. Smith doesn’t seem nearly as hostile toward Christianity as he had expected. But that first class has also planted a seed of doubt. Is Dr. Smith trying to make a monkey out of him? Is evolution really just a lie, an absurdity sustained only by the anti-Christian animus of its defenders? Could a reasonable person interpret the origin of life in that manner? And if not, how does he explain Dr. Smith?

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Randal Rauser