Parents Fear Child Is Struggling With Faith While at College

How can I help my son hold on to his faith in college? He's a junior at the university, and I'm very concerned about the state of his relationship - or lack thereof - with the Lord. His faith doesn't seem to mean as much to him as it did during his high school years. Now he's thinking of taking a philosophy course in metaphysics. I don't even know what "metaphysics" is, but I'm worried. How can I encourage him in his faith?

There are several positive strategies you might try. You can pray for him and with him (as circumstances allow). You can keep the lines of communication open by taking steps to reach out to him. Talk with him whenever you have a chance. Make it your business to walk with him through his personal struggles. Be sure that his physical, mental, and emotional needs are met. You can also encourage him to find a strong campus fellowship group and to stay involved with a solid, Bible-based local church. After all, none of us should expect to live the Christian life successfully on our own. Last of all, you can put out an effort to educate yourself about some of the challenges he’s facing, whether academic, social, or spiritual.

Let’s use your question about metaphysics as an example. You’d be surprised what a difference it might make if you were in a position to discuss a subject like this with your son intelligently, knowledgeably, and from a distinctly Christian viewpoint. Metaphysics, according to the dictionary, is simply “the branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of first principles and problems of ultimate reality.” Religious philosopher William James characterized it as “nothing but an attempt to think things out clearly to their ultimate significance, to find their substantial essence in the scheme of reality.” In Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project®, Dr. Del Tackett describes metaphysics as “that branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, existence, and the relationship between mind and matter, time and space, fact and value.”

If physics is the study of the material universe, then metaphysics (Greek meta, “after, behind” + physika, “physical things”) can be understood as the pursuit of the transcendent reality that stands behind and gives meaning to the material world. Physics, then, is a branch of empirical science. Metaphysics, on the other hand, concerns itself with questions that most of us tend to think of as religious or spiritual in nature.

If your son is studying philosophy at a secular university, he’ll probably be exposed to a brand of metaphysics that’s something less than compatible with a biblical worldview. If he wants help responding to that perspective, he may be interested in obtaining a copy of Does God Exist?, the first installment of Focus on the Family’s TrueU video series featuring Dr. Stephen Meier. This life-changing DVD series provides proven facts and insights from philosophy, cosmology and biology to help Christian students engage intellectually with professors and peers, both in and outside the classroom. This resource is available through our ministry and can be ordered via Focus’s Online Store.

If you’d like to explore this subject at greater length with a member of our staff, Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone. Don’t hesitate to call us.


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