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EPISODE 27: Questioning Life's Questions - Jeremy Evans' Story

Former skeptic Jeremy Evans comfortably presumed his atheism was true until a sobering event caused him to ask life's biggest questions.

Brought to you by the C.S. Lewis Institute and The Side B Podcast.

Transcript


Hello, and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to the Side B Podcast, where we listen to the other side. Each podcast, we listen to someone who has been an atheist and also been a Christian. Through listening to their story, we listen to both perspectives, from someone who has thought and lived on the other side.

At different points in our lives, we all ask the big questions. Who am I? What am I doing with my life? What am I pursuing or not? What's wrong with me? What, if anything, can make my life better? Where am I looking for answers? Am I looking in all the wrong places? Or am I on the right path? How can I know which way to go? Who's telling the truth? Who can I trust?

We ask the questions, but that doesn't mean we really are looking for answers, but sometimes different circumstances force our hand and cause us to take a closer look. They prompt us to stop and ask the big questions, to actually search for answers. Suddenly, all the temporary noise and busyness and distractions are removed. We look more closely at ourselves and our lives to not only ask probing questions of ourselves, whether we've been pursuing the right path, but also to find answers in order to make sense of our lives. Life interruptions can also make us wonder whether or not there is a God. Is God the key that can help us answer our big questions? Is He real? Can He be found? Does He have anything to say that can help us make sense of our lives?

Our podcast guest today, Jeremy Evans, had a devastating circumstance that caused him to take a closer look at his own life to see if atheism held the answers he needed or whether he should look for something else, something different, something more. Come along with me to listen to his story.

Welcome to the Side B Podcast, Jeremy. It's wonderful to have you with us today!

Good morning. Thank you for having me.

As we're getting started, Jeremy, why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Yeah. So I am from Pekin, Illinois, which is a little town outside of Peoria, and currently reside in Evansville, Indiana, with my wife and three kids. My kids are nine, seven, and six, and I work for a Christian nonprofit organization here in Evansville that does neighborhood revitalization and work with kids and families to try to connect them to God's will for their life and help them be successful and self sufficient.

Sounds wonderful. I'd love to hear more about that, perhaps later as we're talking about what you're doing now. But let's get started back at the beginning of your story, because I know that you weren't always interested in Christian ministry, for sure. You were a long way from that. So I know that you were a former atheist, and I want to know how that really birthed in you, what your beginnings were, how you grew up with your family, and their view of God and how that informed you.

Yeah, so I'm the eldest of three sons in my family, and I remember at an early age not going to church, and I remember my dad's father, my grandfather, taking me to church at a very young age separate from the rest of my family. And I remember it was the kind of church experience where they would give the kids something to doodle on, and then eventually, they would bring the kids up to the front, and the pastor would talk just to the kids for a little while, and then they'd send the kids off to Sunday School. And I remember kind of being a ham, which is kind of how I grew up.

Then the next real experience I remember of church was a Baptist church in our hometown in Pekin that we got involved with primarily because of sports. So I remember my brothers playing in basketball tournaments. I remember—it's a funny story. My dad actually coached me and my brothers in baseball growing up, and I remember the only time my dad got thrown out of a baseball game was actually by the pastor of that church. He was the umpire, and he threw my dad out, and I remember thinking, "That's a substantial moment, when your pastor throws you out of a baseball game."

Yes, yes.

But I would say, in childhood, only real experience of church was connected to sports. And then I grew up, was in high school and then college. And in college it was a really interesting mix because I attended a Christian music festival called Cornerstone in Illinois, and I had friends who were connected to faith, and I remember that vividly, but then kind of moved away from those friend circles and ended up in a circle of people who I wouldn't say were hostile to faith but just really didn't care. It just really wasn't a significant part of that group of friends' lives. And so I remember being sort of swayed, not necessarily in the direction of atheism, but just kind of away from things of faith through that time in my life.

Jeremy, as you were growing up, all the way through high school, because a lot of people, especially through their teenage years, start to question what is church? Or who is God? And what is all of this? Did you have any belief in God? I mean, you were going to church-related activities, but was there anything personal about God to you at all? Or was it just kind of in the periphery of what you were doing in sports?

Yeah. So I would certainly say nothing like what I have now. Nothing even close. My parents, for better or worse, just didn't. We just didn't go there. We just didn't talk about faith-related things. We didn't get the opportunity to deal with big picture questions about life and death. But there was never any kind of—the Bible wasn't part of our lives growing up. It just wasn't a significant influence, if that makes sense, and so no, there was no personal connection to it at all. It was very much something that was just in the periphery, and I never really had an experience that I could draw on in my childhood and say that it was sort of a formative spiritual experience.

Although you did have some Christian friends. Would you say that those Christian friends took their faith seriously?

I think it was more of a social structure than anything else. Heavy focus on music, and I had several friends who were in Christian bands and walking through that particular cultural landscape. I would say it was more of a social focus than anything. It was more of a, "Let's get together. Let's hang out. And this is kind of a unifying bond between us." But I don't remember any significant Bible studies. I don't remember any significant, again, formative experiences that drew all that together. It was more just something to do.

So it was really more of a nonissue in your life, it seems, until you got to college, and then you started kind of leaving whatever that social construct was, Christianity or God, and started becoming acquainted with perhaps some other ways of thinking. That's what you do at university, right? You meet new people, you encounter new ideas, and tell me about that time in your life.

Yeah. So I would, unfortunately, given the current cultural landscape, I would draw some of this almost back to politics. I remember sort of the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case as having really impacted me towards a more liberal way of thinking and a more liberal way of processing the world. And I really tied those sort of political ideas to my personal beliefs about the world, and so I started to explore what more liberal voices were saying, and I'll go back to, again, got married during this process, and the individual—my first wife, so we're now divorced. But my first wife had no real connection to religion in her life, her family. No real connection to religion in our family. And so that was a formative experience in terms of getting married to that person and almost affirming that idea, that you can live sort of independent from these things.

And as I continued to explore those more liberal ideas, I sort of found myself drawn to the idea that Christians could be sort of lazy in terms of their intellectual thinking and processing, and I was heavily turned off by the idea that a Christian would say that something was a mystery or that God was mysterious. It felt very much like a cop-out to me. And so I started reading Dawkins, started reading Harris. Letter to a Christian Nation was an important book for me during that time, and I would say it was more accidental than anything but eventually started to call myself an atheist.

Accidentally.

Yeah. It's funny because the end of the story kind of goes the same way for me. I wasn't part of Facebook groups. I wasn't out bragging about it or trying to convert people or anything. It was more just that, on analysis and on reviewing the available information, I had sold myself that bill of goods and said, "This is how it's going to be." And so I think almost because faith was not an important factor, it almost felt like atheism was just as not an important factor in my life. Because the whole idea of faith was just so foreign.

So as you were embracing somewhat I guess intellectually but perhaps not in a truly embodied way this atheism that you had intellectually assented to, obviously there are some very strong ideas in those books in terms of what God is, what religious faith is. Were you being informed about God and Christianity in those negative terms? Was that something that became a part of your way of thinking and vocabulary about faith? Or was it just kind of a nonissue? You didn't really care one way or another about faith and religion.

No. I think, because of the political component of it, I became really convinced that I could justify my beliefs about faith based on Christian misbehavior, as it were. So when I saw Christians doing and saying hypocritical things, when I saw Christians—it felt like at the time, and we know this to be true, that you don't have to go very far without seeing a Christian leader sort of fail or fall or struggle with their own personal demons and individual issues, and I let all of those things sort of justify my belief. I kind of let the people do the talking as it related to whether I thought Christianity was something worth exploring, rather than letting the Gospel do the talking. So that was sort of a slippery slope, and I would say, if you set aside the Gospel and set aside what the Bible says and just base your belief about Christianity on just what you see coming out of the lives of Christians, unfortunately, I think you can justify pretty much any worldview that you really want to, based on what you see Christians doing. Does that make sense?

Yes, it does. It does. I mean, like you say, you can look at any worldview and look at the warts and all, as you would see them, and then justify yourself or your own worldview. That would be an easy thing to do because we're all fallen people, right?

Yeah.

Ideas aren't pure, in a sense, but like you say sometimes it's easy to look at the people who call themselves Christians and accuse God, rather than, like you say, looking at the Gospel or the Bible. So in your mind, I guess, Christianity and religion itself was really nothing but a social construct, as you mentioned earlier. So it wasn't really much worth thinking about at that time. So, as you're moving along and you're seeing that atheism... You've kind of taken on that identity. You put on that hat. How was that working for you in a sense? I know you read Harris and Dawkins, but did you really look into the grounding for atheistic ideas or the implications of where those ideas go?

No. And it's funny, because when I was reading those, what I recognize as like the American pop cultural atheism books, I was feeding myself a line that, "Well, I'm going to be more intellectual than Christians, and I'm actually going to seek out the answers for myself, and I'm going to actually do the work intellectually to figure out the answers to these questions, and the reality was that I was just sort of taking a very surface level dive into those issues, finding what justified me, and then moving on down the road. And so I recognize that now, but at the time—and probably largely because it just wasn't a very important part of my life, as I said. It wasn't something that factored in in a deep way, and so I didn't feel a need or a connection to try to study that in a deep way. The other thing I would say is that, again sort of driven by social constructions, I had surrounded myself at that point in my life with people who had similar beliefs and thought processes to what we're describing here, and so it was very easy to justify sort of just going about my business, and I was never really challenged by the people around me to think about things any differently.

Yeah. It is easy to do, isn't it?

Unfortunately. And that exists in the world today. We tend to surround ourselves with that echo chamber of people who we know are going to speak and think and feel the same way we speak and think and feel because that helps justify us, right? It helps us feel good about how we feel. And even today I struggle with that.

Yeah. I think we're all tempted towards that. So what was it, then, that perhaps breached your life or caused you to stop and think a little bit more closely about your atheistic identity or worldview and perhaps become open to another perspective?

Yeah. So Andy Stanley says that you can—this is a terrible paraphrase—but you can do the intellectual thing with someone who's not a Christian until you're blue in the face, but the reality is that it takes more than an intellectual approach to get somebody over the line of faith. It almost takes some sort of emotional catalyst to get them thinking differently about their life and about the world around them, and that was certainly true for me. My wife at the time left me and was unfaithful, and that was sort of a shock to the system, right? That was sort of a seminal moment for me personally because I just was lost. I was completely shocked by that, completely blown away, and really didn't know what to do. And it really turned my whole life upside down in a good way, looking back now. At the time, it didn't feel like a good way, but it got me really thinking about everything in my life and about whether I was making good choices and whether I was spending time with the right people and those sorts of things.

I can't imagine what that would feel like. I know that your life probably was turned upside down, inside out, and it caused you to really, I guess, stop and reconsider your life choices, your life perspectives, and really look more at yourself, I presume? Did that lead you towards thinking, "Well, maybe there's more to life. Maybe there's a God who exists. Maybe there's a better way to make sense of my life." Was it causing you to ask those kinds of questions?

Yeah. It was everything. I try to think about life then, and it's just really difficult to put in perspective, even, because it was just so wildly different, but really I think there was this foundation underneath me that I had built my life upon that these things are true, these things are not true, and this is how we're going to live. And it really all got blown up by this experience, and so I really had to step back and sort of live on my own, or live with my own perspective, rather than sort of cheating and taking some of those things for granted, if that makes sense.

So it was this, I guess, time in the wilderness, as it were. When your life is, like you say, kind of blown up and you're in this new place and you're trying to figure things out. Did it cause you to just want to meet new or different people or reconsider or atheism? Did you see a problem with the way that you were living or thinking? Or that caused you to reconsider your life choices? Perhaps you wanted to go a different direction. What brought you towards reconsidering God?

Well, certainly I would have to say that my wife was an important part of that conversation, so if it's okay, let me kind of transition and talk a little bit about it.

Absolutely.

So my wife, Tara, I met her shortly after my divorce, and she was a really interesting person to me. She was a follower of Jesus and was very straightforward with me about that. But Tara was sort of uncanny to me. That seems like a weird word, but it's really the only one I can think of. Because she challenged all my assumptions. She was willing to invest in me relationally regardless of my status, regardless of whether she felt like she was going to win me over or not. And that was new to me in terms of communicating and interacting with Christians because in my past history it always kind of felt like, with Christians, it was about putting one on the scoreboard, you know?

But this woman was not about that. She was about knowing me and understanding who I was and coming to understand what I believed, and I remember, on our first date, I was very straightforward with her and told her what I thought, and she was sort of open to discussing that and was sort of respectful to that, which was all totally disarming and off putting, like I remember thinking, "Who is this lady? She's not following any of the rules. And that's a good thing." It was almost that—I think of it from the inside now, but it was almost that sweetness that we hear about and talk about when we think about the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit works on us and that sort of uncanny way that He has of convicting and not condemning and of helping lead us to the truth when it seems like nobody else can. And so I know that God used Tara in all of this and in these challenging moments in my life to draw me closer to Him and to, ironically, put one on the scoreboard and, [because without Tara, I don't know that I ever would have come to these conclusions on my own, if that makes sense.

Yes, yes. So she countered all the negative stereotypes you had of Christians, it sounds like.

Yes. That's right! That's right.

And brought plausibility, perhaps, and an attraction towards Christianity that was, it sounds like, very unexpected.

Yeah. So this is going to sound like a crazy thing to cite as a positive, but she just didn't want to argue about it. She was open with me about her faith and introduced me to her friends, and I got to become part of her community of people, but it was not a... "And the reason why we're doing that is because we want to get you from here to here." It was just a genuineness. It was a kindness and sort of a willingness to invest that I personally had never experienced from Christians before, at least that I could say that I was sure of basically, or that I knew of. And that was sweet. It was exactly what I needed to feel safe and to feel the opportunity to start to explore. And she was absolutely instrumental. But through this process with Tara, I got introduced to her friend, Bob.

They weren't pouncing on you, as it were, to try to make you a Christian. They actually gave you room and space and accepted you as who you were and gave you an opportunity to be with them and observe their, I presume, genuine Christianity. It sounds like they weren't necessarily trying to give you apologetic arguments or trying to convince you. They were giving you an example of embodied Christianity, that sweetness. They invested in you. They were generous toward you. They wanted to know who you were. I'm sure that would have been quite surprising. It sounds like you were intrigued by who they were as people, that that goodness kind of opened the door towards a more intellectual searching. Is that how you found it?

Absolutely yes. I mean I think their genuineness and their kindness was what helped me. I feel, as Christians, when we talk about these sorts of things, we kind of take them for granted sometimes, but I know that one of the things that we say as Christians is that we want people around us to notice that there's something different about us, right? And I guess let this story be the proof in the pudding, that that does actually happen. And that that does actually make a difference. Because I noticed that there was something different about these people who I was being placed around. And it was attractive. It was something that I wanted to have, started to explore more.

Good, good. So it gave you, in a sense, a possibility of a life well lived and so that you were willing to look behind the curtain, as it were, for the grounding for this life. So you were talking about someone named Bob. So I'm wondering who that is and if he provides a little bit of the next step towards an intellectual understanding of the grounding and truth of the Christian worldview.

Yeah, so Bob is a good friend of Tara's and mine still today. He is an apologist, I think is a good way to describe him. He's one of those guys that you've just got to know him to understand just how unique he really is. And was good friends with Tara at the time that we started to interact and so was very intrigued by our relationship and also by the fact that I kind of called myself an atheist. And he wanted to know more about that. And so we had the opportunity to interact on a number of occasions, and Bob was willing to walk through anything. He was willing to explore and deal with and try to respond to pretty much anything that I had to say, and that, of course, was a big deal for me. He really walked me through the historicity of the gospels. And so we talked about the stories about Jesus that didn't make any sense that they were written. The ideas that there were people who had nothing to gain who were telling these same stories and who were consistent in the way they were telling these stories. And that really was deeply challenging to me and my worldview at the time. I can't even articulate it.

And he very gently and slowly walked me through those things, would talk them through, and would provide input and guidance and all that sort of thing and was just instrumental, and again, sort of like to your point about allowing the space for those conversations to happen and for those things to be learned. And really, I would say too, to his credit, challenged me on this idea that I was going to be all intellectual in a world where I had not really adequately explored the alternative. And so I remember it very vividly. He and Tara and I were sitting in a bookstore, and he was asking me why I wasn't stepping across the line of faith, and I said, "Well, I'm not sure yet. I just don't know," and he asked me a series of questions, and I answered that I felt like all those things were true, and at the end of the conversation, he said, "Well, you know what Jeremy, if I had a cross around my neck I'd give it to you. You're a Christian," and he got up and walked away. It was this movie moment where it's like, "Wow! Okay. Now what do I do?" And it was just fascinating that he was willing to invest the way that he did and sort of walk me across the line of faith in the way that he did. It was definitely a life changing moment.

Wow! So just to be clear. So there was historical evidence that made it sound as if there was a solid historicity to these stories about Jesus, that there was adequate evidence that the reliability of the text was solid and that perhaps the stories were worth believing. There is a sense in which you can believe the intellectual grounding, as it were, for the text itself, and that perhaps the stories did happen, but that's a very different thing than... You know, as Christians, we'll say, "accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior." That's a very different kind of thing that involves a life commitment. It involves your heart, your willingness to give your life, as it were, to this person called Jesus. So it sounds as if almost like he rushed you to the finish line, like the Christians you had talked about before who were trying to get a notch in their belt. Did it feel that way? It sounds almost as if you had to catch your breath and then think, "Okay, what just happened here? Did I become a Christian? Was that my decision or his?" That what it kind of sounds like.

So it was definitely that moment, and I will tell you, to kind of encapsulate it in a way that made sense to me at the time, he challenged me to put all the rest of it aside, right? So I remember having a lot of friends who were gay, still do to this day, and thinking the way Christians treat homosexuals isn't fair. And I remember having all those same political thoughts that I did when I was an atheist and thinking, "I hate the way that Christians interact with all this," and I remember Bob saying, "Yeah, I understand all that, and that's completely fair, and we've earned our reputation on some of those things, but just for a moment, just put all that aside and talk to me about Jesus. And let's answer these questions about whether Jesus was born of a virgin, died and was resurrected, claimed to be God incarnate, and died for my sins, and so yeah, I get all that stuff. Peace to all that. That's all relevant. That's all valid. Those are important questions that you need to answer, but don't you feel like you owe it to yourself to answer them from the inside if you believe these other things are true. And that was the defining moment in all of it for me, was to think of all this through that lens, if that makes sense. And that's what got me out of the concern that this was all a sales pitch, right? It was because, in my own mind, I was internalizing it and figuring it out for myself, whereas, given the perspective going forward, I know now that it was God doing all that work. And so that was the difference. That's what made the difference for me, was setting all the rest of it aside and just answering these questions about Jesus.

So Jesus was true, like true incarnate, and you were convinced that the resurrection was valid and that His claims to Godhood were valid based upon His resurrection and all of that. So you were convinced that that was true intellectually but, His death had some application to you personally, that He saved you. I mean that's what the Gospel is, right? That He came, and it's not just a set of intellectual or historical events that you believe happened in the past but somehow, like you were saying, it supernaturally applied to you. Is that what you're trying to say? That it really became very personal for you and you understood that and you understood what you were saying when you said, "Yes, it's true," but it's also personally—it's internally true.

So it was interesting, Jana. I would say that was almost the afterthought, right? Like the process of thinking it through, and I recognize the sort of silliness of all this now down the road, and so forgive me, but in my mind, the process of thinking it through for myself and coming to these conclusions for myself and having all these answers that I went and got, that somehow sort of freed me in this to be able to believe these things. That was what I was telling myself at the time. And that was challenging, without a doubt. But it was an important part of it for me. Does that make sense?

Yes, absolutely. So that was kind of the pivotal turning point for you, in which you took off your atheist hat and you took on an identity as a Christian. So tell me about your world after that. Did that worldview become more grounded as you went on? Or just experientially, intellectually, in every way? How did that work for you? How did it change your life? How did you find yourself pursuing Christianity in a way that you hadn't before?

Yeah. So interestingly, in accepting Jesus and accepting the truth of Jesus, none of those other problems that I had went away. Or just sort of disappeared on their own obviously. Those were all still things that I wanted to be able to process through and figure out, and to this day, I'm still dealing with some of those things. It became more natural at that point to think about... So going back to the idea of it being related to social structures, it became very natural at that point to think of all this in the context of it as a social structure, so I started to attend church regularly, got involved in volunteering at church, started to participate in small groups and thinking about my life that way, but also started to study more and try to learn more, so the way I met you, Jana, I think was through the Unbelievable podcast, and so shout out to our friends with Unbelievable. They were a really important force for me when I first started exploring this and when I came across a line of faith I wanted to learn more about what the answers to some of these questions were, listening to Unbelievable made a huge difference for me. Because it helped me answer a lot of questions, and it gave me a resource to go to, and I felt like, to the point about it being an intellectual process, I felt like they really paid homage to the debate and to the ability to go back and forth between different voices and hear different voices. You know, we just don't have that in American culture today. And so shout out to Justin at Unbelievable because he made a big difference in my life as I started to try to learn more about what all this meant.

Yeah. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Unbelievable podcast by Justin Brierley, it's typically a conversation between an atheist and a Christian, where they're discussing issues of culture, of philosophy, of apologetics, of all kinds of things, but done, like you say, in a very diplomatic way. Usually.

Usually.

There's no better moderator than Justin Brierley.

So I presume that, like you say, as you were becoming more of an embodied Christian like your wife, Tara, and that group, that you were learning to see your life and see the answers to questions that you had about your life in a very different way, because, as you know, the way that you believe affects the way that you feel and the way that you live. Your worldview kind of trickles down to your world, as it were. So moving from atheism to Christianity is a tremendous transformation in the way that you look at the world. So just the work that you do tells me that you've made a fairly substantial transformation in the way you think, the way you live, and the way that you move in your life. Can you talk about that?

Yeah. Boy. So one thing I want to mention is that initial process led to a lot of questioning from non-believing friends, who really didn't understand. A lot of non-believing friends who felt like this decision I had made was sort of a smack in the face of their worldview and their lifestyle. And lost some friendships. Had some relationships go sour over it. And look back on that and hope to have opportunities to reconnect with those people eventually, but I have worked in the nonprofit world my whole life, and coming across the line of faith to Christianity really fit in the context of everything I believed about the way the world ought to be through my experience with working in nonprofits. So that was very natural, I would say, and sort of made a lot of sense.

Ended up in this role that I'm in now, where I'm actually able to live out my faith authentically every day. I'm surrounded by people who sort of believe the same things I believe but want to use that belief to make a difference in the world and want to use the things that we believe to bring the kingdom here on earth. And so that's a big change for me and a big deal, and it's all been sort of self-affirming, like it's been this cycle that has helped me to grow.

In the meantime, I've got my own kids now, and we have been able to address and talk about issues of faith with our kids, and I think back on my childhood and about kind of what I missed and what I lost by not having faith in my life, and one thing I know I'm sure of is that my kids won't have that experience, that as best I can, as long as I have a voice in it, they'll be able to benefit from the experience of faith in Jesus throughout their lives.

So it's been quite a transformation, and living now and working now in this field where I'm able to live it out every day is just a dream come true. It's everything I could have hoped for.

Wow! That's really wonderful. I'm going to play skeptic here for just a moment.

Bring it on.

I can imagine some people are listening and saying, "Oh, you had a bad thing happen in your life. You met a nice girl. You had some emotional needs. You'd just come off a divorce. You had a desire for social belonging and that kind of thing. How do you know that Christianity is true? You just moved from one social set to another. How do you know that Christianity is real and true, that God exists, and that Christianity is worth believing?"

Yeah. That's a really good question. I think that you can easily look at things like that, and I think this is hard for a nonbeliever to hear, and I don't know exactly how to process it, and so they'll have to forgive me if they hear me say this, but the realization that it had nothing to do with me, that it wasn't me coming across the line, that it wasn't me deciding that these were the right answers, but that it was everything to do with what God was doing in me, is the thing that has catalyzed my faith and my growth in faith in Christ ever since that day. And so that day that I came across the line of faith, I wouldn't have told you that I thought that was true, but I recognize now that it's not something I did, and it's not something we do that helps make the world work.

I would also say one of the things that I would always—and I mentioned it earlier—but one of the things I would always come back to Christians with was, "Well, you just answer everything with, 'It's mysterious,' and just a cop-out answer. You're just going to tell me, 'God's a mystery, and we just don't know.'" And there are very real issues in our world that can lead us into a place of questioning God. And COVID is certainly a very good example of that this year, and there have been times in my private prayer life where I've come to God and said, "You know what? I don't like this, and I don't understand what you’re doing, and I hope you’ll help me understand." But at the end of the day, what I've landed on there, sort of my finish line on that idea, that Christians seem hypocritical when they talk about things being mysterious, is that, if God created a world that Jeremy could understand all the ins and outs of, it's just not that impressive. If the all-powerful Creator of the universe built it in such a way that we could figure out, big deal. There better be some things that we don't understand. There had better be some things that our limited brains can't comprehend because otherwise it's just a movie that we wrote, right? It's just a story that we can write ourselves, and that's just not all that impressive.

And so to those who would question and to those who are skeptical, I would say I've been there and I understand that perspective, and I would say keep trying to learn and keep trying to grow, and then to Christians, I would definitely want to say build relationships. And build unconditional relationships with people. Friendships where you're going to love them no matter what, and you're going to show them the love of Christ no matter what. Because it's that diligence and determination that ultimately is going to surprise people and cause people to say, "Wow! This person seems different." The fact that she was not—I've got a picture of her sitting next to my computer here, and I keep looking over at her. The fact that Tara was willing to commit to being in a relationship with me—and maybe it wouldn't have been a longer-term relationship. Maybe it just would have been a friendship if things had gone differently, but the fact that she was willing to love me and be in relationship with me regardless of the outcome made all the difference in the world, and so I would say to Christians, "Go find somebody that doesn't believe what you do and try to talk them into it. Try to bring them across the line of faith. Try to relate them into it, and be kind to them and show them the love of Christ and show them what Christ has done for us." Because ultimately I think that's one of the best ways that we have to attract people to God.

Yeah, that's certainly how God attracts us to Himself is through His great kindness, isn't it?

Yeah.

It leads us to see ourselves in a way that we need Him. So wow, this has been really, really wonderful, Jeremy. You have walked us through your story. It's been a really great story because I think it incorporates so many things that help us see that conversion is not just an intellectual idea. It's a really fully orbed life [confusion?], that there's so much involved and that we as Christians have an opportunity just by embodying our Christianity with grace and goodness and love, that we can open the door towards people. I loved the word you used. You said safe. That we can create a place of safety for people to explore it without feeling like we are trying to pounce on someone to convince them that our way is the best way. So you have so much wisdom, I think, coming from both perspectives. And I think we have a lot to learn from your experience as an atheist, as well as a Christian, so thank you for being with us today.

Well, thank you so much, Jana.

Thanks for tuning in to the Side B Podcast to hear Jeremy's story. You can find out more about his nonprofit by visiting his website in the episode notes, as well as find a link to the Unbelievable podcast as well. If you enjoyed it, subscribe and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we'll be listening to the other side.

 

 


COPYRIGHT: This publication is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

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