“Yeah, but Dave, what do you believe is the right answer?”
One evening during our recent Spring Break trip I was sitting at dinner with two member of our team. The student who asked this question is Heather. Heather has been a member of CSF for over three years. In that time I have gotten to know her well and I am impressed with her spiritual maturity and thirst to grow in her faith. We have had many conversations, from debates over politics to arguing differences in our theological beliefs.
The discussion on this night moved from topic to topic – the college dating scene, gay marriage, the nature of hell and what it means, at its core, to be a Christian. When Heather asked me what I thought about some of these topics, I would offer a couple different answers, honestly pointing out where sincere Christians differ. If she shared a point, even one I agreed with, I would offer the opposing view, just to make her think. After a while she got frustrated, wanting me to just tell her the answer!
But I have come to believe that simply telling people the answer, or at least what I think the true answer is, may not be all that helpful. It is worth more to give a variety of viewpoints, to ask questions and keep the discussion going in order for the student to figure out what she thinks the answer is on her own.
That said, there are some subjects where I am much more willing to offer a clear-cut and definitive answer. If someone asks me how to be saved or who Jesus is, I will answer and be more committed to my answer. But on most other topics, on the sort of secondary issues that Christians disagree on, I may share what I think but I am more likely to work to get the student I am talking with to think things through.
The goal of campus ministry is to help students become more like Jesus, to grow and mature in their faith. While I make no claims to be an expert, I have learned that this sort of change happens, and sticks for the long-term, when students begin to discover truth and Jesus and answers for themselves. So maybe I am simply back at the old adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish.
My prayer in this is that Heather, and students like her, would continue to take the steps to grow in their faith.