How to Avoid An “Atheist Ambush” in University


J Warner Wallace

If you’re a Christian, you already know the sad truth. Someone in your family (a son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, niece, or nephew) has already walked away, in spite of all the years you spent raising them in the church. I believe we can change this alarming trajectory, but we have to be willing to address the problem head on.

If we are willing to do what it takes to respond to the trials facing the poor, the hungry, and the homeless, why won’t we do what it takes to respond to the challenges facing our own Christian family?

I often get emails from readers about my work and the questions arising from it. One young man recently sent this message:

My Dad was a Southern Baptist Preacher and while I was growing up I basically lived at the church. I knew all of the bible stories and was even baptized when I was eight … After graduating high school, I went to college to get a degree in mechanical engineering. One might think a degree of this kind would involve little to no discussion of whether or not God exists, or if Jesus was a real person, but I encountered these and many more objections.

I had a literature class where the professor gave a presentation on how Jesus was copied from other gods and how this explained away the “mythology” of Jesus. I had an electromagnetics course in which the professor viciously attacked the concept of intelligent design … I had a space technology class in which the professor vehemently argued for the existence of aliens but refused to acknowledge the existence of God. These are just a few examples from the many interactions I had with my professors …

Unfortunately, most of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are severely lacking in training, and when they encounter even the weakest arguments, they are not prepared … As a Christian in the college setting, you are being constantly challenged, constantly poked and prodded. It is easy to throw your hands in the air, becoming convinced your faith is a lie when you are being trampled every day by both professors and by peers.

All Christians, but especially ones in college, must know what they believe and why they believe it if they have any hope of surviving with their faith intact … I think of college almost like an atheist ambush. The Christians are walking in totally unaware of the danger until it is too late and the damage has already been done.

That’s why I wanted to take the time to thank you … When I entered college, I was struggling with many of the objections I encountered. I discovered your podcast and your careful research. The evidentiary approach was incredibly helpful. As a result, I actually exited college with my faith even stronger than when I began. I want to encourage you to keep up the good work.

Young Christians struggle when challenged (as Andrew did), but this doesn’t have to be the case. If properly equipped, they could actually grow in their faith and confidence, even in the midst of strong opposition. You and I have the opportunity to reach the young people we love, including young Christians like this young man, if we are willing to embrace the mission.

Our children, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, are in the right place; they believe something true. If they’ve come to understand their own need for a Savior and have repented and placed their trust in Jesus alone for their salvation, they are saved for eternity.

But if they haven’t taken the time to study why Christianity is true, they will be ill-equipped to answer objections and less than persuasive with a group that requires far more evidence than ever before. We have to change the course of the church in order to meet this challenge, and the church is much more like an ocean liner than a jet ski. We cannot turn it on a dime.

Instead, we must make small course corrections—one degree here and one degree there. We must come alongside the church as a tugboat and shift the direction of our ocean liner one degree at a time.


[This article was excerpted from Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith.]


 J. Warner Wallaceis a Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Apologetics at Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academyfor kids.


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