Grant Willey was the first student to help form the Ratio Christi chapter at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in 2010, along with its first Chapter Director, Patrick Collins. Collins recently departed for seminary training, and student Willey will now be the co-director under Billie Goodson.
Before leaving, Collins praised this new leadership team in a “farewell interview,” and presented Willey with a Legatus Christi certificate* as a student demonstrating outstanding application of our apologetics training.
Willey’s learned some valuable lessons he’d like to share with younger students:
“Many students tend to turn their back on “traditional” views in favor of what seems “new” without thinking critically of the validity traditional views might have. My advice is to not just doubt your beliefs, but doubt your doubts. There is a time in our lives when we audit our values and decide what to make our own. Spend as much time trying to prove a point as you do to disprove it. Pay special attention to the values you don’t want to hold on to, because those are often the ones the enemy is trying to take away without you realizing.”
Former Director Collins says this of his founding partner:
“Grant has shown faithfulness to both God and our ministry through his dedication, service, and heart for others. He has shown growth in a number of areas, including a strong desire for Biblical fidelity and putting others’ needs before his own. We’ve had many skeptics and atheists attend our meetings. Grant has been quick to befriend them, treat them with respect, and invest in them for the Gospel’s sake. He’s a model member of the group and a great friend.”
We went on to ask Willey some questions.
Q: You were baptized as a child, but often felt like you “weren’t a Christian anymore.” When did you solidify your real relationship with Christ?
A: I was baptized at seven, but I’ve found it to be a constant journey of growth and realizing that Christ is my Savior, putting that into practice and leaning on Him. There were times that I was saying the sinner’s prayer whenever I felt like I might not be a Christian. I was in my early teens when I really stopped taking my salvation for granted and the Holy Spirit convicted me to figure this salvation thing out. It wasn’t until college, at a Campus Crusade meeting, that God used a speaker to open my eyes to think of it as a relationship between me and another person, and to treat it as such; going to prayer, repentance and accepting correction when I sensed tension in the relationship. This really sealed it for me in asking for forgiveness and drawing closer to Christ.
Q: What was your high school church youth group experience like?
A: My youth group when I grew up in Florida concentrated on study of the Bible, presupposing that we accepted it as truth. I don’t fault them for that; especially since I remember our studies being thorough and full of cultural context. My youth pastor, Mike Quinn, did a great job of encouraging us to study the Bible and work on our relationship with Christ. My church provided occasional resources towards strengthening our reasons to believe, such as bringing in a speaker that used examples of design in nature to give evidence of creation.
But it was my parents who did the most in exposing me to material on why to believe, from Worldview Weekend, Answers in Genesis lectures, nature and science videos from Moody Bible Institute, Summit Ministries, my mother’s own in-depth morning Bible studies, etc.
Q: Patrick says your family was involved with you at RC. Tell us about that.
A: My family is very open to discussing theology and spirituality. I used to listen to my older brother’s conversations with my mother (he’s now married, living in Florida). I usually kept my ideas to myself, but as I got older I started having those conversations, which still happen in the car or in the living room. We all participate in the discussion.
Once Ratio Christi was on its feet and my siblings were a little older, my brother Isaac (15) and sister Victoria (19) started sitting in on some meetings, sometimes accompanied by my mother. My brother is our youngest attendee. But he’s very interested and intellectually minded, and fits in with our group even though the others range from early college to post-grad.
Q: At your chapter, is it a goal to engage secular thinkers and people of other faiths, or do they simply attend unprompted?
A: We once had more of a mentality of engaging the secular students on campus as a club, but lately our focus is mainly on equipping the Christian students and strengthening their relationship with Christ, and encouraging them to engage others. This semester we’re going through Greg Koukl’s Tactics video series. For our first few years there was a non-theist club on campus that participated with us. We organized a few debates and a panel with atheists. Members of our clubs would attend both meetings and raise discussions (sometimes heated!). In both clubs there were people who would try to minimize the “sheep among wolves” feeling for the minority in the room in order to make visitors feel welcome.
That club has since dissolved, but we still welcome those with opposing viewpoints and occasionally have visitors from other faiths and worldviews.
Q: What has learning apologetics done for you, and do you think you’ll keep employing this knowledge?
A: One of the first ways it has enriched me is that I’m more okay with saying “I don’t know.” The more I learn, the more my faith in Christ is strengthened, and the less any new doubts hold sway over me. I know Christ died and rose again. I’ve seen His power in my life and in that of others. I’m less hesitant to talk about God with non-believers, even aggressive ones. I still pass up some opportunities, but when we do discuss religion I feel like I have something genuine and helpful to offer, rooted in the same reality we live and work and find happiness in.
Apologetics is a great continuing exercise in critical thinking. Whatever you hear, even from your own pastor, it teaches you to at least hold something in suspended belief until you have conclusive evidence. It teaches us to be less impressionable, but at the same time gives us a clearer picture of who to trust and in what way. My own experience has taught me some tactics for more fruitful conversations and how to diffuse tension when needed. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m better than I was! In a more specific sense, Ratio Christi gives me a channel to be made continually aware of resources and points of view I can readily share with people questioning faith and looking for answers.
Q: How did you feel about receiving the Legatus Christi certificate?
A: Very honored! Even though I’m in the middle of a move, I plan to have it hanging on the wall by my desk soon!
Q: Does being recognized in this way encourage you to promote evangelism through apologetics “exponentially” – i.e., building up other students to follow the example?
A: I’ve always taken that as the prime end of apologetics. Ratio Christi has taught me that Christ should be the focus of our efforts, and that learning facts and explanations is ultimately worthless except in pursuing that goal. My sister has had opportunities in her college classes to speak up regarding the Christian worldview. I expect my brother will have similar opportunities, and I’m confident he’ll be prepared for them; not with an answer for every question, but with the right mindset, with well-grounded confidence and courage.
Q: What are your responsibilities as co-director of RC at UAH?
A: Currently my responsibilities include hosting the weekly meetings and discussion while Billie is away on work, meeting with him to discuss future material, filling in when needed to man a table at the annual club fairs on campus, and reserving the room for the semester as well as helping coordinate with the campus on event logistics. I also do some of the advertising from time to time, designing flyers and posters with help from our members.
(Willey is now transferring to Athens State to study Management Information Systems, but will continue his role with RC at UAH because it’s nearby.)
Q: What else would you like our readers to know?
A: More advice to the younger crowd: I was able to speak to the youth group at my church regarding my experience with campus ministry. As I reflected on what to say, the theme of going through a crisis of faith kept coming up. For example, I’ve encountered some teaching that the Bible doesn’t say homosexual sex is wrong. This frequently gets accepted without further investigation because it’s preferable. Similarly, the idea that life could come from non-life and that God’s creation isn’t necessary is touted as “new science” over the antiquated “creation myth.”
Since this [type of teaching] frees students from stuffy rules and regulations that many associate with God, belief in God frequently gets left behind. Focus on Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind. Don’t get discouraged when someone won’t listen or when you find yourself unable to refute something. Remember, it’s God who changes hearts. Our responsibility is to be a light, and be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us.
Willey also wanted to acknowledge a new special person in his life:
“I have a wonderful lady in my life as of mid-July – Julie! She attends Ratio Christi with me and was interested in apologetics before we knew each other. It’s great because we get to discuss ideas. She’s a nurse with a whole lot of compassion, and has a heart for the Lord that is a great encouragement to me.”
*In photo: Patrick Collins (l) handing the LC Certificate to Willey (r).