This article is especially for Christian young people who are at school or college. Every day you may sit under the instruction of unregenerate men who have no love for your Saviour or your Bible. At first, you are sure that you will not be affected by their anti-Christian teachings, but then you become caught by what I call “the illusion of the classroom.” You begin to think: “This man must know what he is talking about. After all, he is a scholar.” From this, it is an easy step to the conclusion that the Christians are a fairly ignorant lot, the elders do not know what is going on, and your parents are definitely back numbers. And how can we know that the Bible is the Word of God anyway? Listen! The Apostle Paul has a message for you:
“Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism of. highsounding-nonsense. Such stuff is at best founded on man’s ideas of the nature of the world and disregards Christ” (Col. 2: 8, Phillip’s translation).
The wise Christian is not taken in by the high-sounding nonsense of modern intellectualism. He is not terrified when he is called an obscurantist. He refuses to bow at the shrine of man’s wisdom. Instead, he realizes that in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and that since he has Christ he never needs to be ashamed of his faith. Because these teachers do not have Christ, he does not expect them to have the divine insight possessed by the humblest believers. He can listen to their teachings and calmly appraise them in the light of God’s Word. If he finds any instruction which is opposed to the Scriptures, he rejects it. He casts down human reasonings and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10.5).
He does not expect his Bible to agree with the changing findings of science. Indeed, he is glad that the Bible does not agree with the many unproved theories he studies. Otherwise the Bible would have to change as frequently as the textbooks.
Unfortunately, not all Christian young people have this maturity of judgment. They have an overweening reverence for human wisdom and knowledge, and they come by it honestly because they have been fed it by their parents since they could first use big words.
Off they go to college — and who is waiting for them but the devil himself? He uses the same tactic that he employed with Eve; he appeals to the mind. “You have such a brilliant intellect. You can go places in the world, but not so long as you are narrow enough to take the Bible literally. Now what you want to do is to put the Bible to the test of human reason. If it is not reasonable, it cannot be true. Just examine it objectively and tell me how you can know that the Bible is God’s Word.”
History repeats itself. Eve fell for this line, and many of her sons and daughters are falling for it, too: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11. 3).
Few things are more pathetic than a young believer who “goes intellectual.” He loses the simplicity that is in Christ. The freshness of his early faith disappears. The Bible he once enjoyed no longer attracts him; he cannot read it without thinking of doubts and denials. He no longer has a song in his heart. As for witnessing for Christ, he has been stricken dumb like Zacharias, because he doubted the Word of the Lord. Too often he drifts away from Christian fellowship and wanders out into the darkness of a wasted life.
Is there anything a young Christian can do to guard against the peril of a spoiled faith?
First of all, he can obtain the Lord’s guidance concerning the college he attends. In some he will find those who will help, in others he will find much opposition. Not all Christian young people can survive in an anti-Christian atmosphere, although a few succeed in emerging with a triumphant testimony.
Secondly, he should exercise prayerful discretion with regard to the courses he takes. If he thinks he can play with fire and not be burned, he “knows more than the Bible.”
The Bible asks: “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Prov. 6.27). And the answer is clearly “No!”
Thirdly, he should spend time each day in the Word of God. Most cases of college cancer occur when critical theories of the Bible occupy the time that the Bible should have.
Fourthly, he should keep himself pure. I am convinced that most cases of apostasy result from moral failure rather than from honest intellectual difficulties.
Fifthly, he should seek Christian companionship at college and help other believers in making Christ known.
Finally, he should pray constantly that God will keep him from the defilement and pollution of godless philosophies, and preserve him for a life of usefulness and fruitfulness for Himself.