Planting Seeds – February 20, 2014

I had an interesting experience surveying people at CSULB today.  Due to time constraints, I only surveyed three people. The conversations were not recorded and so the exchanges are not word for word, but the gist is fair and accurate.  The names are changed to protect the privacy of the people.

Graduate Student Majoring in Intercultural Communications

I will call this young woman Mary.  She is from Germany.  While she has a slight accent, her English is very good.  Here’s her answers to the survey questions.  To see the questions, click on the Survey page.

Legend- Y=Yes, LY=Leans Yes, NoO=No Opinion, LN=Leans No, N=No

  1. N
  2. Y
  3. LY
  4. Y
  5. Y
  6. Y
  7. Y
  8. Y
  9. Y
  10. N
  11. Y

Since she identified as a Christian, I asked her to think about and answer questions 10 and 11 as if she was not yet a Christian.  After she gave her answers, she replied it was not easy to think about not being a Christian because she grew up in a Christian home and cannot really think of a time when she did not believe.  The conversation at the end of the survey went like this:

Me: Did you find the questions interesting?

Lucy: Yes, they really made me think.

(I thought about challenging her thinking on question #1 but chose not to.)

Lucy: Why are you doing the survey?

Me: I heard a statistic that 70-75% of students raised in Christian homes stop going to church in college.  I wondered what students were thinking when they stopped going to church. I wanted to know why they stopped.   Also, one of my goals with the survey was to learn which gospel message approach appeals to most people. When I look at Christian evangelists, they seem to fall into two camps.  One camp preaches the message that a relationship with Jesus brings added meaning and purpose to life and that is why you should become a Christian. This would be evangelists like Rick Warren. Another camp emphasizes the message that the historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead is strong and that doesn’t happen without God and so that is why you should be a Christian.  This would be people like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. I explained that I hoped to learn which of those two actually appealed to more people.

Lucy: Do you have any results yet?

Me: It’s very early but it appears to me that the historical evidence question appeals to a more limited group of people of a certain mindset.  Added meaning and purpose seems to resonate with a greater number of people. Interestingly, even those people who named meaning and purpose as more important still wanted to know that the resurrection was historically accurate, that their faith was based on truth and not a hoax.

Lucy: That’s interesting.  And what do you learn about why students stop going to church at university?

Me: I think college provides a great deal of freedom to students – freedom they have never experienced before.  Many students were exploring that freedom and the temptations of it.  I was more interested in the intellectual challenges the students at university.  Many students arrive on the university campus believing that God created the universe 6,000 years ago and he did it in six 24 hour periods.  When they arrive at university and learn the science does not support that view, the students often lose respect for the church because they feel they were misled.

Lucy: Yes, I think the view that the earth is 6,000 years old is an American thing. No one believes that in Germany.

I offered her the booklet I wrote and she said she would like to read it.  I think this short conversation, and the booklet, have strengthened her faith. She will be heading back to Germany after she graduates. Pray that God will use her in a great way.

CSULB Staffer

I approached a mature man – let’s call him Bob.  Bob is not a faculty member but he does hold a responsible position at the university.  Here are his answers to the survey questions:

  1. N
  2. Y
  3. NoO
  4. N
  5. N
  6. N
  7. NoO
  8. N
  9. N
  10. N
  11. N

(As an aside, I use a scoring system with this survey. Y=4 points, LY=3 points, NoO=2 points, LN=1 point and N=0 points.  I’ve done hundreds of these surveys and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a score this low before, just eight points.)

Bob: So you are a Christian?

Me: Yes.

Bob: You perplex me. Why would you come out here to debate people about your God?

Me: I didn’t come out for a debate. I want to survey people to learn what they think and hopefully have a conversation

Bob: But why would you do that?

Me: I’m here because you matter to God.

Bob: I reject that.

Me: You can reject it if you like but it doesn’t change anything. You still matter to God.

Bob: But why are you here?

Me: You are important to me because you are important to God.

Bob: It’s Coke or Pepsi really.

Me: What do you mean?

Bob: Which religion you choose doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you are a good person.

Me: That’s not what the Bible says. It’s important because it determines whether you go to heaven or hell.

Bob: Prove to me hell exists. Prove to me God exists!

Me: Proving hell is more difficult than God. There are many strong evidences for the existence of God in both history and science.

Bob: Let’s go with science. How does science prove God?

Me: As you know, science deals with the material world and we can never put God under a microscope or vivisect him in a laboratory. But detecting God’s existence is like detecting the existence of dark matter.  We have never had dark matter in a laboratory either and we don’t know much about it, but we can detect its existence because of its effects. In the same way, science can detect God’s existence through his effects such as the Big Bang. The Big Bang was a one-time event. In physics, one-time events are known as miracles. Plus we have the low entropy condition of the universe soon after the Big Bang.

(If you would like to understand the low entropy condition, Roger Penrose explains it here.)

Bob: Wait. Perhaps the Big Bang isn’t a one-time event. Maybe there have been many Big Bangs and many universes.

Me: The Big Bang is the standard cosmology. The Multiverse idea is just a speculation. You cannot call it science because it isn’t testable.

Bob: That’s true. But if God did exist, why would he allow the holocaust?  Nevermind, I know what you are going to say. You’re going to say “Because difficult times make us stronger.”

Me: Actually, I wasn’t going to say that at all.

Bob: Listen, it’s all just Coke or Pepsi. It doesn’t make any difference.

Me: Do you know who Penn is of the magicians Penn and Teller?

Bob: Sure.

Me: Let me tell you a question Penn asked … and Penn is not a Christian … but his question was “If you believe in hell, how much would you have to hate someone not to warn them?”

(For anyone who has not seen the video clip of Penn Jillette making this statement, click here.

Bob: I understand what your saying but I’m not interested.

I offered Bob a booklet but he didn’t want one. We parted on friendly terms and we both wished each other well.   I can only hope that this conversation may spark an interest in him that will not be quenched until he becomes a follower of Jesus.  Please pray for Bob.

Undergraduate Anthropology Major

Let’s call her Debra. She told me she was raised Orthodox Jew until she was seven. Then her parents moved and they began to attend a Conservative Jewish synagogue. Now, she doesn’t consider herself religious at all.  Survey questions were answered:

  1. LY
  2. Y
  3. N
  4. N
  5. NoO
  6. N
  7. Y
  8. NoO
  9. N
  10. N
  11. N

Me: Did you find the questions interesting?

Debra: Yes, they made me think.  Why are you doing this?  Is this your job?

No: I own a business in the area. My business is unrelated to this. I started doing this because I read a statistic that said 70-75% of students raised in Christian homes stop going to church after high school.  I wanted to know what was going on at the university that might contribute to that.

Debra: Well, these are people who are 17, 18, 19 years old.  This is a pivotal time of life. They are trying to figure out who they are and what they believe.

Me: That’s very true. But I’ve also learned that university is hostile to Christian faith. For example, did you know university professors are five times more likely to be atheist than the population at large?

Debra: No, but that doesn’t surprise me.

Me: And because of the separation of church and state, atheism is not considered a religion so the atheists feel very comfortable in promoting their worldview in the classroom and on campus. There are Christian professors on campus also but they don’t usually feel comfortable talking about their worldview – unless they have tenure.

Debra: I can see that.

Me: So the students end up getting a biased view of the evidence.  What bothered me the most was hearing students tell me that science had disproven the Bible and that Christianity was not intellectually viable.  I knew that wasn’t true but there was nothing I could say in a short conversation that would change their minds.

Debra: No, that’s true. People don’t usually change their minds that quickly.

Me: I started thinking that maybe if I had a tool… like a booklet… something small enough they might read it and cheap enough I could give it away and yet long enough to be compelling… if I could find something like that I would just buy a bunch and give them away. But I looked and couldn’t find anything appropriate on the market so I wrote one.  I’d like to give you a copy if you interested.

Debra: Oh!  Why Three Brilliant Atheists Became Christians.  Interesting!  Yes, I’ll read it.

Please pray for Debra as she reads the booklet that God make work in her life so that she begins a spiritual journey seeking for the truth.

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