The first person I spoke with was a young man that was math major and former Southern Baptist church attender. I walked right up to him, said, "Good morning!" and "Here you go" handing him a small, business card sized tract. I then asked him, "If you could ask God one question, what would it be?" He never really answered my question, but said he thought there were many things that we simply could not have certain knowledge about, especially religion. I asked him about his religious background and it was then that he told me about coming up in the SBC and how at one point he and many other youths in his church got emotional at a youth rally, prayed a prayer, was later baptized, yet there was no lasting change and no real difference in his life. He reiterated that he thought he couldn't have certain knowledge about religion. I asked him why, and he basically said "I don't know." I then asked, "How can you be certain that you can't have certainty if you don't know why you can't have certainty?" It was at this point that Sye walked up and joined our conversation and began to discuss issues of epistemology and the fact that one can account for the axioms of mathematics since God provides the preconditions for knowing such things. It was then that I shifted the conversation to what Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16-21,
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased "-- 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.I emphasized to this young man that the word of God provides a sure and certain guide for religious knowledge even more than an eyeball experience according to the Apostle Peter (cf. v. 16 & vs. 19). I told him that his skepticism regarding his experience of the Christian faith is grounded in an abuse of it and not the truth of it. I then explained the gospel to him, encouraged him to contact me if he had any questions, and then I bid him farewell.
The second person I spoke with was a girl who was a former United Methodist now attending a Roman Catholic church. When I explained the huge difference between the Biblical teaching of the doctrine of justification versus the Roman Catholic view, she said, "I agree that we are saved by faith apart from works" to which I responded, "That's great, but why would you knowingly attend a church that is purposefully preaching what St. Paul calls 'another gospel'?" she responded, "Well, I didn't agree with many things that the Methodist church taught either." I said, "It's one thing to attend a church where you disagree with secondary doctrinal issues that the church holds to (i.e., mode and recipients of baptism, form of church government, millenial positions, etc.), but there is a crucial difference between Rome's understanding of justification versus the Biblical view; it is the difference in those views that makes the difference between whether a person goes to heaven or hell." She seemed stunned that I would say such a thing, then I proceeded to explain again the crucial differences. She seemed to understand what I was trying to say, and I encouraged her to read her New Testament and compare it's basic teachings on salvation with Rome's official position on justification. I then bid her farewell.
The fourth person I had the pleasure of speaking with was a Muslim named Abdul. Abdul had a bit of a language barrier, so I asked him if he had ever heard the Injil (gospel) and about Isa (Jesus) as it is presented from the New Testament. He said he had never read the New Testament, so I gave him a copy of the ESV Gospel of John. We then parted company and I thanked him for his time.
At this point there was a class change with an increase in foot traffic so I decided to try to capitalize on that with some open air preaching. I preached the gospel for about 15 minutes when a young man came right up to me and asked me if I would be here in an hour to talk. Based upon his body language, he seemed sincere, and since the crowd was dying down again, I stepped down and told him I was glad to talk to him. At this point, all of us were engaged in good conversation with an unbeliever so I figured with the foot traffic dying down, it would be a good chance to do the same. This young man was at least deistic, but like the former SBC math major I spoke to earlier, this young man wasn't sure that we could have certain knowledge about religion. I asked him "What do you mean by that?" and he gave me an explanation of how he thought that all the major world religions inevitably led to the same God and that as long as people were sincere with what they knew about God, that would be good enough to land them in their version of heaven. I asked him, "If you are skeptical about having certainty regarding religion, how can you certain of that religious claim?" I also asked, "If my religion sincerely believes that molesting little girls for fun is good and necessary for my salvation and eternal happiness, what basis do you have to say that is wrong?" to which he responded in typical relativistic fashion, "I can't" then I asked, What about if it's your daughter that I'm molesting?" then he balked. I then said, "You see my friend, it's all good and well to talk in hypotheticals and abstractions, but when those hypotheticals and abstractions become grounded in reality and involve someone that you love, things are different aren't they?" He agreed they were. I then asked, "So if they're different, what changed?" He couldn't answer. I said, "You see, this is what happens when you reject the God of Scripture, you have no transcendent and objective moral basis upon which to object to my molesting your little girl in order to ensure my own eternal happiness." He got the point, but had to go to class. I gave him several booklets from CMI and AiG that answered other questions that he had.
The last person I had the pleasure witnessing to was an Asian girl whose name I could not make out. This young lady was a Buddhist with syncretistic leanings. She held dear to Buddhism because of her desire to maintain family tradition yet she attended a local Baptist Church on Wednesday evenings. She said that she believed that she was a good person and that in order to get ahead in life she asks the Buddha to help her as well as "God" (whatever that meant). I explained idolatry to her, and she said, "We do not worship Buddha, we only revere his good teachings (i.e., the eightfold path, Golden rule, Karma, etc.). I then asked her how she determines what is "good" and she said, "based upon how it makes me feel". I then trotted out the toddler again and said, "If I feel that to get ahead in life and in order to do good I need to molest little girls for fun is that okay" and she said, "yes". I then said, "What about if it's your little girl?" and she hesitated like the previous person I presented this to. She then said something about Buddha's version of the Golden Rule (i.e., don't do to others what you don't want done to you.) and I responded, "I agree that Buddha's teaching here is great, but I agree with him because it agrees with what Jesus taught about how to treat others, but assuming your standard of determining goodness, why should I care what Buddha taught?" It was then that strangely enough, she persisted in her contradictory beliefs even though you could sense in her body language that she knew she was contradicting herself and suffering from a little cognitive and moral dissonance. Time was running short, so I said, "Look, you know that it's wrong to molest people regardless of what kind of argument one can present for it. You know that not because Buddha taught it, but because the Creator of the world has hardwired that into your heart. The Bible says that God has created all people with a basic sense of right and wrong, and although it will vary slightly from culture to culture with some societies suppressing that innate knowledge more than others, you know it is wrong, because God told me you know it". (Romans 2:14-15) She agreed that she knew that it was wrong, but she also admitted that given her standard of determining good, she couldn't argue with my hypothetical scenario. It was then that I gave her the gospel and bid her farewell with a firm handshake and thanked her for her time.
Summary: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is alive and well in today's youth, just as Christian Smith, the secular sociologist from UNC-Chapel Hill said several years ago. When these teenagers become college students, their vestige of Christian tradition is easily stripped away by the onslaught of what appears to be (to them) a rational and logical view of the world as provided by humanism, pluralism, syncretism, multiculturalism, and society-says relativism. College students need to hear the Biblical gospel, and they need to hear it more clearly than ever before. So dear readers, if you are able, why not go and tell them about Jesus and His marvelous grace? You don't have to be a great street preacher, but you do need a heart for the lost. If you can't go and tell in this context, are you praying for those who labor diligently in the word, seeking to preach it whether it's societally acceptable or not? We all would do well to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, "He is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." (Matthew 12:30)