Using Logic at College
Faith on Campus: Is it Possible? Answer: Yes
by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley
BreakPoint Commentary, December 2, 2004
Do you think college today is a faith-friendly place? That university culture is free of anti-Christian bias? That your child's teachers are pure seekers of truth with no axes to grind?
If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. As J. Budziszewski explains in his wonderful new book Ask Me Anything: Provocative Answers for College Students, it's still possible to learn something at college,
but professors don't always cooperate. He ought to know. Budziszewski is a tenured professor of government and philosophy in the University of Texas at Austin. And he's also a Christian.
A female student who wanted to be a missionary e-mailed Budziszewski to say that although her anthropology professor was kind and gentlemanly when discussing non-Christian religions, he suddenly turned harsh and Vulgar when the subject turned to Christianity. To defend his hostility, he said that no one possesses religious truth, that every culture has value and should be judged by its own standards, and that missionaries force their religious beliefs down the throats of other cultures. The young woman wanted to stand up to him but didn't know how.
Budziszewski has the answers. When the professor says, "No one knows the truth about religion," the young woman might respond, "Professor, if no one knows the truth about religion, then how can you say that your own claim about religion is true? It's like the Liar's Paradox, where a man says, 'The statement I am making is a lie.' If his statement is true, then it can't be true, because he just said it's a lie. If his statement is false, then it's true, but only because he's lying."
When the professor says, "Every culture should be judged by its own standards," the student might respond, "Professor, whose culture says that we ought to judge every culture by its own standards? Isn't it your culture that says so—the culture of relativist university teachers? So when you demand that every other culture accept your culture's standard, aren't you violating your principle that every culture ought to be judged by its own standards?"
And when the professor says, "Missionaries force their religious beliefs down the throats of other cultures," the young woman might respond, "Professor, you say that every culture has value, and we should judge it by its own standards. If so, why do you make an exception for the culture of Christianity? Doesn't it also have value, and shouldn't we judge it by its own standards? In that case, I don't understand why you're so harsh on Christian missionaries."
These are only a few of the tough questions Budziszewski tackles. He has others that students might indeed ask themselves during their time at college. For example, "If I was brought up by my parents to believe in Jesus Christ, does that mean my faith is merely arbitrary?"; "How can the Christian ideal of faith answer the postmodernist ideal of suspicion?"; and, "If I treat the Church like a consumer product on Sunday mornings, what am I missing?"