Whenever I visit a college or university to give a presentation, I make an effort to talk with students in the local Christian groups that are active on campus. These students often discuss the apathy that seems to permeate the Christian culture in universities across America. Don’t get me wrong, there are many significant Christian clubs and organizations on campuses across America, but it’s clear from talking to the students I meet that few Christians seem to be willing to reach out and share what they believe with non-Christians on the campus. Some Christian groups are internally active, if not externally focused. Most young Christians would rather hang out with fellow Christians in a safe environment than actively evangelize the campus for Christ. If you think back to your own college experience, you probably felt the same way. Why do we hesitate to share the Gospel with non-believers? I think it’s because we treat the gospel like a cookie rather than a cure.
I sometimes ask Christian students if they would be willing to follow me into the streets of the nearest big city to try to convince people that chocolate chip cookies are the best cookies in the world. Unsurprisingly, students aren’t usually excited about going. When asked, they quickly admit that it seems pointless to try to convince people of something as subjective as a personal opinion about cookies. They recognize that cookie preference is a matter of subjective opinion, rather than objective truth, and none of them are typically willing to go out of their way to argue for an opinion. I then ask students if they would be willing to follow me into a region of the city that is suffering from a Tuberculosis outbreak to convince those infected with TB to take the one known cure, Isoniazid. All the students I ask find this to be a worthy effort; they are willing to help for a cause such as this. They recognize the difference between the cookie and the cure. Cookies are a matter of subjective opinion, but cures are a matter of objective truth. If people suffering with TB don’t know about the cure, they’ll die. Personal opinions about Isoniazid are irrelevant. Some TB sufferers might, for example, prefer to take Ibuprofen. But the objective truth about TB and Isoniazid overshadows any opinion someone might hold about their favorite treatment. Cures are like that. When we are objectively convinced that a particular treatment is the exclusive cure for what is ailing us, we ignore our preferences and act quickly to save ourselves and share the truth with others.
There is a relationship between our categorization of Christian claims and our desire to share them with the world around us. Some of us hesitate to share the Gospel because (whether we care to admit it or not) we’ve come to see religious truth as a matter of subjective opinion rather than objective truth. We treat the Gospel more as a cookie than a cure. That’s why I think it’s important to help young Christians understand how the evidence supports the claims of the New Testament authors. As college students grow in their confidence, their view of Christianity subtly shifts from opinion to objective conviction. When that happens, they are far more likely to share the Gospel with others, courageously defend what they believe and boldly represent Christ in our culture.