August 20, 2004

[December 2002] I have not always been a Christian. I went to church as a kid, a liberal Protestant church – the emphasis was on Jesus as a manifestation of God’s love for us, not so much on Jesus’ heroic work in the world, then and now. I could kind of easily accept that there was an all-powerful God who created the world, and even that he loved me and would take care of me. When I was young. By the time I was a teenager, I had pulled away. The world seemed to me to be full of indications of God’s indifference, or maybe a harsh kind of toughlove. Stephen King’s confused Christian humanism, in which people are part of a struggle between good and evil, and God favors the good, but doesn’t really play favorites – really resonated with me. In his view, it’s up to people what happens. I think I felt, as long as human effort and courage were what really counted in the end, religious belief might be detrimental or useless – extraneous, say, an impediment or extra baggage. You didn’t need it.

So that’s where I was. Now how did I get from there to where I am now, almost twenty years later? It took a lot of little, influential (but never conclusive) steps.

1. I had a Christian friend in high school, Jane Dvorak, who witnessed aggressively to me. She was responsible for introducing me to the music of Michael Card, the writing of C.S. Lewis, her friend Lizo Scott, the NIV translation of the Bible, and the leader of the Christian fellowship at Wesleyan.

2. My meeting with Lizo Scott – whose gentle manner and thoughtfulness impressed me greatly – only took place by a coincidence that struck me as contrived to the point of flamboyance.

3. By the end of my senior year in high school, I had lost my smug confidence in myself as someone reliable and smart. (My perfectionism was also aggravated to the point where I would have needed divine assistance to meet my own expectations for myself. But if we bring that in, we have to draw a distinction between the false Christianity of my own making that made my life miserable for several years… and the kind of Christianity I’m talking about, that a normal person might actually choose to believe.)

4. The Christian Fellowship at Wesleyan – run by an organization called Inter Varsity – was a big influence. I wouldn’t have gotten involved with them if not for #1, #2 and #3.

5. In the WCF, I had many friends whom I adored and from whom I came to understand and respect Christians far more than I had. Aside from the individuals, the experience of being part of a close-knit group of people who cared for each other – in many ways, because they were all friends – but also because they were Christian… had an enormous impact.

6. It could get monotonous to take a separate step to describe the impact of each individual person who influenced me. It’s quite a “cloud of witnesses.” Freshman year of college, Andrew Springman personally ‘discipled’ me. My first real girlfriend, Kate Edgerton, someone I greatly esteemed and cared about, was born again while she was studying abroad in China (after our relationship was over). Dru Stevenson, who became leader of the WCF when I was a senior, irritated and angered me, but left a lasting impression. Michael Card and Keith Green, songwriters. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Daniel Taylor, Pascal (mediated through Thomas V. Morris), G.K. Chesterton, Annie LaMott, Chaim Potok – all writers. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Delphia McClure, a resident at the old folks’ center I worked at in D.C. Danita Pollard, my roommate in L.A.

7. Some of the most powerful ‘proofs’ are so difficult to convey, but I’ll give this one a shot. I could not adequately account for the fact that Jesus Christ, instead of fading into irrelevance as I got older and saw more of the world, continued to be a gnawing concern and a persistent preoccupation. What was the deal with this Jesus? Why wouldn’t he just go away? This feeling lingered while I was trying to be a generic deist, as well as when I was trying to be an agnostic.

8. The fact that I went through a period of immense guilt and suffering just before returning to God is probably relevant. If I considered it determinative – if I thought faith in Christ was just a psychological game I’m playing with myself to cope with the pain of life – obviously, I wouldn’t be a Christian. However, if someone wants to say, “See. It’s a crutch for weak people,” I would agree with that. I have no problem with accepting the support God offers me to get through a life that requires more virtue and strength than I possess.

9. In L.A. I made a decision to start praying again. I can’t really explain it – except I was at a critical time and it was time to either start leaning on God or not. That was a kind of crux – I made a commitment to follow God, to affirm that He existed, on the basis of what I knew at that point. So factors that followed this point in time are a little different from those that came before – clearly, commitment to a point of view inevitably leads to more evidence supporting that point of view – believing precedes seeing.

10. Since then, I’ve come to believe, not only that God exists, but that he has spoken through the Bible and that Jesus really was the Christ. That has primarily happened through finding a Christian community (my home fellowship group) and a teacher (Dr. Tim Keller, of Redeemer Presbyterian Church) who won my confidence.


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