In this post, I will give a summary of the history of my journey to becoming a true believer in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I expect this to be a bit longer than the first post as I am trying to cover nearly 40 years in a single article. I am going to try to highlight a few key points along my way that helped to light up the path, but I'm sure more posts will be required to tease out the details of these revelations as they occurred in my life. We'll see how it goes in the coming months. I have more important things to discuss on the site than myself, but I do want to make it clear that my path has been a personal one that took humility and a willingness to accept God's work in my life as evidence of his divine grace.
In the beginning...
I grew up without a mother. As far as I can recall, my father never really exhibited much of an opinion on religion. Somewhere between 10 and 13 years old, I started going to Sunday school. The content definitely piqued my interests; I think mostly because it was new and exciting. I was a quick learner, so within a year or so, I moved from the middle school classes into the high school classes ahead of schedule. I was fairly engaged with the youth group, and I even attended church. For all anyone could tell, I was a Christian. I even chose to get baptized.
As time wore on, I rebelled against my parents more and more, and eventually there was a falling out between me and the congregation. I moved to another Church that some friends of mine went to for a little while, but my rebellion was in full effect and visible to everyone. I felt isolated more and more, and I began to harbor resentment. One day, I pointed all of that anger towards God, and I held Him accountable for the behaviors of people around me. I rejected Him outwardly, first turning to the one I considered to be his adversary (Satan), and then pretty quickly settling in as a pagan and dismissing my previous notions of monotheism.
Over the years...
I always thought of myself as analytical, and science minded. I started to mix my ideas of spirituality with scientific discoveries. I came up with a weird kind of personal religion that was pantheistic in nature. Anywhere I found a correlation between some pagan belief and science I worked the science into the belief. I saw the mystical writings of people through the ages as a similar type of endeavor, and I figured that their knowledge was to be found in the occult. I integrated worldly religions with modern science for what I thought was a completely unique spiritual belief that I thought answered all the questions humanity was set out to answer.
One Christmas, I brought my kids down to visit my Dad. They were asleep and my dad and I were speaking on the topic of spirituality in the kitchen. This was the first time in my whole life that we had ever really discussed such things. I explained how I saw the universe. I pointed out to him that the purpose for mankind in my view was simply to help the universe to see and experience itself. The energy most people thought was a soul or spirit, was the same thing as the meat suit we wear. All matter breaks down into energy, and energy can't be created or destroyed, it can only change form. I had actually worked it out in my mind that there was no need for a soul at all because the body being made up of energy was the soul. I told him I believed that when we die, our body will gradually breakdown into its energy as it's used up by other living organisms, and when that energy is released it would never be recombined into the same "soul". Thus the idea of self was merely a useful construction. We were all one, and we were no more significant than a rock at the bottom of the ocean.
I went on to explain that ghosts and gods were merely human constructs, created by our belief in them. They were real and effective in the world, but simple dismissal was all that was needed to release their control over you. There was ultimately no point to anything except for the experience itself which would be transferred to a kind of universal impersonal consciousness upon recombination with the energy from your body. My Dad looked at me and said "Son, that's the most dismal opinion of the world I think I've ever heard." At the time I couldn't understand his reasoning. I said "Why? Everything is equal and I think it's beautiful." He just shook his head and said he couldn't imagine thinking like that. We never really got into his beliefs too much, but he definitely wasn't impressed with mine.
A few years later....
We never spoke about that discussion again, but I felt like for the first time in years, our relationship was finally growing and improving. I was in my early 30's by this time, my Dad nearing 60. A year or two after the big spirituality talk, my Dad passed away rather suddenly, about a month after his 60th birthday. The loss was devastating. I mourned like any human does when they lose someone they love. I regretted not spending more time with him. I regretted not just moving closer so I could have helped him. I felt his loss like I never imagined I would. We had his funeral in a Catholic church in town (He was raised a Catholic), and we all drove down to North Carolina to bury his body. It was hard for everyone, but I felt the worst for my Grandmother (his mom). She had him placed in the spot that had been reserved for her. She outlived one of her children. I can't even imagine what this must do to a person. She held herself together so well, but I knew she was devastated inside.
After the funeral, I moved into the house he spent his life improving. I learned more about my Dad. I realized that while we had both made mistakes in our lives, and neither of us had it easy, he was a way better person than I was. He was able to achieve great things without a whole lot of opportunity, whereas I was just starting to make my life more comfortable and I still had nothing to compare with his works. He raised me as best as he was capable given the circumstances, but I had been a rebellious and troublesome person for the bulk of my life.
As the wound of the loss of my father started to heal, I met a woman who was Christian, but she wasn't concerned with my religion so long as I left her alone with hers. It was strange, but intriguing. We had a lot else that we agreed on, so for the first time in a long time, I dated a Christian. She was not overtly passionate about her faith as far as I could see, and she didn't do anything to push me toward God, but I think her presence may have been a starting point in my rediscovery of the Christian path.
I found Jordan Peterson's rational approach to examining the Pentateuch enlightening, and for the first time in ages, I felt like Christianity might have something to offer my world view. I decided I would consider the Bible as a valuable collection of writings, and I started on a path of careful review. I picked up the Douay Rheims version of the Bible after a recommendation from a Catholic friend at work. I didn't read it religiously or on any kind of reading plan, but I did pick it up from time to time. My beliefs were unwavering so far.
The Problem of Evil...
Being an information junky, I keep up with news and politics from around the globe. Leading up to 2016 I felt the world was on a the precipice of a change. The presidential election being decided upon was one with no good answers as far as I could tell. It seemed at the time either path (HRC or DJT) was going to be a negative one. I wasn't a big fan of the Donald based on what I knew of him, and Hillary Clinton has always seemed to be lacking in the soul department. Islam was growing in popularity, despite the open air evidence of the evil this religion has brought to the world. I couldn't figure out why the world seemed so eager to embrace the "religion of peace" after everything we had already seen.
I saw a culmination of evil threatening the world over, and I thought "If evil exists, doesn't good also have to exist?". Up to this point I had been more or less a moral relativist. I believed the cultural norms dictated the morals that were appropriate. I considered a world where the morals of the Islamic world were imposed on the culture. I also tried picturing a world where moral relativism was fully realized, and I saw both of these were simply untenable.
The world seemed hell bent on persecuting the Christian faith. I was hearing from everywhere in the world that Islam was growing, and terror attacks on Christians were on the rise. I realized that a lot of the conflict on the planet seemed to be directed at Christianity in one way or another. It started making sense to me that if evil and good are real objective truths, and Christianity showed as a good representation of those truths, evil would be attacking the cultural roots of Christianity to try and uproot goodness.
I gave worship at my old church a try. They were so accepting, and within a visit or two I was invited to attend a group called the Yoke Fellows which has been an adult Sunday school in the church for over a hundred years. I told them I would love to attend, and I started to attend irregularly. I still didn't feel like God was real, but I was determined to give it an honest try to live as a Christian the way JP said he lived. I still harbored my real beliefs, but I didn't share this with anyone in the Church.
Fast forward a little bit...
Not too long after I started to "live as if God exists", I started listening to theologians presenting the case for God online. At this point, I was of the belief that God could be real, but in general I thought of the whole idea as some kind of useful allegory for how we could find peace within. About 1 week before Christmas I discovered the concept of Christian apologetics. That same year, as a gift, my girlfriend's daughter bought me the book "Evidence That Demands a Verdict". I was floored! She told me she actually bought it months before and had no idea what it was even about. She felt compelled to buy this rather unassuming book for me without any foreknowledge of what the book was about or that I was headed in the direction I was headed.
What Evidence showed me was that there was actually good historical evidence that Jesus was a real person who actually lived. He was crucified as was depicted in the Bible, and he seemed to have performed miracles if the historicity and accuracy of the Gospel books was to be trusted, which they also did a good job of supporting. I prayed to God thanking him for the providential sign posts he was leaving me, and accepted Jesus Christ's historical claims. I still had some doubt with regard to the resurrection and whether or not God was a trinity, but I felt certain God is real, and Jesus was a critical part of his overall plan. Eventually I rationalized that if a being was so monumentally great to be able to create a universe, resurrecting himself in corporeal form seemed a small task. This helped me to rationally accept Christ's gift as a literal sacrifice and literal resurrection, defeating death in the process. I held onto, and still to this day hold on to some personal beliefs around the trinity that may be different from the norm, but by this point, I knew God was there in my life showing me the right path, and I just had to want to find it.
How did I get here?
It's still a shock that after all the searching for almost literally anything other than Christianity, here I am. It was a very long and arduous path, but it was worth every misstep! Through an honest evaluation of the problem of evil, I came to the conclusion that God must be real. I know this same problem takes other people to a different conclusion, but for me evidence of objective evil seems evidence of objective good. Once I accepted Christ in my heart, I began to see my morals come into alignment with the will of God. I realized past misguided decisions and thoughts were the result of the relativistic approach I had maintained for so long. I began a process of recognizable sanctification. I still don't necessarily look or act like the "typical Christian", but I feel the Holy Spirit changing me from within. One day in a future post I may expand on this.