My Testimony in Christianity Today was made public today. Check it out here – http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/march/atheists-dilemma.html
Note to future self: double check the title before you give permission to publish. I really wish it had been “An Atheist’s Dilemma” and also maybe “Meeting Jesus at Harvard” (since I’m not a representative of all atheists and my encounter with Jesus at Harvard lasted all four years and beyond, not merely a moment). All’s well that ends well I suppose.
Just an additional note – I noticed in some of the comments that people said my testimony was “unconvincing.” I’d just like to clarify here that this piece is a testimony and not an argument. Obviously, there is not enough time and space in three pages to go through every argument for or against God’s existence AND who Jesus claimed to be AND the authenticity of the Bible. So please, if you’re Christian, don’t send this to your atheist friends to say, “Look! Here’s why you should believe!” That’s not what this piece was intended to be! But if you are looking for more thorough answers, I’d encourage you to check out my writings page where I’ve got more arguments (and not just my personal story).
Also, I’m going to be doing a radio broadcast on Peacetalk on Tuesday on the basis of this; more details to be posted later.
Can you qualify your claim that you’ve ever been an atheist?
I don’t know what you mean by qualify?
My parents never taught me what to believe about God. I realized I didn’t believe in God at a young age and would often argue with my Christian friends about it. I thought God didn’t exist, the Bible was false, and that Jesus was an ordinary guy – until age 18 when I changed my mind about all of it.
Actually, Jesus probably wasn’t an ordinary guy, as he probably never even existed.
The philosophies put in his mouth can be traced to the mesopotamian diaspora, and it is common for migrants to justify their differences from their origins via a mythical unifying force.
Returning to Israel, the diaspora wanted to justify the different moralities they had developed while living elsewhere, and did so by creating a spokesperson.
It is perhaps interesting to note that when Origen begins his defense of Christian Faith against the pagan Celsus (the book is conveniently named “Contra Celsus” ) he refers to Jesus being accused before Pilate. He especially notes Jesus’ defense: s i l e n c e . Not a word. Origen elaborates that Jesus’ life itself is a more powerful proof than words could ever provide. He than notes that he was hesitant to put a defense of Christian Faith on paper against its detractors because words may distract. The real proof of the risen and living Jesus is the life He lives in and through Christians. Our lives, our testimony, our personal narrative is the the real place where the argument in favor of Jesus Christ is made.
I think your testimony is powerful and effective. I am also reminded of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus spends an awe-full long time (it seems) sifting through the Scriptures to show the disciples who He is. They don’t get it. It is not until they are with Jesus in breaking of bread and wine (a Eucharistic reference ! ) that they recognize Him. Again it is not the words and arguments that are most convincing but meeting Christ in their own lives. By encountering Him (in the Eucharist) the disciples recognize Him. It is that encounter in the narrative of our real lives that the real and living Jesus Christ is seen and recognized.
Is not some similar encounter implied in your own story when you say: “I came to Harvard seeking Veritas. Instead, he found me.” ?
Gregory Wassen +
Good day Jordan, are you on twitter to follow perhaps?
No, I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t have much time for tweeting.
Ok, no worries. Thanks.
Great testimony. If you coul recommend just one or two books that influenced you what would they be? No Lewis please (read them all)
Hmmmm, that’s a good question. My favorite person is NT Wright, whose book Surprised By Hope profoundly influenced my thinking. Pretty much anything by Wright will put you on the right (har har!) track.
I also found Richard Beck, who writes at http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/ to be immensely helpful. His book Unclean offers wonderful insights into the psychology of disgust and the Christian ethic, but most importantly, I found these two posts incredibly helpful as I wrestled with doubts: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2006/11/first-second-and-n-order-complaint.html and http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2007/04/summer-and-winter-christians.html His blog is a pretty incredible resource for thinking Christians, even though I disagree with some of his more liberal conclusions.
Amazing testimony. Great inspiration for me as a Christian. I’ve shared this with all my atheist friends. Hope your experience would make them think about the supernatural. Thanks again for this amazing testimony.
I have often considered Thomas to be the most intellectual of all the disciples. It is unfortunate that he was labeled the “doubter.” He was more likely brilliant and possessed an intellectual capacity that far exceeded his fellow disciples; some of whom, like Peter, took everything impulsively at face value, with little or no thought process. The process by which you have come to accept God as real and central to the human story was designed by God himself. God made you the analytical, rational person that you are. Just as he held his hands out to Thomas as evidence to consider, God drew you to himself by a means best realized by the person in you he created. It’s beautiful, really. Thanks for your story.
Thank you for your kind words, Steven.
Something interesting I’ve noticed around this a while back was that a bit before that in John 20:20 he also showed his wounds to others and thereafter they believed. Similarly in Luke 24:36 and again in v.41 they still struggled to believe until He ate food. This after He spoke to the two on the road to Emmaus who walked ‘reasoning’ about the testimonies of a risen Jesus and not readily believing the account. Peter also before that ran to the tomb to investigate there. From Mark 16 it is also clear that the others did not believe – probably until he showed His scars and ate with them as pointed out in the other accounts. Matthew 28:17 says ‘they worshipped Him: but some doubted’. Thomas, I believe carries that tag of doubter unfairly becuase his behaviour was no different to many others it seems. He should perhaps rather be referred to as ‘Late arriving Thomas’. 🙂 Just something that I found quite interesting.
I think Thomas went above and beyond the other doubters in the Bible; he says he’ll only believe if he gets to see Jesus himself! To touch his hands. And Jesus lets him, but with the rather ominous and disconcerting, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” But his behavior was not so different insofar as other disciples similarly lacked faith regarding Jesus’ resurrection. At least Thomas gets some credit for it, fancy title and a unique story among the 12 disciples!
Yes, my reply on the thread last night actually lead me to epand a bit more on it on my personal blog now. More pointing to fact that most people approached Christ critically after His resurrection – or that that was the typical way of those who saw him in the flesh even to do. That’s the open question I’m leaving with it – is there still a specific reason why he gets special mention, or was it simply how it happened: Thomas-come-lately, having been busy with other matters at the time? I won’t know. cheers
Jordan, loved your write-up in CT! Are you on twitter?
You have this website, so here you can post all of the evidence that led you to convince yourself that Christianity is the ‘correct’ form of religion that ‘God’ approves of. Or, you could just not say anything, as one of your other commenters mentioned, about how you found ‘Truth’ in less than a year. You have all the space on the webserver to help others find the truth that came so easily and quickly to you. One year’s worth of study at college freshman level should not take that long to write about. I am sure the Atheists of the world would enjoy the enlightenment.
Hey Bryan, I have a full time job and have been busy trying to reply to the various emails people have been sending me about the article and meeting up with some atheists locally for conversation. Eventually, I’m going to try to post some of the conversations I’ve had here, and to discuss questions about metaphysical / metaethical issues. But your patience is well appreciate in the meantime. 🙂
Thank you for your reply. Personally, I am not that interested in the follow up conversations. I am looking specifically for the evidence that you used to convince yourself that Christianity is the ‘truth’. This happened in 2008-2009, so I would assume that you have had time to put this information together in the following years since then. Please make a page on your site and present the evidence that was so overwhelming that it would convert a ‘militant atheist’, as your friends had described you. It has been a few thousand years since the formation of the monotheistic religion promoted by many people in the world. To finally after all these years to have incontrovertible evidence that finally provides proof to those who seek it will surely change the world. I can wait patiently for something this profound.
I did write out a very long explanation which I published as a Facebook note for friends only. It contains a lot of personal information that felt important to share with friends (as part of honesty) but that seems wrong to broadcast with the entire world. It would take me some time to edit it down to have “just the facts” as it were, but that’s a project I’m considering taking on once I’ve replied to all the emails. Briefly, I did write a longer article in the Ichthus on the resurrection that is linked to on my writings page: http://www.harvardichthus.org/fishtank/2011/06/he-is-risen-a-defense-of-the-historicity-of-the-resurrection/
But let’s be real here: there’s not a single intellectual question for which there is “irrefutable” evidence that would convince every single person. In politics, in history, in philosophy, in ethics – there are always debates. A better question is whether whatever argument I presented could convince a relatively neutral observer. I can conclude that it has: it convinced me! (And I can name several other students at Harvard whom this sort of evidence has convinced.)
Your testimony was shared via facebook, and I reshared it. It was a great reminder to me to cherish the faith that God has allowed me to find and nurture it. But also to test it, discuss it, never to stagnate, but to seek further truth within that gift of faith. Thank you for sharing it!
Wonderful testimony. Also testifies to the innate Biblical illiteracy of most believers….teen and childhood debates aside, the fact you found only one Christian who could answer your questions with more than the cowardly ‘it takes faith’ argument is sad! I don’t presume to think I could do that, but I know me some Bible, and with the help of the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:11) I believe I could at least give Biblical answers and pray for the Holy Spirit to do the converting.
Jordan, I am a Christian. I have atheist friends. One of my friends, Sylvia Broeckx of , http://huganatheist.org/ asked me the following question after I posted a link to your article on my Facebook page.
Sylvia: “I wonder how she now deals with the contradictions in the bible that she was happy to point out before, and which version she adheres to and which parts of that version she thinks are right.
But even more interestingly I find how she says “And I’d happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.” But she doesn’t seem to have an issue with what the cause of a god is. Where did god come from? If she needs a cause for the universe, why wouldn’t she need a cause for there being a god? Odd to think that started her conversion.”
to which I replied
me: “I’m sure you could email and get her reply. I’d be interested to read it as well.”
but I thought I’d do it for her.
Wm K Bode
4 Cruise Road
Sheffield S11 7EF
m- 44 (0) 773 926 3882
h- 44 (0) 114 230 8896
I tend to adhere to the Protestant Bible, but not dogmatically so. I prefer the English Standard Version, because it’s a translation who prioritizes accuracy to the Greek; I always suggest using multiple versions because translation is always a tricky process. I don’t think the *words* themselves are inspired so much as the message is, which permits some leniency in versions and requires less dogmatic interpretations. As for why I prefer this over, say, the Catholic Bible – here I must admit that this is a question I haven’t spent enough time mulling over. In short, out of all the issues I think worth exploring, it doesn’t rank highly enough at the moment. The theologians and thinkers and spiritual directors I admire the most do not come from that perspective – and some of have explained why – and so I trust them on it for now.
As for specific contradictions, one of them was the question of how Judas Iscariot died. Matthew 27:5 says by hanging, Acts 1:18 says by falling and bursting open. Some people say that he hung himself and then his body fell and burst open. That’s one possibility. I’m also comfortable saying that the authors of the Bible simply got small details like this wrong, and that doesn’t threaten the validity of the scripture because these little details are not important to the ultimate message of the Scripture. Human beings are imperfect and our messy fingerprints are all over everything we do, but that doesn’t erase the hand of God which works through the scripture as well.
You might explore this website if you have more specific questions about contradictions: http://www.lookinguntojesus.net/answering.htm I found most of their stuff (if not every post) pretty compelling. That is, if one approaches the scripture with an attitude of “innocent until proven guilty” rather than “guilty until proven innocence,” it would be acquitted in the court of Jordan.
I think the rabbit trail can appropriately end with God because God is a supernatural, necessary being rather than a natural, contingent one. That is, God is dramatically different than anything we’ve observed so I’m more comfortable imagining him without a cause than I would be imagining, say, vacuum fluctuation being causeless. I guess I was just taken aback that 60 years ago, the Big Bang was considered obviously a religious ploy to scientifically justify God’s de novo creation but today is considered a justification for why we don’t need God. It made me realize that my narrative about science was utterly biased and that I had blithely accepted atheist answers because I had never been pressed on them before.
I’m currently working on a book that’s a debate between my father and me, and there will be a chapter investigating this further. Hopefully this helps enough for now!
It is good to see that you have figured out how to make money from your faith. I must admit that I am a bit jealous that I didn’t continue down that path myself and instead decided to find a career in helping others in tangible ways, rather than sell them fantasy novels. I see that instead of making your ‘testimony’ (which I and others have asked for) available on your site for the world to see, you use your fame to promote books that you are working on. This is what I see that the Christian Church and its leadership is really good at for a really long time. You are joining into a proven process for wealth generation. I like to see people succeed, and I hope that you are able to turn the money into something that really helps people.
I wish I’d figured out how to make money from my faith – instead I find I’m tithing 10% to the church and giving more to charity! I’ve shared my story in a dozen places for free and I didn’t know until after I submitted it that CT would pay me a small amount for publishing it. I live in a closet in Cambridge in apartment with flatmates and have a scooter because I can’t afford a car. Obviously, I’m just rolling in the dough.
I’m planning to donate a significant portion of the funds from the book to charity and to use the remainder to help fund grad school, so clearly I’m just in this for the cash.
Yes, that is how it starts.
Bryan, why all the cynicism? There are many Christian authors writing out of a passion and a compulsion to share the God News with others, not for the money. Current authors like Shane Claiborne, Wendell Berry, Mark Whorton, and others are doing this for the money, they are doing it for the love of God and others.
Why are your being mean-hearted in your posts to Jordan? Is it because “this truth” thing is gnawing at you? If so, I hope that you are also driven to seek truth. A truth that Jordan was saved by grace through faith, the same blessing given to mankind down through history, and that she and her testimony are unique because God made her that way. Her unique testimony is already helping others because of His grace and her compulsion to share and to do His work.
My hope and prayers are that God will bless your “helping others in tangible ways” and produce fruit that makes the world a better place. May God bless you real good and draw you close.
Hillbilly Physicist, for the short list of authors that you provided, I could make a much longer list of religious authors and ‘leaders’ who make an extremely comfortable living. It is interesting that my initial comments were to kindly fish out some details about what she found so compelling, after some misdirection and requests for ‘patience’ it eventually came down to ‘read the book’ when it is finished. When I recoiled at the obvious switch from someone with something to say, to someone with something to sell, I am now being called cynical, and mean-hearted? What the what? She has a perfectly functional website, why should I have to buy a book to get the facts that compelled a ‘militant atheist’ to accept this faith? In addition, I can’t even read the entire original article without paying a $24/yr. subscription to CT. It’s a racket.
There is no ‘truth’ yet presented, even after repeated requests for her to do so. Also, facts and faith are not the same thing. I am not interested in what someone ‘feels’ or ‘believes’ to be true. Her original article tries to promote that there is some compelling evidence that should convert any rational human to Christianity. I am only asking for her to show us what this evidence is in detail.
Maybe you should use your prayer power to help Jordan finally produce this evidence, my help of others is doing just fine without you and your magical incantations. Unless by ‘prayer’ you mean a contribution of your money, resources or manpower to my work, and then we have something to discuss.
Bryan, your cynicism reveals you. You need the truth but are you welling to commit the time? If you really want the truth you’ll stop complaining about someone not handing you a list and review the references and Website that Jordan provided already, e.g., http://www.harvardichthus.org/.
The Harvard Ichthus It is full of thoughtful articles that provide reasons for faith and belief in God and some are by Jordan. I’m willing to try to provide you many more free references and web sites if you really are willing to spend the time and thoughtfully review the material.
In closing, my hope and prayers are that God will bless your “helping others in tangible ways” and produce fruit that makes the world a better place. May God bless you real good and draw you close.
If you have evidence for the god of Christianity, there are billions of interested people waiting to have it. If you waste my time and provide arguments for faith over facts, I will not read anything else that you reference, so please make it worth while.
Bryan, I did send you a link to my article at the Ichthus, which was completely free and based on facts. No where in it do I make a case for faith over facts. No prayer is necessary. I provided the evidence. You didn’t respond to this comment, nor to the article. I will not respond to your comments – nor will I approve any more of your comments – if you resort to personal attacks and refuse to respond when people do reply to give you what you’re asking.
Jordan, in the beginning of the article you linked to, you start with a requirement of faith. “Before we begin, I must state that my argument will only be directed toward those who believe that miracles are possible.” I don’t want to believe anything without evidence to support it. I have not yet witnessed a miracle, there is no recorded evidence that I am aware of for even the slightest violation of the natural laws. Especially such a massive violation as would be required for human resurrection from death. I did read the rest of it, out of respect for your effort to assemble it, but it requires so many leaps of faith that you easily label as ‘facts’ that I did not want to chase you down this path. To be clear, I was perfectly happy to let this go in September. Today, someone called me out here, calling me cynical and mean-hearted, and I responded honestly. I did not attack anyone personally, even in response to being disparaged. Do what you want with your blog, I have said what I have to say and am not interested in further discussion at this point.
Bryan, It is unfortunate that you are not interested in further dialogue because this a start of a review or critique of Jordan article that would allow for further communication. In other words, this is the kind of dialogue that could be profitable, pun intended, ;-).
If you say you don’t believe in the Resurrection because that requires belief in miracles and miracles requires faith in evidence that you consider to be unprovable you are effectively saying that you don’t believe in singularity events or you don’t believe in anything that you did not see yourself.
Let’s consider the former. I’ll agree that singularities are difficult to prove because they are not the norm and are not the norm for study in science. But we scientists believe in singularities because of theoretical predictions and measured evidence of these past events; e.g., the Big Bang Creation of the Universe. The more scientists study the record of the evolution of the universe the more they believe in Big Bang Cosmology. In other words they believe is something they can not re-create or re-watch. Do you believe in the Big Bang? If you do you, you effectively believe in at least one miracle and the same is true if you believe in multi-verse cosmology.
Scripture tells us that we are saved by Grace through faith to do the works of the Lord. But this faith has always been a evidential faith. The evidences were not written by blind faith or based upon myths from hundreds of year later, they were written by Matthew, John Mark, Luke, John the Apostle, Paul, Peter, and attested by the early church fathers based upon evidence that they experienced and/or were taught soon after it happened. Most of the New Testament was already documented by the early church fathers in commentaries by the mid second century. Therefore, I believe in the Resurrection based upon the same types of historical data and resulting consequences that would allow a researcher to explain an event from the past.
Jordan has provided a summary of these in her article and provided very good references. N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God is an excellent resource. I would also recommend Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.
I understand that you do not want to “buy-into” the vast Christian Industrial Complex. I have similar concerns based upon abuse by some authors so let me recommend some free resources on miracles and on the historical Jesus.
http://johnlennox.org/jresources/miracles-is-belief-in-the-supernatural-irrational/ [free video]
http://open.biola.edu/resources/divine-action [free video]
http://timothykeller.com/media/ [select The Reason for God for free audio and pdf]
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.html (written in the late 1800’s and can be downloaded for free in pdf format.