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Episode 91: Secular Jew Finds Christ - Dr. James Tour's story

Dr. James Tour profile image with Side B Stories

From a secular Jewish home, scientific scholar and former skeptic Dr. James Tour encountered the love and reality of Jesus, and his life was immediately changed.
 
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Transcript


Hello, and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to Side B Stories, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each broadcast, we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptic but who became a Christian against all odds. You can hear more of these stories on our YouTube channel, as well as our website at sidebstories.com. We welcome your comments on these stories on our Facebook page or our YouTube video page. You can also email us at [email protected]. We love hearing from you.

When you grow up in a culture where religion and belief in God seem irrelevant, to you, to your friends, to your family, it’s hard to see how it could ever change. But sometimes it can and it does change very quickly. Someone can go from a place where God doesn't matter at all to suddenly believing and living as if God is everything. It's particularly curious when someone grows up steeped in a secularized Jewish culture and then quite unexpectedly comes to believe in Jesus. A Jew becoming a follower of Christ doesn't make sense until it does.

That's what happened in our story today. As a secular Jew, James Tour never thought much about God or religion until he was personally and powerfully faced with the reality of Jesus Christ. Today, he is one of the most eminent scientific scholars in the world, yet more than anything, he lives his life to help others find Jesus.

Dr. Tour is a synthetic organic chemist and renowned expert in nanotechnology. He has published over 800 research publications and holds over 200 patents. He has been named among the 15 most influential scientists in the world and has been listed among the world's most influential scientific minds. I hope you'll come along to hear his extraordinary journey of moving from secular Jew to becoming a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.

Welcome, Jim, to Side B Stories. It's so great to have you with me today.

Thank you, Jana.

As we're getting started, I would love for the listeners to understand a bit of the substance of who you are. I would love for you to tell us a bit about your credentialing, your accolades, a bit of your CV. I’m sure it's quite lengthy, but I'd love for the listeners just to understand who is sitting before us today.

My name is James Tour. I am a chemist at Rice University in Houston, Texas. I've been a professor for 35 years. I also have appointments in material science and nanoengineering and in computer science at Rice University. I work in areas that span all over nanotechnology, from medicine to material science to electronics, and so these are the areas in which we work.

Wonderful! So you obviously live in the Houston area. But I know that your story doesn't begin in Houston. Your story begins somewhere in the Northeast, I believe New York. So why don't you take us to your childhood, where you were born. Talk to us about your family, your religious heritage, if any, and we'll go from there.

Okay. I grew up in a secular Jewish home. I was born in New York City. I grew up just north of the city. My first home was right in the heart of the city, but I grew up just north of the city, just maybe a twenty-five minute drive north of Midtown. And we never talked about God. We were a typical secular Jewish family. Never discussed sin, never discussed God, anything like that. And I just went to a regular high school. I wanted to be a New York State Trooper, actually. But I was color blind, so I couldn't get into the academy. So I decided to do forensic science, and my dad said, “Well, why don't you just get a chemistry degree, and then you can specialize in forensics after that?” And I was 17 when he told me that, and it surprises me to this day that I listened to him. And I took chemistry, and then after taking organic chemistry, I just fell in love with it.

A very typical home, I would say. A loving mother and father. My dad worked very hard. He was a pharmacist that owned a drugstore and had to work a lot of hours, and my mom just tried to keep three kids going, and that's sort of the background I had. I had no faith teaching, very little. I was only in a synagogue a couple of times a year, so we were not a synagogue-going family. If somebody had asked me, I would have said that I was Jewish. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. My elementary school was all Jewish.

Okay, so there was a dominant Jewish culture in your life. That’s quite a statement, that you presumed that everybody was Jewish. That meant it was a very ethnically Jewish world. But the religious aspect… it sounds like you attended perhaps high holy days. You said synagogue a couple of times a year. Did your family have any tacit belief in God? Was there any sense that there was something real behind it? Or was it, did you feel, just a cultural, social activity? What was that?

No, we never really talked about God. There was no discussion. I remember maybe a thirty-second discussion between my sister and my father one day, where she said to my father, “You don't really believe in God, do you?” And he said, “Who says I don't believe in God? I believe in God.” And that’s all I heard about God in my home. I felt rabbis were strange men. They were walking around mumbling. I realize now they were saying their prayers, but I never related to them. I never felt very close to them. I wasn't in the synagogue much, so I can't blame them. So yeah. I had no religious upbringing.

It was when I went to college that I met a young man. I was doing laundry in the laundry room. It was August in my freshman year, so it must have been the first load of laundry I had ever done. My mother had always done my laundry before that. And we got to talking, and I asked him what he wanted to do when he graduated, and he said he wanted to go into lay ministry. I said, “What’s that?” He said, “Oh. Sort of like a missionary.” “A missionary?” I didn't even know there are missionaries around today.

And he said, “Can I give you an illustration of the gospel?” And he was an art major. He was on the football team, but he was also an art major. And so I said, “Sure.” And we went up to my room, and he proceeded to draw out a picture of the bridge illustration and give me the gospel.

Okay. Wow! Okay. Before we get into the fullness of that, I'd like to kind of investigate your way of thinking as a secular Jew. When you were moving along in your education, did you ever perceive of… what was ultimate reality? It sounds like you were very science driven, that obviously you moved towards chemistry or organic chemistry. Were you getting a sense of your own worldview in terms of what was ultimate reality? What were we of our own humanity? The things that are informed by a scientific or even a naturalistic worldview? Were you thinking more deeply about those questions about the cosmos? Or were you informed that the cosmos is all there is? We're in a closed determined universe of cause and effect and nothing more? I mean, did you think deeply about that in terms of its implications?

I thought nothing about that. I mean zero. I wish I could portray myself as being much more pensive, but no. I thought zero about that. I worked a lot of hours in a gas station on the highway on the Hudson River Parkway. So I went to school, I would study, and then Friday at 3:00, I was at the gas station on the highway, working the 3:00 to 11:00 shift. On Saturday, I’d work 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, and Sunday, I'd work 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM, so I would work four days over the weekend. And that's all I did. I mean I fixed cars, I fixed motorcycles, I fixed mini bikes, and I just always had my head under a hood of a car, working on these sort of things. So that was my world view. It was just fixing things, and I didn't think about eternity.

I do remember, though, sometimes when I’d work particularly the night shift in the gas station, sometimes I'd even work the 11 to 7 shift, 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM, and Christians would come in once in a while and give me tracts, these little booklets that talked about Jesus. And I remember particularly…. I don't know if you recall these. There was a type of tract called a Chick Tract by a guy named Chick, and he would…. These were really vivid ones, where Satan was taking somebody to hell or something because they hadn't received Jesus. And I was enthralled by those. When they gave them to me, I was thankful, because it gave me something to read during a night shift. And that was about as close as I got to religion or pondering, is when I was reading those tracts that Christians would give me sometimes as they’d come in.

Yes, yes. Sorry. I'm curious. Even as a secular Jew or a Jewish identity, were these pamphlets about Jesus-

Yeah. They were always about Jesus. Jews don’t give out that stuff.

Right, right, but I wondered, as a Jew, how you…. Were you open to what these tracts were? I mean because Jesus, I guess even culturally, to a Jew, might have been a little bit off-putting or someone pushing their religious perspective of Jesus upon a Jew. Was there any of that kind of push-back in you?

No. Jews would find these off-putting because they'd been trained by the rabbis. The rabbis teach them to reject Jesus. I didn't spend enough time in the synagogue to realize that I shouldn't be reading about Jesus. If you speak to a Jew, and there’s push back, it's usually because they've been trained against Jesus. I was a much cleaner slate, because I had not been influenced by the rabbis. I remember being taught Jesus was a Christian. I didn't know Jesus was Jewish. Who knew? I didn't know that. They never taught us that Jesus was Jewish. I mean, we were taught that Jesus was a Christian.

But I found it interesting that they discussed heaven and hell in these tracts, and death. And that was about as close as I got. I was not a big reader. I watched TV. I wish I could portray myself as being really a studious and smart guy. I mean, I worked hard. In high school, I started really working hard, and I started studying a lot. But to me, I was working on things and fixing things, and actually, as I've studied this now later in life, this is what gives people creativity, when they are always pulling things apart and deconstructing and rebuilding. And so, I think, in the long run, that sort of has helped me, but I was not a pensive individual that thought at all about the future.

I think a lot of times we move along and the idea or the concept of God seems a bit irrelevant. If things are going well, and you're surviving. You’re working hard. You’re working hard at school. You’re working hard outside of school. I presume that you just didn't think that the idea of God or religion was very relevant to your life. I mean, except for sometimes these interesting Christians would come by and hand you a pamphlet and give you something interesting to read.

Yeah. You know, to tell you the truth, Jana, 90% of my CPU, my central processing unit, my mind, was thinking about women. I mean, it’s just what I did.

Well, that's honest!

That’s right. I was not thinking about the future, about the cosmos. I mean I was thinking about women.

Yeah. Okay. That’s honest. Yeah, absolutely. I'm curious, too. Now, this was a little bit of a different time than we are in now, but as you were pursuing science, particularly at the university and organic chemistry and pursuing that path, I'm sure you were working very hard at that as well. But were you given the idea that there was no need for God, essentially? That science was explanatory in itself? That intelligent people don't need to believe in God? That sort of thing? Or was that also not philosophically imposed upon you?

Okay. So let me just back up a little bit.

Okay.

Because… just tell you how this story goes. So I was always thinking about women, but I never had one. Okay, so it wasn't like I had all these girlfriends. I had zero girlfriends. I had none. And I'm sure my personality had something to do with that. And my looks. But what happened was that young man shared with me, in August of my freshman year. November 7th of my freshman year… and actually the first verse he shared with me was from Romans. It says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And I said, “I'm not a sinner. I'm not a sinner. How could I be a sinner? I never killed anybody and I never robbed a bank. How could I be a sinner?” And that is exactly secular Judaism. We don't look at little things as sin. You’ve got to do something really bad to be a sinner. We never discussed sin in my home because I never killed anybody. And I didn't feel like a sinner. I was blissfully unaware of this stuff.

Even when you went, like to high holy days and Yom Kippur and atonement and the sacrificial system-

I’m sorry, Jana. I'm going to disappoint you. I would sit in the young people's class. They put us in this separate class, and we'd have this shawl over us, and it had these little tassels coming off the ends, and I would tie it…. The person in front of me, I’d tie their tassels to their chair, so that when they'd get up…. This is where my mind was! I just wasn't paying attention in that class.

Got it.

I had zero, zero interest. Nothing impacted me in that place. It was just like I couldn't wait to get out of there. That's where I was. And I know that my orthodox Jewish friends are probably just pulling their hair out right now. But I'm just being honest. This is where I was. This is where a lot of young Jewish guys are. And so, yeah, it had no interest to me. And I think by the time I went to high school, I never went. I never went to the synagogue ever, by the time I was in high school. Once I had a car? No way would I go to a synagogue. Most of my time in synagogue was going to friends’ bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs. That's about it.

But in any case, so what happened was, when I told him that I'm not a sinner, he turned to Matthew 5:28. And Matthew 5:28 says, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus said that. And I was blown away by this thing. Jesus said, “I tell you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” First of all, I didn't know how to look at a woman any other way. I was addicted to pornography at the age of 14. I started working in the gas station at 14. I started finding these magazines in the trash that these men would throw away, particularly on Friday nights on the way home from their sales week. And I became addicted to pornography. We didn't have those in my home. My father never had those, and I know because boys poke through everything. There’s nothing you can hide in your house from boys. And I looked through everything. And I became addicted to pornography. And we didn't tell people. I didn’t tell people that I was addicted to pornography. We didn't tell people our problems in those days. These days, people will say, “I'm going to see my therapist today.” I mean, that never would have happened when I was growing up. We didn't talk about our problems. And so I never told anybody. And of all verses for him to turn to, and I was addicted to pornography, and I couldn't look at a woman any other way. And then it says, “You’ve committed adultery with her in your heart.” How could I commit adultery in my heart? Adultery is a physical thing. How could it affect my heart? And I was enough of a Jew to know that adultery was wrong. That was one of the ten commandments.

But what happens, Jana, is this, is that when Jesus is getting hold of your heart, His words have enormous power, because why should I even care what some Christian, as far as I knew, said 2,000 years ago? Why should I care? Well, I cared because Jesus was starting to get a hold of my heart, and conviction came upon me at that moment. And so the words of Jesus have enormous power when He’s working on your heart. And from that moment, I felt convicted. And what I remembered after that in his little gospel presentation was there's nothing that I could do about it and that Jesus died for me on the cross. I didn't even realize that there was a claim on the table that Jesus died for my sins. Yeah, I had read those little pamphlets, which…. It never really connected. Once I was convicted of my sin from reading that verse that day, this fact that Jesus died for my sin, I mean, this was an interesting thought. And so something really got a hold of my heart in August, and then, in November.

I bowed my knee to the Lord Jesus Christ, I was in in my room all alone. And I got on my knees, and I don't know why I got on my knees, because Jews, we normally stand when we pray. Christians that I had seen were sitting when they pray. And I got on my knees and said, “Lord, forgive me, because I am a sinner.” I had been carrying this burden of sin since August. I'm telling you, before that I never felt that I was doing anything wrong for just lusting after women when I saw them. I mean, I never felt that it was wrong, but after that point, after I read Matthew 5:28, I was convicted of my sin, and I asked God to forgive me. And all of a sudden this amazing peace fell on me, amazing peace, and then just off to my right, somebody standing. The door was shut, my roommate wasn't there, and I looked and there was nothing that I can see clearly with my eyes, but the presence of Jesus was so strong. I heard no voices. Right away, my face goes down to the ground. I'm already on my knees, and I'm just weeping. The presence of Jesus is so overwhelmingly strong upon me, so overwhelmingly strong. And there was no fear. It was just love and kindness and forgiveness, liquid love just being poured out on me. And it wasn't like he was gone. He was just there. He wasn't leaving. His presence was just so consuming. I'd never had a day like that, never had a day like that before that day. I never had a day like that after that day. That day was really unique in my life. I don't even know how long I was there before Him. I don't even know how I knew it was Him. I just knew this was Jesus.

I remember standing up, wiping the tears from my face. And this was very unusual for me. I didn't cry like that. Even to this day, I can have a close friend die, and I will cry for like thirty seconds and I'm done. Jesus really got a hold of my heart. And I couldn't stop thinking about Jesus from that day. I would dream about Jesus. In my dreams, I was dreaming about Jesus. In my dreams, I was dreaming about telling people about Jesus. Think about that. This Jewish kid is telling people about Jesus in his dreams. I didn't know I'd received the Lord. I didn't even know what that meant. All I knew is I'm telling people. And Jana, this was prophetic because I tell people about the Lord all the time. All the time.

Two weeks later, the guy who shared with me saw me walking on the floor and says, “Jim, have you received Jesus in your heart?” This is a couple weeks after that event. I said, “I think I have. Why do you ask?” He said, “You haven't stopped smiling for weeks.” Something happened to me that day.

The other thing that happened is I was totally broken of pornography. I mean, men who are addicted to pornography, they know what I'm talking about. This thing is so compelling and just drives you in your life, this pornography thing. There were no computers in those days. Yeah. I had this stash of magazines that I had gotten from the gas station trash cans. And it was gone. I didn't even notice it that it was gone right away. It's like if your knee is hurting for a week, and then all of a sudden it stops hurting, you don't even realize it right away. After a while, you’re like, “Hey, my knee’s not hurting anymore.” I wasn’t drawn to pornography after that. Even at this day, I haven't been drawn to pornography. He broke me of that. Look, I had a lot of other struggles that I struggled with for a long time, and I still have a lot of struggles, but that one, He showed me, He convicted me of my sin through that, and He showed me His power through that. It was gone.

And I started reading, because I asked this young man, “How can I stay close to God? I’ve never felt like this with God before. How can I stay close?” He said, “If you read your Bible every day, you stay close to God.” He gave me a little green Gideon's New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. That's all I started reading. Just like that. And then, a year later, year and a half later, I got a full Bible, and I started reading that. And I've read the Bible every day for 45 years.

Now, this gets right back to your question: It was at that time, I was struggling in freshman chemistry. I got thrown into the honors program. And I needed to be in with the masses, but anyway, I was struggling. After I got saved, everything started to make sense to me in chemistry. And I ended up that semester with a B plus, which was amazing. And after that, I never got less than an A in chemistry, and I finished number one in my class at the university, in chemistry, of everyone who was a chemistry major. I was number one. And by a lot. As an undergraduate, I took every graduate organic chemistry class that they had, and I was the top of that class too, as an undergraduate.

Jesus did something with me on that day. Jesus changed me. And I started reading the Bible every day, and I didn't even know it at the time. There’s all these promises in the Bible about what happens if you read your Bible every day, and I started doing that, and I started reading the Bible every day, and He blessed my work over and over and over again. So that's when things started to come together and things started to make sense and I started to think beyond just women. I started to think of other things. It's all because of Jesus. If there's anything good in my life, anything, it is all because of Jesus. I shall forever be grateful for Him, grateful to Him. And I shall forever be thanking Him, and eternity won’t be enough for me to thank my Jesus for all that He has done in my life. I know what He has done.

There was nothing in my life that was good before that, and then all of a sudden He came into my room, He came into my life, and everything changed.

That’s amazing. Amazing! This is an incredible testimony, Jim.  You encountered Christ. I mean, you had conviction, you got on your knees, and He showed up in just this incredibly palpable way.

I’m curious. You had been given these pamphlets and thinking Jesus is a Christian. What did you discover when you actually started reading the Bible and reading about Jesus? That He’s a Jew. And that most of the people in the Bible were Jewish. How did that feel? Or what did you think about that, even in terms of relating to your own heritage, putting those pieces together?

You know, when I started reading the scriptures as a freshman in college, it wasn't even coming together, the whole Jewishness of the thing. I’d learned so little about Judaism when I was a Jew that it was not even a strong concept for me. This thing came together much more for me after I became a believer. Everything that I know about the Word of God, about Jesus and His Jewishness and the New Testament, and how Jewish it is—because the Gospels are so Jewish. Everything about this, I learned from the church. I'm deeply indebted to the church. I learned this in the church. I learned from Messianic scholars, just studying the works of Messianic scholars, and I learned this whole inter-relatedness of Jesus with the whole Jewishness. And now everything I see is Jesus in the context of His Jewishness. And so people will say to me, “How can you be Jewish and enjoy the New Testament?” I'm like, “How can you be Gentile and enjoy the New Testament?” It's so Jewish. Everything about it is so Jewish. And the whole way He responds. I mean, I did a four and a half year teaching, every week for four and a half years to college students, on the chronological life of Jesus from a Jewish perspective. And right from His conception, right on through to his death and resurrection, took me four and a half years. We went through all the different gospels in this, and just went through it chronologically and looked at all the Jewishness behind this. And so that's an audio series on my website, jmtour.com, under audio files and the chronological life of Jesus.

So to me it means so much now, but at the time—I wish I could say that it was such a profound thing, the Jewishness and everything. Everything I learned was from the church. I learned from really godly men. I got involved in the church with some Indians, Asian Indians, who are serious about their faith. That's where I learned to pray on my knees. That's where I learned to just devour the scriptures every morning and make that a part of my life, to pray these things into my life. In a sense, I am Jewish in that I am a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. My father was Jewish. My grandfather was Jewish. But this is not what drove me.

Right.

It is the church that taught me these things and then that brought me back to my Judaism. So what I tell my friends is that I'm a much better Jew now than I was before I knew Jesus. Really!

Right.

Now I love the scriptures. I love the Old Testament. To me, it's my life. It's like Moses said, he said, these things that I’ve been teaching you, these are not an idle word for you. This is your life. This is your life, in Deuteronomy 32. This is your life! To me, the scriptures are my life. I love it! I love the scriptures. It is not burdensome at all to read the scriptures. I love the scriptures. Just even hearing a passage from the word of God, it just arrests me. It just stops me in my tracks, because I have such a veneration for the word of God. Because these are God’s very words. The universe conforms to the word of God. I love every word in the scriptures. This is the very words of God. Over and over again, these things have proven true in my life.

Jesus said, “If anyone is willing to do My will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is God or whether I speak for myself.” John 7:17. When we do His will, then we recognize that these are the very words of God.

Yeah. You know, having been blessed to have been to Israel three times myself, I think one of the things that I appreciated is the Jewish esteem for the word. The Torah and the way that they esteem it, at least ceremonially. But for you of course, it's much more than that. It's life breathed into you itself. It's the authority of God blessing you and satisfying your soul and your mind. And giving life itself. I'm curious: With, again thinking to you and your family, secularized Jewish family, how did your family respond to this sudden realization of Who Christ is and taking on Christianity as a faith?

You know, we were such a secular family. I came home after that first semester. I think I even called my parents, and I told them about this thing with Jesus and what had happened in my life. And they didn't say anything, but I know it hurt them, because they told me afterward how much it had hurt them. I didn't even know that I was to keep it quiet. I didn't even know that I should judiciously share this with them. I remember walking up to my cousin who I grew up with, and I said that I gave my life to Jesus, and he looked at me. He says, “You can't do that! You’re Jewish. What are you talking about?” And now I realize how crazy it must have sounded to the guy. I didn't even know. I had been so touched by the Lord, so touched by the Lord, I couldn't keep this thing quiet, when Jesus shows up in your room like that and you're thinking about Jesus all the time.

I wasn't immediately drawn to campus Christian groups. It’s like, when Paul got saved, he didn't go back to Jerusalem and talk with these guys. He just went alone to be with Jesus for a while. And I remember visiting these campus Christian groups. And these were nice people, but it was so foreign to me. It was a cloak that didn't fit.

And of course, then, as you said, it sounds like this happened in your freshman year, at the very beginnings of your esteemed academic career. And so I'm wondering, as an eminent scientist, you had a changed perspective. You had a God-centered, God-breathed perspective about life. And I presume that that infused everything about your study, about your view of science, about your view of the world, of chemistry. And you know, Jim, there are so many people who push back against religious people, particularly Christians or God believers, that say, “I believe in science. I don't need religion. I don't need faith,” that there’s somehow this, I guess, false dichotomy that's formed, that either you believe in science or religion or God. You don't do both. How would you speak to the skeptic out there, particularly who says, “I don't need God. I've got science.”

That sounds awfully foolish to me. I mean science is not a belief system in that way. And science just keeps changing all the time. It really does. I mean you get theories, and they change constantly. But, in the university, even as I started to learn things in the university, I developed a deep trust in the word of God. And I'd hear things, and people would say things, and I believed the word of God. I thought science has just got a wrong interpretation. I've never seen the Bible and a scientific fact contradict each other. Ever. Scientific theories contradict some things in the Bible, but scientific theories change all the time, certainly on the order of decades. They change all the time. I mean I’ve got lists of them. They change all the time. Theories change all the time.

But I had this implicit trust in the word of God. And that, to me, has meant so much. But you get into the university system, and one of the few things people can accuse you of, a name that they're allowed to still call you and get away with it. You know, they can't call me Jew. They can't say, “Oh, because you're Christian.” So they say, “You’re a creationist.” There, they'll use that word. “Because you're a creationist.” I mean, what exactly does that mean? What exactly does that mean?

One of the problems here, Jana, is this: I've excelled so much in my career by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, there are very few scientists, by any objective measure, that rank is highly as I do. And there are ways to rank scientists. One is by something called an in H-index, which isn't just the number of times your papers have been cited, but what is the impact of those citations? And, for most of the people that come against me, my H-index is more than double theirs. I mean, it's just crazy high. And God has so blessed my work to affect so many different areas. I've started fourteen companies. I've published almost 800 peer reviewed publications. And so my work has been so blessed. So very few of them will go toe to toe with me and say these things to my face. They say these things behind my back. And nobody wants to go toe to toe with me. My career has been so blessed, bringing in a lot of money. I have one of the biggest research groups in the university, bringing more money than the vast majority of professors, publishing more in the highest quality of journals. And then transitioning it into companies. And so we're so blessed. But they’ll try to dismiss this.

But you know, they're not bad people. They're really not. I mean, it's just a very strange concept to them that I would have such an implicit trust in the scriptures and in the word of God and still able to do science in this way, because they don't understand it. But they’re not bad people. They don't hate me. I think some of them probably don't particularly like me, don't particularly like the things that I say, but they don't hate me. And Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you.” So I haven't even come up to the level that Jesus talked, where people are going to hate me. I've been excluded from certain awards, excluded from certain academies and societies because of positions that I've taken. But this is child's play compared to what scriptural suffering is.

For some out there, and they're not bad people, again, but they perceive Christians as being uneducated or that they don't rise to the level of brilliance of, say, someone who doesn't believe in God. But you're a living contradiction to all of that. You’re a living testimony to the truth that you can be an incredibly brilliant scientist, believe in God at the same time, and be amazingly recognized.

But again, I know your heart is not towards the recognition of the world. It's towards the recognition of God and doing His work through all of the sciences, and it's hard for, I think, the skeptic to push back. They can’t decry your success as a scientist and believer, so I love that.

I really locked in and tried to serve Jesus. And Jesus says that whoever comes to Me shall follow Me. Where I am, there shall My servant also be. And whoever serves Me, the Father will honor him.

And this is what I've seen with my career.

Your life and your testimony is really beautiful. It's bold. It’s unapologetic. It’s impassioned for Christ. And for others to know Christ. I mean, obviously you live… like you say, every day, every week, you seek to bring others to the One Who has saved you and has transformed your life and Who obviously answers your prayers. And I wonder if you could speak to those of us Christians who really want to be able to engage non-believers like you do. What would you encourage? I think I would imagine, if I had to guess, I would say prayer would be a big part of that. And dependence upon the Holy Spirit. But obviously you have a boldness, the heart of an evangelist, like Paul. So how would you encourage us to engage best with unbelievers?

Well, first of all let me engage the unbeliever for a minute.

Okay.

If you do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, I invite you to spend an hour with me. You contact me at [email protected], and send me an email, and we'll get together by Zoom, and we'll spend an hour together. If you reach out to me, you'll end up believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is not an invitation for believers who just want to have an hour with Jim Tour. Please don't do that to me. I just can't keep up with it all. This is only for people who do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And I make myself available to you like that.

To believers, I gave a 17-minute presentation in a YouTube video on my YouTube channel, Dr. James Tour, so if you go to YouTube, Dr James Tour, you’ll hear where I talk about evangelism. I tried for so many years to lead people to the Lord, and I was able to do it, maybe like one or two a year. And then, a number of years back, I really wanted to figure out how do men of God, great men of God, do it? And so I started reading the writings of Charles Spurgeon and of George Whitefield in particular. Some of John Knox as well, but particularly George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon. And they never spoke of methodology. Everything in evangelism classes that I heard was methodology. Do this, say this, read these verses, say this. It's not methodology that draws people. When you capture this spirit of evangelism, that when you cry out to God, Lord, give me a heart for the lost, give me a passion for the lost.

And then, when you share with them, something happens. It comes across differently. It comes across differently.

And it's not the methodology. It's the heart. You pour your heart out to God. And when that passion is recognized, then you start seeing people come, then you start seeing people get saved.

Then you get them involved in daily Bible reading and in a thirteen-week Bible study, where I have some friends that meet with them one on one by Zoom, and all over the place. We do this again and again. Paul said, “I do everything. I do everything for the cause of the gospel.” I mean, will you do everything for the cause of the gospel. When you get this passion, this seriousness, then you start seeing converts.

It is a specific prayer. “Lord, give me that passion, that fire. I can't go on without seeing people converted to you.” Then it happens.

I read over fifty times, over fifty times, the book about Charles Spurgeon by Steven J. Lawson. And it's something like The Gospel Passion of Charles Spurgeon, something like that, is the title, but it's by Steven J. Lawson. And then also the book The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by the same author, Steven J. Lawson. I probably read the Whitefield book ten times and the Spurgeon book fifty times. I’ve read The Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon multiple times. I wanted to see how these guys did it. And the way they did it was not through methodology but through passion to see people saved.

Yeah. That's wonderful. I can imagine that there are those who are open, just like you were open at some point, at least curious about Christ, about God, and your passion is palpable, and they're thinking to themselves, “I wish I believed in something, in Someone, as passionately as you do in the One Who obviously loves you and saved you,” and they may not be willing to take the step even towards connecting with you, but perhaps they're on their own, and they're wondering how to take a step forward, what would you say to that person?

You can poke around and read some, and a good book is Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter J. Williams. And it's a thin little book. It’s like, I don't know, 120 pages, something like that. And just read that book and then send me a message, to [email protected], and let's get together.

For believers, what I encourage you to do is read the scriptures every day of your life. Every day. I read from Genesis chapter 1 to Revelation 22. When I’m done, I start again, and I don't finish in a year. I read very slowly, pensively, thoughtfully. I pick up where I left off the day before. You pick up the New Testament and start reading very slowly and then pick up where you left off the day before and spend every morning in the word of God. Start with 15 minutes every day. But the Bible makes multiple promises about daily meditation on the scriptures. Again and again, there's this blessing of being in the Word of God every day. If you do that every day, your heart will begin to get conformed to the things of God. And that passion will increase.

Yeah. That’s a word for all of us for sure. The Word Christ and the word in scripture has obviously transformed you in an amazing way. You're so inspiring, Jim. I think anyone who's listening wants what you have, and the thing is it's available to all of us, right? And so we just need to, as you say, get on your knees before the One who is King over all, and He will give all of us life, if we lay down our lives before him, like He laid down his life for us.

I so appreciate your story. Your personal encounter with Christ was obviously something so transformational in your life that you had no doubt that He was real and true and that everything about Him and His word was also true and life giving. I love the way that you spend your time and your life making sure others know the Christ that you have found.

Thank you so much, Jim, for coming on today, for telling your story. I'm so appreciative.

Thank you, Jana.

Thanks for tuning in to Side B Stories to hear Dr. James Tour’s story. You can find out more about his work and ministry and how to connect with him through his website at jmtour.com, that’s T-O-U-R. The link will also be provided in the episode notes. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me directly through our email at [email protected].

This podcast is produced through the C.S. Lewis Institute through the excellence of our producer, Ashley Decker, audio engineer Mark Rosera, and video editor Kyle Polk. If you enjoyed it, I hope you’ll follow, rate, review, and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward you seeing you next time, where we’ll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.


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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