Staying Orthodox in an anti-Christian environment
As the summer months have come to a close many young people are heading off to college, some for the very first time. A scripture passage comes to my mind as I think of these wonderful young people preparing to leave home: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).” College professors almost universally enjoy challenging young college students to question authority, yet are taken aback when their own authority is questioned. They know they are addressing a class of impressionable minds and almost make sport of attacking the positions of their students.
My advice to Orthodox students is to refuse to be intimidated and don’t be discouraged. Most of these professors took years to acquire the knowledge and the skill to successfully defend their belief system, or lack thereof, including atheism. These professors usually only ask you to question the authority of those who have instructed you thus far, such as your parents or your religious leaders, but are highly indignant when someone questions their authority. Their pattern of teaching is nothing new, for there have been antagonists like them from before recorded history. Furthermore, their arguments are nothing new, for there were teachers of atheism and other false teachings who confronted the Apostle Paul when he was preaching the gospel in Athens. The arguments may be new to you, but suffice to know these challenges to your faith have been answered by a great many apologists since the beginning of Christianity.
Textbooks, be they geared towards history, science, or philosophy, have always tended to expound anti-Christian viewpoints, and it is important to remember that publishing companies produce textbooks that will sell to such academic mindsets. Christianity may be ridiculed as being closed minded and backward looking, but academics can not claim to be insulated from the same unhealthy trait. Some of the most closed minded individuals I have ever known were academics. I find it interesting that Christian writers expounding the Christian Faith are often accused of being biased, while secularists thinkers expose their own arrogance, hypocrisy and narrow mindedness, disallowing others their freedom of opinion. Dismissing the faith of young people, these pompous academics move to crush that which they themselves do not understand.
The best advice I can offer the young Orthodox Christian heading off to college is this: know from the moment you enter the classroom that the professor is a better debater than you, so don’t place yourself in his scope. If you do, expect to be blown out of the water. Secondly, don’t be embarrassed by your commitment to your Orthodox faith. My experience teaching on both secular and religious campuses is that most students are secretly wishing to find a spiritual basis for the meaning of life. They may secretly envy you for your faith. My final advice, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2).”
Build a support system for yourself by gathering together with other college students to form a chapter of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Meet on a weekly basis for worship, study, and networking. Get to know your faith to the degree that you can stand up to the best of them when defending your beliefs. If you do, you may one day be the reason an atheist professor finds Christ, and becomes an Orthodox Christian.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example…in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
With love in Christ,
Sunday November 1, 2015 / October 19, 2015
22nd Sunday after Pentecost. Tone five.
Prophet Joel (800 B.C.).
Martyr Warus and seven monk-martyrs in Egypt (307).
Translation of the relics (1195) of Venerable John, abbot of Rila in Bulgaria (946).
St. Gabriel, abbot of St. Elias Skete, Mt. Athos (1901).
Righteous John, Wonderworker of Kronstadt (1908).
New Martyr Priest Alexis (Stavrovsky) of Petrograd (1918).
New Hieromartyr Sergius priest (1937).
Blessed Cleopatra (327) and her son John, in Egypt.
Hieromartyr Sadoc (Sadoth), bishop of Persia, and 128 Martyrs with him (342).
Crown Prince Demetrius of Moscow (1582).
Venerable Leontius the Philosopher of St. Sabbas monastery (624).
St. Prochorus, miracle-worker of Pchinja (Serbia) (10th c.).
Venerable Frideswide of Oxford, abbess (ca. 735) (Celtic & British).
St. Mnason, bishop of Cyprus (1st c.) (Cypriote).
New Monk-martyr Nicholas Dvali of Jerusalem (1314).
Hieromartyr Felix and Deacon Eusebius (Greek).
Glory Only in the Cross
11 See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand! 12 As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
Blessing and a Plea
16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
The Purpose of Parables
9 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”
10 And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that
‘Seeing they may not see,
And hearing they may not understand.’
The Parable of the Sower Explained
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.