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“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)
In the years after I graduated from UConn, I found myself wishing that I could go back to some of my classes and defend my faith against some of the messages I heard from my professors. I became a follower of Jesus right at the beginning of my freshman year at UConn, and although I was an eager learner when it came to my newfound faith, I had no idea how to answer many of the criticisms of Christianity I heard in my classes. For example:
“Missionaries are arrogant, evil, and ethnocentric.” That would be Anthropology 100, Other People’s Worlds, where it was argued that those who attempt to “force their beliefs” on other cultures were doing a terrible thing. Instead, it was argued, they should simply respect cultural differences and not act as if their way is the better way that everyone should adopt. That sounded so right and educated to newly emancipated 18 year-olds. I wish, however, I could go back and challenge the professor that she was doing the exact same thing that she criticized missionaries for doing: she was attempting to force her beliefs on all of us, not respecting the cultural differences of Christianity, and thinking her way was the better way that everyone should adopt. Furthermore, given that logic, what possible answer could she give regarding the injustices in the world, be it Hitler’s anti-Semitism, or female infanticide in China, or female genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East? After all, wouldn’t calling those practices “evil” and attempting to change the behaviors of another culture be just as ethnocentric as what missionaries do?
“Jesus was just another Jews.” That was from the professor in my Bible as Literature class. That professor was a Jewish man dedicated to convincing us that there were many Jews who also lived around the time of Jesus who allegedly performed miracles, taught wonderful things, and were called Messiahs. He taught us that all the stories about Jesus rising from the dead and claiming to be divine were just legends. I wish I could go back and challenge the professor to explain to us why every other “Messiah” has been forgotten by history, but Jesus has become worshipped as Lord by cultures around the world. I would ask the professor why his followers, who were falling away just like the followers of every other “Messiah,” were suddenly transformed into fearless world-changers who were willing to die for “just another Jew”? I would follow that up by sharing the many convincing arguments for the validity and historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.
“We are all just descended from apes, and there is no creator.” This was from Anthropology 106, Introduction to Anthropology, where we were taught evolution as if it were fact. There is much more that could be said about this subject, of course, then can fit on this page. But one thing I would ask is this: “If we are all just highly evolved animals, products of natural selection and random mutation, then why do we care about injustice in the world? If nature is all about the strong surviving and the weak dying off, and nobody gets bent out of shape by the violence between the animals, why do we believe genocide is wrong? Why was the Holocaust wrong? Shouldn’t we celebrate it as just another example of natural selection and survival of the fittest? Does not the existence of a Creator better fit the evidence?”
Sadly, I can’t go back and engage with my professors. But there are still opportunities to have conversations like this in our lives today. As many of you know, Jim Scrobko has led numerous excellent community groups at NewLife dealing with issues of apologetics, including how to defend your faith, why the Bible is reliable, and the question of who Jesus really was. This fall, he will be leading a class on Mondays called “Who is Jesus?” that will examine the person and mission of Jesus. Contact Jim, or contact me, if you are interested!