The many students who believe in God that I interact with in my travels can be divided, roughly speaking, into two camps:
1. Those whose starting point is God and his revelation in nature, Scripture, and Christ.
2. Those whose starting point is their own experience of religion and faith.
#1 is more “objective,” #2 more “subjective.”
The 1’s tend to ask, How do I fit into God’s story?
The 2’s seem to ask a rather different question: How does my belief in God fit into my story?
* * *
Recently I talked at length with a student who is in the process of deciding which of the two positions above he will embrace.
In a certain way, he appreciates #1 because it requires a strong commitment to Scripture and truth.
But honestly, he says, #1 feels cold and brittle, lacking in compassion for gays and minorities.
In his view #1 disrespects other religions, strips him of his own self-determination, and aligns him with a conservative Christian camp that he has come to disdain.
So he finds himself drawn increasingly to #2: his starting point will be his own experience, his own story, his own judgments.
God, however, is still very important to him.
In the course of our conversation I said something to this thoughtful young man that probably sounded quite extreme: lurking in the background of #2 is atheism.