It comes as no surprise that Christian students are facing theological challenges in the classroom. I witnessed this firsthand when I entered college for the first time in 2011. As I read the first chapter of my book in geology class I found anti-Christian statements, which I expected. However, when I took the first exam, I found three questions I had not anticipated—questions that referred to “absolute truths” when these “truths” were unproven. I discovered that, in good conscience, I could not say “the age of the Earth is 4.5 billion years old,” even though this was what the textbook said. I simply could not say that this was true, especially when I have seen and heard so much evidence to the contrary—including in the teacher’s very own lectures.
My difficulty was that false or unproven information, specifically about the distant past, was stated as fact. I had expected wording such as “according to the textbook, …” or “according to the theory of ….” I was completely unprepared for a multiple-choice online test. Given the questions, I decided to get the answers as right as I could get them—but according to research I trusted. I lost some points for my answers, but I realized that if I decided that grades were more valuable than truth, I would be compromising what is most important.
In the past year especially, Christians around the world have watched in horror as the Muslim Brotherhood has violently attacked Christians in various countries. Thousands of Christians have been brutally persecuted and martyred, and these attacks have prompted me to ask myself, What would I do if I were in this situation? Deep down, I fear I might compromise. Which type of Christian is more devout—someone who renounces his faith with his fingers crossed, or one who refuses to renounce his faith no matter what the cost? It is good to remember that ultimately, faithfulness is not something I can achieve on my own. Only by the Holy Spirit and the gifts of Jesus do I have any confidence that I will have the words to say or the courage to resist even if I am persecuted for my being a Christian.
While the persecution in science classes is clearly far less of a threat than martyrdom, the school system’s way of persuading youth to leave Christianity is still quite effective. Students are pressured to scorn Christianity and Christian principles by classmates, teachers, textbooks, school rules, and federal laws. Many of those who leave home for college lose their faith. In my church alone, ten out of fifteen youth have left the faith after high school. If we, as students, cannot even stand firm in school, how can we expect to be able to testify to Christ when it’s a matter of life and death?
The current scientific trend is to separate faith and fact entirely, in keeping with the separation between church and state. However, the Christian faith is based on facts—not just murky “truths.” The world asserts that religion is about morals and good deeds, not the reality around us, and therefore has no relevance to the real world and science. Our responsibility, however, is to understand how matters such as science point to God’s creation and laws. There is comfort in knowing that the Christian faith is not about proving science wrong but about God’s grace and forgiveness in Jesus. There is nothing that can overturn what Jesus has accomplished for us by His death on the cross and His resurrection!
I have often been told that I should just repeat what the teachers want me to say, but not believe it in my heart. How would the Apostles have responded to this philosophy? I cannot imagine St. Paul saying mildly, “I don’t believe that evolution is right, but I’ll say whatever you want me to say … for now.” Is it right to say and do nothing to defend the faith that Christ has given? I know that I can personally do nothing to stay in the faith, but I do know that Satan is constantly throwing out that old question, “Did God really say?” He wants me to question God’s Word. The Lord’s promise to never leave us or forsake us is a good defense when that worry comes.
What, then, is the solution? There are several options for Christian students to follow, and they don’t have to threaten your success in school. First of all, work hard in class, be respectful, and, when theological points cause conflicts, do not deliberately incite more conflict. Martin Luther explains the 4th Commandment in the Small Catechism by saying, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” When in doubt, consult with a pastor and find a Christian support network to help you when you get discouraged or overwhelmed. Pray constantly for discernment and strength, for we cannot prevail against our own doubts and fears without the Armor of God. Most importantly, remember that we are not fighting “against flesh and blood, but against principalities ... [and] powers” (Ephesians 6:12). Federal laws, teachers, classmates—they are not our enemies. Look to Christ for wisdom and faith! Your pastor is the Lord’s gift to help you answer questions that your classes might bring about your faith. He is also there to comfort you with the promises of Jesus that He is always faithful.
Even in the face of open challenges to Christianity within school, many students today are becoming more and more used to doing what is expected of them without thinking about or questioning their reactions. All Christians who see this type of attack in their lives should assess what is happening, what is true or false, and what their reactions are. Christians should not attack their teachers, but school should not be excluded from the areas in which we should be Christians. Our duty as Christian students should be clear: work hard, be respectful, and do not act or speak contrary to God’s Word. But above all, recognize that when the world brings you trouble, Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and He has made you a part of His kingdom forever.
Bethany Lange is a lifelong Lutheran and the oldest daughter of nine children. She is a junior studying English Teaching at Utah State University. She lives in Wyoming and likes to spend her time reading, teaching violin, knitting, and crocheting. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.