Knowledge ≠ Unbelief: How One College Student is Not (Yet) an Atheist


Justin Davis

“You’re going to lose your faith in college.”

Depressing, isn’t it? It’s as if going to college was a sure path to atheism. However, this was the mantra I was told as I started to go to a secular liberal arts university. Many people around me told stories of others who had majored in Religion, hoping to be in ministry, and instead became a “liberal” agnostic or atheist (as if those terms were synonymous).

And while these people were no doubt well intentioned, this way of thinking only served two purposes. First, it made me defensive when it came to my beliefs. I started putting up walls in an effort to protect my newfound faith in Christ. I became incredibly involved in apologetics, and foolishly believed that I had answers to every argument that would come my way. I kept thinking to myself,

I’m going to be facing so much opposition and persecution for being a Christian. Professors are going to try to roast me and students will think I’m stupid for believing in God. So, I’m going to have to study really hard and come up with arguments for why God exists, because if I don’t prove that he’s real, then I’ve failed Him.

Can you believe that? I thought that if I failed to defend God, then God would be disappointed in me. I thought that I would be the “brave warrior” who defended Christianity. Actually, all I ever did was piss off others around me who weren’t sure of their faith. I hid behind a wall of intellectualism in an effort to mask my own insecurities and doubts. This hampered many potential relationships that I could have built with others, and for that I am remorseful.

However, by telling me that my vocation as a student could strongly lead me to unbelief, this advice did something even more detrimental.

It made me fearful of knowledge.

Now, I was always a curious kid. I always had questions, and when those questions were not addressed or ignored altogether, I disregarded the subject. Knowledge meant everything to me. So, naturally, when I was told not to doubt as a kid, it should come to no surprise that I denounced Christianity at the age of thirteen.

By the grace of God alone, I’ve come to know Jesus when he met me in the midst of seeking the truth. And since then, I’ve been an even more ardent proponent of seeking the truth. But the mantra above only served to make me fearful of pursuing knowledge.

Now, instead of being worthy and noble of pursuit, knowledge now became a dangerous threat to faith. I remember thinking to myself,

What if what the professors say are right? What if atheism really is the logical conclusion of life? What if I read too much and start to lose my faith?

Looking back, this is the most ridiculous part about it. By this logic, learning and gaining knowledge somehow diminishes faith.  It’s as if there is a presupposition that knowledge and faith are somehow at odds with each other. Instead, knowledge should supplement and aid in faith, not lessen it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am fully aware that many young adults do, in fact, waver in their religious beliefs while attending college. I’m not denying that college is a trying place for one’s faith. All I’m saying is this:

Do not be afraid of truth.

No matter who you are or where you come from, do not be afraid to chase after the truth. There’s no reason to believe that we can somehow hurt the truth. As Christians, if we believe that God is the author of all truth, if we believe that Jesus is the Logos (embodiment of God), then how could gaining knowledge of the truth be harmful? If we are earnest and seek the truth with an open heart, then how can it not lead us into a deeper love and understanding of God?

While many may disagree (which is quite alright), I believe that all truth exists to awaken a deeper love for God and display his glory more fully. As Christians, we should not be afraid to seek knowledge and understanding. If God really is who we say he is, then why be fearful? Why be hesitant? We are not meant to put of walls of intellectual superiority in the name of “defending the faith.” So in light of this, what should we do?

Engage in conversations.

Find others whom you agree with.

Seek those whom you disagree with.

Learn from them and grow.

Disagree boldly and gently.

And love.

In all things,

And above all things,