Faith Outside the Monastery

by Curt Martin, M.A.

I had a thought-provoking online discussion recently with a jazz musician who lives somewhere in Florida.  It was prompted by the Sandy Hook massacre.  He wanted to know, “Where was God?  If He really exists and cares like people say, why didn’t He do something?”

I took up his question, and we pondered together God, human free will, the fallen nature of humankind, and so on.  Eventually, the dialogue moved on to the question of the universe: Why is there something rather than nothing?  What best accounts for our existence?

As our warm-spirited conversation progressed, he opened up about his own life experiences (raised Irish Catholic, a near-death experience in a hospital, growing doubts about God’s goodness), which concluded with his desperate hope that, if God does exist, perhaps he has lived well enough to be accepted.  At this point, I was able to map out simply for my friend the gospel of grace.

I bring up this discussion for two reasons.  The first is to highlight the sort of world we live in.  It’s a confusing, multi-ideological society where (in case you hadn’t noticed) few ideas – especially Christian ones – go unchallenged.  “Why do Christians hate gay people?  Doesn’t science provide answers to all the questions that matter?  How, in this day and age, can you live by blind faith?”  These, and many other challenges are waiting for our young people in the work place, on the college campus, or online.  I’ve sometimes heard it said that a Christian school is where you place your children to shield them from the world.  It’s not.  There is no such shield.  What a Christian education can do is equip them for the challenges ahead.

Secondly, as I looked back on my online discussion, it occurred to me that everything my jazz friend and I talked about – God and suffering; the universe’s beginning and purpose; what really makes a person right with God – were all issues my students and I have thought through together this past semester, along with many other issues.  Many of my students would have been equipped to handle a dialogue of this sort.  This, to me, is one of the real perks of an HCA education.  The student is not only grounded in his or her own faith, but is prepared to integrate that faith with life in a secular, relativistic culture.  Because these kids won’t live their lives in a monastery.  They’ll live in their dorm rooms, chat rooms, and coffee shops.  Some of their friends will be atheists and anarchists.  And, maybe, jazz musicians from Florida.

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