Category Archives: Conversion

Legitimate God Questions + Cliche Answers = Atheist

Nancy Pearcey in her book Total Truth tells just a part of her story. She said she went to a church in her childhood that would never answer her questions. She had all these God Questions that she would ask, and what she got was a pat on the back and cliché statements like “Just pray about it” or “You’re just in a phase right now” or “Don’t worry, we all have doubts sometimes honey” or “Just get in the Word” or “Stop rebelling. You’re not supposed to ask questions like that!”

Since no one ever bothered to answer her deepest questions about why and how Christianity is true, she decided the best thing to do would be to reject the faith and to search out all other faith systems and that’s what she did. Several years later she encountered L’Abri in Switzerland, the residential ministry of Francis Schaeffer.

Writes Pearcey: “It was the first time I had ever encountered Christians who actually answered my questions – who gave reasons and arguments for the truth of Christianity instead of simply urging me to have faith (53).”

She recovered her faith. She writes: “No one can live without a sense of purpose or direction, a sense that his or her life has significance as part of a cosmic story. We may limp along for a while, extracting small installments of meaning from short-term goals like earning a degree, landing a job, getting married, establishing a family. But at some point, these temporal things fail to fulfill the deep hunger for eternity in the human spirit. For we were made for God, and every part of our personality is oriented toward relationship with Him. ‘Our hearts are restless, Augustine said, until we find our rest in Him’.”

But in the mean time, let’s give better answers; well thought-out, cohesive replies to those with God Questions, minus the cliches. Blogs like the De-Conversion blog is where people end up when we settle for pat answers and cliche responses.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Conversion, Deconversion, God, Larger Story, Life Purpose, Questions, Reconversion, Theism

The Reluctant, Resisting Theist – “Checkmate”

Clives Staples LewisC.S. Lewis said he knew God was pursuing him. In his autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis piles up the metaphors to illustrate this. First, God was “the great Angler” playing his fish. God was a cat chasing him, the mouse. God was like a pack of hounds and he was the fox. Finally, God was the Divine Chessplayer and he was moving from square to square trying to avoid the divine “Checkmate.” Lewis said, “I was brought into the kingdom kicking, struggling, resentful…trying to find a way to escape.”

You may be kicking, struggling, looking for a chance to make another escape, but resist that urge. The steady, unrelenting approach of the One that you have so long avoided is not going away. Give up trying to escape from Him. Surrender to His embrace.

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One Atheist to Another: “Let’s Play Dumb”

Dr. J. BudziszewskiSo often, we play dumb with God and our own conscience, refusing to believe what we can know to be true. Dr. J. Budziszewski shares his story.

I have already said that everything goes wrong without God. This is true even of the good things He’s given us, such as our minds. One of the good things I’ve been given is a stronger than average mind. I don’t make the observation to boast; human beings are given diverse gifts to serve Him in diverse ways. The problem is that a strong mind that refuses the call to serve God has its own way of going wrong. When some people flee from God they rob and kill. When others flee from God they do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex. When I fled from God I didn’t do any of those things; my way of fleeing was to get stupid. Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in his arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all…. You cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself–well, if you are like I was, maybe you can–what a person has to do to himself to go on believing such nonsense. St. Paul said that the knowledge of God’s law is “written on our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness.” The way natural law thinkers put this is to say that they constitute the deep structure of our minds. That means that so long as we have minds, we can’t not know them. Well, I was unusually determined not to know them; therefore I had to destroy my mind. I resisted the temptation to believe in good with as much energy as some saints resist the temptation to neglect good. For instance, I loved my wife and children, but I was determined to regard this love as merely a subjective preference with no real and objective value. Think what this did to my very capacity to love them. After all, love is a commitment of the will to the true good of another person, and how can one’s will be committed to the true good of another person if he denies the reality of good, denies the reality of persons, and denies that his commitments are in his control?

How then did God bring me back? I came, over time, to feel a greater and greater horror about myself. Not exactly a feeling of guilt, not exactly a feeling of shame, just horror: an overpowering sense that my condition was terribly wrong. Finally it occurred to me to wonder why, if there were no difference between the wonderful and the horrible, I should feel horror. In letting that thought through, my mental censors blundered. You see, in order to take the sense of horror seriously–and by now I couldn’t help doing so–I had to admit that there was a difference between the wonderful and the horrible after all. For once my philosophical training did me some good, because I knew that if there existed a horrible, there had to exist a wonderful of which the horrible was the absence. So my walls of self-deception collapsed all at once.

At this point I became aware again of the Savior whom I had deserted in my twenties. Astonishingly, though I had abandoned Him, he had never abandoned me. I now believe He was just in time. There is a point of no return, and I was almost there… .

The next few years after my conversion were like being in a dark attic where I had been for a long time, but in which shutter after shutter was being thrown back so that great shafts of light began to stream in and illuminate the dusty corners. I recovered whole memories, whole feelings, whole ways of understanding that I had blocked out… .

… My own contribution to the theory of natural law is a little different than those of some other writers. One might say that I specialize in understanding the ways that we pretend we don’t know what we really do–the ways we suppress our knowledge, the ways we hold it down, the ways we deceive ourselves and others. I do not try to “prove” the natural law as though one could prove that by which all else is proven; I do try to show that in order to get anywhere at all, the philosophies of denial must always at some point assume the very first principles they deny.

It is a matter of awe to me that God has permitted me to make any contribution at all. His promise is that if only the rebel turns to Jesus Christ in repentant faith, giving up claims of self-ownership and allowing this Christ the run of the house, He will redeem everything there is in it. Just so, it was through my rescue from self-deception that I learned about self-deception. He has redeemed even my nihilist past and put it to use.

Many of my students tell me they struggle with the same dark influences that I once did. I hope that by telling the story of my own escape I may encourage them to seek the light.

The atheist is many times a wonderfully talented intellectual. I enjoy seeing the mind of an atheist at work. But, Dr. Budziszewski’s point is well-taken. Humans have the basics to understand right from wrong. But we don’t want it to be true. We play dumb to what we know to be obvious. We pretend to search for truth, to convince others that we are honest in the inquiry, but our hearts have already made up it’s mind, and even if the truth was in front of our nose, we would pretend not to see it. “Let’s play dumb.”

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Conversion, God, Reconversion, Religion

Allow Yourself to be Grasped by Love

C. S. Lewis, the British intellect who had all these intellectual problems with believing in God, was almost wrestled into a relationship with God. God would not stop pursuing him. Lewis said, “Picture me alone in my room night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet…The Prodigal son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?” Lewis’s testimony is like so many others; He could not escape God. John Stott, who borrows a phrase from Francis Thompson, refers to Jesus as “The Hound of Heaven” in his book Why I Am a Christian

Jesus pursued him relentlessly even when Stott was running away from Him. At least, you think that Jesus would get the hint and leave you alone. But He doesn’t; He pursues us relentlessly. Stott finally surrendered to the embrace of the Tremendous Lover. And Stott shares if it were not for the gracious pursuit of the Hound of Heaven, “I would today be on the scrapheap of wasted and discarded lives.” God is not a passive deity hiding in His throne room; He is on your trail. No, He does not wait impatiently for you to say “Yes” to his invitation to a place at His table and then turn to abandon you in favor of other sport. The truth is that the grand chase never ends until you are all He meant you to be. You will be amazed at what extent He will go to reach you. God is wild in His pursuit, and will even become a baby to reach you or die a criminal’s death. He loves so recklessly with the torn, broken, lacerated, spit-covered, blood-drenched body of Jesus as just a hint of His love. There’s no refuge from the love of God. You can’t escape it – see Psalm 139. He’s wild about you! Novelist Reynolds Price said there is one sentence all humankind craves to hear: ‘The Maker of all things loves and wants me’ (Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read 206.)” I share a Brennan Manning quote: “Some things are understood not by grasping but by allowing oneself to be grasped.” Allow yourself to be grasped by love.

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A Faulty View of God and De-Conversion

I spent some time exploring a blog recently dedicated to those who have “de-converted” from Christianity to atheism or some other belief system. As I explored the site, one thing became apparent. These individuals have a faulty view of God.

What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us (A.W. Tozer). This tells us what kind of God we believe in. Most nonreligious people are rejecting a god that they don’t even understand. And if they did, they would probably call a truce and stop fighting against Him so much.

It sounds to me that the kind of God they want is a “genie” they can rub or a “vending machine” they can deposit a prayer into and have Him to dispense their fix. It’s God in their image and it distorts who He is. God is very particular in how we think about Him, describe Him, and define Him. We want a god who is safe, nice, pampering, just so long as he keeps his distance. Provide, don’t intrude. Protect, never demand. Care, but don’t judge or meddle in my business. Don’t crowd me. And if you don’t do as I ask, then I’ll stop believing in you and this will be my way of getting back at you. This is what I sense over at the De-Conversion blog.

A former chaplain at Harvard, George Buttrick, recalls that students would often come into his office and declare, “I don’t believe in God.” The wise chaplain would then reply, “Sit down and tell me what kind of God you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that God either.” See, if I can declare that God doesn’t exist or that he is like one of so many misguided concepts of God, then it relieves me from the responsibility of being one of His creations and wrestling with the hurt of life. These misled images and concepts of god have become our idols. And we have become our own gods.

So where do we get the right picture of God? After George Buttrick would ask his Harvard students that question, then he would go on to talk about Jesus, the corrective to all of our assumptions about God. “He is the aperture through which the immensity and magnificence of God can be begun to be seen (J.B. Phillips, 85).”

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Conversion, Deconversion, God, Jesus Christ, Rebellion

Mulish Pride

J Budziszewski

J Budziszewski

J. Budziszewski, now a Christian professor at the University in Texas, shares his story How to Stay Christian in College (Th1nk Edition). At the age of ten, he committed his life to Jesus Christ and was baptized. As a teenager, he was not a mature believer, but he was enthusiastic about his faith. But he fell away from faith while in college. He said, “My politics became a kind of substitute religion. During my student years I had also committed certain sins that I didn’t want to repent. Because the presence of God made me more and more uncomfortable, I began looking for reasons to believe that He didn’t exist. Then again, once I lost hold of God, things started going wrong in my life, and disbelieving in Him seemed a good way to get back at Him…. All of this gives you a clue to the main reason I lost faith in God: sheer, mulish pride. I didn’t want God to be God; I wanted J. Budziszewski to be God…. I now believe that without God, everything goes wrong…. How then did God bring me back? I came, over time, to feel a greater and greater horror about myself – an overpowering sense that my condition was terribly wrong…. The next few years after my conversion were like being in a dark attic – one I had been in for a long time, but in which shutter after shutter was being thrown back to that great shafts of light began to stream in and illuminate the dusty corners. I recovered whole memories, whole feelings, whole way of understanding that I had blocked out. As I look back, I am in awe that God has permitted me to make any contribution to His kingdom at all. But He promises that if only the rebel turns to Jesus Christ in repentant faith, giving up claims of self-ownership and allowing this Jesus, the Christ, the run of the house, He will redeem everything there is in it. And he did.”

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