HOW TO STAY CHRISTIAN IN COLLEGE by J. Budziszewski NavPress, 2004 179 pages, $13.99 To order: (800) 366-7788 or navpress.com

It's a sight to behold: J. Budziszewski, noted author and professor of politics and philosophy at the University of Texas, rolls up his sleeves and goes mano a mano with the secular, anti-Christian culture right in one of its strongholds — the college campus. Jumping in with an amiable mix of humor and practicality, Budziszewski proves himself shrewd as a serpent and simple as a dove (per Matthew 10:16).

In How to Stay Christian in College, Budziszewski squares off with the anti-Christian animus students will inevitably face in classrooms and dormitories. He pummels it by hammering away at atheistic worldviews (including the famed “isms” of naturalism, postmodernism, skepticism and relativism) and popular rationales for multivariate sex and political silliness.

Like G.K. Chesterton, Budziszewski realizes that campus apologists cannot lead with holy Scripture, Church tradition or any other religiously rooted source. No, in the rarified air of academia, the opening jabs must come in the form of cogent common sense.

Here he is on why living together outside of marriage is objectively disordered:

“The very essence of marriage is having a binding commitment. The very essence of living together is having no binding commitment. That's why living together can't be a trial for marriage, because in everything that matters, the two conditions are opposite. And that's why not having a binding commitment is less like training for marriage than like training for divorce.”

The book is marketed to students, but parents whose only hope is in a prodigal-like experience — one that may never come — will probably embrace it with even more enthusiasm. If you're in this category, know that, in owning this book, you'll be well armed for those home-visit “catching up” talks. Should your collegiate come home for the holidays announcing there is no such thing as truth, for example, you can sagely reply, “How do you know that's true?” While he's scratching his head, hand him a copy of this book.

One quibble: Budziszewski has undoubtedly field-tested these arguments in his own classes, but in places, I felt that his quick repartee might not work since so many anti-Christian attacks are subtle rather than overt. Then again, repartee is not the ultimate goal. He successfully shows how to be confident and competent in a social atmosphere that is indifferent to the faith at best and hostile at worst. Also, Budziszewski was not Catholic when he wrote this — but he has become one since. We'll have to wait for a second edition, or look elsewhere, to get at Catholic-specific issues like how to defend the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the need to confess sins to a priest. It's probably a given that such doctrines are questioned more on Catholic campuses than secular ones. But many Catholic parents are concerned with evangelical Protestants turning their child's heart from the Church, and “Bible Christians” are well organized on many a campus.

How to Stay Christian in College is a powerful antidote to those who dismiss Christianity as a ridiculous compromise with reality, a “crutch” for the weak-minded or an intellectually inferior philosophical framework. This is where Professor Budziszewski gets very aggressive and impressive, making himself a valiant ally and a wise counselor for the college kid in your prayers.

Art Bennett is director of Alpha Omega Clinic and Consultation Services in Vienna, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland.