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Living as a Christian in a Secular Grad School (Part 2)

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Living as a Christian in a Secular Grad School (Part 2)

by Maxwell Lorentz

Becoming a scientist involves more than just the normal four years of college—you also need four to eight years of grad school to earn your Ph.D. This graduate school is almost always secular, so in my last post I started sharing four pieces of advice for anyone who is trying to be a faithful Christian in such a place. (And a lot of this advice applies to life in general, not just Christians in grad school.)

The first two pieces of advice, from last time, were . . .

  1. Your life is even more important than your words (1 Peter 3:15–16). A Christ-like life speaks volumes even to people who aren’t interested in Christianity, and it lays the groundwork for an effective witness when you do have the chance to speak.
  2. Find—and stick with—a good church (Hebrews 10:23–25). God designed us to be part of a fellowship of believers, so you can be a help to them and they can be a help to you.

The third piece of advice is . . .
       3. Be as wise as a serpent.

This is what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:16–17, to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves—and to be on guard. That doesn’t mean be paranoid or think everyone’s out to get you, but it does mean to be very smart in what you say and in the battles you choose.

For instance, a believer should be very open about being a Christian. But if you believe Bible says the earth is only thousands of years old (not billions)—then you should keep that to yourself while you’re in grad school. Why? Because it’s going to sound as crazy as saying the earth is flat. And you won’t get a chance to explain. And even if you do get a chance, your explanation will sound crazy as well.

Why is this? On a spiritual level, Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4)—but you can also see what’s happening on an intellectual level by just putting yourself in their shoes. If someone told you something outrageous—like saying Antarctica didn’t exist—would you take them seriously? Would you spend time looking at the arguments for and against their position? I doubt it. But that’s exactly what it sounds like to most scientifically literate people who hear someone say the earth is young.

Because when you go against scientific consensus, you will usually be wrong—because experts typically know what they’re talking about. And who’s more likely to make a mistake—the bulk of the experts in a field, or you? The only reason you and I would reject the scientific consensus on origins is because we have divine revelation—because the Maker Himself has told us how He did it. And even with that divine revelation, many sincere Christians try to find ways to make the Bible fit with evolution. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that people who don’t believe the Bible think you’re crazy if you talk about an earth that’s only ten thousand years old.

So focus on the important issue—the Gospel. The age of the earth is not the Gospel. A universal Flood is not the Gospel. These issues connect to the Gospel (like everything does)—but your focus should be on the Gospel itself. And if you are wise, you will keep quiet in grad school about the subject of origins. Remember that you can be truthful without saying everything you know (Proverbs 12:21–22).

         4. Finally, be humble and teachable

If you’re in grad school, that means you know you have some learning to do. So don’t go in with the attitude, “They’re evolutionists—so everything they’re telling me is wrong!” (Because if that were true, why would you be taking classes from them?)

Instead, take the time to learn why your professors believe what they do about science—what actual data do they base it on? What actual facts can they teach you—what do the observations show? Because that’s the foundation of true science—facts and observations, not armchair speculation. And if their interpretation of those facts contradicts the Bible, then you need to look for a better interpretation—but don’t ignore the facts themselves, ever. Instead, embrace them as truth that God has graciously allowed us to discover about His world.

For example—do your astronomy professors believe in the Big Bang? Ask yourself why—what facts do they base this belief on? Are there fluctuations in the background radiation that they say prove the Big Bang? Then learn as much as you can about those fluctuations (because God has revealed that data to us so we can learn about the world He created)—and then interpret these facts in a way that doesn’t conflict with the Bible. Are there classes you can take that dig deeper into these questions? Then take those classes—not so you can prove someone wrong, but so you can glorify God with a better understanding of all of His truth.

Remember what Proverbs says:

He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame. . . . The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him (18:13, 17).

Don’t ever let anyone accuse you of ignoring the facts. Scientists are not supposed to ignore the facts—and scientists who are Christians especially should not ignore the facts, because we serve the God who is Truth. So have the humility to be teachable, because that’s why you’re in school in the first place.

I hope the Lord leads many of you who are believers to choose science as a career path. We desperately need men and women who are experts in science—biology and geology and paleontology and astronomy and genetics—and who also firmly believe everything God’s Word says. If the Lord has given you that desire, then go forward with it (unless He closes the door), and learn everything you can about your field. Be wise in your interactions with others—don’t get into arguments about the age of the earth, but take every chance you can to share Christ Himself (Colossians 4:5). Anchor yourself in a community of believers, and let Christ shine through you. And then bring glory to God by uncovering more of who He is, as reflected in what He has done in creating and upholding the universe.

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Max Lorentz

Max Lorentz has loved science (and astronomy in particular) since childhood. He enjoys sharing it with others, especially with young people. He studied mathematics as an undergraduate and is currently completing a Ph.D. in astronomy.

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