On this little red dot, what you do in university is rarely what you thought you’d be doing when you were growing up.
Instead, it represents the culmination of the kiasu parent’s purpose-driven life — a passport to prestige that will seal their offspring’s place among the giants of the family clan. It’s the route to a future of stability, security and comfort.
You’re about to enter university, and you’ve got big dreams. Brace yourself — college may be the graveyard of those dreams. Don’t expect your intellectual curiosity to be satiated in college.
Sooner or later, you’ll realise that university is not the wellspring of truth, from which insight and understanding flow. It more closely resembles a musty old factory, where structures and systems are there merely to equip us for productive careers.
In this environment that’s oppressive to the faith, it’s easy to become cynical about our faith.
Your faith will be on the line. Christianity is often on the hit list. Modules in microbiology, cosmology or philosophy can become private seminars for atheist professors to scoff at the words of Genesis, while perspectives in social sciences portray Christianity as barbaric, naive and outdated.
Here, without the authoritarian, reverent protection by the church, Christianity is deconstructed and classified into just another book on the shelf – no different from any other ancient philosophy, outdated scientific theory or subjective historical record.
Guard yourself: In this environment that’s oppressive to the faith, it’s easy to become cynical about our faith.
So many questions get thrown our way. History major, how can God allow so much suffering? Sociology student, how could a good God allow these bad things to happen? Given these painful truths, the most ethical choice appears to be going vegan. Whatever. Anything but Christianity.
Even the predominant culture of university can be intimidating. Many of your peers will seem to only be interested in serial dating, wild parties, materialism, superficiality and attaining that coveted perfect CAP. Do you really want to be the one seen sitting in a corner and reading your Bible?
Your faith may feel completely at odds with your student life. In university, you can choose a new identity, and many Christians do so.
For me, the temptation was to become a recluse, consumed by despair and nihilism, or to become a happy hedonist. But those, too, were empty pursuits.
So, campus Christian. How are you going to emerge from varsity life unscathed, still professing the simple faith you were taught in Sunday school?
My friend, take heart. You were called to be here. Persevere. God can use this time to work deeply in your life.
1. WORSHIP HIM IN YOUR PURSUIT OF TRUTH
“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
To the most important commandment of the Jewish Torah first mentioned in Deuteronomy 6:5, Jesus added the “mind”. I believe there is a need to know the one whom we love and worship.
We have nothing to lose if we sincerely seek truth, for He is Truth.
The seeking of truth in humility is our worship — our acknowledgment of His great wisdom. So get stuck in! Singapore universities offer remarkable flexibility in terms of module choices. Try astrophysics. Learn about the conflict in the Middle East. Build a robot. The possibilities are endless. Read as much as you can while you have unlimited access to your school libraries!
For instance, I’ve found I better comprehend the weight and urgency of God’s redemption once my eyes were opened to the bleak brokenness of the world. Or you might find practical handles to make possible our God-given calling, to fields such as medicine, social work, or engineering. Your logic and reasoning are sharpened.
There is so much joy in learning, and this is a gift from God, who blessed us with inquisitive and rational minds. Where we seek, we will find. And if you lack wisdom, ask God (James 1:5).
2. WORSHIP HIM IN YOUR PURSUIT OF DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES
Gone are the days when “blind faith” was an acceptable thing.
As Christians we need to develop a Christian mind — to put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). To piece together a framework that provides a nuanced understanding of the world, given the range of perspectives and evidence we accumulate. Our Theory of Everything, all held together by one God.
Even as we strive for knowledge, we must be humble and hungry enough to explore conflicting perspectives. The goal of philosophy — perhaps the most fundamental of the disciplines – is to obtain truth. Thus a philosopher presented with a counter-argument is grateful to his opponent, that in their interaction he moved that much closer to absolute truth.
So stop fearing new knowledge. Don’t hide from alternative viewpoints. Lauded thinker Gregory Bateson wrote in Steps to an Ecology of Mind: “The only way out is spiritual, intellectual, and emotional revolution in which, finally, we learn to experience first hand the interloping connections between person and person, organism and organism, action and consequence.”
In other words: Don’t allow your thinking to be boxed up. Learn to draw connections between different fields of knowledge – natural and supernatural, secular and theological, man and nature, science and art. The one thing that holds them all together? The God who created them all.
So do a module on Charles Darwin, or choose to tackle the Problem of Evil for your next paper. And don’t keep your insights to yourself!
Share, engage, and debate, especially with your friends in Christian circles who’ve never had the chance to learn like you do. This is the season for constructive criticism and heated debates. Do not be afraid to be wrong; leave your ego at the door.
The Christian mind understands that truth, by itself, is left wanting; true worshippers worship in Spirit and in Truth.
We need to be continually connected with God throughout our intellectual struggles, asking Him for the wisdom to interpret and apply our newfound knowledge. Be intentionally prayerful as you pursue truth.
3. WORSHIP HIM IN YOUR PURSUIT OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
Finally, in an environment of constant debate and discourse, we need to defend His truth. Among those who know Him not, we’re called to be His witnesses — we who have tasted and seen His goodness first-hand in our lives.
So don’t simply settle to meet your course requirements and get good grades, but actively seek out chances to proclaim the truth of God.
And don’t fight the good fight alone. Join a Christian community which disciples people to follow Jesus. These are brothers and sisters who are going to go the extra mile for you because they have the love of Christ in them. Bearers of the cross of Christ, who are unashamed of Him, yet passionate for God’s truth in all areas of knowledge.
In the open arena of ideas that university life presents us with, there will always be moments for our faith to grow, as well as to share your faith as a witness of His glory and grace.
Don’t waste your three, four, or more years. Put on the mind of Christ — and gain wisdom, knowledge and understanding that will last you well beyond your campus crusade.