Blowing Away Smoke Screens

  Two decades ago, J. Budziszewski, fresh out of grad school, stood before the faculty at the University of Texas. He was applying for a position in the Department of Government. As part of his application, he gave a lecture that outlined what he believed to be true about ethics and politics. He told the faculty that the distinction between good and evil was merely a human invention, and that humans are not morally responsible for their actions. He then described what a politics and ethics curriculum, derived from such a worldview, would look like. Budziszewski got the position, but the Texas faculty didn't get what they bargained for. As Budziszewski recalls in his book, The Revenge of Conscience, the man who applied for the position was both a nihilist and a "practical atheist." He denied the existence of binding moral codes. And, while he conceded that God might possibly exist, he considered God irrelevant to human affairs. Over time his views changed, and Budziszewski began to feel a sense of horror about himself. God was at work, giving him a "true intuition" about his spiritual condition. Eventually the horror and intuition swept away the rationalizations and "smoke screens" the young professor had used to keep Christ at bay. He describes the period following his conversion as a time when he recovered "whole new ways of understanding" -- ways he had blocked out while trying to ignore Jesus Christ. God redeemed Budziszewki's folly, as he often does, and used it for his purposes. Today the man for whom "smoke screens" and self-deception were standard operating procedure now helps rescue both students and faculty trapped by those same devices. Budziszewki's classes don't teach that good and evil are human inventions. Instead, students learn why this kind of thinking is little more than a denial of what we know to be true. Those not enrolled in Budziszewki's classes can still benefit from his work. Through his book How to Stay Christian in College, he is helping young Christians to keep higher education from becoming a wasteland. He tells them how "college can be a means of God's blessing instead of a snare," and he refutes the arguments against Christian faith that they're likely to encounter. How to Stay Christian isn't Budziszewki's only ministry to college students. He is a featured columnist for Boundless webzine as well. There, he addresses the moral issues college students face. He also maintains an active correspondence with young people seeking his counsel. In another book, entitled The Revenge of Conscience, Budziszewski says we're not ignorant about what's right and wrong concerning abortion, sexuality, and other social issues. The truth about these matters is written on our hearts. The problem is that we suppress and deny what we know to be true, choosing, instead, to hide behind arguments that can't withstand scrutiny -- what he calls "smoke screens." Professor Budziszewski is one of a new breed of young and articulate Christian intellectuals giving relativists on college campuses fits. He'll also be at our upcoming conference in Chicago. You can take heart. God's army of Christian thinkers is on the move. And as Budziszewski's life illustrates, when Christian faith is informed and engaged, it always leads to "whole new ways of understanding." And that's truth you can share with your neighbors.


Chuck Colson



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