We are going to take one more post to speak in broad strokes about the apocryphal story about Einstein as a Christian student facing down an unnamed atheist professor. I think it is important to put into words the reason why this and other like stories tend to be repeated.
Many Christians are afraid of universities.
There is an undeniable and all together disheartening trend that shows many teens who self identify as Christians no longer do so by the time they reach their early 20’s. This exodus from the faith tends to coincide with being in university.
It is all together too simple to say that going to university causes Christians to lose their faith. And yet there are a great many that make that very claim.
About a week ago I was talking with my bible study about issues around faith, reason and science. Something that is easily one of my favorite things to talk about. As the conversation progressed one person shared that when they were in grade 12 their youth leader sat them, and the other grades 12’s down and told them not to go to university. This proclamation came with a few caveats, if the girls wanted to be a teacher, or nurse or of the guys wanted to be doctors that was probably OK. And of course things like bible collages were quite acceptable.
The message that youth pastor was sending was that universities are dangerous places that destroy the faithful. And that unless it was unavoidable you should keep out of universities at all cost. This message is hardly a new one, in fact it has been repeated a great many times over the past century. It also has been fairly successful in deterring bright young Christians from entering into the fields of science, philosophy, mathematics and the like.
This means that for far too long many of the people that have successfully completed the journey from undergrad to PhD to professor have been agnostic, atheist or otherwise non-Christian. Because we have by on large abandoned higher level study we have set up our own crisis of faith and intellect.
We have allowed universities to become largely staffed by non-Christians, we have set up a tension between being a faithful Christian and a university student (especially if they are studying biology), and we poorly equipped teens to deal with a)the increased level of freedom they receive in university and b) the diverse worldviews they encounter.
This is a very serious issue and stories like Christian Student Vs. Atheist Professor are meant to comfort us. They are meant to show us that everything will be OK, the brash atheists will be defeated and faith will prevail.
But if we do not build more meaningful reflection into our faith everything will not be OK. We have to do better, we have to reclaim our history of rich reflection and a willingness to question and explore deeply. There are still far to many Christian communities that force us to choose between faith and reason. This is a false dichotomy. It is time to celebrate with the youth who say they are planing on becoming a biologist just as we celebrate with the youth who declares they are going to be a pastor.