Surprised by God, Part 2
by Jana Harmon
I hope that you are doing well and finding our weekly gathering together of essays, podcasts, videos, and books here at the Worldview Bulletin truly useful (if this was a text message, I’d insert a smiley face here). While there is a wealth of information on the World Wide Web, sometimes the sheer volume can be overwhelming. We can—or at least, I can—also get easily distracted. In seeking “useful things” I get caught up in the latest soccer “Tick-Tock” video (why do those always show up in my thread anyhow?). If I’m not careful, I can get overwhelmed too. I don’t want to “miss out” on anything. For those who struggle with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), the weekly “useful things” is for you. We often begin each week with a provocative quote to “awaken you from your slumber.” This week, I leave you with a thought I return to over and over in my life. It is found at the end of the first paragraph of that masterful spiritual autobiography written by Augustine called Confessions:
“You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Do you struggle, like me, with restlessness? It’s not just the FOMO engendered by the constant deluge of information found on our social media streams. Life is hard. But Augustine reminds us that we are made for Another and our hearts can find rest. This is truly good news. May you rest in God this week as you seek to love and serve him with your life. Thanks for letting us play but a little part as we bring you original content and “best from around the web” resources to help you grow in your faith and witness of Christ.
— Paul M. Gould
Note: This is Part Two of Jana Harmon’s three-part series on atheism. See the previous edition of Useful Things for Part One.
Surprised by God: Reaching the Resistant
by Jana Harmon
The resistant person may believe primarily that “God is not true”
Many who are resistant to God affirm a seeming lack of scientific and reasoned evidence, asserting the irrationality of belief and apparent irreconcilability of science and religion. Simply put, belief in God is not plausible intellectually. In fact, those in my research became surprisingly softened towards the true reality of God through an intended dismantling. More than one-third began to research the truth of Christianity in order to disprove it, yet eventually found the Christian worldview to provide the best explanation for “the way things are” in reality. They were often surprised by the profundity and breadth of Christian thinkers as well as the historical veracity and compelling nature of Scripture. As one person said,
Trying on other worldviews was like sorting through a box of wires. When I finally got down to what the meat of Christianity was, it was the only thing that kind of shocked back, like grabbing a live wire.
If someone is truly seeking after truth and is willing to “go where the evidence leads,” the Christian worldview stands unparalleled in its internal coherence, its external correspondence with reality, and its comprehensive, explanatory nature. When exploring and realizing the limitations of their own worldview, more than one-third of the resistant atheists in the research study began to experience cognitive dissonance when they could not explain, for example, objective moral duties and values or the origin and design of the universe and life. As assessed by Francis Schaeffer years ago, the palpable tension of “living in God’s world as someone created by God,” yet resisting God, can and does become a pivotal catalyst towards openness for many who are willing to deal with the conflict in their own view of life and the world as they know and experience it.
During this exploration phase, it is important that genuine seekers find those whom they can intellectually respect, who have taken time to learn not only the evidential foundation of the Christian worldview, but who have also invested in understanding the seeker’s perspective on reality. Relational patience is often required in allowing the seeker to discover the inconsistencies, contradictions, and insufficiencies of their own worldview, to reach a point of dissatisfaction in order to create openness towards another perspective. In the “thinking person’s journey,” according to Os Guinness, someone will not be willing or open to genuinely seek after another perspective until and unless they are first dissatisfied with their own view of the world. Discontent fosters awareness of need for a better explanation for reality. However, according to one former atheist, it’s important to realize,
Arguments can indeed shape a worldview, but that’s only true if someone is in a state of mind where truth is valued above all other things.
If someone does not want to move towards God and/or Christianity, this volitional resistance may prevent acknowledgment of the truth of any compelling evidence, reason, or argument for an alternative perspective. To some extent, everyone has a confirmation bias, pursuing that which we want to be true. We see what we seek. As Dallas Willard observes,
If you believe from the outset there is no knowledge (of God), you won’t seek it. Then your belief that there is no knowledge will confirm itself.
Further, in presenting evidence to someone who holds a differing perspective, some may experience “the backfire effect.” When encountering challenging information, resistance may be increased rather than resolved. The wall of opposition becomes more fortified. Attention must then be turned beneath the surface of intellectual obstacles to discover the personal, volitional barriers in the foundation below.
The brilliant atheist “Joe” became open when he providentially met a brilliant Christian philosopher who had a deep academic understanding of philosophy and could intellectually go “toe to toe” with him. After meeting weekly for a year with him to discuss philosophy, Joe discovered that his atheistic worldview was not well grounded, and he became open to investigate (and disprove) world religions.
The resistant person may believe primarily that “God is not good”
As seen in many stories, soul-crushing life events and prolonged negative experiences or unanswered prayer can cause doubt, disappointment, and rejection of God. Deep, conflicting questions arise to the surface—grief and loss turned into anger, blame, resentment, and contempt against all things religious, especially Christianity. A palpable contempt was evident towards God and Christians, oftentimes stemming from underlying personal pain and resentment.
One of the most fascinating findings in the research survey arose when each person was asked why they didn’t believe that God was real. The most common response was not the lack of objective evidence to confirm God’s existence, but rather it was the lack of subjective evidence for God. That is, they did not personally see or feel God’s presence in their lives or in the world around them.
 Os Guinness, “The Journey: A Thinking Person’s Quest for Meaning,” Veritas Forum, 2010.
— Jana Harmon is an Adjunct Professor of Cultural Apologetics at Biola University and a Teaching Fellow for the C. S. Lewis Institute of Atlanta. She holds an M.S. in Communication Disorders from University of Texas at Dallas, an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, and a Ph.D. in Religion and Theology from the University of Birmingham in England. Her doctoral research studied the religious conversion of educated atheists to Christianity, looking at the perspectives and stories of 50 former atheists. She views apologetics through a practical, evangelistic lens.
(*The views and opinions expressed in the articles, videos, podcasts, and books linked to do not necessarily represent the views of the editors of The Worldview Bulletin.)
eBook and Software Deals
Note: These deals were valid at the time this edition was written, but prices may change without notice. The same deals are often available on Amazon sites in other countries.
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The Logos free book for November is The Gospel of Mark (The New International Greek Testament Commentary | NIGTC). You can also pick up two other volumes in this noteworthy commentary series—Colossians and Philemon and 1 Corinthians for $4.99 and $9.99, respectively (see all three at the link above). These volumes run between $40 and $70 in print, so these are great deals.
[On this episode of Good Heavens! Dan talks with biochemist and former atheist Dr. Sy Garte about his new book about his personal journey from atheism to Jesus and some of the glorious wonders in the chemistry of biological life.]
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