The Confident Christian
10/3/12 at 06:29 PM 6 Comments

Letter from a Former Atheist

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What happens when an atheist is honest enough to recognize the reality of the atheist worldview and then decides to read God's Word to see what the Creator of the universe has to say and offer? Read through Farris Johnson of Clemson University's account and then pray such a thing will happen to many more who are currently like he was.

Although I was raised in the conservative Bible belt, by middle school I had left any "faith" I might have had behind. I gravitated from a very early age towards liberal politics and humanism. As a young high schooler I made the intellectual leap from agnosticism to atheism and continued on in my humanist pursuits by working for many political campaigns and non-profit organizations.

As an atheist, I realized my claims about God, immortality, and morality was rendering a certain meaninglessness over life - however this is certainly not how I lived. I lived for political and social projects, I used language like "progress" and "injustice" while simultaneously knowing that if I were pressed to provide a definition to such things, I couldn't give an honest answer for why I believed they existed or even what they meant. Life was lived in two realms: 1) I knew their was a meaninglessness, non-absolute, subjective, and as far as I knew, possibly incoherent habitat for my 'existence,' but 2) I put this knowledge in a box in order to proceed with my own personal meaning. I realized that essentially, I was using some Grand Lie which ascribed unintelligible significance to my relationships and passions and work. As unstoppable meaning-makers, I think a secular person's difficulty is in eventually accepting that any meaning they create is nothing more than a very serious game of make-believe.

Make-believe isn't very difficult in itself, but it is very tiring to continue to realize that your whole life is inconsistent - this was the state of exhaustion I found myself at. I found myself very disillusioned by the intellectual and moral incoherence within my own thinking. I thought it would help to backtrack and be more careful in my rationale, become a more solid atheist, but came to a conclusion that it would be an impossibility for me to be completely consistent.

After a series of personal events which left my life broken before me, I found myself with no answers. It was in an Existentialism class, a course very much aimed at promoting secular thinking, at Clemson that I read an excerpt from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, "The Grand Inquisitor." From this short parable I first glimpsed that perhaps Christians might at least have a consistent manner of living - and this shadow of the Christian life exacerbated the longing I felt to live a complete, honest life.

Thirsty to see more of this, I went and visited a church with a friend. I don't remember much, if anything, from that sermon, I just remember people-watching and wondering if this was a continuation of the make-believe I had engaged in as a humanist, or if perhaps it was grasping a greater reality. That same friend later texted me a verse from Romans, and the next day I read Romans in all of it's entirety.

Paul's letter took all my accusations against the Father and Son and threw them back at me. As he listed the sins of humanity, I realized I had committed all of them. Although I knew little of the Old Testament, God provided grace and understanding as I plowed through chapter 4, allowing me to understand justification by faith, through God's faithfulness. I realized the glorious Truth of a Just God who is also the Justifier of corrupt men through Christ Jesus who shared in my weakness, yet was always whole and deity.

In chapter 9 I reached a text I had often pointed at to condemn Christians: "Jacob I love, but Esau I hated." Instead of being outraged by the wrath of God, I felt my heart melt and wonder incredulously, "How did You, knowing all, ever love a creature like Jacob?" And when Paul asserted that the Potter could have made vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, I felt very certain that is was accurate, furthermore I felt that I could be this clay piece awaiting a day of shattering. This book I had read was Truth.

And yet, a week went by with me shifting uncomfortably in my flesh - unwilling because of my pride to admit Christ's Lordship. Yet finally I confessed to that same friend who I visited church with, "I don't want to admit it, but this is Truth." From that moment forward, life has looked very different for me.

As someone who has always been very opinionated, I struggled to learn that as a follower of Christ it was incumbent upon me to also have the mind of Christ in all things, whether they be matters of politics, science, or philosophy. Yet God has given grace for me to drop my worldly platforms and truly love God with all my heart, soul, and mind. Through many sanctifying and often uncomfortable means, God has slowly been using His Spirit to rid my heart from its arrogance and re-orient my heart to pursue the Kingdom of Heaven. In my former life as a nonbeliever, I found my identity in the knowledge I hoarded, however now the Lord has commissioned me to share knowledge about His identity for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory (2 Tim 2:10).

In my classes, almost every aspect of the Christian worldview has been challenged and belittled. In my science classes, Creationist thought is portrayed as inane and any attempt to present this view is simply a straw man. In my history classes, evolutionary theory is the foundation and the story of history is seen under the lens of progress rather than redemptive history. In my religion classes, Scripture is manhandled and profaned as commentators waste their time with futile sociological criticism to explain away the miraculous. During philosophy classes, the supernatural is not even considered - to espouse any claim other than atheistic materialism is to commit academic suicide. I don't expect, nor do I wish, for my secular school to teach theology, but I do wish that students who adhere to a solid Biblical worldview were not immediately deemed silly. I want students to have the confidence to voice Truth in the classroom setting, even if the wisdom of God is seen as foolishness to men.

Only after my salvation did I decide to major in Philosophy, simply because I knew it would be the place at Clemson that I would be most challenged. Frankly, I love that I can share the Gospel to my professors in all of my papers - and the best part is they are a captive audience to this evangelism! Working through issues related to secular philosophy has definitely deepened my reliance upon the Lord and reassured me of the supremacy of Scripture. In my personal journey through this, I often wished all my believing friends could engage these questions regularly and confidently - not just for their own edification, but so that they might become more bold evangelists.

Ratio Christi presents an opportunity for this. With a student apologetics association on the ground in Clemson, I have no doubt that it will be possible to equip believers with Biblical answers for difficult questions. The Ratio Christi of Clemson was assembled and ratified by the student government in less than a week, and this incredibly expedited process convinces me that this is a plan from God, rather than from men. We're looking forward to hitting the ground running this fall. Our officers have already begun reading William Lane Craig's On Guard in order to start training our minds to understand these arguments. Furthermore, Ratio Christi provides a space to dialogue with the secular university, both professor and students. As an atheist, I was involved with the Secular Students Alliance; now with Ratio Christi, I look forward to engaging my past comrades with the Good News of Christ. Ratio Christi is a rare student ministry that truly exemplifies the Helper characteristics of God by coming alongside believers, students, faculty, ministries, and churches, where ever they are at, in order to train and build up the local Church at large.

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