Another Atheist Who Became a Christian

This is Guillaume Bignon, a French theologian who used to be an atheist.  (click for credit)
This is Guillaume Bignon, a French theologian who used to be an atheist. (click for credit)
Because I was once an atheist and became a Christian, I am fascinated by stories of other atheists-turned-Christians. I have written about several over the years, and I plan to continue to write about them as I find out about them. Well, I ran across another one a few days ago, and his story is different from the others. For one thing, it starts in France!

Guillaume Bignon was born near Paris. He says that his family was “nominally Roman Catholic,” but none of them seemed to take it very seriously. By the age of 13, he decided that he no longer wanted to go to church, and his parents had no problem with that. As a student, he studied math, physics, and engineering, eventually graduating from an engineering school and working as a computer scientist. He also played volleyball for a national league. Here is how he sums up his life at that point:

An important part of young male French atheist ideals also consisted in female conquests, at which I was starting to have enough success to satisfy the raunchy standards of the volleyball locker room. All in all, I was pretty happy with my life, and in a thoroughly secular culture, the chances of ever hearing (let alone believe) the Gospel were incredibly slim.

Obviously, God can conquer the odds, no matter how slim.

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An Atheist Detective Who Became a Christian

Cold Case Christianity is written by a homocide detective who works cold cases.
Cold Case Christianity is written by a homocide detective who works cold cases.
Those who read my blog regularly know that I like to discuss the stories of other atheists who have become Christians (see here, here, here, here, and here.) This post adds to that list of stories.

J. Warner Wallace is a successful homicide detective. He specializes in cold cases – unsolved murder cases that remain open, waiting for someone to examine them in a new way that will lead to finding the killer. He has been trained in Forensic Statement Analysis (FSA), which is a methodology that examines a person’s linguistic usage to determine the veracity of what he or she is saying when being interviewed about a case. He also used to be an atheist. As he says in his book, Cold-Case Christianity:

My friends knew me as an angry atheist, a skeptic who thoughtfully dissected Christians and the Christian worldview… (p. 16)

However, a fellow officer kept inviting him to church. He was able to avoid going for a while, but he eventually felt obligated to accept the invitation. He says that he managed to ignore most of what the pastor was saying during the service, but he noticed that the pastor painted Jesus as a smart guy with a lot of good things to say. As a result, Wallace purchased his first Bible, just to see if this Jesus fellow was the great teacher that the pastor made him out to be.

What Wallace found changed his life.

As he began to read the Gospels, he noticed something:

I had interviewed hundreds (if not thousands) of eyewitnesses and suspects. I had become familiar with the nature of eyewitness statements, and I understood how testimony was evaluated in a court of law. Something about the Gospels struck me as more than mythological storytelling. The Gospels appeared to be ancient eyewitness accounts. (p. 17)

Of course, it didn’t take him long to realize that he could treat the Gospel accounts like one of his cold cases. He could evaluate the testimony of those claiming to be eyewitnesses to the events in the life of Jesus, look for corroborating evidence, and try to determine whether or not the accounts are accurate. When he did that, he came away believing that the Gospels are, indeed, accurate eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus. As a result, he became a Christian.

His book takes you through his analysis, so that you can see exactly how he evaluated the “cold case” of the Gospel accounts. To make sure you have all the requisite skills necessary to follow his analysis, he gives you 10 tips on how to be a good detective. They are all great tips, but his first one is the best. He tells the story of the first homicide case he ever worked: a woman who had been murdered in her bed. A seasoned detective who had seen far too many cases took the lead, and as soon as he saw the crime scene, he thought he knew what had happened. Based on his experience, he concluded that the husband was the killer. However, as they investigated the crime, they found that the woman was single. All the signs that pointed to the husband as the killer (no forced entry, the victim didn’t put up much of a fight, etc., etc.) ended up being explained by a completely different killer (a friendly neighbor).

This taught Wallace to avoid presuppositions. The lead investigator let his presuppositions guide him in the case, and for that particular case, those presuppositions were completely wrong. Following them hampered the investigation. Each case is unique, and you should avoid any presuppositions you have about it. This is his first tip for any detective, including anyone who is trying to determine the veracity of the Gospel accounts. If you avoid presuppositions, you can allow the evidence to guide you.

After giving you his 10 tips for being a good detective, he then shows you how he evaluated the Gospels. He shows you why he thinks the Gospel accounts indicate that the sources for the four Gospels were actually there at the events discussed in the Gospels. He then shows you what he considers strong corroborating evidence for the eyewitness reports. He then ends with a discussion of the possible biases in the eyewitness accounts. I have read many, many Christian apologetics books, but I honestly think that this one has the best analysis of the Gospels.

Even though this is primarily a book showing the evidence that supports the veracity of the Gospels, there is also a lot in it for believers. Indeed, it taught me some new things. In evaluating whether or not the accounts in the Bible are authentic, he spends time discussing the “little details” that show the sources for the Gospels were actual eyewitnesses to the events reported. He notes, for example, that in the Gospel of John, Jesus’s mother is never called by name. She is simply called “Jesus’s mother” or “the mother of Jesus.” Why is that? He explains:

The answer might be found in the nineteenth chapter of John’s Gospel when Jesus entrusted Mary to John at the crucifixion. Jesus told John that Mary was now his mother, and He told Mary that John was now her son. ..Writing the Gospel of John many years later, it just may be that John was uncomfortable calling his own mother by her formal name. (p. 91)

This is something I never noticed, and had I noticed it, I am not sure I would have made the connection that Wallace made. This is just one of the many nuggets found in this book.

In addition, I strongly encourage all Christians to learn how the Bible came to be. In his book, Wallace goes through a “chain of custody” for all four Gospels, to make sure that the Gospels we read today have not been significantly altered from their original form. This chain of custody provides the best concise description I have ever read of how the Bible came to be. That section alone is worth the price of the book.

In the end, I think this book is one of the best additions to Christian apologetics that has come out in a long time. I strongly recommend it to everyone, but especially to skeptics of the Bible. If you are interested in what the evidence says, it is worthwhile to hear from someone whose career is devoted to following the evidence, regardless of where it leads!

Another Atheist Who Became a Christian

This is Jennifer Fulwiler, another atheist turned Christian.  (click for credit)
This is Jennifer Fulwiler, another atheist turned Christian (click for credit)
Those who read my blog regularly know that I like to discuss the stories of other atheists who have become Christians (see here, here, here, and here). Most of the time, these stories are rather different from my own, because God calls to each of us in a slightly different way. Nevertheless, I am always fascinated to see how people are able to find the errors inherent in an atheist worldview and learn the truth. Recently, I ran across the story of Jennifer Fulwiler, who was brought up in an atheistic household. In a short video presentation about her conversion, she says that when she was in fourth or fifth grade, her father would read Carl Sagan’s Cosmos to her at night. Her parents brought her up to believe that science was the answer to everything, and so from a very early age, she was indoctrinated into the materialist worldview.

In 2005, she started a blog called The Reluctant Atheist, and on what appears to be her first post, she wrote:

I was raised to believe that God does not exist…About two years ago I decided to actually do my own research and try to come to my own conclusions about God. I realized that despite my mantra of being “open-minded” about religion I was actually quite closed to ideas that didn’t fit with my atheist worldview.

So here I am. Two years and a lot of research later I’m still not sure what I think. I’ve uncovered a lot of information and philosophical perspectives that I certainly was not told about as a kid and am still trying to process it all. After educating myself more about physics and biology I now believe intellectually in some sort of intelligent design, but my heart has yet to catch up. To be totally honest with myself, I’m still functionally an atheist. But I want to believe. My logical mind tells me some sort of creator exists. Some deep gut feeling tells me God exists. But I have a long way to go.

This sounds a lot like me when I was an atheist. Once I actually started learning serious science, it became abundantly clear to me that a Creator had to exist. As a result, my mind was pushing me to a belief in God, but it took a while for my heart to catch up. If you scan through her posts at The Reluctant Atheist, you see her working through several issues, and it seems that in less than a year, her heart had caught up to her logical mind. She changed her blog from The Reluctant Atheist to Et tu, Jen?, and now it is called Conversion Diary.

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Another Atheist-Turned-Christian

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.

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Another Atheist-Turned-Christian

As an atheist who became a Christian, I am always intrigued to read of similar journeys made by others. I have written about a couple of them in the past (here and here), and now the GeoChristian points out another one:

The Atheist’s Dilemma

I love what she says at the end:

I came to Harvard seeking Veritas. Instead, he found me.

Not God’s Type

I read an incredibly interesting book about another atheist-turned-Christian. In this case, it’s Dr. Holly Ordway, and while her conversion was quite different from mine, she was also heavily influenced by the objective evidence that supports the validity of the Christian faith.

My review was published by Apologetics 315. You you can read it there.

Why God Won’t Go Away

Dr. Alister Edgar McGrath is a remarkable man. He holds an earned PhD in molecular biophysics and an earned Doctor of Divinity degree, both from the University of Oxford. He was once an atheist, but while studying chemistry at Oxford, he began to realize that the evidence for atheism was “circular, tentative, and uncertain.” The more he examined the evidence, the more convinced he became that Christianity was the most rational worldview. As a result, he became a Christian.

Because he was once an atheist, he continues to study atheism today. One of his best books is The Dawkins Delusion?, where he shows why atheists should be embarrassed by Dr. Richard Dawkins. However, that’s not the book I am writing about. Instead, I am writing about another one of McGrath’s masterpieces, Why God Won’t Go Away. Having publicly debated both Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, McGrath is well aware that many in the “New Atheist” camp would like God to go away. However, as McGrath demonstrates in this easy-to-read book, God stubbornly refuses to comply with the desires of the New Atheists.

Now even though this is an easy-to-read book, it is not simple or superficial. It is a deep, serious discussion of the New Atheist movement and its severe intellectual problems. However, McGrath is such an excellent teacher that you hardly notice how deep the material is until you put down the book and start thinking about what you have read.

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From Atheist to Creationist: Several Have Made That Journey

I receive a regular newsletter from Creation Ministries International (CMI), a young-earth creationist group made up of scientists from around the world. While I was reading the October, 2011 edition of that newsletter, I ran across an article entitled “Eternal fruit – from atheist to creationist.” According to the article:

Sai-Chung was an atheist activist attending church to study Christianity – so as to be effective at undermining it!

Well, it turns out that this man attended a talk on creation science given by Warwick Armstrong, who used to be a speaker at CMI but is now retired. Recently, Sai-Chung contacted CMI and told them that Armstrong’s talk (which was given in 2003) was instrumental in him coming to faith in Christ. He is now a youth group leader in the Chinese extension of one of Australia’s largest churches. He was actually contacting CMI because he wanted some assistance in polishing off his first talk on creation.

So here is someone who attended church specifically to learn how to undermine it. Obviously, then, he was not predisposed to believe what the Church (or the creationist speaker) was telling him. Nevertheless, what he heard was so convincing that he not only decided to put away his atheism and become a Christian, he also decided to become a young-earth creationist! That story, in and of itself, is quite interesting. It also got me to thinking: Sai-Chung isn’t the only one who made the journey from atheist to young-earth creationist. I made that same journey, albeit by taking a slightly different path.

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Everyone Wants A Piece of C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest Christian apologists of the twentieth century. From the ripe old age of 15, he considered himself an atheist, even though he was raised in a Christian home. However, the works of George MacDonald and arguments with his friend J. R. R. Tolkien were central to his becoming a theist at the age of 31 and then a Christian at the age of 33. Because he was converted from atheism to Christianity, he has been called “the apostle to the skeptics.”1

To give you an idea of how important his works have been to Christianity, one of his books (Mere Christianity) was voted best book of the twentieth century by Christianity Today in April of 2000. It’s not surprising, then, that people want to imply that he agrees with their point of view. After all, if one of the greatest apologists of the twentieth century agrees with you, that’s got to mean something, right?

Unfortunately, this often leads to people mischaracterizing C.S Lewis’s views. Since he wrote an enormous amount of material, it is easy to twist his words to make it sound like he believed a great many things. I have read quite a lot of his work, not so much because I am a fan of his writing, but because he is such an important voice in modern Christianity. Because of this, I get a bit offended when quotes from his work are taken out of context in order to imply that he believed something he clearly didn’t believe. I have run across two instances of this recently, from two distinctly different groups, and it bothered me both times.

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