FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – When a group of about 80 students came to Southwestern for its annual High School Day, Oct. 18, they got a taste of college life at Southwestern as well as a sobering sip of reality.
Dean of the College at Southwestern Steven Smith explained to the students attending the “Contend for the Faith: Can you trust your Bible in College” high school day that they sit on a precarious precipice between walking on rock-solid faith in Christ and free-falling into an abyss of faith in nothing. If they do not solidify what they believe before leaving for college, the temptation to default to the world’s way of living will likely overcome them, he warned.
Smith pointed to a yearlong study the Southern Baptist Convention commissioned in 2007 that revealed a 90 percent chance that youth group students would no longer attend church after their first year in college. While some of those students may eventually return to church, the study found that at least 30 percent never would.
When Smith discussed this study with Joe McIlhaney, an OBGYN and author of the book Hooked, the doctor said he does not think those statistics mean students hated their parents or intentionally drifted from faith. McIlhaney does think, Smith recalled, that those students “go to college and haven’t yet closed the door on what kind of choices they're going to make.”
“You may be the most spiritual person in this room,” Smith said, “but every high school junior and senior looks around and thinks, ‘I wonder, when I go to a college campus, what would it be like, if for one year, one semester, maybe just a day, to take all the restraints off? My parents aren’t here; my church isn’t here. What if I just embrace every sexual desire I have? What if I drink whatever I want to drink? Act out? What if I did that just for a little bit?’ They entertain that thought—not thinking they'll do it, just kind of thinking about it—but then the temptation they experience when they walk on that campus is overwhelming, and they turn into a different person,” Smith said.
In the midst of that, Smith says, students find themselves among professors who say belief in the Bible is ignorant, that no single truth exists, and that while their parents may be nice people, they have been deceived.
“And for the first time, this person is not choosing to leave their faith,” Smith said, “but they finally found a belief system that can accommodate the way they've already chosen to live.”
Smith explained that his objective was not to “get in [their] faces,” but to explain the serious implications of deciding whether to trust the Bible.
“Whether the Scripture is true or not is not some abstract theological argument out there somewhere,” Smith said. “It's intensely personal. If this isn’t true, I have no hope. Without the Word of God, we can't be made like Jesus.”
Throughout the day, Smith, Associate Professor of English Chuck Carpenter and Assistant Professor of Old Testament Ryan Stokes took time to explain the reliability of the Scriptures and their trustworthiness even in a hostile college environment. A panel of current College at Southwestern students also fielded questions from the high school students during lunch.
Carpenter discussed the importance of being “all in,” when it comes to trusting Christ, and Stokes explained that Christians today can trust their Bibles because Jesus trusted His Bible, referring to it about 20 times in the New Testament when He would say, “It is written…”
Stokes, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, explained that biblical archeologists have confirmed through finding and researching fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Bible Christians read today is the same Bible that Jesus read 2,000 years ago, displaying the faithfulness of the Word.
“The Bible that we read today is the same Bible that Jesus trusted,” Stokes said, essentially answering the day-long question, ‘Can you trust your Bible in college?’ and sending them off to decide, ‘Will they?’