As a Christian, if you watched the Movie God’s Not Dead, you probably thought it was ridiculous when the professor made his students write “god is dead” on a piece of paper. Rightfully so. I remember my sophomore year of college when I was first told to “leave my Bible at the door.” I was slightly worried about what was going to happen. Frankly I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, and I pictured a similar scenario in my head of a professor forcing me to proclaim the death of God before progressing onward through the class. Thinking back over my college years studying religion at a liberal university, I’ve slowly begun to understand what it is meant to “leave one’s Bible at the doorway” before you begin studying a topic. As a disclaimer, I must acknowledge that not all professors are the same. Some are very much against religious faith, while others may be part of a religious sect. I’ve heard members from both sides ask their students to leave their religious texts outside of the classroom before entering–and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing altogether. My goal in this post is to not do defend this method, but to help you better understand what many professors mean when they ask their students to do this. I’m going to explain why, as a Christian, this can be extremely valuable for you as an individual, and why you can leave your Bible and not your brain at the door without forsaking your faith.
If someone asks you to approach a topic objectively, what exactly are they asking you to do? Well, you might gather that they’re asking you to approach a topic without a personal bias. That’s a pretty good assessment. Now, everyone should know that it’s impossible to approach (for example) a religious topic without a bias. All of our experiences with religion in the past, good or bad, color our perception of it. But when someone asks you to approach a topic objectively, they’re asking you to take it at face value. They’re not asking you whether you think it’s necessarily true or not. When I’ve studied Islam in the past, I’ve had to do research and write papers on Islamic doctrine explaining why or how Islam views a specific topic from an Islamic perspective. Many times I’ve been asked to write from the perspective of Freud or Durkheim—which means I’ve often had to get inside of their heads and explain to an audience how one of these two men might view religion. As a Christian, we should not shy away or freak out at these assignments. They help us tremendously when it comes to gaining perspective. I could have easily written this:
“Islam is not true because I don’t believe in Islam.” -which is circular, and no argument at all.
“Karl Marx is dumb because he believes that religion is only for poor and hurting people.” -which is patronizing and unintelligent for me to say.
What good would come from this? All I’ve done is closed the door to any perspective in opposition to mine. I’ve learned nothing about different worldviews or religions, and I’ve guaranteed myself a well-deserved F on my paper. As a Christian, you must be able to look at different worldviews without dismissing them instantly because you disagree. I cannot stress this enough.
To quote Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Leaving your Bible at the door does not mean to throw your faith in the trash. It means to not approach a topic with this kind of attitude: “The Bible preaches against this, so this is a waste of time.” This kind of attitude will hamstring your capacity to interact with people with different worldviews. It’s okay to try to speak objectively. In fact, it’s incredible useful. If you are afraid that you will lose your faith, then your faith isn’t very deep to begin with. As Christians we are not to run away from the world, but to engage it.
It’s possible to leave your bias at the door, but not your brain.
Learn to put yourself in the shoes of another. Learn to be able to listen to views contrary to your own without instantly becoming offended. Learn to speak to and about other worldviews intelligently. People will take you more seriously, and you’ll be a better ambassador for Christ.