When I first started Adherent Apologetics, there was this atheist on Twitter named Counter Apologia that I kept running in to. He was always asking questions and challenging the claims that Christians made. Fast-forward about a year later, I found out that this atheist had now come to Christ. Now, this new member of the family, who in the online realm goes by Theologia Apologia on Twitter has answered my questions about his journey from Christianity to Atheism and finally back home.
What was your upbringing like?
I was born and raised in the Bible belt in a mid-sized city with churches on every street corner. In fact, the headquarters of the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God, is located in my hometown. I’ve jokingly called it the “Pentecostal Vatican.” Despite the strong Christian influence in our community, I didn’t grow up in a church-going home. My parents were nominal Christians at best. The closest thing to the Bible in our home was a copy of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren that my mother kept on her bookshelf.
I had three siblings, two brothers that were close in age to myself and a tough baby sister. We were a rowdy bunch. My father was the primary breadwinner. My mother had a few at-home jobs, but she mostly focused on raising her kids. We struggled financially, but my parents did the best they could. I had a pretty good upbringing.
When did you become an Atheist?
Before I answer that question, I want to go back to my late teenage years. I remember watching a segment on a day-time television show that featured the Westboro Baptist Church. The Phelps family stringed together a bunch of biblical proof-texts to justify their disgusting and aberrant behavior. I didn’t know any better, so I blamed Christianity for their theology. So, I started to watch some of the New Atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. I consumed a lot of New Atheist content on YouTube. I don’t think I was a full-blown atheist at that point, I just hated Christianity (or at least a caricature of Christianity).
I didn’t become a full-blown atheist until half-way through my degree program in seminary. I was slowly losing my faith throughout my undergrad program, and once I got to seminary the wheels came off quite rapidly. Seminary commencement was one of the worst days of my life. It was a miserable experience being in a room full of people who loved Jesus and were excited to serve God in ministry, and I was stuck playing the part like I still believed.
Why did you become an Atheist?
I think the best way to describe what happened is a death by a thousand cuts. It wasn’t one thing; it was many different things. I was still new to the Christian faith when I signed up for my freshman semester at an Assemblies of God university. So, I’m being exposed to textual criticism, exegesis, hermeneutics, church history, philosophy of religion, systematic theology, and apologetics, and I couldn’t find Obadiah or Nahum in my Bible. It was a recipe for disaster. My advice for new Christians considering a theological degree program would be to think through what you believe and why you believe it.
What lead you back to Christianity?
Conversations. God used His people to lovingly and patiently answer my questions and to show me the reason for the hope they had. One of those individuals was an apologist by the name of Karsten Friske. He’s the only apologist in the world that has played Owen Wilson’s son in a major motion picture. Seriously, look it up! Anyways, Karsten may be young, but he’s incredibly wise. He displayed the fruits of the Spirit in our interactions. If we want to be used as instruments of God to draw individuals to Himself, those are the qualities we should bring to our conversations with atheists.
Many Christians believe becoming an atheist is purely an emotional decision, what are your thoughts?
I think we should be honest about the role that emotions play in our decisions. At the same time, I think it’s a mistake to dismiss the intellectual objections that atheists present as reasons they left the faith and no longer believe in God. I’ve heard Christians say things like, “Atheism isn’t an intellectual problem, it’s an emotional or moral problem.” It’s true that emotions and morality play a role in why people abandon faith, but in my own experience when my intellectual objections were heard and not dismissed, it built trust between those apologists and myself and I was able to resolve some of those objections, which led to me dealing with the emotional baggage.
Many Atheists believe becoming a Christian is purely emotional, what are your thoughts?
When I announced that I was returning to Christianity, a few atheists accused me of making a purely emotional decision. If we stop speculating about each other’s motives, maybe the conversations between Christians and atheists on social media would be a lot healthier and more productive.
What’s your plan from here?
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