CFC Lecture

Erica Carlson: How Wrestling With Tough Questions Helps Students’ Faith at the University

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“God isn’t afraid of our questions.”

Are some questions off limits for questions? What role can churches play in preparing their students to thrive in college? Dr. Erica Carlson addresses these questions (and more) in her recent lecture at the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture.

Dr. Carlson is a 150th Anniversary Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University. She also serves as faculty advisor for Cru and Ratio Christi. She occasionally does speaking engagements on the intersection of Christianity and science with Reasons to Believe and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.


Young people are hungry for environments where they can ask tough questions about faith.

On Jesus and questions

“Jesus would pose questions to his audience, and Jesus took questions publicly. In his discourses, there would be questions, not just from friendly people, but people who were trying to trip him up publicly. So Jesus welcomed questions to be asked of him, and he also asked questions of his audiences. This is an aspect of how Jesus taught that I don’t always see modeled in church….

“Research on how people learn shows that people learn best when they get to wrestle with material by asking questions. Questions posed by the teacher to the student and questions posed by the student to the teacher really do foster better learning than if questions are discouraged.

“One of the things I want to challenge us as a Christian community [is that] rather than telling young people exactly what to think about everything, we [should] also teach them how to think. And that includes creating spaces where they can ask questions, where they can feel safe in church asking questions.”

God isn’t afraid of our questions.

Other highlights:

“Rather than telling young people what to think about everything, including theology, teach them how to think, so they can feel safe in church to ask tough questions.”

“God isn’t afraid of our questions.”

“When all questions are welcomed and respected, all people are welcome and respected. This trains young people in the art of reconciliation.”

“What Jesus has done for us is far more important than our disagreements.”

“Young people are hungry for environments where they can ask tough questions about faith.”

“My faith was tremendously strengthened by wrestling with tough questions.”

“We need our young people, and all believers, to be able to engage with society. Society needs the church to maintain a robust discussion that’s polite and respectful about important things.”

“Our Lord cares about every sector of society…when we pull back on one area, we give the impression that that discipline is not compatible with faith and God…which has a devastating effect.”

“It’s important to give young people the menu. We shouldn’t pretend there is only one resolution to tough questions in Christianity.”

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Center for Faith and Culture

The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence.

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