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Thoughts for the Thinking Student
  • Breaking the Sacred/Secular Barrier
  • Importance of Christian Scholarship
  • Ask First "Is it true?"

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Thoughts for the Thinking Student

Jerry Solomon

  1. Breaking the sacred/secular barrier

    The fifth suggestion is to encourage students break down the sacred/secular barrier. If a young person sees school as a secular and not a sacred task he will never see a connection between his professed Christianity and his academic life. It is tragic that too many of us were educated in this manner. I Corinthians 10:31 states whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Two enormous words jump from this passage: whatever and all. Can you think of anything that isn't covered by those two terms? It appears they encompass everything, including academic life.

    A good way to ponder this concept is to ask a student to enumerate the things she did the day before. After such an enumeration ask which things on the list were secular and which were sacred. More than likely you will hear a distinct breakdown between the two. When your discussion begins to focus on the sacredness of our tasks you will probably see a bewildered expression. This is because of the "compartmentalization" that has permeated most of our thinking. When education, dating, recreation, entertainment, and other parts of life are separated from the sacred we have made incorrect assumptions concerning the sacred. Sacred things are thought of only as prayer, going to church, Bible study, evangelism, etc. and not the things of daily life. Thus the Christian life is relegated to particular times and places, which is not the Biblical perspective.

    "All truth is God's truth" is a maxim that should be understood by all Christians. To deny this is to deny a unified world view and tacitly to deny the truth.17 This is a very important concept for a Christian student to understand. Arthur Holmes has addressed this with insightful comments: "If the sacred-secular distinction fades and we grant that all truth is ultimately God's truth, then intellectual work can be God's work as much as preaching the gospel, feeding the hungry, or healing the sick. It too is a sacred task."{18}

    The first chapter of Daniel offers amazing insights into this issue. Daniel and his friends were taught all that the University of Babylon (so to speak) could offer them; they "graduated" with highest honors and with their faith strengthened. God honored them in the task and even gave them the knowledge they needed to grapple with Babylonian ideas (Daniel 1:17).

    If Daniel's situation is applied to a contemporary Christian student's life, there is an important lesson to be learned. That is, the young Jewish boys learned and understood what they were taught, but that does not mean they believed it. Many students have asked how to respond to papers and exams that include ideas they don't believe. As with Daniel and his peers, they should demonstrate their understanding to the best of their ability, but they cannot be forced to believe it. Understanding and believing are not necessarily the same. Many Christian students enter an ungodly educational arena every year. They should be encouraged with the understanding that God's truth will prevail, as it did for Daniel and his friends.

  2. The importance of Christian scholarship

    The sixth suggestion is to familiarize students with Christian scholarship. "Christian students have available many books on Christianity and scholarship; they need to read these if they are seeking a Christian perspective in their studies."{19} A friend of mine is fond of saying that the early church not only "out-loved" the surrounding culture; they also "out-thought" the surrounding culture. This was true even in the earlier history of this country. "The minister was an intellectual, as well as spiritual authority in the community."{20} Tragically, anti- intellectualism began to dominate in the middle of the nineteenth century and the church and its leaders eventually withdrew into isolated pockets that had little or no impact on the culture. The isolation of the church led to "the marginalization of Christian ideas from the public arena, and the shallowness and trivialization of Christian living, thought, and activism. In short, the culture became saltless."{21} The results of this demise are felt strongly today. In fact, this outline is in large measure a result of it. It is gratifying to realize, though, that the situation is changing, sometimes in dramatic ways.

    Too many Christians have gone through their college careers with no idea there are Christian scholars who have addressed every academic discipline. This situation hasn't changed. Christian students need to know there is someone to whom they can turn. A Christian scholar has written something that can help them sort out the many subjects that come their way.

    Admittedly, this is probably the most difficult of the suggestions we have offered to this point. You may not know where to turn for resources. Begin with your pastor. If you don't get the response you need, call a nearby bookstore, seminary, or Christian college that you trust. Or call Probe Ministries.

  3. Ask first, "Is it true?"

    The last suggestion is to encourage students to ask first, "Is it true?", not "Does it work?" Education in the United States has been engulfed in pragmatism to the point that many students only see school as a stepping stone to economic stability. As a result, they tend to think that study is only done to pass tests, to receive a degree, and then to get a job. In the classroom this is observed through an infamous question heard by teachers everywhere: "Do we need to know this for the test?" This question implies the student believes education only applies to a future goal, not present growth and knowledge. It also implies he will not use any mental energy to learn unless it will "work for him" immediately, or at least in the near future. So in the process he doesn't ask about truth; he only asks about application. But he should first be as sure as possible that truth is being applied. He should be encouraged to seek after truth in all things.

    There are things that are absolutely true and the student needs to understand this, especially in a collegiate atmosphere that tends to deny truth. Jesus said:

    If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32, NASB). He also said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14:6, NASB).

    The Christian student who is dedicated to Christ has insights to the truth that many of his professors, sadly, may never possess.

©1998 Probe Ministries
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