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Thoughts for the Thinking Student
  • The Mind is Important
  • Take Ownership of Beliefs

Mind Games
Survival Course Manual

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Thoughts for the Thinking Student

Jerry Solomon

  1. The mind is important

    The second suggestion is that students should understand that the mind is important in a Christian's life. (Please see The Christian Mind outline in this notebook.) In fact, a Christian is required to use his mind if he desires to know more of God and His work among us. The acts of reading and studying Scripture certainly require mental exercise. Even if a person can't read, he still has to use his mind to respond to what is taught from Scripture. The Bible itself puts significant stress on the mind. For example, Jesus responded to a scribe by stating the most important commandment:

    The foremost is, `Hear O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength' (Mark 12:29-30, NASB).

    In his weighty letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul urges his readers with phrases that are important for all of us to understand, especially college students:

    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2, NASB).

    John Stott has written that "God certainly abases the pride of men, but he does not despise the mind which he himself has made."{9} Carl F.H. Henry, a great Christian thinker, has stated: "Training the mind is an essential responsibility of the home, the church, and the school. Unless evangelicals prod young people to disciplined thinking, they waste--even undermine one of Christianity's most precious resources."{10} A college-bound student should be encouraged to see his mind as a vital part of his devotion to God. The mind that doesn't think God's thoughts after Him will be tempted to think the thoughts of others and leave God out of the process.

    A professor at a large Midwestern university, who has won the school's "Outstanding Teaching Award" but has suffered academic persecution for her Christian convictions, has written about the importance of developing a Christian mind. She states: "At the university we are flooded with the notion that everything is a matter of emotion and there is no objective reality. We are not supposed to make judgments any more, except about the religious right, of course."{11} She continues: "If you attempt to defend your beliefs by reason, logic, and evidence then you are just showing how 'eurocentric' you are. So you can't win."{12} If her analysis of the current intellectual atmosphere on her campus can be applied to other campuses, we can begin to see the challenge facing the Christian student. The Christian mind cannot rest on emotion alone; there is objective reality and the Christian student needs to know this. Reason, logic, and evidence are words descriptive of ways in which the Christian mind should respond to data. Students need to be challenged to understand that the Christian life is one of mental exercise, as well as experience. Students should enter the college environment with the idea that Christianity involves the mind, and the mind is to be used for the glory of God.

  2. Take ownership of beliefs

    Third, students should take ownership of their beliefs. Too often Christian young people spend their pre-college years repeating phrases and doctrines without intellectual conviction. They need to go beyond clichés. It is wonderful if they are knowledgeable of the beliefs of significant adults in their lives, but that does not mean they have considered such beliefs for themselves. It will be much better for them to do this with adults who love them rather than a professor or another student who may be antagonistic toward Christianity. Of course this means that adults should be secure in addressing students' questions.

    Some of the more consistent responses students give us (Probe) when we ask about their beliefs are these: "That's what my parents taught me," or "That's what I've always heard," or "I was raised that way," or "That's what my pastor (or youth pastor) said." On the positive side, these are answers that can give us great encouragement. They are indications that students may be listening to adults more than is generally recognized. On the negative side, when students say such things, too often there is no conviction on their part. Either they have never been challenged to articulate what they truly believe, or they have never been allowed to do so. Perhaps they have gotten into the "rut" of talking only with Christians who communicate in Christian "lingo." Such "lingo" is taken for granted and not questioned. When students enter their later high school years they begin to think more abstractly. They also begin to formulate those things that are of greatest importance to them. In addition, they begin to ask legitimate questions about Christianity. If the church doesn't provide a safe environment for those questions, students tend to go to school with the idea that their best response to a question is one they have only heard and not truly believed for themselves.

    Paul realized that his young friend Timothy had become convinced of the truth of Christianity. Paul wrote to Timothy, saying

    Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of,knowing from whom you have learned them (II Tim. 3:14, NASB).

    From whom did Paul learn? His mother, grandmother, and certainly Paul had taught him many things of God and the Scriptures. Notice, though, that Paul didn't stop with what Timothy learned. He elaborated his comments by inserting the phrase "convinced of." This terminology in the Greek language contains the concept of making something reliable. {13} The things Timothy learned were reliable. Timothy had become convinced personally of the reliability of what he was taught.

    The early Christians in the city of Berea were praised for the way they examined the truth.

    Now these [the Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11, NASB).

    The term examined "means to sift up and down, make careful and exact research."14 Your student should be allowed to "sift up and down" and "make careful and exact research." Indeed, this verse stresses that those who do this are noble-minded, a beautiful phrase that should be indicative of how Christians use the minds God has given them. It should also be understood that a student who has been encouraged in this process is going to be received well by most professors. A professor who observes an interested student who is willing to "sift" through the material usually will respond to that student in a very positive manner.

    A student who has ownership of his beliefs is going to be much better prepared for the questions and doubts that can arise while interacting with contrary ideas that inevitably are found on college campuses.

©1998 Probe Ministries
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