In 2004, I started going to the Ohio State University and engaging students for the truth claims of Christianity. I did hundreds of surveys with students and certainly begin to see some of the objections people had to the Christian faith. Around 2006 I moved away from the survey approach and started using a variety of approaches to reach out to the students here. Anyway, it was 2009 when myself along with some OSU students planted a Ratio Christi chapter on the campus. This was done out of the necessity for a stronger apologetics presence on the campus. Since we planted the chapter, we have had some very well-known speakers come such as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Bart Ehrman and Michael Brown, Michael Licona, and Paul Nelson. We have also had some student debates with the skeptic group on the campus. Anyway, I wanted to go ahead and share some of the trends and objections that I have seen on the campus over the last several years. Keep in mind that Ohio State is a very large campus (60,000) students. So what is it like to try to do an apologetics ministry on a major college campus? Here are some common questions that I tend to get asked:
#1: What kind of objections do you tend to hear on a large college campus?
#2: Do college students know what apologetics is?
Some do while others have no idea what apologetics is. I can recall several times being out on the campus sharing my faith with our table talking to students about the Gospel and our apologetics ministry at the campus. More than one student has said “So what is apologetics?” So in many cases we are always explaining the role of apologetics. Once I ask students if they ever heard any tough objections to their faith on the campus or in the classroom, the light bulb goes off. We educate and exhort people to learn to articulate and defend their faith. I have a clip from a ways back here where I am talking to a student about the need for apologetics campus.
#3: What About the Challenge of Post Modernism and Emergent Church?
We have experienced some challenges with postmodernism on the campus. I also see alot of pragmatism, mysticism, etc. But in reality, I experience more postmodernism is in the church itself. Just read the list of some of the objections here. Are these objections more modern or post modern? One post modern Christian told me that it seems like all our ministry wants to do is win arguments and debate with people. Of course I explained that this isn’t the case. Another extreme Emergent Church Christian once emailed me after I had Frank Turek come to the campus to do his I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist presentation. He said “Do us a favor and please don’t bring these kinds of speakers to the campus. We don’t want them here.”
Granted, the campus has almost 60,000 students. And we had good turnouts for the Turek event. I told the student I was happy to see he thinks he speaks for 60,000 students.
#4: How Do you know what speakers to bring to the campus?
This can be a challenge. First, we have to think about what speakers are a good match for the campus. Is the speaker a good speaker? Do they connect with students? Are they difficult to understand? Are they really an authority on a particular topic? What will be a title for an event that will grab people’s attention? What is the cost o the speaker? Let me give an example. I brought William Lane Craig to the campus a few years back. He did a lecture on seven reasons for the existence of God. Some students said it was great. Others said it was too much information. Others said he was over their heads. The next year I brought in Frank Turek. Many students enjoyed Frank. Of course, the atheists didn’t like him. But that is no shock! The other challenge to brining a speaker to the campus is that we have to work hard at promoting an event. This includes flyers, social media, word of mouth, etc. I recall one time when I was out promoting the Turek event on campus. A student walked up to me and said they were offended by the title ( I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist).
#5: Do you see results from this kind of ministry?
That depends on what you mean by results. We exist to strengthen the faith of Christians and help others see there are Christians that do care about the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of what we believe. We also want to Christians confident in their witness to others. We have some testimonies here.
Feel free to watch some our speakers from the events we have had here: