Understanding the Struggles of Christian Students
An Interview with J. Budziszewski
By: Megan Schultz|Published: June 12, 2012 12:14 PM
The Colson Center is participating in a giveaway of J. Budziszewski's book How to Stay Christian In College that runs until June 18 (limited number available and winners selected at random). To enter, go to the Colson Center Facebook page and share this post!
J. Budziszewski is a professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin, where he has taught since 1981. He is a recognized authority on what philosophers call the natural law -- what St. Paul calls the law “written on the heart.” In case you’re wondering, his last name is pronounced “Boo-jee-shef-skee."
Below is an interview with Dr. Budziszewski about his book, How to Stay Christian in College.
In the introduction to How to Stay Christian in College, you discuss your experience of life with Christ and without Him. Why did you write this book?
Soon after my entrance into college I lost my own faith. Eventually I stopped believing not only in Jesus Christ but in God; not only in God but in an objective moral law; not only in an objective moral law but in personal responsibility; not only in personal responsibility but in persons. So from doubting God's reality, I came eventually to doubt my own. Not a good place to be. I didn't find my way back for another 10 years. This experience, along with more than thirty years of teaching, has given me compassion for the struggles of all Christian students on the modern campus.
You say in chapter 1 that trying to live without God was "agony." What do you mean by that?
A mind is a great gift, but there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in his arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all. You cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself -- well, if you're like I was, perhaps you can -- what a person has to do to himself to go on believing the sort of nonsense I tried to make myself believe to shut out belief in the Gospel. Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all the components that have God's image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God's image stamped on them, so the man can never stop.
]Your book mentions a college dean, at a freshman orientation, who dwelled upon the large number of freshmen at his school who committed suicide or received psychological counseling. Why would he do that? What do you think that tells us about the orientation of our colleges and universities?
He wasn't warning them -- he was boasting, because he thought suicidal tendencies were a proof of intellectual brilliance! I think this tells us that we no longer recognize the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is just equipment; wisdom is a virtue. You can be very clever, and possess a great deal of knowledge, yet still not have a speck of wisdom.
Chapter 2 of your book is titled "What God Thinks of the World." So what does God think of the world?
God loves us, infinitely more than we in our perversity may want to be loved. He is not willing that we should remain in misery, sin, and alienation. Through our rebellion against Him, each of us is like a man standing at the bottom of a deep pit with steep, slick sides. But God throws us a rope, not a rope of woven fibers but His very self, and that rope is Jesus Christ.
Chapter 3 of your book is called "What the World Thinks of Itself." Again, can you summarize this chapter in one or a few sentences?
Ever since the Fall, people have cooked up false gods and ungodly ideas about how things really are. They've done this in order to justify their rejection of the true God and what He says about how things really are. That may seem a strong statement, but Revelation doesn't agree with the view that it's hard to find out about God. What it claims is that we make it hard.
I wrote in a blog post that, from my perspective, it seems that many college students want to believe in a "universal" God -- one god who is the same in all faiths. You also have a chapter in your book titled "Talking with Non-Christian friends." How would you go about talking to these "universal god" people?
We like to tell ourselves that although the religions of the world differ greatly in rituals and formalities, they all really teach the same thing. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of the truth. As the great G. K. Chesterton remarked, "The religions of the earth do not differ greatly in rites and forms; they do greatly differ in what they teach." As though to prove the point, people who claim that all religions teach the same thing all have different views of what that "same thing" is, and people who claim that all religions worship the same god have utterly diverse views of what he or it is like!
You mention a common myth about politics, that "God belongs to my political party." I have personally heard this many times both at home and in college. How does this myth work, and why is it so dangerous?
Of course we should change our political views if they aren’t godly. Instead, we try to change God if he does not support our political views. This is a form of idolatry. Democrats think God is a Democrat, Republicans that He is a Republican. They expect God to support every detail of political programs in which He was not consulted -- even such dreadful wrongs as abortion. I don't claim that each party is equally guilty, but each party is guilty.
You reveal a lot of other myths in your book. Can you please tell us what you think is the most significant myth and why it's important?
That's a difficult question, because different people succumb to different myths -- about the search for knowledge, about love and sex, about politics, and about many other things. How about this one? When you go off to college, people will tell you, "Don't forget to leave a place in your life for Christ." That false view leaves you in charge. It's all about fitting Jesus Christ into your life, your time, your plans. Christ doesn't want a place in your life; He wants your life. Only in Him can we be truly ourselves -- truly free -- truly what He made us to be. Who does He think He is -- God? Yes, that's just it.
Image copyright Th1nk Books.
Megan Schultz is an editorial intern at BreakPoint and a student of broadcast journalism and political science at the University of Missouri.
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