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Friday, January 30, 2015

Another Atheist-Turned-Christian

Posted by jlwile on January 9, 2014

This is  Rosaria Champagne Butterfield during an interview with Marvin Olasky of World Magazine.  (click for credit)

This is Rosaria Champagne Butterfield during an interview with Marvin Olasky of World Magazine. (click for credit)

Because I was an atheist who converted to Christianity, I like to read the stories of other former atheists (see here, here, and here). This post is about atheist-turned-Christian Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. She was an English professor at Syracuse University, and in her own words, her conversion to Christianity was a “train wreck.”

A short version of her conversion story is at Christianity Today, and it is well work the read. She has also written a book entitled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. I have not read the book, but it is on my list.

What I find most intruiging about her story is how it began. She had written an article in the local newspaper that was critical of the Christian group called Promise Keepers. Like most controversial pieces, the article sparked all sorts of written responses. She says that she filed them into two groups: hate mail and fan mail. However, there was one letter she couldn’t classify. That letter led her down the path to Christ.

What was the content of the letter? In Butterfield’s own words:

It was from the pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was a kind and inquiring letter. Ken Smith encouraged me to explore the kind of questions I admire: How did you arrive at your interpretations? How do you know you are right? Do you believe in God? Ken didn’t argue with my article; rather, he asked me to defend the presuppositions that undergirded it. I didn’t know how to respond to it, so I threw it away.

Obviously, she ended up fishing it out of the trash, and the way God worked through that letter and its author is incredible.

Because of God’s mighty work, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield was transformed. She was transformed from someone who couldn’t say the name of Jesus to someone who worships Him. She was transformed from a woman who attacked Christians to a woman who loves her fellow Christians. She was transformed from a lesbian into a pastor’s wife and a mother of four.

Of course, that last transformation bothers some people. She gets a lot of pushback because she honestly discusses her sexuality before and after her conversion. For example, when she spoke at the University of South Florida a group of students staged a peaceful and respectful protest in the front row of her talk.

If you would like to hear more from this atheist-turned-Christian, you might watch this one-hour interview with Marvin Olasky of World Magazine. God calls to us in many different ways, and I am so glad that he does!


111 Responses to “Another Atheist-Turned-Christian”
  1. Luis says:

    “In addition, Humphreys’s model is not natural. It is based on the assumption that God supernaturally created planets by starting with a sphere of water and supernaturally transmuting the water molecules into the constituents of the planets.”

    This is exactly why I don’t trust YEC science. How did the water get into space that formed the sphere? How did the water form the sphere if the gravity of the sun wasn’t around until the fourth day? How did god transmute the water molecules? How do you even test for that? You might as well call alchemy science.

  2. Luis says:

    Perhaps, you could try the Ken Ham method and ask “How do you know? Were you there?”. I really hope he uses this on Bill Nye in their debate. That would be classic.

  3. jlwile says:

    Luis, I don’t think you understand how science works. Whether or not you like the assumptions of a model is irrelevant from a scientific point of view. The only relevant issue is how well the model compares to the data. Quantum mechanics, for example, makes all sorts of weird assumptions that make no sense at all. If I were given the option, I would say that the assumptions are clearly wrong. However, it is a good model of how the world works at the atomic level because it compares so favorably to the data. Thus, even though I don’t like its assumptions, I have to believe they are true, because their predictions line up so favorably to the data. The same thing applies to Humphreys’s model of planetary magnetic fields. Whether or not you like his assumptions, you have to admit that it is a reasonable model, since it compares so favorably to the data. Now, if you (or someone else) can come up with a model that is as (or more) successful when compared to the data, then you can argue that you have a superior model. Until that time, however, you have no scientific reason to reject Humphreys’s model. You might have some religious objection to it, but you cannot have a scientific objection to it, since it is the best model out there.

    You ask, “How do you even test for that?” The answer is simple: You see what the proposed process implies for observable data. If the proposed process produces predictions that are in line with the data, then the proposed process is feasible scientifically. This is why alchemy is not science. It’s predictions don’t line up with the data at all. However, Humphreys’s model is the only model that lines up with the data. As a result, it is scientific, regardless of what you think of its assumptions.

    I agree that the Ken Ham method of “How do you know? Were you there?” is silly. Science can figure out all sorts of things without being there. For example, science can provide very strong evidence that God created life, even though no one was there to observe it. Once again, its all about how the predictions line up with the data, and the assumption that God made life produces predictions that have been confirmed by the data.

  4. Luis says:

    It’s not so much about the model fitting the data. It’s about your assumptions as you point out. How do you know or how can you test that god did this supernaturally 6000 years ago? It could very well have been matter and energy alone through the power of natural laws. We have scientifically verified matter, energy and natural laws exist but no god. Isn’t it more reasonable to say that this model was started by the things we have detected as opposed to the things we haven’t?

    We can hypothesis a model that a fire broke out. The data can fit that model and suggest that there was a fire that happened here. Would we say that god must have started that fire or the laws of nature? If we presume that god started this fire, even through the laws of nature, then we are right back to believing in mythology. Thor created the lightning bolt, not the laws of nature. God created the magnetic fields, not the laws of nature.

    How would you propse a model to test if god created the magnetic fields supernaturally rather than the laws of nature doing it? I would like know how we can test Humphrey’s assumption. I know the laws could have done it because we have evidence for them.

  5. jlwile says:

    Luis, I have told you how we test this. We make predictions based on the assumptions. If those predictions are confirmed by the data, the assumptions are reasonable. We have done that, and the predictions line up quite nicely with the data. That’s how science is done. It’s the reason we believe in quantum mechanics, despite the fact that we don’t like its assumptions.

    In your fire analogy, to test the idea that God created the fire, you would need to make a prediction about the fire using that assumption. If that prediction turned out to be true, it would be evidence that God started the fire. Of course, if another proposed mechanism by which the fire started produced the same prediction, then you wouldn’t have any evidence to distinguish the two mechanisms. Thus, you need to make a prediction that is specific to your mechanism. For example, you might predict that the fire doesn’t need fuel, because it’s supernatural. If the fire didn’t consume any fuel, that would be evidence that it was started by God. Once again, this is the way science works. You make predictions based on your proposed mechanism. If the predictions are confirmed by the data, your proposed mechanism is scientifically feasible. This is why Humphreys’s model for planetary magnetic fields is scientifically reasonable, regardless of your religious objections to it. The fact is that his predictions are specific to his proposed mechanism, and they are confirmed by the data.

    Yes, we have scientifically verified that matter, energy, and natural laws exist. However, we have not verified that they can produce what we see around us. Indeed, the models that are developed based on that assumption are hopelessly inconsistent with the data.

    So we are left with the following situations:

    (1) The assumption that God produced what we see, which leads to predictions that are confirmed by the data.

    (2) The assumption that matter, energy and natural laws produced what we see, which leads to predictions that have been falsified by the data.

    The scientifically reasonable position, then, is (1). You can choose to believe (2) if you wish, but you do so against the dictates of science.

  6. Luis says:

    It looks like a recent tablet that was found shows that Noah’s Ark was a myth carried over by the Jewish people from the Mesopotamians. This tablet predates Noah’s account and has alot of similarities. It’s reasonable to conclude that the Jews stole this account and made it their own when they left captivity. Yet another Genesis tale that is refuted.

  7. jlwile says:

    Once again, Luis, your interpretation of the find is incorrect. In fact, this find demonstrates the accuracy of the Biblical account, as most serious archaeological research does. I agree that the tablet has a lot of similarities with Noah’s account in the Old Testament, and that should be a real problem for anyone who wants to believe that the Global Flood was a myth! After all, such stories didn’t travel very well in ancient times, and yet all sorts of unconnected cultures have an account of a Global Flood, and they have very similar details. How, exactly, did all these cultures just randomly come up with such similar “myths”? Obviously, they did not. They all passed down the historical event in their own way, and over time, some of the details got changed to fit the specific needs of the culture.

    So the real question, then, is which account is the most accurate? While some accounts might have been written down before the account in the Bible, it’s the Biblical one that has the most scientific evidence to support it. For example, it mentions the fountains of the great deep opening in order to initiate the Flood, for which there is strong evidence. In addition, the Biblical one describes the kind of vessel that could actually survive in rough seas.

    I do love the fact that you keep changing the subject when you can’t defend your position. Doesn’t it get tiring to keep flailing around trying to refute Christianity when the majority of the evidence points to its validity?

  8. Luis says:

    Sorry, science has long discredited a global flood. Even some christians don’t believe that anymore. Without that evidence, all you have is one myth account vs another. It stands to reason that the Jews copied the earlier account from another culture. They didn’t want to be left out and so created their own god, their own creation and flood stories by copying others. It may be that something happened as evidenced by all the accounts but it doesn’t mean it was the jewsish way of things. They probably did that with the Exodus because there is no evidence for the event either. I think judaism is as much a sham as christianity is.

    It’s not so much that I keep changing the subject than it is to point out all the things wrong with christianity in such a short amount of time and space.

    You keep citing creationist sites which I don’t trust. I don’t know why you keep doing that. Show me the mainstream science supporting the things you claim and I will be happy to believe again.

  9. jlwile says:

    Once again, Luis, you couldn’t be more incorrect. Science supports a Global Flood, and items like the Mesopotamian tablet simply confirm that it actually happened. You can ignore the evidence all you want, but you are only demonstrating that your objections to Christianity aren’t rational.

    By the way, you say that “Even some christians [sic] don’t believe that anymore.” However, earlier, you claimed that people who didn’t believe in the literal account of Genesis aren’t really Christians. Which is it? Are they Christians or aren’t they? I agree that some Christians don’t believe in a global Flood, but that’s probably because most of them haven’t looked at the evidence with a really open mind, as the evidence is overwhelming.

    It actually doesn’t stand to reason that the Jews copied the earlier account from another culture. The Flood account in the Bible is the one that has the most evidence to support it. As I demonstrated previously (and you ignored), there is evidence for the fountains of the deep starting the Flood, as mentioned in the Bible. In addition, the Biblical account describes an ark that would actually be able to survive rough seas. So in the end, we have many historical accounts of a global Flood, demonstrating that it actually happened. The Bible’s account is the most scientifically accurate, so it stands to reason that it is the correct one.

    Yes, you do keep changing the subject. Remember, this all started with you claiming evolution has disproved the Bible. I showed you all sorts of evidence that shows this isn’t true, and you ignored it and changed the subject, because you couldn’t defend your position. You moved on to try to show things that are wrong with the Bible. I showed you how most of those objections were wrong, and what little truth was in those objections did not discredit the Bible. Once again, you ignored it and changed the subject, because you couldn’t defend your position. You then moved on to claim that higher education reduces a person’s faith in Christianity. I showed you the evidence that clearly demonstrates the opposite, and you ignored it and changed the subject, because you couldn’t defend your position. You then tried to claim that “God did it” is a science-stopper. I showed you that it wasn’t, so you ignored it and once again changed the subject, because you couldn’t defend your position. This seems to be a pattern for you – pose a terrible argument against Christianity, and when you are shown how terrible that argument is, ignore the evidence and bring up another terrible argument.

    I keep citing creationist sources because I want you to see the evidence. If you ignore that evidence, you’re committing the logical fallacy known as the genetic fallacy. It once again demonstrates that the evidence isn’t keeping you from Christianity. That makes me wonder what is really keeping you from seeing the reality of the Christian faith!

  10. Mike Anthony says:

    “How do you explain something like ERV’s for example. That is powerful evidence.”

    Luis.. You have a lot of rhetoric which I don’t need to respond to but I did want to respond to this. This WAS powerful evidence – but only when ERVs were assumed to be non random and non functional. From my readings this is no longer a given.

  11. Mike Anthony says:

    My apologies. I see now that Dr Wiles had already addressed you on the subject of ERvs

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