that did not line up with what they were taught or believed. I can identify the look in their eyes when I drop "the bomb" that makes them feel like the rug has been pulled from under their feet. I can see the panic in their face as their brain tries to fit what I have just said into the paradigm they use to understand faith and the world. Some will simply ignore what I say. Others will dig in deeper. Some will mull it over for weeks if not months.
Some might assume that I find a certain level of evil satisfaction in undoing what someone has thought or believed. But that's not the case. I still remember the conflict I experienced within as I studied the Bible and compared it what I had been taught and begin to realize that things were not as I had been taught. So I try to approach these difficult topics with a certain level of pastoral care while not backing away from it. I consider it my job to make sure that my students leave my class having really thought about what they believe and why.
Today I ran across someone else who articulates well the situation many of us encounter when we study the Bible in an academic setting. Over at Pete Enn's blog Andrew Knapp has shared his own thoughts on The Christian College and the Crisis of Faith and why that might be a good thing. Here are a few excerpts.
It seems reasonable, even inevitable, that 18-year-olds leaving home to educate themselves will encounter new ideas that challenge their preexisting beliefs and compel a reevaluation of the evidence. Young men and women who take their faith seriously and are honest with themselves will recognize that some of their beliefs are not tenable—they do not need to be defended with better arguments but modified or even discarded entirely.
This can be difficult—we do not like to part ways with cherished ideas upon which we have built a worldview. But this is why students get educated. And this is why students have crises of faith.
Many Christian colleges include something in their mission statement about seeking to strengthen their students’ faith. Although I appreciate the sentiment behind this, I fear it can have bad effects. Many young people have an immature faith. Schools do not do them a service by helping them embrace this faith via dubious apologetics. Examination should always precede entrenchment.
This is why I am crushed whenever I hear that an institution has invoked the fact that “Bible Professor X caused some students to have faith crises” as grounds for dismissal. This is what good Bible teachers do!
What if we extended this to other disciplines—if physicists had to fear for their jobs whenever they caused students to understand nature in a new way, or if philosophers came under fire whenever they encouraged students to question reality in a new way?
Wanting to spare students from having faith crises implies that the students arrive at university with a perfect understanding of the nature of the Bible, in which case, we do not need to teach Bible classes at all.
You can read the entire post here. I would be interested to hear your own stories and struggles related to this topic.