Students in Tension

A word which is in heavy use these days is the word tension. It is constantly on the lips of speakers, in the columns of newspapers, and on television.

Though the word tension has been worn smooth with usage. still I wish to call it to your attention. There is a tension in the world which is not removed with the swallow of a fast-working pill. I am referring, of course, to tension in its deepest sense. There is within this world a fundamental tension upon which bangs the ultimate destiny of the universe. This basic tension in the world is not cultural, not racial, nor political, nor ecclesiastical. It is the all-out conflict between two different kingdoms; the battIe of the ages which excludes any truce, armistice or peace pact. There are two basically antagonistic principles at work among men.

Christians, and they only, know and experience real tension. The believer—and no one but he—is constantly torn between two worlds: the one wants to drag him down to destruction; the other wants to pull him up to victory. The one lures him into evil. The other calls him to conquer all evil. The Christian, while traveling toward the City of God, will always experience this fundamental tension.

No one experiences this basic tension more keenly than the Christian student at the secular university. Every child of God is involved in the struggle between the Kingdom of Light and the kingdom of darkness, but especially the Christian student feels fiercely tom between these two kingdoms in the classroom, in the library, and in his study.

The Christian student who is enrolled at the modem university is a special target of Satan. The arch enemy of God is hunting for big game. The university student, needless to say, is always in the devil’s vision.

Were the devil to appear as a brimstone-smelling beast with pitchfork, horn, hooves and tail, the Christian student would leap to his feet and fight. But, as the late C. S. Lewis has so effectively shown in his splendid book The Screwtape Letters, this is not Satan’s mode of operation. His bag of tricks is enormous; his m.o. is not easily cased. Time and again Satan scores his successes on the university campus!

The Christian student is exposed to two main approaches. The first may be called the “shock treatment.” The second is the subtle and less obvious undermining of Christian truths.

The Christian who has enrolled at the modem university may encounter fierce and belligerent opposition in one or several lectures. Some professors, like one of the philosophy professors at the University of British Columbia, use their disdain of Christianity to enliven the presentation of their course material. Their lectures are, as one student put it, real shockers. God is blatantly denied and the students are challenged to prove God’s existence.

The students may be assigned some shocking and, for the Christian, disturbing reading. The student of science, for example, may be asked to read a few recent articles in the magazine “Chemistry in Canada.” He may have to read George F. Wright’s ridicule of Paradise. This scientist writes: “If one searches archeology back to the dawn of history he does not find that mythical garden of Eden where happiness and well being were dependent upon innocence, he finds crushed skulls, mute evidence that in those days man killed, robbed, despoiled, and destroyed.” (Emphasis is mine, cf. “Chemistry in Canada,” April, 1964).

Or the article in the March issue by Dr. R. H. Manske, entitled “Society and the Scientist,” in which Christianity’s origin is bluntly explained as having its roots and beginnings in Orphism and Platonism which “by a fusion with Judaism and some troubled gestation produced Christianity.”

The student of literature may hear his professor endorse Goethe’s outburst to his friend Lavator about the poem “Jesus Messias.” Said Goethe, “What a narrow-minded man you are, to suppose that your Jesus is alone important, all other great ones counting for nothing. There are many great men, many seers, many leaders.”

These shock treatments seem to be very popular at some universities. This belligerent bombarding victimizes its thousands. Many students are thrilled with such outright shattering of traditional beliefs. Quite understandably, Christian students may be badly shaken. The advantage of this approach is, however, the clear manifestation of position. The Christian will be able to sense immediately the explicit contradiction to Christianity.

Usually, however, the student will be confronted with subtle opposition. And there is ample reason to suspect that this approach is Satan’s favorite. It slays its tens of thousands!

The scientific progress which has marked our century and especially the new Atomic Age in which we live has made an incalculable impact on the educated. These space-race sixties with their many mysterious sounding formulas and the overwhelming scientific achievements have led many to believe that the scientist holds the key to the universe. The modem university impresses the students with the conviction that it would be utterly absurd to believe anything to be true which cannot be substantiated by the Scientific Method. T. H. Huxley states: “The improver of natural knowledge, that is, the scientist, absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin…The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.” In the classroom as well as from the textbooks students are constantly being told: Have faith in science!

Professor Hendrik Van Riessen, in his booklet, The University and its Basis, writes, “It is science man thinks that has delivered man from his false pretensions. It is science that he can still trust. Let me quote Carnap: ‘As a result of Copernicus’ work, man lost the distinction of a central position in the universe; as a result of Darwin’s, he was deprived of the dignity of a special supra-animal existence; as a result of Marx’ the factors by means of which history can be causally explained were degraded from the realm of ideas to that of material events; as a result of Nietzsche’s, the origin of morals were stripped of their halo; as a result of Freud’s, the factors by means of which the ideas and actions of men can be causally explained were located in the darkest depths, in man’s nether regions’.”

What happens to the Christian student when he hears this? Sad to say, some of them become victims of this scientism. These students, though brought up in Christian homes, bid farewell to their faith in Christ. They begin to share the modem contempt for Christian doctrines of God, Christ, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and sin. They become agnostics or skeptics. They become prejudiced to the Church and call it ignorantly dogmatic, anti-intellectual, and hypo-critical.

Others, while holding on to their Christian faith, nevertheless succumb to this scientistic outlook, which is really an alternative to Christianity! They become dichotomists and live split lives. They divorce their faith and learning. And so, in reality, Satan has conquered also these students. For you see, large parts of their lives are dedicated, not to the cosmic Lord, but to science apart from Christ. These students may well have tried to avoid this trap. But Satan, fully aware of the students’ Achilles heel, strikes again and again. There seems to be no let up in his nefarious achievements.

What is being done for the Christian students at the secular universities?

On most campuses there is the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, The Inter-Varsity “aims to keep alive the youthful faith of young Christians on secular campuses, introduce the nominal believer to the living personality of Jesus, and persuade at least a few chapter members to join foreign missions.” (Time, January 15, 1965) At the UBC several important, Bible believing scholars have been invited by the IVCF to address the students on the subject “Why Believe?”. There is no doubt about it that the Inter-Varsity is doing a commendable job.

On the campus of the UBC we have the Calvin Student Club. Every other Monday evening approximately twenty-five students of Reformed background meet in a cozy hut on the campus. It is my privilege to be its sponsor. Most of these students are at this university for very sound reasons. The Christian Colleges do not offer their selected field of study and some of them are engaged in post-graduate work in physics and other fields. The purpose of the club is “to develop the biblical view of life with respect to the various fields of learning.” We meet regularly throughout the school-year to discover what the place of the Word of God is in learning. The Christian Perspectives, published by the ARSS, have proven to be of inestimable value! These students at the club are seriously searching for the basic answers to so many problems that baffle them. In some small way we wrestle with these issues and attempt to find solutions. The difficulties are frequently overpowering.

Often on my way home from the university I keep on thinking about these Christian students at our modem universities. And I cannot shrug off the feeling that we are not doing enough. Not at all, time and again I keep thinking: if only we had a Christian university! For only this will be the answer! It is heartwarming to know that many Christians are giving this ideal their serious thought and stand wholeheartedly behind the Association for Reformed Scientific Studies. Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Reformed Student Club, Summer Conferences, may God bless these programs every one. But the crying need for a university remains and the cry can be heard distinctively by anyone who cares to listen!

Speaking of a Christian university, Van Riessen wrote in the same publication, ‘The university has to form wise men of culture. For a Christian university Christ is wisdom and, to grow in the image of God is the true culture of man.—In this and in other instances -the characteristic of the Christian university is its religious attitude and approach.–

”The secret of this approach, the secret of the university, science and study is the Bible, is God speaking to the community of the university and every one of its members and to all who are willing to listen to Him.” (Emphasized in original ). This is what we desperately need!

A century ago the Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard was deeply disturbed about the attitude of many Christians. A large part of the life of the church, he asserted, was given over to fiddle, faddle, twiddle, twaddle, shallow trivialities, instead of coming to grip with the basic issues of life. May God forbid that we become entangled in all sorts of irrelevant, harmless little niceties which prevent us from tackling tIle real issues of our day. May we never get bogged down in boxing with shadows and letting the golden opportunities for real Kingdom work slip through our fingers. The modem wilderness is crying for a voice. May this voice be ours! Let us stand shoulder to shoulder and work together for a graduate school in which Christ Jesus is supreme—the establishment, therefore, of a university with the Bible.

When your son or your daughter or your friend enrolls in college or university, are you aware of some of the shock-treatments which he likely will receive? Is he or she prepared for this experience which seems to be so much a part of the present-day educational process? In this article, the Rev. Michael De Vries, pastor of Rehoboth Christian Reformed Church, Toronto, Ontario, describes such students in spiritual tension and urges upon us the need for a distinctively Christian university. We express thanks to the Association for Reformed Scientific Studies for permission to reprint this material.