How to respond to intellectual persecution in the lecture room

From Facing Intellectual Giants by Dan Chimere-Dan (Procross Media, 2011)

True Christians in all cultures because they believe in Jesus Christ and are practically committed to His teachings in all areas of life. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3: 12) This persecution develops an intellectual dimension for Christian scholars and students who take seriously the implications of biblical truth for academic work.

Intellectual persecution is not material or economic hardship that we experience in the course of tertiary education. It is not about sexual harassment by professors, students or other members of the academic community. Nor is it related to racial, ethnic or ideological conflicts in the university.

Intellectual persecution in the sense used here involves acts of calculated discrimination, intimidation or maltreatment that are directed to people whose basic beliefs, theories and perspectives disagree radically with mainstream positions in the academic world.

In the classroom, intellectual persecution is directed mainly to students with ideas and opinions that are different from the preferences of their professors. It takes the forms of direct or indirect derogatory remarks, and language and gestures that are designed to belittle, ridicule or frighten the victims. Sometimes, professors and their assistants deliberately design and teach courses in ways that do not tolerate the biblical worldview. Professors who practice intellectual persecution in the classroom usually exploit unequal authority relations, professional status and other advantages within their reach to pressure students into accepting or tolerating their preferred perspectives on controversial subjects.

Fight or not fight for your ‘rights’?
Usually, intellectual persecution comes as different forms of provocation that may tempt us to react like non-Christians. We should not misinterpret intellectual persecution simply as an infringement of our human rights. If we see it that way, we may be tempted to depend entirely on human reactions.

Debate or not to debate?
A direct response in the form of even-handed scholarly debates would be ideal in an intellectual environment. Christians who are skilled in apologetics welcome such intellectual challenges. However, this option may not be our best and immediate response. The level of rigor and time required to confront many intellectual errors in the classroom is beyond the scope of undergraduate work. In order to avoid unnecessary distractions, we simply understand clearly the issues and points of disagreement in our specific areas of study.

The correct weapons

Intellectual persecution is a spiritual conflict that must be confronted with the right weapons. A summary of the full system of defensive and offensive weapons that are available for our use at all times is found in Ephesians 6:10-20. We stand by the propositional truth of God that is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the very truth that non-Christian scholars do not want us to affirm in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and all other branches of learning.

We stand by faith. Without faith no scholar or student can please God. We are assured of the salvation that we received from the faithful God.

Our intellectual success depends on how faithful we are to the Word of God. The Bible is the only dependable basis of knowledge, and a double-edged sword that cuts to shreds the packs of lies in the world of knowledge.

Prayer is our direct line of communication with God. We pray that the Holy Spirit may give us proper understanding in every course. We pray for other students who experience their share of intellectual persecution. We also pray for professors, tutors and colleagues who make themselves available as agents of intellectual persecution against believers.

Lastly, we remain alert in order to notice when and how the enemy assaults our minds with erroneous beliefs, theories and perspectives in different courses.

This is extracted from a longer chapter of Facing Intellectual Giants with the same title. The next post “What if the professor marks me down?” will discuss classroom persecution and your marks.