I can say from experience that being a biblical creationist at a secular college has its challenges. In addition to the normal academic pressures faced by all students, the consistent Christian must learn to be discerning about the views and interpretations expressed by his or her professors. This requires extra research as well as time (a valuable commodity while in college!). Such intellectual challenges occur in the midst of a social environment that is hostile to Christianity.
Many Christian parents are concerned that such a secular environment may lead their children to walk away from the Church. This concern is justified, since studies have shown that around two out of three Christian students from conservative churches will leave the church when they become adults.
First of all, our research shows that the problem starts much earlier than college. Nearly 90% of those students who leave the church have already begun to doubt God’s Word by the time they graduate from high school. Although they may continue to attend church with their parents, spiritually they are already gone.
Most Christian teenagers do not understand how the Bible connects to the “real world.” They have been taught “Bible stories,” but they have not been shown how the Bible’s history explains the evidence around us—from biology and geology to astronomy. Conversely, public schools use their evolutionary version of history to interpret the present world. So, students are inclined to think that the secular version of history they learned in public school is real, whereas the Bible is just a collection of interesting stories.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The resources we have at Answers in Genesis are designed to make it easy to show how God’s Word explains God’s world. This was my main motivation for writing the book The Ultimate Proof of Creation: to help people think correctly in a clear, logical, and biblical way.
I am convinced that if students are trained to think biblically from their youth, they will remain biblically minded throughout their college experience (Proverbs 22:6). There is no need to worry about students walking away from the church if they have been educated in a truly biblical worldview from the start.
Although Christian students can succeed in a secular environment, one should consider the benefits of Christian higher education. There are a number of Christian universities where students can receive a good education in a biblical environment. Many of these schools are fully accredited and well respected—even in the secular world.
The only major drawback of insisting on a Christian college is that it substantially reduces the number of possible choices. For a student wanting to major in a field of science at a university that has biblical (6-day) creation as part of its statement of faith, the options are very limited indeed! For a biology major there are only a handful of such schools; for a physics or geology major, only one or two; and for an astronomy major, there are currently none. So, students wanting to major in one of these topics may not have many (or any) options.
Unfortunately, many colleges that are classified as “Christian” do not teach a truly biblical worldview. Even those that profess to hold to the inerrancy of Scripture are often compromised—teaching that God created using evolution. Most do not teach that God created in six days—something the Bible directly states (Exodus 20:11)!
I would never recommend a compromised Christian college. These are much worse than secular colleges, in my opinion. Secular colleges are honest about their rejection of the biblical worldview. Compromised positions can be far more seductive and dangerous than an outright rejection of God’s Word (2 Corinthians 11:3).
There are a number of things that can help the Christian to not only “survive,” but enjoy his or her experience at a secular college.
1. Staying in the Word and Prayer
Perhaps most importantly, the Christian must make it a priority to spend time studying the Bible and praying (Psalm 119:11, 15; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). It can be challenging to do these things consistently when homework and studying compete for so much time. Students must learn to manage their time wisely if they are going to be successful in college—and in life as well.
Time management is mainly about prioritizing and eliminating those activities which are less important. New students may find that they no longer have the time to watch that television program or play that sporting event if they are to spend time with the Lord and complete their academic studies. So be it.
The Lord should always come first. So, the excuse, “I just don’t have time to study the Bible or pray,” is simply not legitimate. It indicates that the student has not prioritized properly or has tried to take on too many unnecessary activities.
The importance of being part of a Bible-teaching church cannot be overstated (Hebrews 10:24–25). Spending five to six days a week in an anti-God environment can be spiritually draining. Taking the Lord’s Day to fellowship with other like-minded Christians is good for “recharging the battery.” Regular church attendance can also help prompt us to stay in the Word and not fall behind in our private Bible study.
I would also strongly encourage Christian students to seek out other biblically solid Christian students and build friendships with them (Proverbs 27:17). Campus Bible studies and Christian fellowships are a particularly good way to do this. Every secular college or university I’ve ever attended or worked at has had at least one such Christian Fellowship, and most colleges have several.
Again, I must point out that not all things labeled “Christian” are truly biblical. We must be diligent and test all doctrine by the standard of God’s Word.
3. Biblical “Glasses” and Biblical Resources
The Christian student at a secular college must be very discerning about the information presented in the classroom. Many students are inclined to blindly accept whatever they are taught without thinking about how the professor’s philosophy of life might affect his interpretation of the evidence.
The consistent Christian does not have this luxury. We are to be constantly on guard—and not conformed to the thinking of the secular world (Romans 12:2) so that we are not “taken captive” by unbiblical philosophy (Colossians 2:8). Always search the Scriptures to see whether what is taught is consistent with God’s Word (Acts 17:11).1
Fortunately, there are many biblical creation resources today that make it much easier to find the answers than would have been possible in years past. I highly recommend that college students read the New Answers Book 1 and 2 and The Ultimate Proof of Creation to give them the basics of how to think biblically. In fact, I would suggest that they read these books before going off to college if possible.
While in college, students should consider consistently reading the main article on the Answers in Genesis website. This takes only a few minutes and was a daily source of encouragement for me when I was in college.
4. Remaining Silent
Finally, I would recommend that students of science use discretion when talking about creation. Specifically, they should not (in most circumstances) let their professors know that they believe in creation if at all possible. This does not mean that they should lie; rather, it means that they should not volunteer that information.
The reason for this is that some science professors are so emotionally against creation that they will not be fair with a creationist student: not assigning a fair grade, not giving them a good letter of recommendation, etc., no matter how deserving the student may be. There are documented cases of people being expelled for expressing a belief in biblical creation. This is particularly the case for students studying for a PhD in biology, geology, or astronomy.
Many students come to the classroom with the noble, but misguided, sentiment: “I’m going to convert all my evolutionist professors into creationists.” First of all, it’s not within our ability to convert people (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). That is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to sanctify Christ as Lord and always be ready to respectfully give a defense of the faith to anyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15).
For the most part, professors are not going to ask; they are not interested in the opinions of their students.2 Sharing biblical creation with them would be like casting “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6; Proverbs 23:9). The Bible instructs us to avoid foolish disputes (Titus 3:9).
I wish that universities were open to objective, rational discussion of origins: the academic utopia that many new students are expecting. But this is simply not the case.
I realize that this may sound controversial to some. After all, are we not to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation? Yes (Mark 16:15), but the Bible also says that for everything there is an appropriate time and season (Ecclesiastes 3:1). In most situations, the classroom just isn’t the right time and place for origins discussions; rather it is a time for the students to learn. There are plenty of opportunities for students to share their faith off campus—or even on campus (with discretion).
The Bible teaches the wisdom of remaining silent at times (Proverbs 17:27–28, 11:12, 12:23, 10:19, 29:20). Recall that Jesus told people to remain silent about His identity on certain occasions (Mark 8:30; Luke 9:21). Furthermore, Jesus Himself chose to remain silent at times (Matthew 26:63; Mark 14:61); so, clearly this is appropriate in certain instances.
Tests and homework assignments are also not the appropriate forum for discussion of origins. Students should put the answer that they have been taught in class. So, for example, if the question is on the age of the earth and the professor has taught that this is 4.5 billion years, then this is how the student should answer on the test. Tests and homework assignments are about showing that the student understands what has been taught; they are not about testing what the student believes to be true.
There are honest ways to do this even when writing a paper on a topic. For example, a creationist student can write, “It is generally accepted that the earth is 4.5 billion years old”—a true statement which does not reveal his or her position on the matter. If a student wants to write a paper on creation for a creation journal like the Answers Research Journal, he or she should use a pen name. This is perfectly acceptable and is commonly used even in secular literature (e.g., Mark Twain).
Biblical creationists can do quite well at a secular college if they are well-grounded in the Scriptures and understand how to answer the most common objections to creation. Christian students should stay in the Word and prayer, spend some time with other consistent Christians in church and campus ministry, and be well read on the issues so that they will know how to defend the Christian faith.
In light of the “powers that be” in this fallen world, creationist students (particularly in fields of science) should use discretion in when, where, and how they share their faith. Though challenging at times, the college experience can be very enjoyable. It was for me.