On August 30th, 2010 at the age of 34 I came to Christ. However to the question of why I am a Christian there are really two parts. The first is how I came to know Christ, which is subjective and experiential. In fact, if you ask a follower of any other religion the same question you will get a similar answer. The second part of this question is what makes all the difference; it is why am I still a Christian? To this part, the answer is historically and evidentially based in cosmology, teleology, archeology, and philosophy. The arguments for the existence of God and the historical reliability of the Bible are overwhelmingly stronger than those against the existence of God. By arguments I mean the real arguments, not the straw-man fallacies of which is the basis internet memes, but more on this in a later post. This post is about how I first came to Christ, which will require a glimpse into my past.
From Nominal Catholicism to Neo-Paganism to Anti-Christian Atheism
When I was growing up, I went to a Catholic church when my parents felt obligated to attend, which always corresponded with Christmas and Easter. Eventually, my mother stopped going, which was great news for a kid who wanted to stay home and play on Sunday mornings! I thought of being Catholic as a heritage that I inherited from my parents, and I never really thought or cared about who Jesus was or why we worshiped a dead guy on a stick.
I was in high school when I was introduced to Wicca, which is an earth-centered, neo-pagan religion. Followers of Wicca usually worship both gods and goddesses through nature, though it has many forms and variations. Wicca can be pantheistic (god is in all of nature), polytheistic (there are many gods), and even panentheistic (all of nature is part of god). Despite the diversity of Wiccan beliefs, there is a central rule adhered to by most; the Wiccan Rede which essentially states “do what you want without hurting anyone.” Wiccans are big proponents of karma, the theory that everything you do, good or bad, returns to you.
When I was in college, I decided to dedicate myself to learning more and following a Wiccan religion. During this self-dedication period, I saw a lot of butterflies.
At one point, while stopped at a traffic light one even flew in my car. Since butterflies start out their lives as caterpillars, I took this to be a symbol of spiritual transformation and a sign from the gods that I was on the right path.
After a few years of studying Wicca, and other pagan and Eastern religions I no longer considered myself Wiccan, but an “Eclectic Neo-Pagan.” I had created a jigsaw religion, composed of pieces I liked from other religions. Internal consistency was not an issue if I did not like something I threw it out without considering the logical implications of what it meant to the larger picture. In my personal religion, the only thing that mattered was that I followed what I believed to be true. I felt that all people were justified and saved through following what they believed, except that is, for Christians who I thought were hopeless idiots.
Over the following years, my resentment towards Christians grew, and my dedication to following religion lessened. I became agnostic who was rapidly walking to atheism. During this time I buried two grandparents, and began to lose my grandmother to Alzheimer’s. These were the only Christians I respected, and without their influence, I quickly plunged into a form of aggressive atheism. However, four years later, at my grandmother’s funeral, this came to a sudden stop and complete turnaround.
Two months before my grandmother passed, I was at work and visiting a patient who was watching a Christian television sermon. Now, I had a “natural” distrust of TV evangelists, but this guy was speaking a positive message about recognizing and being thankful for the blessings that we have. His sermon was about changing your perspective, and even though I hated Christians on principle, I sat with the patient at her bedside and watched the entire episode. After listening to this sermon, my perspective on Christians began to change, and the next Sunday I worked, I found myself looking for this channel again.
The day of my grandmother’s funeral arrived. I was standing at the casket in the cemetery, the minister led everyone in prayer, and I bowed my head in fake prayer out of respect. With my head lowered I only had one thought; “I wish I could believe”. The minister wrapped up the prayer, and my attention moved elsewhere, but at that moment, a single butterfly, that was a remarkable match to my suit, flew around everyone and came to rest on my tie. It fluttered its wings a couple of times and flew off.
Alone, this may have been a coincidence, but with the events of past and my prior experience with butterflies I took this to be a sign that there was a god, or divine presence in the world. Covered with goose bumps and my mind was working like a quantum computer, I had faith in a higher power again. I was not ready to say I had faith in Yahweh, but for once in my life the option was not closed.
I shared this story, and my dad gave me his Bible, a New Living Translation (NLT) and I accepted it. I was reluctant at first, but I figured it would not hurt to take it. Then I found out it had features notes and encouragement from the same guy who changed my perspective on Christians. I immediately began reading my dad’s Bible. I started with Genesis and was going to work through in order.
After two weeks of reading on my lunch break, I was sitting in my car before work and flipping through the pages of the Bible. This Bible had been well read and marked by my dad, and many of the pages were folded and wrinkled. So, as I sat in my car unfolding and flattening out pages, I start to wonder what I would say to someone if they asked if I was a Christian. As my attention shifts to this hypothetical conversation, my hands continue to work through pages. I finally decide that I would tell the imaginary asker of this question that since I have not yet arrived at the New Testament and know nothing of this Jesus fellow that I cannot claim to be a Christian. Of course, this question led to me wondering if I should progress my reading to the New Testament when suddenly I hear a rip and I feel a page tear out in my hand. With my attention redirected to my hands, I assessed how bad the damage was, and I found myself dumbfounded by the title and content of the page.
That page was a reading plan titled “One Year In The Life Of Jesus”, and was a 52-week reading plan of the four Gospels. That was the moment I gave my life to Christ, at 7:00 am in the parking lot of work my life forever changed.