Many college students, as well as believers in general, often focus on “keeping the main thing the main thing.” In other words, “let’s concentrate on sharing the gospel and not get caught up in the details.” There is certainly a necessity for theological triage (See Dr. Mohler’s article) to determine what hills are worth dying on or not.
At the same time, however, many students neglect the fact that one’s theological positions are supposed to be the wellspring from which actions flow. Paul’s letters in the New Testament are examples of this as he often sets out doctrine (Romans 1–11; Ephesians 1–3) before he transitions to practice, based on that proper doctrine (Romans 12–16); Ephesians 4–6).
Take for example, Rom 12:1 which says “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” As is often said, we must ask what the “therefore” is there for. Paul has expounded theological doctrine for eleven chapters and in light of all of this, the believers in Rome are to live this out in everyday experiences. Proper understanding should lead to proper action.
This all sounds good but when it comes to college ministry, students come to college looking for fun and community. Yes, there is also a search for purpose but fun and community are the more immediate need that leads them to make choices regarding their social circles. Even Christian students look for this and it often leads them to choose churches and/or campus ministries based on where they feel they fit in best. Sadly, the fact that many of them minimalize theological doctrine leads to choose despite the community’s theological beliefs or in complete ignorance of those beliefs.
We need to challenge students to understand what they believe and why they believe it, beginning at an early age. If they are not grasping this by the time they are in high school, chances are, they will not look for this in college. Latter Day Saints are among the most friendly and moral people I know, but their doctrine does not hold water. Several churches and campus ministries have friendly faces and fun opportunities for college students but their doctrine (or lack thereof) will not lead to a deepening of biblical faith.
Nor will it be enough in times of crisis where a proper understanding of who God is and how He works is essential. Many students face a crisis of identity or crisis of faith during their time in college where their presuppositions are being challenged by their peers as well as their professors. A solid biblical foundation is necessary to take their stand (Ephesians 6:11) against falsehoods that seek to tear down the Christian faith.
Students are asking the tough questions. When they do not get answers from the church, they turn elsewhere. Let us teach biblical doctrine and explain why it is important so that they are properly equipped to make good decisions. Theology truly matters.