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Echo Chamber at NC State

Echo Chamber:  A true story by Ben LaCorte, President & founder of Heroes of the Cross


Last night at NC State, walking through the newly revised Talley Student Union, I was prepping for an exciting evening. The union was abuzz with activity: students interacting, video walls showing the Panther’s game, classrooms filling, lounge areas brimming. I spotted the elevator. Hopping on with a bunch of students, I single-handedly upped the average age from 20 to somewhere in the mid 40’s.

The door to room 3210 was still open as students entered and chose their seats. Good, I wasn’t late. A familiar looking face appeared, then another, and another. It seemed like half the room was from my home church, Colonial Baptist in Cary. Some I’d known since 3rd grade, and so the air of familiarity was strong with these former younglings. Yet here they were, all grown and shining like the bright lights they’d been taught to emulate in AWANA all those years ago. It was a joy to behold. So many dedicated volunteer teachers at church really seemed to have made a difference. Be encouraged if you’re one of them.

Dr. Sam Winchester began his lesson on evolution, its scientific pitfalls and logical problems in light of current research. He concluded after an hour with not much student comment; a few softballs, mainly for clarification. I was thinking it couldn’t be this easy. This is not Liberty, or some other Christian college in the bible-belt. This is North Carolina State University, a bastion of tolerance toward all world views, except the Christian one. It was going so well I almost nodded off. And then it hit.

A student in the back of the crowded room issued a challenge. “Is this just an echo chamber?” he asked. Dr. Winchester, a gentleman of 81 years, took a moment, as if to plan a graceful response, especially since the young man seemed agitated for some reason. The student continued. It became clear he was an atheist, and disagreed with the way Dr. Winchester presented the case against evolution. He seemed to think that the presentation was one sided, not giving the other side of the issue a fair hearing. But Dr. Winchester was not there to present both sides. The young man ended by saying he was content as an atheist and did not fear what might happen to him after this life was over.

Emboldened by the first, another student pointed out that his atheistic beliefs did not stop him from having purpose in his life. Then he cited several popular atheists, including Richard Dawkins, all of whom believe that their lives can have purpose even though they don’t believe in an afterlife. I challenged the student on this point, calling attention to Dawkins’ own words, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” The young man indicated that this was “quote mining” and stuck to his claim.

Soon one of my former apologetics students, a strong Christian young lady from our church, raised her hand. She engaged the first atheist questioner on the topic of genetics, with which they were both familiar. There was a technical but civil dialog that left me, and possibly others way behind. I was with them through Darwin’s Finches but lost them soon after allele frequency changes within a population.

After the class, a few students came up and chatted. One asked about the evolutionist’s use of the term, “echo chamber”. I explained what he meant by the phrase. Evidently the young man thought that there should be greater representation of the atheist position on the matter. But that would be up to him and others to express those views. They were invited, but only a few showed up. Why? I’ll let you answer that.

I will say that it was encouraging to be in the room with these young Christians. They were inquisitive, open to the truth, genuinely desiring to know what it is and how to identify it. More, they were willing to engage, to put forth reasonable explanations for what they believed. They were not as satisfied with so-so arguments as say, my generation was. As in social environment, some stood out more than others. But in my book, the fact that they joined the session for the purposes of equipping and being equipped makes them heroes of the cross.

Echo Chamber is a post by Ben LaCorte – President & Founder of Heroes of the Cross. Ben also teaches apologetics and authors the Heroes of the Cross real life radio series.