Living Life the College Way
About the Guest
College students, ever wonder about dating, drinking, good and evil, church attendance, or the authority of Scripture? Jonathan Morrow, author of Welcome to College, answers these questions and more.
Jonathan MorrowJonathan Morrow is the founder of Think Christianly. He is the author of Welcome to College: A Christ-follower’s Guide for the Journey, Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture, and Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (with Sean McDowell). He also contributed the chapter “Introducing Spiritual Formation” to Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ and has contributed sever...more
College students, ever wonder about dating, drinking, good and evil, church attendance, or the authority of Scripture?
Living Life the College Way
Bob: As your son or daughter heads off to the college campus, one of the things he or she is going to hear is that there are a lot of different paths that lead to God. How do you respond to that kind of thinking? Here is a suggestion from Jonathan Morrow.
Jonathan: All religions, fundamentally, are exclusive. Even Bahai'ism, which excludes the exclusiveness. The idea, then, is, okay, let's just take three big ones – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Christianity says that Jesus is the Messiah. Judaism says that He was not the Messiah, and Islam says He was a great prophet. All can't be true. They can all be false, but they all can't be true, but if there is truth, then which one is true?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 27th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to spend some time today unpacking the kinds of conversations that take place on a lot of college campuses. Stay tuned, dude.
Dude, welcome to FamilyLife Today, dude.
Dennis: Bob, I'm going to …
Dennis: I am going to completely interrupt reality of what FamilyLife Today usually is.
Bob: I thought I already did when I said, "Dude!"
Dennis: Well, it was a good try. It was weak, but – but – maybe this will be better. I want you and me to do our best to pretend like we were back in college – not back when we went to college, but like we were going to college today and put on the mindset of what a 17 or 18-year-old young adult, going to college, what he's thinking, and begin to pepper a world-class expert. And I want you to think, out of all the people in the world that you could call, who would you call if you could have two high school seniors peppering a world-class expert, Bob – out of all the people in the world, who would you call to be able to ask these questions of?
Bob: Whoa, dude. I don't know, dude, I mean, whoa.
Dennis: I'm not going the dude route, by the way, in this suspended reality.
Bob: Whoa, I don't know – you know, like, Jonathan Morrow, somebody like that do you think? Whoa, he'd be cool. He'd be cool, if we could call him.
Dennis: He's really good, because he has written …
Dennis: … a book called "Welcome to College, a Christ-Followers Guide for the Journey," and guess what? We just happen to have him here with us on today's broadcast. Jonathan, welcome.
Jonathan: Hey, good to be here. I'm not sure, after that – setting me up a little bit for some high expectations, I think.
Dennis: I think you can handle it, Jonathan. You've been married for seven years, got a couple of kids. You're going to be sending those kids off to college in virtually no time – 15, 18 years.
Bob: And you've been close to the college campus. You were a student, as it says on the back of your book, at a "large state school," and then you got a graduate degree at Biola University, so you've been on campus, and now you live in a college town, you pastor in a college town, so you've spent a lot of time with students.
Dennis: Well, he's written a book. He's got 42 chapters.
Bob: And set Dennis straight – do they say "Dude" all the time like I was just doing?
Jonathan: Some do.
Bob: Dude, see?
Dennis: Okay, so what we want to do is we want to pick some of these chapters and just ask a question around them and help us know how to go to college with the right mindset, thinking Christianly. And what you mean by that is …?
Jonathan: Just having a worldview, a way you view all of life, and that's how God defines reality through His Word and through what He's made and then kind of taking that money more in through Saturday night as well as Sunday morning.
Bob: Okay, so I'll throw the first one at you, all right? So I know there's this book that came out, like, a lot of years ago about kissing dating goodbye, and it says you shouldn't date until you're ready to get married. Is that in the Bible? Do I have to not date when I go to college?
Dennis: You asked him a pretty tough question, Bob.
Jonathan: Well, start and get on into, yeah, no …
Bob: Throw the fastball right down the pike here.
Jonathan: Well, the word "dating" is not in the Bible, you'll be happy to know that, but the Bible does give us principles about it. And so what that book talked about, the kiss dating goodbye principle, some principle honestly should kiss dating goodbye for a little while. And I don't know your background or your history, but sometimes relationships can come to an unhealthy place where you put too much on the other person. Emotionally, you're getting your significance from them, things like that, and you become attached in a way that's unhealthy, and you probably should kiss dating goodbye for a little while.
But then there's another side of it where that's just part of growing and relating to a person of the opposite sex and learning about yourself and things like that. And so what you need to do is think about, "Okay, what do I value in a relationship? What is the kind of person that I'm looking for?" Because is it a matter of the first person that I come across who likes me? Will that do it? And the reality is, is that's not going to be a good fit for you, especially if you are a Christ-follower, if you're following Christ, then you're looking for a certain kind of person. And starting with those things in the Bible, the generous, they love God, they interact well with others, they spend time with God. You're not the highest priority in their life. That's a great place to start.
Dennis: You know, that question that he just asked – you could have asked that question when I went to college a few years ago. But there are questions that transcend time, and this one I'm going to ask you was a big one for me as a college student, and it's a big one today, and it's Chapter 15 in your book. It's about how the Christian faith handles the problem of evil better than any other religious system.
Because what's going to happen when young people go to college today? They're going to be in a class where a professor is going to throw this up – the whole issue of the problem of evil, and what are you going to do with it? How can God and evil coexist? How do you answer the question?
Jonathan: Well, the first thing you have to realize is that everyone has a problem of evil. It's not just the Christian who has to have an explanation here. And so the two other broad worldviews you have to work with besides Christian theism or where there's a God. You've got atheism, which there is no God so at that point you're like, "Well, exactly what is evil?" Because you're borrowing even that category from a Christian worldview. Evil assumes that something ought to be good, and there is a deviation from it or a way things ought to be.
Bob: And you're saying if there's no God, there is no good?
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, I mean, as a ground for it, you know, as a foundational level issue.
Dennis: If there is no God, there is no standard.
Bob: There is no definition of good.
Dennis: So therefore you can't say something is good or evil.
Jonathan: Right, it's on borrowed capital. Now, I'm not saying that atheists can't live good lives, I'm just saying that they can't ultimately find a ground for that. Or there is a pantheistic or an Eastern religion view that says evil is an illusion, and that's a fundamental difference from Christianity where because – I don't know about you, but I've had things happen in my life where it didn't seem like an illusion to me. It wasn't a matter of just denying myself to a point where I get over that.
And so the Christian worldview, fundamentally, what we have there is the best answers. You notice I want to use the word "best" answers because it's not ultimately satisfying yet because we live in a broken, fallen world. But it's the best answer out there where a God of the Universe created us to love Him, to know Him, and is broken and things aren't the way they ought to be, and yet He entered into that and walked right through it with us and on our behalf on the cross.
Dennis: Okay, Bob, your turn.
Bob: Oh, okay – Dude, now we're back to me? I was just thinking about that Eastern thing and about reality not being real. Speaking of reality not being real, you know, let's talk about cannabis, okay, you know?
Dennis: Are you talking about weed?
Bob: Yeah, dude, I'm talking about God created all things for us to enjoy. Doesn't the Bible say that somewhere?
Jonathan: Yes, it does. So wouldn't marijuana be one of those things that God created for us to enjoy? Isn't that okay?
Jonathan: Well, one of the things I think we need to answer a question like that, we need to look at, for example, the question of alcohol in the Bible.
Bob: Right, right.
Jonathan: In the Old Testament, and it's actually used in a positive sense and a negative sense throughout the Bible. It's not monolithic on that sense. It doesn't – it gives clear parameters that it's not good to be drunk on wine, we shouldn't cause others to stumble, we shouldn't violate our own conscience, and we should obey the laws of the land of where we're at, that's Romans 13.
And so the idea for the Christian life is that we are not to be controlled by anything other than the spirit of God in that sense, and that's the point of Ephesians 5:16-17, where we're filled with the spirit. So the question there is are we using whatever God has made in accordance with the way God has given us guidelines to use it.
Bob: Okay, and I'm – you know I'm not trying to trip you up here, but you know what college students think. Okay, so are you saying …?
Dennis: Oh, yeah, you are. You're trying to trip him up.
Bob: Are you saying that as long as I'm not controlled by the marijuana, it's okay for me to use it?
Jonathan: Well, no, I'd say, first, is it legal. That will be the first bar. And then the second thing is, is it something that controls you? Obviously, the first bar is going to get you, I mean, honestly.
Bob: Well, but, okay, do you drive the speed limit all the time? See? Do you – I'm just going the way that – so you break speed laws, so isn't it okay sometimes, I mean, they really have – the purpose of that law – you've had these kinds of conversations with college students, right?
Jonathan: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Bob: So how do you work it – if they say, "Okay, the legal thing, I'm okay. Yeah, if I get caught, I'll pay the $100 fine, that's what they just adjudicated in Massachusetts. If you've got an ounce on you, it's $100. Okay, I'll pay that, and they just charge me an assessment fee for my pot."
Jonathan: Yeah, well, I mean, again, you're going to get back to the idea of, okay, what is the purpose of this, number one. And how am I viewing this? Am I viewing this as an escape, anything – I mean, there's fundamental principles that will inform all these conversations. Ultimately, it's not just, you know, the Bible doesn't speak specifically, and so we apply principles, and so I think the principles we apply with alcohol would apply to marijuana and things like that. First, it's not going to be legal, and if it is medicinal, in that instance, then you use it according to the prescription, and then beyond that, is it something you're dependent upon, that you're putting your trust in, that you're using to feel significant, or yourself in a situation and if you're using that in that way, that's obviously not a good thing.
Bob: All right, I've got a question on church, okay? Because, dude, church is like really boring, and, I mean, I just quit going. That's basically it. First of all, Sunday morning is the wrong time to have church when you're in college, don't you agree?
Jonathan: Right, yeah, you've got to sleep in sometimes.
Bob: That's right. And then, secondly, when you do go, it's like – it's just boring and irrelevant. So – and I went to the campus ministry thing that they have going on here, but some of those people are just losers, you know? So here's what I do – I go out on Sunday afternoon, and I just go out into the park, and I take my guitar, and I just sing some songs, and I feel really close to God when I do that. That's okay, isn't it?
Jonathan: Well, it's certainly okay to do that, feel close to God in those ways. He has created this beautiful world we live in, but the idea of the church and the New Testament involves other people in the body of Christ, and one of the things that's so important for students is to be around other people in the body of Christ – old, young different backgrounds, diversity so that we can be encouraged and built up.
And it may not be the most exciting service in the world, but that's – the point is not all the flashes and the bells and the whistles. The point is, is there authentic community, is there truth being proclaimed, do I have fellowship with other believers, am I being encouraged and challenged to grow closer to Christ, and those kind of things are fundamental for a church.
Bob: So if I'm going to this church, and none of that stuff is happening, then can I sleep in?
Jonathan: No, you need to find another church where you can get connected and plugged in and be a part of the body of Christ.
Bob: And I think, as you say that, I think a lot of people want to view – a lot of college students want to view the church from a distance or from the back row and say, "Here is what I observe, and I don't like it," rather than getting plugged in, rather than making some relational connections, and finding themselves in the middle of it. Because church looks different if you're inside, in the middle, with a bunch of people if you've tried to press in, than if you're sitting in the back row just kind of observing, "What do I think of these people," right?
Jonathan: It does. And so once you – it's kind of the idea of tasting and seeing that this is good, and the idea of putting yourself in and serving and learning while you are obedient, and those kinds of things, and getting in there and meeting people and asking questions and being apart, as opposed to living on an island, which so many students do.
Bob: Dude, you got a question?
Dennis: I do, I do, in fact, this is another one that was there when I was a college student. I hate to keep asking questions that have endured over the centuries.
Bob: But they do seem to keep coming around, don't they?
Dennis: They do. It's the problem of all roads leading to God, you know? This exclusive …
Bob: That is so exclusive.
Dennis: Exclusive Christianity – Jesus is the way. And I remember when I was in class, they attacked that saying, "Does that mean the person who is in Africa, in this dark place, who has never heard the name of Jesus, does that mean he's going to hell?"
Bob: And how can you tell me that my friend, Isaac, who is Jewish, or my other friend who is a Muslim, how can you tell me that they're going to hell just because they don't think that Jesus is who you say Jesus is?
Jonathan: Right, and so one of the things we want to do in that situation is back up just a second and say, "Does truth exist, period." And if truth exists, then truth, by definition, is exclusive in the same way that when I was in elementary school, 2+2=4, it doesn't equal 5, it's an equal opportunity offender, okay?
And so the idea, then, is, "Okay, if religions" – let's just take three big ones, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Christianity says that Jesus is the Messiah. Judaism says that He was not the Messiah, and Islam says He was a great prophet. But they all can't be true. They can all be false, but they all can't be true.
Bob: Well, okay, so shouldn't we, then, just really look at people's lives and look at who the good people are and figure that what they believe has got to be true because they're good people. And if that's the case, man, you Christians are in trouble, because there are a bunch of phonies and hypocrites, and I don't agree with their Republican religion, either.
Jonathan: Yeah, and so one of the questions that we'd want to ask there is what is good? You seem to be using that, and so if we were talking, I would say, "Hey, well, what do you mean by good? And, actually, how are you informing that?" Once we establish that, then I would say, "Well, let's look at these things and how good is good enough?" And then we'd look at all the different religions and talk about how they talk about goodness and God and how we relate to them and Christian is – we have Christ who lived a perfect life for us to be good on our behalf and perfect on our behalf so that we trust Him, and so that's a very different answer than the other religions. And so that's where we'd want to go.
Dennis: Bob's asked multiple questions, and I'm going to ask a multiple one.
Jonathan: All right.
Bob: You're turn, dude.
Dennis: I remember this one as a college student. In fact, I loved this class. It was a philosophy class that talked about the existence of God – how can you know there is a God? You can't prove that He is there.
And my kids went to college, kids are going to college right now, and their faith is being tested by professors who are asking shrewdly designed questions that undermine a young person who is not a keen thinker, who has not been properly prepared in his faith in God to know how to defend it. How do you answer that question?
Jonathan: I think one of the things we need to talk about there is you mentioned the idea of proof and, honestly, there is very little in life you can prove. Proof works in mathematics and logic, and that's about it. So there is the vast majority of things that anybody cares about, you can't prove in that level of certainty.
Beyond that, what you do is, okay, what makes the best sense of the world we live in. And so you'd want to look at moral values, okay? Why are some things wrong and others right? Why was the Holocaust evil? Why do we want to call it that way? And what makes sense of that? A moral lawgiver, or the desires that we have in our own hearts, where the beginning of the universe, the design of the universe, or any of those kinds of things, and so we could talk about those kinds of issues for the argument, the resistance of God, that make good sense in the world we live in, because you need to tell a story that captures all of that, and not just one little piece.
Bob: Okay, here is my last question – should I pledge a fraternity or not, dude?
Jonathan: That depends. And, honestly, I mean, it depends on the situation, the person, the background, the community. I mean, my situation was I did pledge a fraternity as a junior in college, as a believer, and was very clear about my convictions from the beginning, and I actually had a great experience with that. And some students, afterwards …
Bob: They didn't make you guzzle down a bottle of champagne or something?
Jonathan: They made others but not me.
Jonathan: Yeah, and that was – it was an interesting relationship, but it wasn't a (inaudible) thing, it wasn't, "Hey, I'm better than you," but these are my convictions, and I'd love to be a part of this, but …
Bob: But I'm not playing your little game.
Jonathan: Right, and so if they had insisted on it, I would have walked away from it.
Dennis: And, Jonathan, I have one last question I want to ask you before we get away here, but I want Bob to share with our listeners who really want to do a good job of preparing their teenager for college, and I would say that I would not wait until their senior year to begin this process. I think it starts in junior high – well, actually, it starts when you start raising them.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: That's the way it starts, but, really, in earnest, to get a book like you're talking about, I think you can begin to dig into something like this and address the issues over the dinner table, and interact with your children and not be afraid of doubt – not be afraid of visiting some places where you may not have all the answers, because those are chances and opportunities that you take with your children that really can hammer out an effective faith later on in their lives when they're on their own.
Bob: Wow, dude, that was heavy.
Dennis: That was heavy.
Bob: Yeah, the book that Jonathan has written – okay, I'll be serious now. The book is called "Welcome to College," and we've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy. Again, it's FamilyLifeToday.com.
In addition, I just want to mention this – Dennis and Barbara Rainey have prepared a CD for parents that is all about what we need to do to prepare our teens for this launch. It talks about making sure you have helped your student be ready in areas of relationship, life skills, character development, spiritual development, and the CD comes along with a gift that you can give to a student as a graduation gift. It's the "Congratulations 2009" CD that has music from groups like Stellar Kart, Hawk Nelson, Sanctus Real, Relient K, some of the best-known groups in Christian music today.
There is also a companion DVD for student here. So you've got a gift you can give a student at graduation, and you've got a CD for a mom and a dad to just review and say, "Have we covered all of the bases with our student." And the information about both the graduation gift and the companion CD for parents is available on the website at FamilyLifeToday.com as well. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and when you get in touch with us, we'll let you know how you can get any of the resources you need sent to you.
Dennis: Bob, I'll be glad when we no longer suspend reality.
Bob: What, I'm not doing "dude" anymore?
Dennis: You're not doing the dude deal anymore, but Jonathan Morrow has been a good sport. Jonathan, thanks for being on the broadcast, and thanks for your work on this book, "Welcome to College," helping young people know how to navigate some pretty challenging and treacherous waters there.
You went to a state school, and I have a question for you, because I just wonder what your opinion is on this – should young people today go to a Christian university or a state university? What are the pluses and minuses, as you see it, for Christian men and women as they head off to college?
Bob: And we're going to play this back when your children are college age, so you better make sure your answer is a good one, right?
Jonathan: No pressure whatsoever, that's great. No, I think the answer would be maybe. It will honestly depend on the child and the student and kind of where they are at – how they're gifted, built, are they ready for an environment like that? And so the pros of going to a state school are that it's not going to be popular to be a Christian, most likely.
Bob: Now, wait, that's a pro of going to a state school? That it's not going to be popular to be a Christian?
Jonathan: Yes, because I'm going to get to that when we come to the Christian schools because is your faith real or not? Because the big thing students have to do when they get out of high school is own their faith – is this real? Do I really believe this? And so what they do is, they'll go to a school where there's not little groups that they form for you to be Christians. And so you will have that. You will have diversity of ideas, and so you'll have to walk the walk if this is real. So that's an opportunity and also a challenge with the influences and the ideas and things like that. If you're not prepared for those, that's a con.
Now, I'll flip it around on the other side for a Christian school, and obviously there's a lot of good Christian schools out there, but some of them don't look a whole lot different, honestly, than state schools when it gets down to the classroom level. But the great thing about being at a Christian school is that student may need that environment, that broader community where they are encouraged in their walk with Christ, and in the classroom they can see a professor model for them. What does it look like to engage these issues – to see all of God's world through a lens and then understand that and apply that when we go into life.
And so that's – and there are some specific things you can learn. If you have a particular ambition, then a state school might be better for you because when – people look at degrees differently. Did you go to this XYZ school or a Christian school? And certain ones are going to value a secular school over a Christian school. So it kind of depends on ideals, hopes, background, experiences, did they come to faith later in life? Are they solid? Do they have good friends with them? Those kinds of a questions.
Dennis: Bob, your children have gone to both state schools and to Christian schools.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: What do you think about his answer?
Bob: I think he's right – you have to look at the personality, you have to look at how God has wired your student, you have to look at what are the issues in that student's life at the time that college comes up? You have to look at what are their vocational objectives or what's God leading them into? And then you've got to make a wise decision. But I'd say this – if you are looking at a secular school, whether it's a state school or a private school, you need to look carefully to see is there any spiritual life around this campus? Is there anyplace to plug in and get connected and find some friends and stay grounded?
And I'd also say, if you're looking at a Christian school, you need to ask the question, is it Christian in more than just its name? Because there are some schools that may have "Christian" either in the name or in the – underneath the logo, and I think it's dangerous to send students to a school where Christian seems to be a part of the culture, but everybody is living like the kids at the state school are living. And that can be just as dangerous as sending them off to the state school where it's pretty obvious who the Christians are and who the non-Christians are.
Dennis: Well said. The issue in both cases, though, is prepare your children for life. That's a parent's responsibility coupled with the local church, and, as parents, you need resources to do this, and if you haven't already called, pick up a copy of Jonathan's book, "Welcome to College." It will equip your son or daughter to navigate treacherous waters successfully.
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