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Dealing with a College Professor
In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
>I am an 18 year old college student in Fresno California, I am in this HUGE debate over Christianity and the belief in God with a 35 year old "Professor" who is my friend. He is always attacking my viewpoints about my beliefs and my God and so I am trying as hard as I can to explain to him how I view my Christianity and my God, and the "logistics" and "reality" behind it. Here is where my problem comes into play . . . <
I did not become a Christian until after I graduated from college. But I have often wondered what it would have been like if I was a Christian at that time.
I can remember very clearly the first day of class, in my psychology class, the professor getting up and talking about whether human beings were composed of body and soul or just physical bodies. After very little explanation, he dogmatically proclaimed there was no basis for believing in a soul and that we were only physical beings.
At the time I really couldn't have cared less. So I wrote down his comments in my notes and forgot about it. I am sure there were Christians in the room, in a class of about 30; but interestingly, no one in the class objected. I don't blame the Christians though.
Consider, here we are about as "fresh" freshman as we can be, and here is this Ph.D. dogmatically asserting the Christian belief in a soul is unfounded. It would have taking some real "guts" for any of us neophytes to have objected.
> He is a VERY well educated person, All I can give is common sense and what I think the Lord wants me to tell him.<
As indicated above, it takes a lot of guts on your part just to bring up your objections. For that you should be commended.
> He wants "proof" that there is a God, but when I ask him to prove that he loves his mother he thinks it is very different. <
It is very difficult to provide the empirical kind of proof such a man would want for the existence of God. OTOH, it would be just as difficult for him to provide empirical proof their is not a God. This is where the whole issue of presuppositions come in. I discuss this matter in my article "Dead Men Do Bleed!" I hope I'm not getting you too confused :-)
Now, I can understand where you're coming from. I have been in similar debates myself. In fact, frustrations over such discussion are what promoted the above "Dead Men" article.
> He is big on Creationism and Darwinism. I try to tell him that Darwinism has been "disproved" by Darwin himself. Darwin stated that once there is something smaller than the "ATOM" found, that Darwinism is disproved. We now know that there is much more to the Atom such as the proton, neutron, and nucleus.<
Getting into debates on evolution vs. creation is very difficult, This is especially the case if one person does not have a advanced degree in the relevant sciences while the other one does. I address the subject in a few articles on my site; but since my science background is limited, I mostly link to sites by creationists with such advanced degrees.
My articles on evolution and related subjects are listed at: Science and Science Fiction. My links to other such sites are at: Creation vs. Evolution Sites.
> I think that I have "held my own" on these debates quite well considering that this 35 year old gets off on debating with people half his age.<
I really don't understand why a professor would use his position to try to browbeat his students out of their spiritual convictions. I don't think that is the purpose of college. But you are to be commended for even trying, let alone "holding your own!"
> But (honestly) I have not read the Bible from front to back and I don't know where to turn to . . .<
Well, for your own spiritual benefit you really should read the Bible cover to cover. But being in college, I understand you probably have plenty of reading to do just for your class. But you shouldn't let you spiritual life suffer as a result. If it it is at all possible, try to find the time to read at at least a chapter or two a day form the Bible. If you can handle three or four, you're get through the Bible in about a year.
> He says that the Bible contradicts itself many times. I tell him that it is just taken out of context, that the Bible has never contradicted itself.<
I would agree with you here. Though there are some difficult passages, I do believe the vast majority can be reconciled with an appeal to context as you say, along with sometime the original languages in some cases.
I have had many people send me lists of supposed contradictions in the Bible. Looking them over, most can be easily reconciled simply by properly interpreting the passages. I have discussed this subject some on my site, though not as much as I would like to. See the articles listed under "Biblical Difficulties" on the following page: The Bible.
> Also, There are many foresights and predictions that the Bible has given that are coming to be true, he doesn't seem to see that either.<
It is hard to get someone to "see" lots of things in the Bible. Again, it is a problem of presuppositions. Since he is starting with the unproven, and unprovable assumption there is not God, then I would assume he also holds the assumption miracles are not possible. As such, he will by necessity to his worldview have to "explain away" any claimed miracle, including predictive prophecy.
It's a matter of ones overall worldview. On my site, I discuss that rather than debating isolated points, like supposed Biblical contradictions or Biblical fulfilled prophecy, it is better to compare worldviews as a whole. The atheistic worldview many failings, for instance, when it comes to answering basic questions of meaning and purpose in life.
It is such issues that Francis Schaeffer addresses in his many good books. I refer to them in various articles on my site. Gordon Clark also deals with these kind of subjects in his books. these writers are using basically a "presuppositional" approach to defending the Christian faith whereas you appear to be using an "evidential" approach espoused by writers like Josh McDowell.
Each method has its merits and difficulties; but overall I think the presuppositional approach is best. I discuss this method some in the above mentioned "Dead Men" article. See also other articles listed at: General Theology and Apologetics.
> I am looking for help if you can give it . . . <
The above are just a few ideas I can think of. Again, I would encourage you to check out the above indicated articles on my site. If you have the time, you could also check out the links page on creationism, and pick up one or more of the books I refer to and recommend in my articles, especially ones by Schaeffer or Clark.
But most of all, I would recommend reading the Bible through. You really cannot effectively witness to others unless your own spiritual house is in order. And the best way to do that is by reading God's Word. So maybe, at that this time in your life, giving your time limitations and not having read the Bible through, it might be best to hold back some from the debates and concentrate on your own spiritual walk, and getting better prepare for such debates by reading the Bible and other apologetics works.
I'm not saying to stop witnessing; but trying to take on guys like this professor just might be a bit too much for you at this time in your life. Getting better prepared first might be wise and more fruitful in the long run.
Just some thoughts. Use them as you believe God would have you do.
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The above e-mail exchange was posted on this Web site January 16, 1999.
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