Friday, August 10, 2007

Can/Do Christians "Lose" Their Faith While in College?

What do YOU think (I REALLY would like to hear from you!!) when you hear the following statement (or similar statements), "Soon after my own entrance into college I lost my faith..."?

I just read that in a book I bought recently at one of our favorite used bookstores (love, love, love those stores!). I bought the book for our oldest daughter because it does in fact have some helpful information, and it is published by NAVPRESS--a publisher that for the most part I have been able to trust over the years.

Tell me, college or no college, can you "lose" your faith--ever?

Our oldest daughter, whom the Lord saved in Jan. 2004, began taking college courses at a local community college this summer. This is a great program because not only is the tuition PAID, she is also earning college credit while concurrently completing her junior and senior years of high school (home school)! And, as if that wasn't enough, she is taking college level advanced Russian (her native language) classes taught by a native-speaking Russian!

She's had three college classes so far, and even though we are smack-dab in the middle of the "buckle of the Bible-belt" she's been "hit" from many sides already! Like the fellow-student (female) with an apparent anger problem who told Olga to "...shut up, just shut up..." after she asked Olga for help on the quiz they had been paired up to complete. And what about the instructor who for no apparent reason felt it necessary to point out that a student (who was absent that day) was a "protestant". Then there's the "cultural" differences like the really nice young man (I joined the class for dinner one evening) with more facial piercings that a pin-cushion (ouch!)! And the instructor whose lecture language is very "colorful"--not to mention the language of other students. What about all the "random" rabbit-trails students and instructors regularly go on in the areas of politics, social norms, sexuality, philosophy, and world religions?

All that to say this, should I be worried that she may "lose" her faith in college now or later? I don't think so, because such a concern is not Biblically or theologically sound. The fact is, according to Scripture her faith--if in fact genuine--is not "hers" to lose, it is reserved in heaven.

However, I should warn her about the challenges to her faith that she will encounter, and believe me I have--repeatedly!!!! I've told her about the instructors who will "eat her for lunch", I've told her about the other students who will chastise her for her values and standards, and I've told her about the textbooks that will present a worldview completely opposite of her Biblical worldview.

Here's where I'm going with all of this, if my daughter "loses" her faith in college, then I MUST conclude--and warn her--that she never had a genuine saving faith in the first place. If that turns out to be the case, I must not give her some false assurance that she merely "lost" her faith and can now, or someday, "reclaim" it. She must be made to see that a true saving faith is a faith that endures even when providentially tested. By God's grace and mercy we plan to be there for her during those tests!

A Final Thought: Perhaps I'm taking the author's words too literally and he merely intends to caution students to guard themselves from "falling away" or growing spiritually indifferent. But ,I would caution the author and many like him, that the message his statement sends is not a Biblically sound message--one CANNOT lose what God has secured through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His only Son.


Kim from Hiraeth said...

Amen, and amen!

Elle said...

I do not think you can lose faith either in college or elsewhere when faith is a true saving faith in the person of Jesus Christ (Jn 10:28-29). I do agree with you that the challenges to faith's practice are many in college. Personally, it was in college that I was confronted with how untrue my faith was, and given true faith by God to believe. Amen and praise to Him! Good post.

Kim said...

Well, I'm in total agreement with you when you say that if she "loses" it, she never had it.

I think that college and university (and indeed a lot of institutional education, including high school) can assult the sense of security our kids have. I think our young people can become "disenchanted" with what they've learned, but lose it, never.

My daughter goes off to university in a little over three weeks. Am I terrified? Yes. She's already had "issues." The key is to keep our voices in range for them to hear.

Connie said...

kim from hiraeth: I appreciate your encouragment!

elle: While in college I too "was confronted with how untrue my faith was". It was like night and day--for the first time I truly understood, "I once was blind but now I see!"

Marcian said...

Connie, I would have to say after reading your comments on the topic, and considering my own experiences in life, that my saving faith occured AFTER I left college, though I cannot say that the Lord wasn't preparing my heart while in college. I did many things that proved my faith wasn't genuine. I stopped going to church altogether, actually, and engaged in a much different lifestyle than what I had been taught was right.

I think you are right in what you say about Olga's faith not being genuine if she turns back under the pressure in college. These are the proving grounds. But honestly, the world doesn't get any nicer after college (although the "open-minded" atmosphere is certainly concentrated enough to make one sick) and daily we are to hold up our shield of faith, and act in the good works God has prepared for us to do before He laid the foundation of the world. In such darkness, Olga can be an incredible light. She needs you to pray for her, with her, and to see you living consistently in the faith you hold.

I understand your apprehension, and I agree with your conclusion. I cannot say, considering what I know of the Reformed view of salvation, that I ever walked away from my faith. I never had it to begin with. But the Lord had His sights set on me first. My two sisters are not walking with the Lord, and I know it pains my mother to see that.

Finally, being "from" Oklahoma, I can say it's becoming not so different from the rest of the US. It is a little unsettling, though. And the best way to put this is that I rejoice that God has put such a wise woman as yourself to run alongside Olga to encourage her in her pursuit of Him. The Lord has used you to be a great blessing.

Anonymous said...

This very issue came up today in an email from a dear friend who's wife just left him for another woman. This woman is one that I am as sure as one can be that is a true believer. She has shown maturity over the years. We are all just devastated over this. But, her husband's words today were, "We need to think about her long term salvation, not just this marriage." I think her salvation is secure, but she is in for some serious spiritual spanking from a heavenly father who is longing for her to quit believing some pretty malicious lies from the pit of hell. Laurie

Shel said...

I agree that if a person falls away from their faith, then it wasn't a genuine faith to begin with. I also would reccommend you get a hold of a copy of Surviving
College Successfully-A Complete Manual for the Rigors of Academic Combat by Gary DeMar. I heard him speak about defending our Christian worldview in an antagonistic world when I was in high school. My dad bought the book for me to read as I entered college. I have skimmed it again recently since my own college graduation was a decade ago and find it still relevant. It is out of print but you can find used copies on or Amazon. I bought a copy on Amazon for a graduation gift this year.

Ann Addison said...

I think it is important to instill a deep love for Christ as opposed to other virtues. It is much more important to love Christ, to love to worship Christ, to love to hear about Christ. Learning good doctrine, loving the Bible and living a sanctified life apart from this love for Christ can easily be moralism instead of real salvation. We want our children to be good because God enables them as His children to be obedient, not for any other reason. So, to answer your question, I think those who appear to walk away from their faith, were good moralists… they were good at the lifestyle.

ukrainiac said...

Great post! I agree that our faith is not ours to lose.

These definitely were questions I struggled with as a 30-something new believer... but I continued to be assured that I couldn't be snatched out of His hand. Oh, to be able to REST in His assurances!

I will pray for Olga as she faces challenges to her faith, and I will thank God that you are there to help her understand...