Challenging young Christians instead of spoon-feeding them

Shaefer Bagwell argues that young Christians need to be challenged in their faith instead of spoon-fed.

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John Buchanan/THE CHIMES

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

I read in my philosophy class last week that those who research what they believe the least hold to their beliefs most dogmatically. I reread it, and realized that I strongly disagreed. My professor spoke about college students who leave for their freshman year full of idealistic fervor but with only a thimbleful of knowledge. What I realized was that their faith extends to slogans that describe their religion, but no further. These students return from their first semesters atheists, agnostics, cultists or occultists. Their ideals fall prey to the first wave of well thought-out anti-Christian ideas that come their way. I see this happening, my heart breaks and I wonder what we can do to stop this.

College faith has a massive problem. Young Christians leave for secular universities and quickly fall victim to the irreligious marketplace of ideas. Even here, in the midst of Christian academia, students come across unfamiliar principles and their beliefs are shaken immediately. This is symptomatic of one of the primary maladies of contemporary American Christianity: Our faith is based on emotions and experiences. The faith of our fathers was based on emotions, experiences and rational evaluation of the convincing proofs of Christianity. Their faith endured the Inquisition, persecution and revolution; ours crumples under the crippling onslaught of Introduction to Philosophy.

How to remedy this? It is a simple fix, and one that is often overlooked. We must fix the way we educate those who are young and young in the faith. New Christians must be armed not only with the lyrics to worship songs and admonitions to “go where the Spirit leads,” but with the apologetics that convinced C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. Young Christians must be given more than Kajabi Can Can and Rec time at Hume Lake; they must be given weapons with which they defend their faith.

We spoon-feed our junior highers and high schoolers, attracting them with glittering events and fun, then sneaking a little gospel in towards the end of the service. We have a misconception that we have to dumb down the gospel for them — that we have to give them milk instead of solid food. The years before college are formative and set the foundation for what we believe for the rest of our lives. The myth of the simplified gospel must be dispelled by this truth: Young Christians will rise to the expectations that we set for them. Give our high school groups a square meal instead of baby food, and watch as they devour it and ask for seconds.

Biola students must be the frontline fighters of this struggle. We have more of a biblical education after our first semester here than most Christians have after a lifetime in the Church. I spent my whole life in the Church before coming here, and was surprised and chagrined at the completely central principles that I didn’t know. As trite and cliché as it is, Biola students are equipped to impact the world for Jesus Christ. A good place to start is by volunteering in our local youth groups, providing the students with a solid scriptural education and a square biblical meal. 

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