Today I was on the Cal State University at Long Beach campus and shared Christ with three atheists and gave away several booklets.
Here are their survey answers and the highlights of our conversation.
To see the Survey questions, click the Survey page.
Legend- Y=Yes, LY=Leans Yes, NoO=No Opinion, LN=Leans No, N=No
Undergraduate Art History Major
I will call this student Sandra. She is an atheist but I think she is open to facts and ideas about Christ. Here are her answers:
Me: Thank you for helping me with my survey. One of the reasons I do this is to answer the marketing survey questions at the end. I’m a Christian.
Sandra: I thought so.
Me: Yes. I’m not a pastor. I’m a business owner. I see Christian pastors and evangelists and they seem to have two main approaches to their message. One is to say “A relationship with Jesus gives meaning and purpose to life and that’s why you should be a Christian.” That message certainly resonates with many people. Another approach is to say “The evidence that Jesus rose from the dead is very strong and that changes everything because it can’t happen without God. And so you should follow Jesus because Christianity is true.” And that appeals to certain people too. My question was which of these two approaches appeals to more people.
Sandra: I relate more to the meaning and purpose message. Although history is important… I mean, I am an art history major.
Me: Exactly. I’ve talked to a number of people who say meaning and purpose is very important but then they also admit that they don’t want their meaning and purpose based on a hoax.
Sandra: I can see that.
I then tell Sandra the story of why I spend time surveying student’s opinions and about some of the conversations I’ve had with students. Finally, I give her a copy of my booklet and also the booklet by Rick Warren “What On Earth Am I Here For?”
Me: Are you familiar with any Christian campus ministries on campus? Cru? Intervarsity?
Sandra: No, I’ve never heard of Cru or the other one.
Me: Well, if you look for them, you can find them. I think Cru meets on Thursday nights here. After reading the booklets, if you are interested in learning more then go to a Cru meeting and tell the people there “I’m not a Christian. I just want to check this Christian thing out and maybe get some questions answered.” They will be cool with that.
Sandra: Okay. Thank you for the booklets.
Undergraduate Psychology Major
I will refer to her as Darla. She was raised Catholic but no longer believes in God or practices her religion. The last time she was in church was for a funeral. People around her were praying and that is okay for them but not for her.
Here are her answers:
Me: Thank you for helping me with my survey. Did you find the questions interesting?
Darla: Yes. Especially these (she points out questions 3, 7, and 10).
Me: So have ever heard the Big Bang is supportive of a creator God?
Darla: I’ve taken several astronomy classes. I don’t know what caused the Big Bang but I don’t see that God is necessarily the cause. I’m just amazed at the fine-tuning and how it all fits together but I just think that’s evolution.
Me: You said question 7 was interesting too. Why is that?
Darla: Because that’s basically where I am now. I’m a college-educated atheist and I don’t know if I will become a follower of Jesus or not.
Me: Interesting. You also said question 10 was interesting but you answered it “No” meaning that strong historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is not that important to you.
Darla: I’m just saying I wouldn’t base my decision on that. His resurrection would not persuade me if he had bad teachings.
Me: I see. Let me tell you about some of the conversations I have with students when I’m doing these surveys. I’m eager to learn why students have stopped going to church or are not interested in Christianity. I get them to talk about their opinions. Students say things to me like “Well, you know Christianity is not intellectually viable.”
Darla: (laughing) Oh! I would never say that… although I do know many Christians who are very close-minded.
Me: Do you mean about science?
Darla: Yes. Many of them don’t want to learn what the science says.
Me: Yes, that’s unfortunate. You know, the Bible doesn’t say how old the earth and universe are. Some Christians believe in a young earth – six to ten thousand years old. Science has refuted that position, but science has not refuted the Bible.
(Then I tell her about my idea to buy and give away booklets that will show that Christianity is intellectually viable. I wanted something that was small enough that students might read it and cheap enough I could afford to give it away and yet long enough to have some compelling information. I couldn’t find anything like that so I wrote one.)
Me: I’d like you to have a copy.
Darla: Thank you.
Me: Have you heard of the Human Genome Project?
Me: It was led by Dr. Francis Collins, the first story in the booklet. He earned his doctorate in physical chemistry and then he earned a medical degree so he had earned two doctorates before he became a Christian at the age of 29. So much for the claim that no educated atheists ever become Christians.
Me: Allan Sandage is my favorite story. You remember Edwin Hubble of the Hubble Space Telescope, right?
Darla: Of course.
Me: When Hubble died unexpectedly of a heart attack, Allan Sandage inherited his research program. And he did a great job with it. He wrote more than 500 science papers and won all kinds of science prizes. He’s known as the Father of Observational Cosmology. In 1974, he made a scientific discovery that convinced him that God existed.
Darla: What discovery was that?
Me: He discovered the universe was going to expand forever. Up until then, scientists believed in the Cyclic Model. This is the idea the universe is eternal and is either expanding or contracting. The contraction phase ends with an implosion into another Big Bang. But Allan discovered that the universe was going to expand forever. This meant the Cyclic Model was wrong and the Big Bang was a one-time event. Nature does not do one-time events. In physics, a one-time event is known as a miracle. If the beginning of the universe was a miracle, then God was responsible. But as an atheist, Allan didn’t know which God. His science discovery sent him on a two-year spiritual journey and at the end he became a Jesus follower.
Darla: Interesting. We didn’t learn about that in astronomy class.
Me: I imagine not. The third story is about an investigative reporter. He came home from work one day and his wife said she had become a Christian. That really ticked him off. After he settled down some he decided that he had the right tool set to research Christianity and prove that it was untrue – that the stories about Jesus were either hoax or based on legends that grew up over time. He put two years of his life into this project and ultimately proved to himself that Jesus really did rise from the dead and he became a Christian too.
Darla: No kidding…
Me: So I want to give you a copy of my booklet and another booklet. This one is by Rick Warren. It’s about living your life with meaning and purpose. Will you read them?
Darla: Yes. I will read them both. You know, I’ve done surveys with other Christians before. Usually, when they hear my views, they frown on them.
Me: I’m sorry about that. I don’t expect most people to share my views and so I’m happy to talk to everyone. I hope you enjoy the booklets!
Darla: Thank you again!
Undergraduate with Undeclared Major
I will call this young man Fred. Fred was raised in a Christian home but stopped attending church while he was in middle school. He classifies himself now as an atheist which he defines as not believing in a god.
Here are his answers:
Me: Did you find the questions interesting?
Fred: I suppose.
Me: Did you grow up in a Christian home? Or a Catholic home?
Fred: It was Christian, not Catholic.
Me: And why did you stop going to church?
Fred: Christians. They teach we are supposed to be loving and then they are constantly judging and belittling each other. It’s terrible.
Me: I see. And when did you stop going to church?
Fred: I was in middle school.
Me: And you don’t believe in God anymore?
Fred: I believe there’s something out there.
Me: So you do believe in a god?
Fred: I wouldn’t call it a god. I think something’s out there but I don’t know what to call it.
Me: I see. Do your parents still go to church?
Me: Okay. Well, I’m very interested in intellectual doubts that are common to university students.
Fred: There’s lots of reasons for educated people to doubt the Bible, especially when the Bible says the earth is not very old.
Me: Many Christians believe the earth is only six to ten thousand years old but the Bible doesn’t teach that. The Bible doesn’t say how old the universe and earth are.
(At this point I tell him about my conversations with other students who say Christianity is not intellectually viable and how I wanted to find a booklet to give away that would show Christianity is intellectually viable. Unfortunately, I could not find anything appropriate so I wrote one. I briefly tell him the stories of Francis Collins, Allan Sandage and Lee Strobel.)
Me: And so Lee Strobel spent two years of his life trying to prove that Christianity was false but instead he proved to himself that the historical evidence was very strong and he became a Christian.
Fred: I don’t know… I don’t know.
Me: I don’t expect to change your mind based on our conversation today. I’m just hoping I’ve said enough that you will read the booklet.
Fred: Oh, I will definitely read it!