One of the campus discussion groups offered by Christian Reformed chaplain Rev. Andre Basson at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, catches students off-guard with its oxymoronic title “Atheist Bible Study.” It’s a place where Basson hopes students become equipped to articulate their faith within the context of their secular, atheist environment.
“We have to admit that our society has become extremely complex and secular,” he said. And although the scriptural truths we profess have not changed, “the way in which we articulate them, or used to articulate them, is no longer succeeding.”
Acknowledging the force of atheism in culture and its impact on the behavior of confessing Christians has become popular in books and sermon series. A few minutes away from Brock’s campus, Michael Collins, pastor at The Village Church, titled his January sermon series “Christian Atheist: Are you who you say you are?”
Collins developed the series in response to a conversation with a newer Christian in the church who said he didn’t see any difference between Christians and non-Christians. “But the truth that Jesus calls us to is radically different than the truth of our culture,” said Collins.
The series was designed to challenge the congregation to obedience. “People were being stretched,” Collins said. “They were challenged to see that there’s a road that Jesus prepares for us that fulfills his calling to give life and give it to the full.”
Encouraging students to live that Christian life in an open way is exactly what Basson does in his campus ministry. He shies away from creating another Christian club but celebrates student leaders doing peer evangelism and forming discussion groups that are welcoming even to atheists. The first time he offered the Atheist Bible Study, the group met purposefully in the student lounge, aiming for “a place that’s public, where students can walk by, see what’s going on and hopefully hear and actually join in the conversation,” Basson said.