Truth is affirmed by facts. Truth is most clearly understood in terms of “what” and “how.” These questions are generally the domain of science. “Who,” “when,” and “where” are generally the domain of history, and history is sometimes less certain because it depends on the written records of those who were present at the time the events were taking place. “Why” is largely the domain of philosophy and is the least certain of all disciplines. The further away from “what” and “how” a subject gets, the more dependent it becomes on the philosophy of the one doing the teaching. Whenever the “what” or “how” is mixed with the “why,” the danger of error is present.
Many young adults have been emotionally injured by attempting to correct a secular professor. Usually the motivation is good—the student wants to help his classmates or the prof see the truth in the face of some blatantly anti-Christian or arrogant sweep of philosophical blather. However well-meaning or well-versed a student may be, the classroom is often the worst place to share truth because the setting is designed to give all the power and intellectual edge to the teacher.
The most productive process for maintaining a solid Christian witness and an open confession of biblical truth in an educational setting is often to simply ask questions. Most educators welcome open discussion, and here are some basic classroom guidelines:
Respect the teaching profession. It is the students’ role to seek knowledge. And the teacher’s responsibility is to provide instruction. Teaching the teacher—or confronting the teacher—reverses that role and usually ends in disaster. Asking the right questions will earn the respect of your classmates and will often expose error.
Be polite, courteous, and factual. Sarcasm or disdain will seldom yield good results. Professional courtesy is always appreciated. Use proper titles when addressing teachers (Dr., Mr., Professor, etc.) and respond with “sir” or “ma’am” and “thank you” when you are addressed. Keep your questions focused on the facts, not your opinions. Learn when to stop.
Use the student’s right to know when you ask questions: “Please help me understand....” “Please tell me if I understood you correctly. Did you mean to say...?” “Am I correct to understand that...?” “Would you help me understand why you believe that to be so?” “May I ask for the background evidence on that?” “Please tell me the basic reasoning behind that statement.”
The most powerful phrases are “please help me” and “please tell me.” Questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” are weaker, although they may soften the approach. Questions that require responses are more likely to generate additional information.
The objective in this process is twofold: to elicit additional information from the instructor and to allow the class (and perhaps the teacher) to see the level of support for the information you are introducing into the discussion. Remember, the closer the class discussion is to the factual “what” and “how,” the less likely philosophy (or theology or worldview) is to be a part of the discussion—and the more the student is expected (and needs) to be involved in learning the content. The more “why” is involved, the more the student is at liberty to question—and to sort through the answers for genuine factual information.
Finally, consider this thought: Take the Kingdom view. Preparing for your servant role in the Kingdom is a long process. The job of a student is to learn and to become proficient in a skill that will empower him or her to “do business” until the Lord returns (Luke 19:13).
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris III, H. 2013. Creation and College. Acts & Facts. 42 (8): 5-7.