Would dropping this class show a lack of faith?
The teacher made it a point of saying that this is not a religious class, and we should set our religious beliefs aside. I was OK with that because I hadn’t intended to force my beliefs on anyone. I was even OK with him calling the Bible a “revelation myth” because I understood that the class isn’t about whether it’s true. But I did have a problem when he began claiming that the Bible isn’t true and that evolution is. I’m not sure that I am well enough equipped to defend my faith against someone like him, and besides, I’ve been told by the teacher himself — as well as friends who have taken his class — that he is intolerant of Christians who voice discomfort about his comments.
I don’t feel that I should have to take this kind of disrespect from a teacher. But here’s what worries me. Would dropping this class show a lack of faith in God’s ability to carry me through the experience?
Your letter is difficult to answer because you describe one problem, but you pose your question as though you have a different problem. The problem you describe is that your teacher simply rejects your religious views. The problem you imply is that he treats them with disrespect, perhaps even attacks them. Let’s consider some of the possibilities about what you are actually facing.
Suppose he says, “This is not a religion class, and I expect you to put your religious views aside. Now, of course, the Bible is in error about many things.” This is a double standard, so it would be appropriate for you to respond, “You said that you want all of us to set our religious views aside. But aren’t you expressing a religious view about the Bible? Fair is fair; shouldn’t that view be set aside too?”
Suppose he says, “People who believe the Bible are ignorant, and we won’t take their views seriously in this class.” This is disrespectful, so you should say something like “Sir, you said this is a class on literature, not religion. However, to call religious believers ignorant is to express a religious view, not a literary view. Not only that, it’s insulting. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but how is insulting us part of teaching literature?”
Or suppose he says “Genesis isn’t factual; evolution is.” In this case the problem is that you don’t yet know what he means! One thing that needs clearing up is what he is denying, so you might ask, “Sir, are you claiming that there isn’t any Creator, or are you merely suggesting that the biblical account of Creation is something less than a technical description of how God did the job?” Another thing that needs clearing up is what he means by his terms, so you might ask, “Sir, what do you mean by evolution? Are you merely claiming that living things developed gradually, or are you making the very different claim that it happened by pure chance, without any guidance from the Creator?”
Remember that the issue isn’t your feelings, but the teacher’s lack of objectivity. If the only thing your friends could think of to “voice” to him was their “discomfort,” no wonder he didn’t take them seriously. Give him a reason to do so. Suppose you were a math teacher and the students “voiced their discomfort” about differential equations. Would you consider that a reason to skip that chapter?
We come at last to your question. Would dropping the course show lack of faith in God’s ability to carry you through the experience? That would depend on why you dropped. Consider three possibilities.
- If you dropped because you were afraid that your teacher’s atheism might be right, then yes, that would show lack of faith.
- If you dropped because you doubted whether such a bigoted teacher could teach you anything, then no, that wouldn’t show lack of faith.
- If you dropped because you just didn’t want the hassle of learning how to challenge the professor’s claims, then that wouldn’t show lack of faith, but it would certainly show spiritual and intellectual laziness.
So how do I advise you? Examine your motives for wanting to drop!
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2005 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Professor J. Budziszewski is the author of more than a dozen books, including How to Stay Christian in College, Ask Me Anything, Ask Me Anything 2, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and The Line Through the Heart. He teaches government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.