From Atheism to Christ

In Deuteronomy Ch 4v29 it promises “You will find the Lord if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” The Lord promises that if an individual is truly sincere in their search for Him then He will reveal Himself to them. This is the common denominator which links all testimonies and conversion stories together. No matter what the physical circumstances of a person coming to faith maybe, whether they were a university professor, scientist or a drug addict, a young mum struggling to rear three kids or an elderly grandfather, the one thing they will all have had in common is a genuine heartfelt desire to find Almighty God. God is not interested in our educational status, our rank in society or the amount of money we possess. The only thing He is interested in is our sincerity in finding Him.

Recently I came across the testimony of journalist and author Lee Strobel. His background was one of being a confirmed atheist and it is fascinating to read of how he moved from this position of unbelief to one where he genuinely wanted to seek the truth about God. Strobel, who is a modern day CS Lewis has written numerous scholarly books about Christianity such as “The Case for Faith” and “The Case for Christ Study Bible” and he is a reminder that God can even be found by atheists provided they are genuinely seeking the Truth about Life.

Lee Strobel was the legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and described himself as a sceptical atheist. Using his own words; “I thought the idea of an all-loving, all-powerful Creator of the Universe was stupid. My background was in journalism and law so I needed evidence before I’d believe anything. I thought the Bible was a collection of myths and legends…and as an atheist I was convinced that God didn’t create people, but that people created God. In other words, they had been so afraid of death that they decided to manufacture a feel-good fairy tale about a benevolent deity and a blissful afterlife awaiting them on the other side of the grave. In spite of my sceptical predisposition, however, I eventually became a ‘seeker’, someone open-minded and inquisitive enough to sincerely investigate the claims of this bestselling Book of all time.

One day my wife, who had been an agnostic, told me that she had become a Christian. She informed me that after a period of spiritual investigation she had now decided to become a follower of Jesus Christ. I thought that this was the worst possible news I could ever get and wondered if it was the end of our marriage.

Over the ensuing months however, I saw positive changes in her values, in her character and in the way she related to me and the children. It was attractive and it made me want to check things out. And so I went to church one day; mainly to see if I could get her out of this ‘cult’ that she had got involved in. At that service I heard the message of Jesus explained properly for the very first time, in a way I could understand; that forgiveness is a free gift, Jesus died for our sins and we can spend eternity with Him. I walked out of church still an atheist but also thinking ‘if this is true, it has huge implications for my life.’

I decided to use my journalism training and legal training to investigate into whether there was any credibility to Christianity. At the outset I decided to follow the facts wherever they should lead. For nearly two years I studied archaeology and ancient history, interviewed scientists and scholars and combed the pages of the Bible with an attitude of curiosity. Putting my background in journalism and law into use, I scrutinized the words of the Bible and tested the evidence for and against it. What I found changed my mind and, ultimately, transformed my life. I discovered why Christians are convinced that science supports the belief in a supernatural Creator and that history points powerfully and persuasively toward Jesus as being His unique Son. I discovered facts that pointed a cynic like me, to the life changing reality of Jesus Christ.

On the 8th November 1991 I suddenly realised that in the light of the torrent of evidence flowing in the
direction of the truth of Christianity, it would require more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian. To remain an atheist, I would have to swim upstream against all this evidence pointing toward the truth of Jesus Christ and I just couldn’t do that. I was trained in journalism and law to respond to the truth. And so on that day I received Jesus Christ as my Forgiver and as my Leader.

Just like my wife, my life began to change. Over time my values, my character and the purpose of my life began to be transformed. The path I was on before can’t be compared with the adventure, fulfilment and joy of following Jesus Christ.”

Strobel’s journey to faith is a “text book example” of the three distinct phases which can be seen in every conversion. First of all he became open minded with a genuine willingness to discover the Truth. In his particular case, the reason he became open minded was because he noticed how his wife had changed for the better and he attended a church service where the Christian message was explained in a way he could
understand. The cause of an individual becoming open minded will be different from person to person. For some it might be because they have become alarmed at the state of the world, for others it might be because they are beginning to find life a struggle and of course with many it will be because something major has happened to them such as bereavement, ill-health or relationship trouble. Then again with some, the reason is that they have become increasingly aware that there is something missing in their life and they can’t rest until they find out what it is.

The second stage of Strobel’s journey to faith was that of exploration and investigation. In 1st Peter Ch3v15 it states “always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” There are numerous reasons why Christians believe Scripture is true. This part of the journey is where an individual examines these claims and investigates them in depth. Never once does the Bible ask for “blind faith” but rather a “reasoned faith”, namely a faith that is built upon good sound reason and fact. This period of investigation can last for weeks, months or even years, depending very much on the “starting point” of an individual. The starting point for Strobel was as an atheist, so his investigation took longer than it would take someone starting off with a belief in God already settled in their mind.

It is during this phase of careful exploration that individuals are amazed by what they discover and numerous misconceptions are laid to rest. For instance, to their surprise, they learn that across the world there are millions of scientists who are devout Christians. Christian belief and science are not opposed to each other, instead God is actually the Ultimate Scientist. Science merely shows us how God makes things work. The Bible on the other hand tells us why He made us and the purpose behind our existence.

They also learn what the Bible teaches about suffering. As with science, it often comes as a complete surprise to them when they discover that the Bible fully explains why there is suffering in the world. The fact that we live in a Fallen World where God’s will is often not done is an entirely new concept to them.

And of course it is often a stunning revelation to them when they discover that one third of the Bible is composed of prophecy and predictions. When they carefully examine how these prophecies have been fulfilled many hundreds and sometimes thousands of years after they were written, it is clear proof of the Divine origin of Holy Scripture.

The final stage of Strobel’s journey to faith was accepting the Leadership of Jesus over his life. It’s all very well discovering that God exists and finding out that the Bible is true, but this knowledge demands a response. It calls for the individual to repent of their past sins and to start obeying the Lord Jesus in their daily life. God is Love, but He is also an infinitely Holy God requiring moral conduct and behaviour in keeping with His will. An individual makes Jesus the “Leader or Lord of their life” by truly putting His wishes and commandments before their own. When a person does this, they will start experiencing the Lord as their Best Friend and will begin a personal and living relationship with Him. Sadly, because many people refuse to put Him first in their lives, they don’t experience this joy. They continue to disobey Him somehow imagining that they can ignore God’s Holy will and yet still belong to Him. Scripture repeatedly warns however that “without Holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews Ch12v14) and “do not be deceived, because the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God...” (1st Corinthians Ch6 vs9-11).

To belong to the Lord, an individual must truly make it their aim and purpose to follow His commandments and wishes day by day. The following story is a vivid illustration showing just how important this obedience and loyalty really is. Some years ago retired astronaut General Charles Duke was talking about his experiences on Apollo 16. Shortly after he returned from the moon Charles himself, was converted and became a devout Christian. What he experienced on the moon is a reminder of our need to strictly follow the Lord’s Commandments and not deviate from them in the slightest.

As he was talking about his walk on the lunar surface, someone asked “Once you were there, weren’t you free to make your own decisions and carry out some of your own experiments…you know, sort of do as you pleased, maybe stay a little longer if you liked?” Charlie answered “Oh sure, if we didn’t want to return to earth!” He then described the intricate plan, the exact and precise instructions, the essential discipline and the instant obedience that was needed right down to the split second if they were to be saved and get back. They landed with exactly 60 seconds of fuel to get them away again. The audience was given the distinct impression that a rebel doesn’t fit inside a spacesuit. To be safe they needed total and complete obedience to the commands from Mission Control.

So likewise, there are no rebels or partial followers of Christ in the Kingdom of God. To belong to the Lord and be a member of His Kingdom requires genuine and wholehearted commitment to His will. Partial obedience or picking and choosing which Commands in Scripture to obey, will only lead to death. As we are plainly warned in 1st Peter Ch4v18 “If the righteous person is scarcely saved, what will it be like for the ungodly and sinner?” And in Hebrews Ch2vs 1-3 it implores; “We must give all the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we should drift away…for how shall we escape so great a Salvation?”

When an individual accepts the Lordship of Christ over their life, they are promised the help and strength of the Holy Spirit to enable them to walk in His ways and obey His Commandments. With His help they are required to bring every area of their lives under His authority and treat all His Commandments in Scripture as important. Genuine repentance must bring forth genuine obedience. If pickers and choosers have no place on the moon, how much more so, have they no place in the Kingdom of Heaven!