The college years are often some of the greatest times of challenge for young people brought up in Christian homes. A college degree is essential for so many occupations. Yet four or more years of college or university often tear young Christians away from their foundation, at times destroying values and beliefs taught them by their parents and their churches.
Is it possible to survive college and hold on to Christian values? If so, what are the keys? And what are the big dangers in college life?
Challenge number one: anti-Christian philosophies
No matter where you go, you will probably have professors who don’t share your beliefs, and who may even be openly hostile to them. Humanism and the various forms of Marxism or Communism are still popular philosophies in the world of postsecondary education. And even though these beliefs have less popularity outside of college, you will still need to be prepared to face them.
When I went to university in England, I suddenly found myself in a radical political environment. Those who didn’t seek radical political change in some form or other were definitely in the minority. Leftist groups of many different stripes seemed to abound. The ideas of the famous German philosopher Karl Marx were everywhere. Having never studied Marx before, I became fascinated, and then somewhat pulled in, before I finally (thankfully!) rejected those ideas.
Marx taught that history is driven by conflict between social classes, not by national, racial or religious conflict. The opening words of his Communist Manifesto read as follows: “The history of all … society is a history of class struggles.” From this flows the idea that as lower classes rise up in rebellion against their oppressors, society moves forward toward an ultimate utopia free of class distinctions and injustice.
I came to see the falseness and futility of these ideas. It was the Holy Bible, the Word of God, that helped me to see it. The Bible makes plain that evil isn’t determined by who has his hands on the means of production in society. People from lower classes can be just as evil, just as selfish and just as prone to mistreat their neighbors as those from the privileged classes. And overturning it all, as Communists desire, might lead only to loss of freedom, bankrupt economies and, often, far worse abuses of power.
Another very common, but unchristian, philosophy encountered in college is humanism. Essentially, humanists believe “the solution is within us.” They view human nature as inherently good and suggest that humankind’s problems would be solved if only the good in us can be coaxed out. Most humanists deny any idea of the uniqueness of man or of life after death.
Again, humanism conflicts with what the Bible teaches us. The prophet Jeremiah made it very clear when he declared, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.
American King James Version×) and “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
American King James Version×).
Of course, God knows this and is willing to help us change, once we make the choice to live the way He commands. King David of Israel discovered this and wrote of the changed heart in Psalm 51. Praying to God, he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (verse 10).
The solutions taught on many college campuses are really misleading. Humanity can’t make it without God’s help, no matter how reasonable the proposed solution may sound or how radical it may be!
Challenge number two: drugs and alcohol
A recent survey found that 49.7 percent of college students reported participating in “binge drinking” (defined as five or more drinks in one sitting) in the two weeks prior to completing the survey. The same survey showed that 64.5 percent had experienced a hangover from excessive drinking, 55.3 percent reported having been nauseated or vomiting, 40.5 percent had “done something I later regretted” and 12.3 percent reported they had been taken advantage of sexually while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Of all the students in the survey who had experienced unwanted sexual intercourse, 82.6 percent said they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when this occurred, while 76 percent of those reporting unwanted sexual touching said they were under the influence at the time (2001 Statistics on Alcohol and Other Drug Use on American Campuses ).
Abuse of alcohol and drugs is a big problem among college students. So what’s a Christian to do? The Word of God makes it plain: “Hear, my son, and be wise … Do not mix with winebibbers [in other words, avoid the parties where people are getting drunk or taking drugs!] … for the drunkard … will come to poverty” (Proverbs 23:19-21 Proverbs 23:19-21 19 Hear you, my son, and be wise, and guide your heart in the way.
20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
American King James Version×).
And don’t forget that you can always get up and leave. If the drugs begin to circulate or people are getting drunk, the Christian can always say, “Thank you for the invitation, but I have to leave now.” You might be surprised to see others get up and leave with you!
Challenge number three: sexual immorality
Recent research shows fewer high school students are having sex now compared to 10 years ago and that the majority of high school graduates are virgins. But the picture changes drastically in college.
A report in the December 2001 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior indicates that 71 percent of unmarried college students reported being sexually experienced. Breaking it down further, 64 percent reported one sexual partner in the 30 days prior to the survey, while 30 percent reported no sexual partners in that time. Presumably, the remaining 6 percent had been with two or more partners in the month prior to the survey.
College will present challenges to young Christians wanting to remain morally pure! Perhaps the greatest challenge to your character and determination will come in this area. How can you protect yourself?
First, choose your environment carefully. It may be wise to stay at home or with close relatives while in college. That way you can avoid the noise, drugs and excessive drinking you would have to face in many college dorms.
If you’re going away from home, it’s a good idea to find roommates with whom you share certain basic values. Look for people you’ll get along with and who will commit to having no drugs, no illegal or excessive drinking and no boyfriend or girlfriend sleepovers. Sit down and discuss these things with potential roommates before committing to sharing a room with them.
If there’s no choice but to live in a dorm, you might try to find one where other Christians are living. Fraternities and sororities are often the most free-living dorms, and should usually be avoided. But there are fraternities and sororities that are organized on a set of values, such as service to the community or basic Christian morality.
Anything you can do to be in the company of people who will help you maintain your Christian values is something to be pursued. The Bible tells us that “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33 1 Corinthians 15:33Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
American King James Version×), and, conversely, that “whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20 Proverbs 13:20He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
American King James Version×, New Revised Standard Version). Like it or not, we’re all heavily influenced by the company we keep.
A source of help: true Christian fellowship
One of the big keys to holding on to your Christian faith during the college years is the Church. Keep going to Church! In fact, during this time when your faith is being assaulted, you really need more time with like-minded Christians than you did before. Spiritual camaraderie and adding to your Christian knowledge offer tremendous encouragement.
Hold on to your source of strength during your college years. Take the time for prayer, for study of the Scriptures and for true Christian fellowship to help you through. Build the bonds in Christ, and survive the college years—with your Christian faith not just intact, but strengthened! GN