Faith Abroad

As someone who grew up in a Christian home, going to various Christian schools and a Christian college, I sit comfortably in the category of a sheltered, college-age believer. My background has blessed me in many ways, but despite that, I am still aware that the cultural Christianity found in many churches in America and worldwide, isn’t much more than a very surface-level reflection of how the Gospel should be lived. In my experience, some confessing Christians don’t necessarily understand the depth of Jesus’s heart for his people and the work he has done on their behalf. That may sound really pessimistic, but the Bible says that who Jesus is transforms his people so completely that our core identities change as we are adopted into his family.

That being said, on a little bit of a whim, my roommate and I decided to study abroad at the University of Oxford for this semester. We have been here for a little over two weeks now, with classes beginning this week. The biggest culture shock that we have both encountered has been the lack of this Christian culture. In comparison with South Carolina, it has really shocked me how many in Oxford (and even the Americans within our program) are very open to sharing their criticism of Christianity as a whole and their negative experiences with the church. This is not the case for every individual, as there remains a desire to accept all faiths and religious backgrounds. Even in the more tolerant groups however, people remain especially apprehensive about Christianity. I was told that this was something to expect, but as the very sheltered student that I am, it is newly heartbreaking. It has been hard to know how to respond when people share their personal stories of real hurt coming from the church.

At Trinity College of Oxford, I am studying the Bible and a local pastor warned me that my professors would likely think the Bible’s teachings are at best, outdated, and at worst, evil. He said most of the faculty in the theology department will view the Bible as an antiquated, yet still interesting, text. They will have no notion that the Bible is God's Word, or that it has a unified message. He kindly warned me that I need to seek out community that does believe the Bible is God’s Word and told me where I could find that encouragement. That all being said, I am going to write about this culture and classes that are so different from what I’m used to, the kinds of things we learn, the hyper-secular and academic environment, and my encounters with those that don’t view the Bible as I do. I thank you for reading along as I explore this new horizon and the challenges that come with it. Every day may not be the most exciting or encouraging, but the Lord has promised to use it all for his glory, and I am really thankful for that. 

“O Lord of the oceans, as my little boat sails on a restless sea, grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely…I ask great things, expect great things, shall receive great things. I venture on thee wholly, fully, my wind, sunshine, anchor, defense. The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless, but my helm is held steady… This day will bring me nearer home.”

-“Voyage,” The Valley of Vision

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