Hi, my name is Steven and this is the first chapter of my testimony. Now, I know it is currently very, very, very long, but I felt I had to do so to properly explain my story. My overall goal is to eventually use my story to bring others to Jesus Christ or deepen the faith of Believers. My long term goal is to publish a short book. I felt I needed to insert a lot of details in my story and reflections to accomplish these objectives. I'll post my other chapters on this board in time when I am done with them.
Chapter 1: How God Saved Me from Atheism
I’ll begin by explaining that I was an atheist who flirted with Deism as early as the beginning of high school, despite having grown up in a family that tried to raise me to be a Christian. I was also a very immoral person. As a high school student I thought that men like Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, or Erwin Rommel, Hitler’s top general, were heroic, though flawed men who were worth following. I desired to have been one of their soldiers. I viewed men like Julius Caesar, the cruel dictator of the Roman Empire, and Alexander the Great, the bloody conqueror of numerous cities, as virtuous men that were worth emulating. I also envied Hitler for the fact he ruled an enormous empire, and I even longed for the conquest of the world by a one world government because I thought it would lead to a better world. I thought life was about enjoying things as much as you could before dying and becoming nothing more than worm food. In addition, I was a staunch liberal who thought that abortion should be legal, and who thought homosexuality and other sexual sins were just fine if people kept them monogamous. I was also a very lustful and obsessive person since middle school. However, I finally understood how evil I was when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. That day I wrestled with my thoughts all day at high school. The problem was that I believed that the terrorist attacks were good in the end, even praying as an atheist for more blood and planes, because in my mind the attacks meant that many people had been freed from suffering in this world. I figured pain makes this life meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
I finally understood on 9/11/2001 that what I really wanted as an atheist was for people to lose their lives and be free from suffering in this world. Too cowardly to join the military, I was planning on taking my murderous impulses to weapons engineering for a big defense contractor as the way I could take lives legally in order to help erase suffering. I signed up for an aerospace engineering degree when I went to college with the desire to design war planes and space ships. Space ships being what I saw as the great hope of humanity to live lives of meaning despite the problem of pain. However, if you knew me you would have had a hard time understanding these murderous desires, as I was such a nice guy to people face to face and I became such a demon when they were people far away from me. Later on in college, I became enamored with the idea of being a domestic terrorist armed with weapons of mass destruction, and I desperately wanted to acquire such weapons to murder millions of Americans. However, the little research I did on the subject proved it was almost impossible to do, but I sorely wanted to switch my degree to nanotechnology, biology, or nuclear engineering to see if I could become a terrorist with the knowledge I would gain.
Now, around this time I had two Christian friends, a couple, and I became interested in learning more about their faith. So, I decided to ask them how to understand Christianity. They told me to read the Bible starting with the Gospels and pray, and I would see that a Christian life would grow on me as it had for them. I also asked them for something philosophical to read that summed up Christianity and they gave me the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Now, I did pray, but I found that in my heart I believed God existed to me, but in my mind He did not. This meant that my prayers felt both conflicted and pointless. I also tried reading the bible, but I started with Genesis. As a result, I found that my very scientific mind hated the first few chapters of Genesis as they seemed against science. Yet, even as an atheist, I found myself trying to prove the bible was right using science in order to regain trust in the bible as a holy book that contained the truth. This was because I had been raised to believe the bible was a holy book of the truth by my parents. However, the result of reading the bible seriously was that I began to lose confidence in it.
Here I must stop to say that I kid you not, this is a true story, as it will seem beyond belief. Now, it was August 2004 and hurricane Charley was barreling up the coast preparing to hit Tampa, but on a whim while watching TV I decided to pray a prayer that tested God to see if He existed. Now, I wanted to be in a high category hurricane to live through the experience, so I prayed that instead of hitting Tampa, hurricane Charley would hit Orlando. Miraculously enough, the hurricane changed course and barreled towards Punta Gorda instead of Tampa. I was shocked at the time. Later, as I looked at hurricane Charley barreling away from Orlando and leave my house behind I knew that I had encountered God. However, even after this miracle, I still did not have much faith in God. However, as only God could arrange, my two Christian friends knew a family whose house had been condemned, because hurricane Charley had put a tree through their roof. I decided to help them evacuate this house out of guilt for what I had prayed for.
The thing that struck me the most during this evacuation was that I saw the love Believers have for each other, as this family’s church showed up to help her move her stuff out of her condemned home and they even got a moving truck for her. This, despite everyone being busy with their own homes and clean up after the hurricane. I felt as if I had never seen such love before among the people who weren’t best friends or immediate family. Yet, after a day of helping evacuate the family’s house, I still had so much unbelief concerning God. On the way home as I was driven by my friends, I mulled over what I had been through. I acknowledged at last that there was hope out there, real hope in the person of a God who loves us, hope for an afterlife, and hope for a just and righteous world in the end. However, even after this amazing miracle of the weather, I was still unsure if God existed in my mind. So, on the way home, in the darkest feeling I have ever had, I prayed for two more hurricanes to hit Orlando that year to prove that God existed. Beyond all belief, two more hurricanes, Frances and Jeanne, did hit Orlando that year in answer to this prayer. But before getting to that point of my testimony, I must tell you all that happened between hurricane Charley and hurricane Frances.
After moving the family out of their home, I was wracked by guilt. I felt guilty for the damage I had wished upon the family’s home with my prayer, the damage I had wished upon others, the injuries suffered in the storm that I had wished upon others, and the lives that were lost in the storm that I had wished upon others. In the end, out of guilt, I decided that one hurricane in response to my prayer meant that I should become a religious seeker at least and stop being an atheist. So, at the time, I decided that I should look for which religion represented the God I had encountered with my answered prayer for hurricane Charley to hit Orlando. Now, I must tell you, this was very sinful and evil of me to do as God was obviously pointing to Jesus Christ at this point. However, I wanted to sample all of my options and not have faith in Jesus at that point in time.
I decided that I had to really understand Christianity at last and so I went to the Gospels and read all four, and I was struck by several things. First, I somehow knew that what I was reading was very holy and I basked in that feeling of holiness while reading the Gospels. Second, I realized that I was reading something very powerful, so powerful that I couldn’t put the bible down hardly at all while I was reading the Gospels. Third, what I was reading seemed fairly factual and matter of fact, which struck me as the bible was always sold to me as a mythological book by American culture. This was reinforced by the fact I could only remember a few stories from my children’s bible that seemed mythological like David and Goliath and Noah’s Ark. Fourth, I was struck by the figure of Jesus, He was so unlike the Jesus proclaimed by the culture around me. The real Jesus of the bible seemed like a very realistic, serious, and intelligent man on a mission to save the world from its sins. He also seemed otherworldly in a way I had never seen in any fiction. This was totally unlike any of the Jesus’s sold to me by American culture.
Now, this may surprise you, but this was the first time I had ever been presented the Good News of Jesus Christ in a way in which I could understand and accept it as an adult. I say this because American culture never once gave me the basics of the Gospel when I was old enough to understand what was being offered to me. My parents had tried to teach me Christianity when I was a young kid, but I never really understood completely what was being offered to me until I read the Gospels as a religious seeker.
After reading the Gospels, I read more of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and encountered his Trilemma. In his Trilemma C.S. Lewis argues that no one can call Jesus just a good man and one religious teacher among many. The Jesus of the bible does not allow for this at all. Given what Jesus says in the bible, we must conclude either one of three things about him: Either Jesus is the Son of God as he claims, or Jesus is insane to say what he says, or he is an evil man and perhaps the devil himself who is lying when he says what he says. I found this reasoning to be at base true. I quickly ruled out insanity as Jesus does not seem insane at all, and I ruled out Jesus being an evil man who was lying because of his love. This led me to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.
However, even after coming to the conclusion that it was reasonable to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, I still wanted to rule out other religions than Christianity by looking into them. I was still so skeptical of the truth because I reasoned that I was rushing to Christianity because it was the religion of my culture. I reasoned that if I had grown up elsewhere in the world I might be drawn to Buddhism, Hinduism, or even Islam. Again, this was a huge mistake, and because of doing this I would have a difficult time for years understanding that God had placed Jesus all around me from birth as a blessing and not to confuse me.
Now, I went to my local Barnes and Noble, and I went into the “religion” section and started to look through it. However, I was turned off by nearly every religion I found after some reading. I determined that Hinduism seemed too much like Greek Mythology to take it seriously. By this I mean that it just sounded like outright nonsense and made up stories. However, I did have an interest in Buddhism as instilled in me by American culture, but when I learned that the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse was actually an explanation of Buddhism; I quickly lost all interest in it, as I hated Siddhartha and its outlook on life. I held intense interest in Judaism, but when I found out that it was based only on the Old Testament of the Bible, I lost interest in it because it left out Jesus. I held some interest in Islam though, but I found that I could not stand the Quran or its commands when compared to the Gospels and the Old Testament Law, which I had begun to read. Obviously these were all very subjective ways of looking at the other religions colored by my own biases. Regardless, I was left with the figure of Jesus as the only one I actually wanted to put my faith in after going to my local bookstore.
Now, as I was reading Mere Christianity more I was especially struck by how C.S. Lewis defeats the reasonableness of Dualism between good and evil in one paragraph. I found this amazing, since as an atheist I saw Dualism and Deism as the two reasonable alternatives to atheism. Now, I had been a Deist at some points of high school, as I used to love the idea of a distant God, who cared nothing about his creations other than he put everything in motion. However, I gave up Deism when a Christian friend pointed out that it made no sense for God to have children and then abandon them. This defeated the reasonableness of that belief to me.
Mere Christianity also struck me when C.S. Lewis calls people to go to church by saying “When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery,” (https://www.dacc.edu/assets/pdfs/PCM...anitylewis.pdf, page 28). After reading this, I felt enticed by the idea of going to church. I also felt guilty, because I acknowledged that it was because of conceit and laziness that I avoided church. I finally decided that I really wanted to be in on this secret truth from God and the people that keep it, so I decided to go to church with my dad. We went to his church: Killarney Baptist Church in Winter Park, Florida, and I loved the experience of going as everyone was so loving and warm.
Soon, I saw baptisms being performed at Killarney, and I was amazed by them. I couldn’t remember myself being baptized as a child, and I decided that I really wanted to go through that experience. So, later that day I asked my parents whether I had been baptized, and I was told that I had been christened as a baby. As a result, I went to the Bible for the first time to make an important decision. After some research, I decided that I needed to get baptized as an actual believer in Jesus Christ instead of as an infant. Soon after this, I contacted the church and scheduled to be baptized. To prepare for my baptism, I went to a preparation session with my pastor. It was during this preparation session that I accepted the basics of the Christian faith such as the fact Jesus died for my sins in order for them to be forgiven. However, I had a difficult time understanding my baptism biblically and theologically, as I had not read the epistles yet. That said, I want to mention that this was the first time I had ever had all the major points of salvation explained to me in a comprehensive way by anyone. This is very sad for me to note, as I believe many people do not understand the basics of being saved in this country because it has never been explained to them.
Very soon after accepting the basics of the Gospel, I was baptized in front of my family, my church of Killarney, and my Christian friends. I also felt a holy glow after my baptism for days. Now, getting back to the hurricanes of 2004, sure enough after my baptism, both hurricanes Frances and Jeanne hit Orlando in September, which answered my prayer after hurricane Charley for two more hurricanes. I was amazed by it really, as it confirmed beyond a doubt that God existed to me. However, out of not wanting to be vulnerable to others, I never shared this experience with anyone but my friends, which was wrong of me to do as I should have shared and vetted my testimony.
That said, the most important thing this entire story did for me was to lead me to the bible, make me thirsty for it, make me dependent on it, and make me acknowledge it is the truth and Word of God, no matter what. However, I would call the next twelve years of my life years as an imposter Christian, who lacked salvation. This is because I would not choose to approach God or His Word on faith, instead determining that I had proof for everything and could still rely on reason and science as I did as an atheist. However, for the full story I now turn to my life as an imposter in the next chapter.