Students: How Can You Best Defend Your Faith in Class? by: Sean McDowell

Students: How Can You Best Defend Your Faith in Class?

Did you realize that in American universities, liberal professors outnumber conservative professors roughly 5 to 1? Did you know there are nearly 3 times as many atheist professors in the university than in the public as a whole? Are you prepared to defend your faith among professors and students who see the world differently?

There are two ways you may find your faith challenged. First, you may encounter an aggressively secular professor who wants to “free” you of your “fundamentalist” heritage. Most professors enjoy their profession, want to help students, and do not have some secret secular agenda. But you will almost certainly encounter some who do.

The second way you will find you faith challenged is through the subtle dismissal of the Christian worldview. In a variety of classes, Christian views are often dismissed as outdated, unsophisticated, and not worthy of serious consideration. If you don’t recognize it, and aren’t prepared to see through it, such flippant dismissal can slowly erode your confidence in the faith.

So, what can you do to stand strong for your faith in class?

  • Prepare before class. Find information about the class and professor before class begins. If the class is on neuroscience, consider reading a book beforehand, such as The Soul, by J.P. Moreland. If the class is on biology, then consider coming to class having already read my book Understanding Intelligent Design. If you really want to come to class prepared, then think about attending either Impact 360 Immersion or Summit Ministries, which are two-week conferences designed to help students develop a Christian worldview on all sorts of issues. Being prepared in class is the result of coming to class prepared.
  • Ask questions. Rather than trying to stand up to a teacher in front of the entire class, the most strategic route is simply to ask questions. This keeps the burden of proof on the professor rather than you. To ask good questions, you need to spend time really listening to what the professor teaches. Be sure you understand the position clearly, and then do you best to raise pointed and clarifying questions. If the professor pushes back and tries to put you on the defensive, don’t take the bait. And since most Christian students do not come prepared to defend their worldview in class, asking good questions can be a way to strengthen their faith as well. If you want to learn how to ask good questions, check out Tactics by Greg Koukl.
  • Talk to your professor during office hours. In my experience, most professors welcome students who want to discuss issues further in class. In fact, many love it. Don’t go to a professor in anger or defensiveness. Trust me, professors know more than you and have dealt with other Christian students in the past (many of whom, sadly, were probably not as respectful or thoughtful as they could have been). Go with genuine thoughtfulness, interest, and the desire to learn. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t ask good questions. And remember, professors know which students are really engaged in class. If you are a good student, your professor will be far more likely to listen to your thoughts and concerns.
  • If there’s a tough question you can’t answer, go find it. You will inevitably encounter new challenges to your faith that you haven’t considered before. Don’t freak out. Take a deep breath. Pray for guidance, wisdom, and understanding. But then go find an answer. Find someone personally to help you, such as a member of Cru, The Navigators, or InterVarsity. Find a Christian professor. Or do your own research through organizations such as Cross Examined, Impact 360 Institute, Stand to Reason, Reasonable Faith, Cold Case Christianity, or SeanMcDowell.org.

College can be an amazing time of growth for your faith. And classes can be a significant part of that. But growth doesn’t happen by accident. It’s critical to think through how to defend your faith before class even begins. If you come to class prepared, ask good questions, talk to your professors during office hours, and find answers to tough questions that arise in class, then you will not only stand strong for your faith, but also have the opportunity to encourage other Christian students along the way. Go for it!

Interested in learning more about defending your faith?