Book Review: 10 Things Every Christian Should Know for College

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I met Austin Gentry via email due to his friendship with an alum from my school…a really awesome young man and one of my former Bible students!  There are lots of people who have written  books on the broad subject of “staying Christian in college.” Many of them have been good, but honestly most of them are sort of cheesy.   Gentry’s 10 Things Every Christian School Know for College is a great resource for both students and parents!  The transition to college is a huge one…and not just for the student.  I am excited to recommend this book to the families at my school because Gentry grew up in a Christian school very similar to ours.  And like many of my students will, he moved on to attend a secular university.
The books contains a lot of Scripture and valuable tips on what to expect and how to handle things as they come up.  Gentry particularly focused on the areas of doubt, community, and identity.  There is not a question of IF your faith will be challenged in college, but rather WHEN and HOW it will be challenged.  I appreciated the way that Gentry provided sound theology in a way that was warm and invited the reader to carefully consider the point that he was making.  I have a seminary degree and got a lot out of this book and know for sure that my high school students will as well.  This book is easily readable and lends itself to great conversation.
I look forward to helping spread the word about this book.  I hope you will pick up a copy as well!  Even if you are past college, there are still some very valuable takeaways to consider when dealing with people in general.  I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…
  • How are you going to do the balancing act of being intellectually curious and yet religiously grounded at the same time? p. 21
  • Do you quietly compromise your faith at the expense of being relatable, or do you boldly affirm your faith at the risk of being ‘holier than thou’? How are you to do the balancing act of making the right decision and yet maintaining your friendships at the same time? p. 21
  • A true Christian is not someone whose faith is never shaken, but instead, someone who knows how to faithfully respond when they are shaken. p. 22
  • The last thing I want is for any of you to go through college passively or defensively as a Christian.  Rather, I want you to live proactively and influentially as a Christian.  I don’t want you to feel like you’re always on your heels, pushing back against the force of new temptations and different worldview.  I want you to feel like you’re readily on your toes, confidently equipped for what to expect and how to respond. p. 23
  • “But test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21 p. 27
  • While your professor is academically competent, he is not academically omniscient. p. 33
  • Your professor is certainly smart, but there are other scholars in his field of study who are just as smart as he is, who may fundamentally disagree with his conclusions. p. 36
  • You should always respect your professors with your heart, but you should not always feel obligated to believe them with your mind. p. 37
  • Be alert, but not alarmed. p. 38
  • “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3 p. 39
  • The human heart can often screen information that is presented and choose information that is preferred. p. 40
  • You should expect your professors to interpret and present information in a narrow, particular way. p. 41
  • Scholarship is essentially a mixed bag of ‘relevant’ information about a subject, not necessarily ‘right’ information about a subject. p. 43
  • Christians don’t look to the Bible to get their preferences reinforced, but transformed. p. 45
  • What the heart most wants, the mind will find most reasonable. p. 46
  • “There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary dispotion.” Blaise Pascal p. 47
  • For too many college students, not believing in Christianity has more to do with their lifestyle than their scholarship.  Intellectual objections are more often smokescreens than the main issue.  Their faith objections are not intellectual in origin, but preferential at the root.  They are not a matter of the mind as much as they are a matter of the heart. p. 50
  • “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” Thomas Cranmer, English Reformer p. 51
  • “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking.  Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” 1 Corinthians 14:20 p. 53
  • A dramatic response to doubt would be to make doubt a bigger deal than it actually is and to give it more significance than it actually deserves. p. 54
  • Doubt can simply represent a fundamental gap in your overall understanding of something. p. 55
  • An apathetic response to doubt would be to make doubt a smaller deal than it actually is and to give it less significance than it actually demands. p. 57
  • When doubts urge towards you in great strength, you can respond by doubting your doubts—using the power it poses against you, against it. Indeed, by doubting your doubt, you will essentially cause your doubts to trip over its own momentum.  And as a result, you will feel more in control, more at peace, and not as unsettled. p. 62
  • Don’t give your doubts unfair advantage by not doubting them just as much as they’re causing you to doubt what you believe. p. 63
  • When you screen your doubt and when you doubt your doubt, you put doubt back in its rightful place. p. 63
  • “Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27 p. 65
  • We don’t become spiritual giants by never doubting.  We become spiritual giants by experience how God deals with us when we doubt. p. 66
  • The Conservative culture doesn’t do justice to the doubter because it says you cannot be emotionally or intellectually authentic while at the same time being a genuine Christian. p. 69
  • The Liberal culture seems to put a premium on free thinking over truth finding. p. 70
  • Conservative culture emphasizes truth, but doesn’t give you the grace to struggle.  Liberal culture emphasizes grace to struggle, but gives you no truth.  Conservative culture challenges the doubt, but doesn’t welcome the doubter.  Liberal culture welcomes the doubter, but doesn’t challenge the doubt. p. 73
  • God welcomes our doubts as they are, but He does not welcome them to stay as they are. p. 75
  • “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:14 p. 77
  • The Bible doesn’t resolve all of our questions or soothe all f our doubts—but it does give resolution and peace to the main ones. p. 78
  • It’s extremely important to understand parts of your faith in terms of primary and secondary truths. p. 80
  • By making a distinction between primary and secondary convictions, you can be open to the idea of the earth being either young or old without it shaking your entire faith. p. 81
  • If the resurrection is true, Jesus is who he says he is and Christianity is objective truth. p. 83
  • When doubt comes on you like a stormy gale, Lay down your anchor in the resurrection and behind the veil. p. 88
  • “Two are better than one…For if they fail, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  And though a man might prevail against one who is lone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 p. 93
  • Look at the life of plants. A small sapling and a fully-grown tree both need water.  Trees do not graduate from water based on growth.  And likewise, you do not graduate from community based on maturity.  p. 94
  • The need for community isn’t a matter of the maturity of the Christian; it’s a matter of necessity for the Christian. p. 95
  • Your resolve will eventually erode to the conditions of life if it is not firmly rooted in the soil of Christian community. p. 95
  • “In God’s divine humility, He created us so that we must be fulfilled with something in addition to himself: community.” Dr. John Hammett, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary p. 96
  • Don’t shortchange your wellbeing by not allowing others into your life.  And don’t shortchange other’s wellbeing by not being involved in their life. p. 99
  • It takes a community to truly know an individual. p. 101
  • “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 p. 103
  • Our faith needs more than just Christian friends in order to thrive. p. 104
  • The Bible tells you to go to the nations to share the gospel…but in college, the nations come to you. p. 106
  • Whatever you choose to do, the ultimate goal is the same: Get to know non-Christians who are like you and who are not like you.  Become genuine friends with them.  Share the gospel with them.  Don’t treat them as evangelical projects.  Understand that they are images of God who are able to add unique forms of value, wisdom, and inspiration into your life that other Christians cannot.  And simply delight in your unique friendship you have with them.  p. 112
  • If your community is narrow, your joy will be narrow.  But if your community is broad and multi-dimensional, so also will be your joy. p. 112
  • “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Joshua 24:15 p. 113
  • Think of your core group of Christian friends as your intimate community — whom you seek to be influenced by — and your broader community as your intentional community —whom you seek to influence. p. 115
  • Forming meaningful non-Christian community while upholding Christian convictions is certainly not a dilemma practically.  But it’s also not a dilemma theologically.
    The gospel tells us that there is no fundamental difference between Christians and non-Christians insofar as our humanity is concerned.  It says all people are equally sinful, all people are equally in need of a Savior, and all people are equally offered a Savior in Christ (Romans 3:23).  Which means you are no different, no better, and on worse than anyone else.  It cancels everyone’s pride and humbles everyone’s spirit.  This means we are able to relate with anyone at the most fundamental level—one that goes beyond class, background, morality, or lifestyle. p. 117
  • “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 p. 125
  • Parents, if you truly love your child, then you should prioritize attending to their long-term needs over their short-term inconveniences. p. 127
  • Your child does not need more Band-Aids to lightly cover their hurts, but stronger bones to effectively withstand the pressures of life. p. 127
  • Be the great parent that you are and give them the milk of grace and truth.  In grace, sympathize with their struggles.  And in truth, cater to their needs, not their conveniences.  Show them the grace of tender compassion by entering into their sorrow.  But give them the truth of tough love by pointing them unto growth.  Doing so will be like a strong dose of spiritual calcium to your child, strengthening the bones of their personal development. p. 127
  • Commit yourself more to their long-term joy than to their short-term sorrow.  Be assured, growth pains hurt—but they’re necessary and good.  This phase in their social development plays a critical role in shaping them into the kind of adults you want them to be anyways.  So, pray for them in their situation.  But do not pull them out of their situation. p. 128
  • Whatever you situation might be, the principle remains the same: if you don’t take chances, your situation will not change.  But if you do take chances, your situation will be positioned for positive changes to take place. p. 131
  • You can’t expect God to grow your community if you don’t first do the hard work of breaking up your complacency and planting seeds of intentionality. p. 132
  • So parents: prioritize the needs of your child.  And students: pursue the means of your growth. p. 132
  • “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10 p. 133
  • Your identity essentially refers to where you find your greatest sense of self-worth and significance. p. 134
  • Your foundation is about your self-worth and significance.  Your direction is about your performance and circumstance. p. 136
  • Basing your self-worth on your performance or circumstance will naturally breed comparison, insecurity, and anxiety. p. 137
  • Basing your self-worth on your performance or circumstance will always make failures and disappointments worse than they actually are. p. 139
  • When you base your self-worth on your performance, you might end up pursuing a career path that you never should have pursued. p. 141
  • Jesus has secured for you maximal acceptance, unconditional love, and perfect security from the only One whose opinion of you really matters most anyways. p. 145
  • Leaning into your identity in Christ essentially means finding your greatest sense of self-worth, validation, significance, security, and satisfaction in God’s absolute acceptance and love for you, which was given most fully in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It’s an identity built on the Rock unaffected by the waves of circumstance or human failure.  p. 146
  • Find your self-worth in Christ will…
    • Help you stop comparing yourself to others.
    • Prevent you from magnifying failures and misfortunes.
    • Encourage you to pursue something you’re actually passionate about. p. 147
  • Lean in to your identity in Christ, and then follow your natural leanings. p. 151
  • With an identity in Christ, you will be able to “run and not grow weary” (Isaiah 40:31).  The yoke of your direction will be easy and the burden of your work will be light (Matthew 11:30), precisely because your self-worth has already been paid in full and stamped with “it is finished” (John 19:30).  Your self-worth is secure.  Now go live from that solid foundation. p. 152
  • “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 p. 153
  • “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 p. 160

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