Scot Smith comes to evangelize at UConn
On April 21 and 22, Christian preachers gathered in front of the Homer Babbage Library to evangelize to UConn students. The event was organized by Scot Smith, a 58-year-old former teacher, who has conducted similar events throughout the country. Originally from Boston, Smith eventually became head of a prep school in Florida. Four years ago, he left that position to become a full-time evangelist. Students had generally mixed opinions on the presence of him and his fellow preachers on campus
Smith had been particularly critical of Catholics and non-Christians.
"He (Smith) was abusive, and said that I was spiritually dead and going to go to hell, which I don't even believe in. It also isn't fair for him to attack other religions, but it was sort of stress relieving to argue with him even though he was using circular logic," said 2nd-semester computer science and engineering major Akshara Thejaswi.
"I don't really have much to say, they weren't that arrogant, and under the constitution they have freedom of religion and speech," Connor Jackson, a 2nd semester computer science and engineering major, said.
Smith had the following to say about his cause, his beliefs, and his purpose.
Qureshi: Why do you go around to college campuses?
Smith: I spent many years as a school teacher, and I was trying to impact the next generation, but I felt that really a lot of the college students didn't have a clear understanding of what the gospel was, and why Jesus came and had to die. So I felt if I could do as much good in the years I had left, it was important for me to go on college campuses and deal with the ideas that are really on people's minds and put into that mix the ideas about Jesus, his sinless life and his bloodshed. So it is basically about doing as much good for the next generation.
Qureshi: So are you guys affiliated with some other organization?
Smith: Well I am a member of Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, but I am really the
only one here in an organization. These guys here are just friends of mine, but I knew that these guys could join me this week, and we arranged it together in advance.
Qureshi: What is the main message that you want to get across?
Smith: The main message is really pretty simple. It's the main message of
the Bible, which is basically that we were born enslaved by sin. It's an inherited condition from Adam. We can't fix the mess. God, out of love, sent his son into the world so that we can live through him. So it's a really essential message about what Jesus did, why he did it and why we need what he's done.
Qureshi: Have you ever faced, like, any heckling?
Smith: Goodness, yes, all the time. It comes from the territory. I mean the
apostle Paul, he had people mock him. He had some people believe, and he had other people who said they would hear more about this later, but we expect all three reactions. We expect heckling, we expect some people will be genuinely glad we're there, and they'll be some people in the middle who will not know what to make of it, who will want to think about it later. I've never had anyone hit me, I've had people throw water at me, I've had people yell things out.
Qureshi: When you're traveling around, do you go to multiple universities or just
mostly in Connecticut?
Smith: I travel to multiple universities. If I'm gonna do a
New England tour, I'll go for two weeks and hit some of the Ivy League schools, and some of the big schools like UConn and URI and the UMass system. Then when I'm out west, I'll hit some of the colleges in the West Coast. So yeah, I do a lot of traveling, and I usually take two week tours at a time.
Qureshi: So do you do this out of your personal expenses?
Smith: Yes, I pay for my own expenses. I used to own my prep school. I sold my school,
and I basically live on very little, and by God's grace I'm able to pay my own bills.
Qureshi: What made you want to give up running your own prep school?
Smith: I just really felt strongly that I wanted to have an
impact on the next generation. I wanted them to hear the gospel clearly and didn't feel that they had very many Christians who were capable of taking it into the public square, but I felt that God had prepared me to be able to do it. So I saw the need, had the desire, and felt that it was more valuable than just working for money.
Qureshi: So what made you want to do it so publicly?
Smith: Well I think that you know Jesus was a preacher, Paul was a preacher, Peter
was a preacher. God has always called his men to take a public, visible stand for his glory. Some people see you and say, "hey, you're crazy," or they say, "hey, he believes, let me listen to him." So I think it's the publicness of it, the boldness of it, that becomes galvanizing, especially on a college campus.
Qureshi: Were you raised Christian?
Smith: No, I was raised Roman Catholic.
Qureshi: That's a denomination of Christianity...
Smith: No, it's really a different religion. Roman Catholicism follows the Pope, Christians
follow Jesus Christ. Roman Catholicism follows that salvation comes through sacraments, Christians believe that salvation comes directly to their souls because God has regenerated them. Catholicism is actually different, but they would say that they have some similarities to Christianity. When they have a disagreement between their traditions and the scriptures, they would take tradition over the Bible. Protestants take the Bible over tradition, that would be the difference.
Qureshi: Most Catholics identify as Christian.
Smith: They might identify as Christian, but it is really the theology of Catholicism, which is different.
Qureshi: What do you feel about contemporary topics like evolution, abortion and gay rights?
Smith: Well I think the Bible speaks clearly about some of those and less clearly about
others. Like, I believe that the Bible doesn't speak clearly about the age of the earth, so I think that there is room within Christianity to disagree about the age of the earth. I think the Bible speaks clearly about whether we have the right to kill a human being. Since a baby is a human being, it hasn't been born yet, but a baby is human, so we wouldn't see any person as having the right to kill that baby. For evolution, we do not believe something comes from nothing unless there's someone to make it happen. We don't believe man evolved from nothing, and that the cosmos came from nothing by chance.
Qureshi: Would you believe that we evolved from more basic life forms?
Smith: So the Bible said God made man from the dust of the earth and then breathed into him the breath of life. Evolution does not even remotely conform to that idea that God sovereignly made man in his image and made him a living soul by his own breath, and God keeps you and I alive completely through his own power.
Qureshi: So what about Gay rights?
Smith: We believe every human being has a right to live. We don't want to
persecute anybody. We're not for vilifying any particular person. We believe every human being was born a slave to sin. The slavery of sin is seen in a thousand different ways. Some of the forms of the slavery of sin are sexual, others are pride, anger, hatred. We need a savior, and Jesus calls all to come to him.
Qureshi: What do you feel about other religions?
Smith: I think Jesus said that many are the path that lead to destruction and many go
down that route. So what is religion? Religion tries to reach God. Christianity says that God's reached down to you and your fallen condition. These are completely contradictory things. Religions say you must do something to please God. Christianity says that you can't please God, but he's done something to please himself and his son. It's the contradiction of what you have to do versus what has been done for you.
Qureshi: Have you ever had any positive reception?
Smith: Goodness gracious we have. A lot of people come up and said
"thank you for being here." We have had a lot of people come up and say, "it might not be the way I would do it, but I respect that you are here." We have answered a lot of questions. People stood around for hours yesterday. What you see we do is that we do preach, and the preaching you see is what galvanizes the crowd. Then most of the ministry is the one-on-one that we do by taking to people.
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