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EPISODE 41: Looking for Answers
Kyle's childhood faith disappeared when he began questioning Christianity, finding no answers. His inquisitive mind led him on a long journey to find the truth.
Hello, and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast, we listen to someone who was once an atheist or skeptic but who surprisingly became a Christian. It's often believed by atheists that there is no evidence for God, that science is the sole source of knowledge, and that science points to a godless reality. There is no need to impose a God explanation any longer, they think. We are beyond that, more sophisticated than that. Science has or will have all of the answers eventually. It is acknowledged by both secular thinkers and Christians that science does provide knowledge of how and when the material universe acts and reacts, causes and effects, and that much can be known through the scientific method. That is not in dispute.
But what happens when scientific observations actually point towards the need for an explanation outside of material universe in order to understand and explain what we see of the universe itself? What happens when investigating science causes someone to question their own secular understanding of reality? That which we observe and measure needs greater explanation than the material world itself. But within atheism, the closed universe of cause and effect is all there is, was, or ever will be. We are pieces in the clockwork of the universe, winding down to an inevitably encroaching end, with no real meaning or purpose in life.
What happens when that sense of personal emptiness begins to take root? There are points of tension intellectually, personally. Competing explanatory worldviews are on the table. How does someone decide which one is true? These are but a couple of the issues faced by our guest, philosopher Kyle Keltz, in his journey from atheism to belief in God. I hope you'll stay with us to hear his story.
Welcome, Kyle. It's so great to have you today!
Hi, Jana. Thank you so much for having me on.
Wonderful. So glad to have you. I am curious, as we're getting started. Kyle, can you tell us a little bit about who you are, before we go back into your story. Tell me about your life now?
Okay, yes. Well, my name's Kyle Keltz. I live in Lubbock, Texas. I'm married to Laci. I have two sons, who are eight and six. Their names are Thomas and Jack. I have a PhD in philosophy of religion from Southern Evangelical Seminary. I also got a master's degree in apologetics from the same seminary. Like I said, I live here in Lubbock, Texas. I work at South Plains College, where I teach Introduction to Philosophy, Intro to World Religions, and English Composition.
Okay. Wow! You've got a full plate!
And it sounds like you are a strong proponent of the Christian worldview at this point, but I know you were not always there in that place of a proponent of Christianity. So let's go back. Let's start at the beginning and your childhood. Tell me a little bit about where you were born and your family and whether or not God was anywhere to be found in your home environment or among your friends.
Okay. Yeah. So I grew up in—well, they call it west Texas. It's actually closer to the panhandle, around Lubbock. I was born in Lockney, Texas. I claim Lubbock. But I think I had a pretty typical middle-class upbringing in the Bible Belt. I loved playing video games from an early age. That's mostly what I did. But as far as God—was there religion in our family? There definitely was. When I've thought back on this in the past, I've called this nominal Christians. But the more I've thought about it, the more I realize I don't really think that's the case. I think I was just more hardheaded than anything. Both of my parents are Christians. They've usually served in the music side of ministry in churches. But they both talked to us about Christianity. They both tried to get us to go—I say "us." I have a sister. They'd try to get us to go to church every Sunday, and the more I think about it, I think they had a huge influence on me eventually becoming a Christian.
So I think it was around when I was—1989, when I was about eight years old, I do have a memory of my mom talking to us like she usually did about heaven and hell, and I remember thinking, "Well, I want to be with my family and go to heaven," and I actually remember, when I was eight, that I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart. So that was kind of the extent of it.
Growing up, we would go to church. I don't know. Like I said, I think I was more hardheaded than anything, more immature. I didn't listen much at church. I didn't like going to church. I fell asleep a lot. And it became like a habit. I just would go to church and fall asleep in the sermon. Didn't like going to Sunday school that much. But my parents were great. They had a good influence on me. I think I have a memory—I even tried to read through the Bible in the seventh grade. I didn't make it. I think I stalled out probably in Numbers or something, but yeah. I mean, they had a good influence on me. I just wasn't into it that much really.
Okay, yeah. So you had kind of a childhood faith. Your family, obviously, were believers in Christianity. You went to church. And it was just part of your life and the rhythm of things.
I'm curious. Did you have any other friends who were invested in Christianity at all? Or were you just kind of hanging out with guys who pretty much felt the same way you did?
Oh. Yeah, that's a good question, Jana. So most of my friends didn't, if I remember correctly. Especially... One of the big turning points for me was in high school, is whenever I started claiming to be an atheist. At that time, most of my friends weren't involved in church. I did have one that was highly involved, but thinking back to [sic] graduate school, I don't even remember talking about religion with any of my friends. We moved around a lot, so I had to make friends everywhere we went, and one of the ways I did it was I just—an easy icebreaker for me was, "Do you like video games?"
And if they said, "No," then it was awkward, but if they said, "Yes," then I could almost instantly make a friend, but that was kind of... Usually, me and my friends, we would just go play or ride bikes, go play in town or play video games, and I don't remember talking about religion with just about anybody. It wasn't until really high school that I did have a friend who, still to this day, is a really strong Christian. And he was back then. But most of my friends weren't.
So you said you started thinking more that you didn't want to or didn't believe in Christianity when you were in high school? Tell me about that.
I think it was in junior high or a little bit younger—and thinking things that probably most kids don't think. Like I remember one time sitting in my room thinking about what it would be like if nothing existed. I've just always had this mind that I was always daydreaming and/or thinking about why we're here and things like that, so that really started to come to a head in high school, and that's when I actually started questioning whether Christianity was true or not. And I haven't said that—like I said, up to this point, I'm almost 100% sure, 99% sure that I wasn't a Christian. Because my understanding was that I had prayed for Jesus to be in my heart, so that was my understanding of what it was to be a Christian. But I don't think I understood the gospel message. But I still called myself a Christian.
At this point, I think it was my junior or senior year, I started to really question everything. I remember I had so many objections to Christianity but the more I learned about Christianity later on, the more I realized that they were all kind of—like I wasn't objecting to Christianity. I was objecting to my misconceptions of what Christianity was. But I do remember one issue I had was that I thought—I did look in the Old Testament, and I saw that God was commanding the Jews to take over the land of Canaan, and I was like, "That doesn't seem like something a good God would command. It just seems like maybe the Jews were just using their idea of some god as an excuse to do conquest." I also had questions like—I didn't think that Christianity made sense because I would tell people, "Well, you know, if Jesus is the only way to be saved, but He just only showed up 2,000 years ago, what about all the people before Him? Does that mean that they all went to hell?"
And I had many questions that were similar to that, and I just—the people I would ask—I can't remember if I talked to my parents about it or not, but the people I did ask didn't have the answers. And I got to the point where I didn't think anybody had the answers. And a lot of times, I just wouldn't even talk about it, because, to a certain point—I was pretty convicted it wasn't true, but I didn't want to argue to other people that it wasn't true and hurt their beliefs, you know?
Right, right. Or perhaps even—like your parents. I'm sure that would be a difficult conversation to have.
But when I asked people, it was mainly just people from church or friends that I knew that I thought would know something about it. It was mainly just asking the people I knew these questions, not really... And that's what blows me away now, knowing how much apologetic material was out there during this time, I can't believe I missed all of it... but yeah.
I think it's easy to miss if it's not, if those kind of answers aren't to be found in your culture, in your circle of friends, family, church, whatever. So you started having these doubts. You were internally questioning the reality of Christianity. You began to, I guess, intellectually push away from it? And you were keeping quiet about it. It sounds like you were... I guess, like you said before, it may have been a bit too much of an uncomfortability to let it to be known that you were an atheist among your own circles?
Yes. Now I was outspoken with my friends. I think I was just quiet about it with my family. I wasn't sure how they would take it. I think maybe eventually I told them. What happened was I graduated from high school, and I went straight into the Army, and I had signed up for college money basically, but I signed up for the army to go serve for 4-1/2 years, and when I left the house, I really became like a staunch atheist. I actually still have some dog tags in a box somewhere, and you know, at the bottom, it usually says what religion you are, and I had some that said "N/A," you know? N slash A. And I remember being really proud of that. And they always said—there's a saying in the Army. They say, "There's no atheists in a foxhole," and I just used to sneer at that and be like, "No, I don't believe in it at all."
To be honest, and the more I've thought about it, I wanted to be a Christian probably because of my family influence, but I remember wanting to believe that God existed, but I just couldn't. It was like... I don't know. It's almost like working out, and you're trying to get that last rep in of whatever you're doing, and you just can't do it. That was how I felt. I wanted to believe. I just couldn't bring myself to believe in it. But that kind of takes me to the next step, was where—I guess there was something in me that felt like there was more to life? Because there was a time where I literally thought, "If I died today," like I actually wasn't even afraid of death, like I thought, "If I die today, it'll just be like going to sleep." I just won't exist anymore, and for all eternity, that's it. I'll just be like being unconscious. But I don't know. There must have just been something in me. I thought there must be more than this.
So while I was in the military, I started researching other religions. And I read a lot of books. I read books on new age things, if I remember right. I know I read a lot of books on Buddhism and Hinduism. I remember the Bhagavad Gita was one of my favorites. I think I even read a little bit about Islam. I don't know. I think I tried meditating a little bit here and there, but I always felt silly. The more I read about Hinduism, the less it made sense to me. But I did transition. I think it was for a couple of years I was an atheist, starting in high school, going into the military, but then I started leaning more towards agnosticism or at least being agnostic leaning towards atheism.
After a while, I quit being so outspoken about God not existing and all that. I transitioned into a period where I was like, "Okay, I'm going to start looking into it and try to figure out what I think is true, and I'm not going to take a side on this right now, and I'm not going to try to talk people out of being Christians or religious."
So when you decided to start looking, though—because it sounds like you looked a lot of other directions than Christianity, so you were willing to look. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, but was it one of those "anything but Christianity" kind of searches at the beginning?
I think so. In the beginning, it definitely was. Because I had all these unanswered questions about Christianity, and I didn't think anyone had the answers, so I began to assume that there were no answers, so that's why I mainly went looking to other places first when I was trying to figure out... when I went on my "search for truth."
But just thinking about the catalyst that started the search, it was that you were looking for something more in life, because you must've—like you say, the death was the end. So you must've been thoughtful enough to understand the implications of your atheism, that there's not much in the way of objective meaning and purpose, that there is no life after death, all of those things.
So you were thoughtful enough about your own worldview, the implications of your own worldview, that you saw that there was something missing, at least from a human perspective, that you wanted something more existentially in your life?
I think so. And I don't want to say that I had completely thought out every angle of atheism or the implications for that on a comprehensive, logical, coherent worldview, but yes, I certainly had realized that, if God didn't exist, which I didn't think He did, that basically nothing mattered. And that if I died, nothing would happen. I would just cease to exist. And it's funny, too, because you keep your living your life, and you keep going, and you have goals, but you tell yourself, "Ultimately, it doesn't matter, but I'm going to do it anyway." So I don't think I'd thought it completely through, but I definitely knew that, at least.
But yeah, I think at the end of the day, though, I definitely knew there had to be something more than that. And so that's why I did start looking for other—at least to see if maybe one of the other religions might be true, or there's something in it that really struck me.
So as you were looking through these other religions, it sounds as if you weren't finding what you were looking for in terms of... I don't know. Intellectual substance? Or meaning? Or whatever it is that you were searching for. Why don't you tell me about that? Or what it led towards. If it led away from those? What it led towards?
It was Buddhism and Hinduism that really intrigued me the most. You know, there are several types of Buddhism. I was really into thinking about or wanting to try to practice the ones that are more meditative and more intellectual. I got into Hinduism, though, but yeah, when you try to read about, in some of the writings, how did the world begin and—oh!
That reminds me of one of my major objections to Christianity. It was because of Genesis 1. I used to think that because Genesis 1 says that... Or let's say this: It seems to say that the world was created before light was created. I used to say, "Yeah, it seems to obviously be saying that the world was created before the sun was created, but science says otherwise," so that was another major objection I had. But you know, when you start reading in other religions, what they say the origin of the world is and kind of the purpose for why we're here and all that, it really... I don't know. It wasn't satisfying, I don't think, and I was trying to—I guess because of the way my mind works, I was trying to integrate it into what I was seeing in my everyday life, and I was trying to make sure that all the concepts lined up with each other. And it just wasn't really clicking.
And that really does kind of lead in to what I started doing next. So I got out of the military. I was still agnostic at this point. I got in in '99, and I was in for 4-1/2 years. I think I got out around the beginning of 2004, and I came back to Lubbock, and I started going to Texas Tech University. At this time, I think that, because I didn't find anything satisfying in these other religions, I started going to philosophy of religion. I specifically remember buying a book called Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, and philosophy of religion, it's not completely... Philosophers of religion can be dabbling with just about any worldview. They can be theists. They can be pantheists. So I bought this book. I was like, "Well, I want to see what the philosophers have to say about all this." I don't know why I bought that specific book, but I saw in the table of contents that it talked about god of theism, it talked about pantheism and several others, I believe, and it had all these other things into it.
And that really was a turning point for me. Another thing that was happening in my life, around the time, the last couple of years in the Army and some of those years going through college—and this leads up to my conversion—was I was having I think it's called sleep paralysis. Have you talked to anybody that's experienced that?
Well, I think I know what you mean just from a personal experience, but why don't you describe what it is, essentially?
Oh, okay. Yeah. Well, and I didn't even know it was called something back then. But I would have these, and I call them dreams. I honestly don't know what you would call it. Because it's like a dream, but you're in the exact place you're in, and you're in the exact position you're in, but I would have something that—I didn't know it would be a dream at first, right? So I'd just think I'm awake in bed, but in these "dreams," I would notice that there was a dark figure standing in the room somewhere. And when you realize that there's a dark figure standing in your room, you want to sit up and ask who it is or see what's going on. But then at that point I would realize that my whole body was paralyzed and I couldn't move. And obviously that's a jarring experience, so I would realize that I couldn't move, and then, for the next couple of seconds, I would try with all my might to move and I couldn't, and the dark figure would still just be standing there over me, kind of across the room, never right over me, and then maybe a minute or so later, finally I could move because it's because I just woke up. But I'm in the same place. It feels like I just woke up, but I'm in the same place. I'm in the same bed and position, but I just sat up, and I'm breathing real hard. And you know, whenever I'd wake up, there wouldn't be anything there. But it was always so weird, and I had it occasionally. I didn't think much of it, to be honest. It would happen, and I was like, "That's weird." I might tell somebody about it.
I remember one time specifically I was on vacation from the Army, and I went hunting with my dad. We stayed the night at my grandma's house in a small town in west Texas, and yeah, this one night. I slept on the couch that night, and I remember two people standing over me talking about me, just, "He's doing this. He's doing that. Blah, dah, dah, dah, dah," and I wanted to sit up and be like, "Who is this in the living room?" because it was just me and him. I think my grandma and grandpa were out of town that night. But I couldn't move, and I never saw who it was. When I finally was able to wake up, sit up, no one was there.
So I just mention this because this was kind of happening alongside me looking through all these other religions, and I started to be more open to maybe taking another look at Christianity, or at least theism, because I didn't find any of the other ones compelling or interesting after a while.
Yeah, so Kyle, I imagine those experiences were quite frightening in some ways, I wonder. Did you consider that these figures—probably there was a palpable reality to them. Did it make you question whether or not there perhaps was something beyond the materialistic world? Something spiritual, perhaps? Maybe even a dark kind of spirituality?
I don't think so. In the beginning and for several years, I thought they were just weird dreams.
Yeah. There was a specific example that happened that really jarred me, and that kind of leads up to my conversion, really the main part of my conversion story.
Oh, okay. So yeah... Okay, so I joined the Army for 4-1/2 years. When I got out, I joined the Texas National Guard. And I decided to stay in the Texas National Guard while I went to college at Texas Tech. I started school in 2004. What happened was it took me like six years to graduate from Texas Tech, but I went to school for less than four years out of that time because I got deployed to Iraq a couple times.
So on this one specific deployment, in 2005—we were in southeastern Iraq. We were the Texas National Guard, and it wasn't a super important mission or anything, but they had us basically stationed out in the middle of nowhere, just northwest of Kuwait. But we were at what is called a radio relay point out in the middle of the desert. And there were only like fifteen of us.
Most of our time was just spent on guard duty, really, and maybe going out and helping truck drivers every once in a while.
Now, leading up to this point, on this deployment, obviously it was really boring, because we were just doing guard duty, so I did a lot of reading. And I had ordered that philosophy of religion book, and I remember in that anthology there was an article titled "The Kalam Cosmological Argument" written by J.P. Moreland. And if your readers aren't familiar with the Kalam cosmological argument, it's a philosophical argument for God's existence based off of the beginning of the world, right? And the argument says things that begin to exist have a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore the universe has a cause. And I was reading that article by J.P. Moreland in this philosophy of religion anthology, and I just could not come up with an answer to this idea that there had to be a beginning to space and time. I tried. I came up with a few solutions, but it was so interesting because I just couldn't come up with a satisfying solution. And it really started to hit me that I thought that there was a beginning to the universe, and if there was a beginning to the universe, I thought obviously it would follow that there had to be a God who made it begin.
So I was struggling with this at this point. I was wrestling with the Kalam argument, and then one night in the guard tower... And like I said, I don't know if these are dreams or not. Because it seems like you're awake but then you go through this experience and then you kind of wake up from it. But I don't know. So I'm on guard duty, and I thought I was just kind of sitting there, watching everything, and I started to hear someone come up this ladder. It's not like a ladder. I don't know what you would call it, but it's these things that kind of stick out from the tower, so you grab onto those and step on those. And they were metallic, so it was a very distinct noise that someone would make if they would climb up the ladder. And oftentimes, some of my friends would come up and visit me, and would visit them. Or maybe my squad leader would come up and see how I was doing. So it wasn't a big deal. It was a very common thing for someone to come up the ladder and see you.
So I'm on guard duty. I hear someone come up. I don't think much of it. But all of a sudden, when I could hear those footsteps and hands coming up that ladder to the top, this dark figure emerges.
And it really freaked me out. But I couldn't move, you know? And then it stood there, and I couldn't move, and then maybe a few seconds later I could move, and then it wasn't there. So that really freaked me out for some reason. Way more than the other ones did when I was in bed. And that's really the point where I started thinking that maybe there was something to this. And I started thinking about all the other times it happened. And I was wondering maybe that there's some bad force out there that's not happy with what I'm doing. And I think it was almost the next day—I don't remember what it was. I think it was probably one of these camouflage Bibles that you have all over in the military. I think basically I took something like that and flipped to the back and looked for plan of salvation portion, you know? And I prayed the sinner's prayer basically. And from then on, I definitely... I think that was the moment I was saved, but from then on, I definitely said I was a Christian. I never had someone to mentor me, so it took years before I finally started taking the Bible seriously, but I at least said I was a Christian.
So if I'm listening to your correctly and kind of putting the pieces together, and I suppose, from intellectual point of view, you were reading J.P Moreland, the Kalam cosmological argument, that from, again, an intellectual point of view, you're beginning to see that the beginning of the universe requires a sufficient cause outside of the material universe, and that God seems to be the best explanation for that, and so I guess, in some way, you began to become open, again intellectually, to the idea of at least a theistic god or someone, the Big Banger who caused the Big Bang, as the sufficient and necessary cause. And so I guess, once you made that step, it was almost as if these episodes, these sleep paralysis episodes and then the seeing of the dark figures, that prior to that you just dismissed them, but after that, it was enough for you to kind of—push you is probably too strong of a word. But it was enough of a frightening experience or a sobering experience that you were able to apprehend at least that maybe, if there is a God, then maybe there is an evil force? Or a dark force? That's real. If God is real, then maybe there's something else that's real that's not so good?
So it was through an interesting journeying, both experiential as well as intellectual, and then experiential again to bring you to a point of willingness, to where you actually looked at the Bible and looked at the back. And you were willing and really, it sounds like, very in earnest to accept God at that point.
Yes. And it's funny, because I look back on it now, and I thought I was so smart back then, when I didn't believe in it. But I honestly—since I've learned about evidence for Jesus' resurrection in seminary, I realize that there are so many questions I actually didn't ask. And I was surprised that I didn't. I thought, "Well, why did I go back to Christianity so soon?" I wonder if some of it has to do with my upbringing, but a lot of was that I really—at that point, I thought that the Judeo-Christian view of demons and the devil was real, so the rest of it must also be real, and I needed to ask Jesus for help really soon so they wouldn't get me. You know, an interesting thing is, ever since I prayed, I did do that sinner's prayer and I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I haven't had one of those sleep paralysis episodes with the dark figure standing over me.
And since then, that's been something that's just really blowing me away. And I don't know, maybe some people might think it's completely psychological, but all I can say is that's what I've experienced. Religious experience is difficult to get across to somebody, but that's what I was seeing, and then I prayed to Jesus, and it has never happened to me again. In all these years.
Yeah. I think that is a powerful testimony in its own way. Granted, it is your own experience, but it is a very convincing experience for you. I can listen to the skeptic who may be listening and saying, "Oh, he was just imagining Or, "He just got scared or something, and he just believed," but I have a feeling that you, as a thoughtful person, like you said earlier in your story. You wanted to believe, but you didn't think that there was enough compelling evidence for you to believe.
But at this point in your life, you didn't want to believe, but you were searching and then found something compelling, both intellectually and experientially. Once you accepted Christ and you were able to, I guess, look at the doubts and the hard questions through different eyes, I guess you could say, were you able to make sense intellectually of all of those questions that you had before? Was this new worldview philosophically—as a philosopher, as a thinker, was it something that gave you meaning and hope beyond death? But more than, from a human perspective, was it something that made sense of reality as a whole? Both what you were thinking about, say cosmologically with the origins of the universe for example, as well as in your own humanity that the Christian worldview seemed to put the pieces together? How did that work? I mean you came a long way from just agreeing or praying the sinner's prayer, the plan of salvation, to now being a PhD philosophy professor. There must have been something quite convincing to you beyond mere experience.
Oh, yes. For sure. Now, you know, the rest of the story, there's a lot of grace, a lot of providence I think. That's what I think is so amazing, you know? And I still don't think I went and talked to my family and asked them hard questions, but it was a slow process. After I became a Christian, I think I started reading the Bible a little bit. Never read it all the way through. I started praying. But not really going to church. When I was an undergrad, I joined a social fraternity, and we had a GPA requirement, but to be honest, most of the guys in my fraternity joined so we could go to parties. So I was drinking a lot back then, and looking back, sometimes I wonder if I was drinking a lot because of some of my experiences in the military, but I didn't have... I basically came to Christ because of a book and the Holy Spirit. So I didn't have someone guiding me through all this.
What I think was a turning point for me was when I met my wife. At this point, I was surrounded by people who drank, and that's all I did. But then I met her. And we started dating. She didn't drink, and really, it was interesting to me, because when we would talk or hang out, I realized that you can have fun without drinking, basically. But also she was someone—because I was wanting to date her. She didn't tell me not to drink, but she's just one of those people. She was definitely a mature Christian. And she's just one of those people that you just want to act better around, you know? You just want to be a better person around them.
So I wouldn't drink around her, and we got serious really quick. We both met in our late twenties. We were both looking for something serious. And we got married within a year of knowing each other, and she was just this lifeline to a world where I wasn't surrounded by people drinking. And like I said, she was a mature Christian. She started getting me in church. I started reading the Bible more.
But also, one day, we had this conversation asking each other what we would do if we had a billion dollars. And she asked me what I would do, and I said, "Well, I would go back to school and learn all this stuff I've always wanted to learn about. I hear these things in the sermons, and I understand it for the most part, but I want to know the why of it all. I want to know how this is even possible," so she actually talked me into following my dream. At first I thought I would just get some high paying job, or hopefully a high paying job, and work my way to retirement, so I could go back to school, but she talked me into going to seminary just right up front and then hopefully doing something like that as a career. So I did. And I went to Southern Evangelical Seminary, started going in 2014. She laughed because I was so excited I was ordering books on Amazon for my classes when we were on our honeymoon.
Besides my wife's sanctifying influence on my life, going to SES was great for me. I was required to read through the Bible in the Bible survey courses. It was the first time I'd read through the whole thing. But I knew that I wanted to learn about philosophy. I wanted to learn about why Christianity is true, I also wanted a place that was grounded in the Bible and seemed to be pretty orthodox and conservative.
So I went there, and that was what was kind of an eye opener to me, is when I started learning about all of these philosophical arguments for God's existence that I hadn't even considered, when I started learning about the historical evidence for Jesus' resurrection, when I started learning about all philosophical arguments for the existence of the soul and all these arguments against atheism. Well, some of the stuff on Jesus' resurrection surprised me because I thought back and I thought, "You know, I didn't even ask these questions, but there's all of these answers and all this evidence for Jesus' life and all these answers to objections from skeptics," and I hadn't even considered that. But I think it really had a lot to do with me thinking that demons were real.
But at this point in time in my life, I've seen so much. For one, it does make sense out of pretty much all of reality, the Christian worldview does. Whether it's the beginning of the universe or us always seeking some kind of good, whether we believe that God exists or not, our rationality, our sense of right and wrong. But I've seen so much evidence for Christianity at this point that I just... It would take more faith for me to be an atheist. I tell people if they dug up Jesus' body tomorrow, and they were able to somehow conclude conclusively that Christianity is false, I still would be at least a theist. I'd be confused, but all the evidence for God's existence, philosophical and scientific evidence that kind of helps confirm that, I just... At this point, I'm so convinced that there is a God, and of course, with all this evidence for Jesus' resurrection and all the evidence for the reliability of the Bible, I just think that Christianity stands alone as the true religion. And that everybody needs to take a good, hard look at their life and a good, hard look at the evidence and make a decision.
You know, sometimes, despite all the evidence that seems extremely obvious to those who've studied the evidence for a long time on a Christian perspective, oftentimes the skeptic will say there is no evidence for God. How would you respond to that, especially in light of what you just said, that there seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence?
It reminds me of me back whenever I was in that position. Because there were so many books written on apologetics before 1999. It blows me away how many people were speaking and writing about the truth of Christianity at that point, and I had no idea about it.
But I have journal entry assignments in my classes at work, in my philosophy class, and we get to a philosophy of religion portion of the class, and students are asked to write about their opinions and their thought on whether God exists, and I've had several students say things to that effect. "There's absolutely no evidence for God's existence," and it always puzzles me, because in these debates on whether God exists or not, the theist is saying that the entire universe is evidence for God's existence. Basically, to me, when someone says that, it would be like someone being in a murder case and the prosecutor has provided a lot of evidence, pointing... maybe circumstantial, but pointing to the guilt of the offender, but then one of the people on the jury says—they don't think he did it, but they wouldn't say, "There's absolutely no evidence for it," right? They would just say, "I don't think this evidence means that he murdered that person."
So if someone says, "There's absolutely no evidence for God's existence," I think either they don't know about all of these philosophical, logical, scientific arguments that Western philosophers and theists have been making for thousands of years, or what they really mean is, "The evidence doesn't convince me."
So that's what I would say to somebody. If you think there is no evidence, then you need to start reading up on apologetics. If you're really interested in this topic and you're really searching for truth, there are a lot of books that provide logical, evidential reasons for believing that God exists and that Jesus rose from the dead.
Yeah. I think that might be a little bit key there, in terms of either they are not convinced or they haven't been exposed, but what you said there is if they're really looking. And I think that has a lot to say about all of us, in terms of what we're looking for. We have a tendency to see what we seek, and so sometimes our desires prevent us from seeing perhaps what is true.
if I had any more, other advice to a nonbeliever who was seeking in some sense of the word, I just think of my younger self, really. That's one of the reasons kind of why I do it. One reason why I'm a philosopher is because I've always just thought about these hard questions. And I really was one of those people at work daydreaming about, "Does God exist?" and all these things.
But thinking about my younger self, I had all of these objections to Christianity, but like I said earlier, the more I learned about systematic theology, the more I learned about philosophy and all these Christian ideas that the church fathers and all the major leaders of the church in the medieval and modern and ancient period have argued for over thousands of years and the more I understood what Christianity really means, the more I realized that all of these objections I had to Christianity early on weren't objections to Christianity, because I was basically... I had these straw man ideas about it, and I didn't believe in something that wasn't even Christianity. So I know it sounds crazy, but I almost wonder how many atheists or people who once were Christian or have never been Christian, but if they would just sit down with an open mind with someone who knows what they're talking about and have them explain it to them, I wonder how many would find it more compelling.
Another thing is that I was asking all these questions, but no one had the answers, but the more I've thought about it, I tell people... Let's say that I wanted to know about something, some really deep scientific concept, so I want to learn about relativity theory, and the only people I ask about relativity theory are my family members, who aren't scientists, or my high school teacher. And none of them can explain it really well to me, and in fact, when they do explain what they do grasp, it doesn't sound right. But the thing is I wouldn't reject relativity theory based off of just asking my friends and my high school teacher. I would need to go to a professor, a PhD in it. And in the same way... I'm not saying that someone has to have a PhD to understand what Christianity is. I'm just saying that, if someone has asked their parents and a few other people and maybe their pastor, who hasn't been taught apologetics maybe, and those people don't have the answer, that's not good reason for rejecting Christianity. You need to go to theologians. You need to read systematic theology, read some philosophy, read some works of apologetics, because those are going to be written by people who know what they're talking about, and there is a lot of material out there on this stuff.
If you had a chance to recommend one book, say someone said, "I really would like to read something substantive from a Christian writer, philosopher, theologian," can you think of a book that you might recommend for someone to pick up?
Yes. The book I usually recommend is a book by William Lane Craig. It's called On Guard, Student's Edition, so it's written by a Christian philosopher and apologist, written with an unbelieving audience in mind, and he covers a lot of ground in that book. He covers the meaning of life, whether or not God exists. He presents several arguments for God's existence, and then he moves into the resurrection of Jesus and presents all of the historical evidence for Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. And that's one of my favorites. It's written for a beginning audience, so I think it's pretty easy to understand for beginners. And that's one of my favorites to recommend to people.
Yeah. That's excellent. And for the Christian, how would you recommend them to really consider talking with those who were as you once were, are engaging with those who don't believe or the skeptic?
Yeah. So as an apologist and a philosopher, obviously I put a lot of stock in and emphasize 1 Peter 3:15, that says that everyone needs to give a reason for the hope that is in them when they're asked. I think obviously different Christians are gifted with different gifts, right? And I don't think that everyone is going to be gifted in a way that they're going to be interested in apologetics. I know many people who just know Christianity is true, and they don't really have to dig into the evidence. They just know it's true. And honestly, I think that's okay. But I would say that everyone needs to at least know a little bit of good theology. Try to learn a little bit more about why they believe what they believe, whether it's learning a little bit of basic systematic theology but also maybe reading at least one book on apologetics and looking at the evidence for Jesus' resurrection and God's existence, in the very least that you could point someone to that.
You know, since I became a believer, I've discovered that there are a good handful of people like me who needed to see evidence that it was true before they got on board, but I've also discovered that, in churches, there's a lot of people who aren't into that, and I've seen some Christians who were actually... They're against apologetics in some sense, whether they think it's just kind of a waste of time or they think it's not very pious to say that you have to defend the truth of Christianity, and so yeah... For one, I think when engaging with nonbelievers, we need to at least know a little bit about what we believe so you can point nonbelievers who do want to see evidence to these resources, but also, as believers, we need to realize that not everybody has the same experience we do.
Because I've had some people say that we shouldn't do apologetics because it doesn't work. But I'm living proof that it does work. I know there were some experiential things going on with my conversion, but also a huge part of that was through philosophy and through apologetics and me being—one day I wasn't convinced that God existed. The next day I read a philosophical argument, and I was convinced that there was a beginning to the universe and God had to be the cause of that. So I would just tell people that apologetics is okay. And God can and does use it to bring people to the Kingdom of God, so to have an open mind about it, and just because someone else is.... We're not all gifted with the same gifts, so it's okay for other people to do it, whether you're interested in it or not.
Yeah, yeah. Thank you for that. Apologetics is something I think both you and I hold close to our hearts. I have, as you have, seen the value of it, especially in a world increasingly skeptical about Christianity and its truths.
So it's good to know why we believe, what we believe, and all of these grounding arguments for it that are really, really quite substantive when you take look at them. I think, too, I love your story and what you're saying because I also believe that, just as you had constructed straw men and arguments to take Christianity down, I think there's oftentimes a misconception of what Christianity is and who Christians are, and oftentimes, we're given a very negative stereotype, and one of those stereotypes is that we're not intelligent people. And I think your story really counters that, your journey really counters that. You're a thoughtful, intelligent person. You have asked questions since you were a boy, and into your adulthood, you're spending your life still considering the big questions of life in a very thoughtful, intellectual way, not only for yourself but for college students and high school students as well. And that's pretty wonderful, that you've gone through this whole journey in your life, both intellectual, as well as experiential, and spiritual of course, and that you've found the worldview that seems to make the most sense of reality, but you're not keeping it to yourself. You're sharing that with others.
And that's why I'm so happy that you're on the podcast today, Kyle. Because I'm thinking about those who are going to be listening to your story and really benefit from your journey, so thank you for coming on board today.
Thank you so much for having me, Jana.
It's been wonderful.
Thanks for tuning in to to hear Kyle's story. You can find out more about him with the links in the episode notes, as well as the book On Guard that he recommended by William Lane Craig. If you enjoyed this episode, I hope you'll subscribe and share this podcast with your friends and social network. It's always great, too, if you give it a good rating. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we'll be see how someone else, another skeptic, flips the record of their life.