By Chris Cox
It’s August. It is a time of year when summer vacation winds down, when my home state of South Carolina produces the greatest peaches in the world, and thoughts turn toward school. Over the next few weeks, you will probably read advice on Twitter and Facebook for those starting the academic year; especially for those going off to college.
I have seen some good pieces of advice over the years like “Find a local church to plug into” and “Choose your friends wisely.” Being someone who has gone through college semi-recently, I figured I would humbly submit my two cents:
It’s okay to ask questions.
College is a time in which we encounter thoughts and ideas that challenge our world. Naturally, questions arise about what we are learning and about we previously believed. This can be unnerving. In fact, some Christians are wary of asking questions about their beliefs. They believe it to be the beginning of turning away from faith.
Yet questions are how we figure out and test what we believe. Being challenged is not something from which to run away. It is simply a part of growing up. If you go through life unchallenged in what you believe, it’s likely that you are either not listening to others or think you have it all figured out. I promise you that both of those scenarios are equally dangerous.
Question asking is a healthy thing. It is actually something that Paul encourages in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22:
“Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
This isn’t to say that your professor or the dude that lives on your hall is a prophet (though you will undoubtedly run into a guy in college whose beard has prophetic gravitas) but the principle holds true: test everything, hold to the good. This approach actually is critical, not just to college, but a lifetime of learning.
Scripture and Christian history are full of faithful people that asked questions: Abraham, Moses, Job, the disciples, and others. God did not kick them out for asking questions. So it is more than okay for you to ask questions as well. Yet it is important that you do not keep your questions to yourself. Talk about them with friends, people at your church or in your campus ministry. And if someone says that real Christians don’t ask those type of questions, do not be discouraged; God is far bigger than that person thinks.
There is so much to learn and it would be a shame to miss out on that because you are afraid of re-examining the faith of your youth. Your childhood Sunday school classes were not the end all, be all of what you have to learn about God and the world. I saw too many classmates in college that were crushed under the weight of things that challenged their beliefs. Some ditched their faith altogether, while some stopped up their ears and never listened to another thing that a professor said.
There is a middle way between those two.
Listen, learn, and ask questions about it all. Don’t just accept something whole hog; even if you go to a Christian school, you should still ask questions. Talk about it with others and seek God (through prayer, studying scripture with others, fellowship, etc.) with all of your hearts. Test everything and hold to what is good.
Those are my two cents for those heading off to college. That and Mario Kart is an excellent way to relieve stress.
Chris Cox is a freelance writer and seminary student at Gardner-Webb School of Divinity. He serves as a deacon at Fernwood Baptist Church, where he attends with his wife E.A. and two sons. He blogs about faith, pop culture, parenthood, and basically any other random thing that pops into his head at wilcomoore.squarespace.com.