For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to find and know truth. My favorite school subjects were math and science because they explained how things worked in the world. By middle school, I had a pretty good understanding of evolution and, having little religious instruction at home or school, I tended to believe it. By high school graduation, I was an atheist.
I thought that people who believed in a god were out of touch with reality. I asked myself, “Why do people embrace a god with no evidence?” All religions were simply futile attempts to convince people they would go to a mythological utopia if they lived a certain way. People only lived to die … and after death: no heaven, hell, or hope. What you see is what you get.
God’s Subtle Shift
However, after completing my associate’s degree, I began to ask deeper questions concerning my beliefs. A crucial thought entered my mind. “Why am I an atheist? Do I know of any evidence that disproves the existence of a god?” No, I knew of nothing that could refute god’s existence. It just hit me: How could I be an atheist if I could not disprove god? I could not!
Yet if I was not an atheist, then what was I?
This question tormented me for months, until I finally concluded that I was an agnostic—a person who did not know weather or not a god existed. But I wasn’t satisfied with not knowing the answer to the question of all questions. I had to know if a god existed, and if so, how should I relate to that god? This is where my journey began.
One idea was that perhaps all religions were just different ways of worshiping the same god. Instead of embracing one faith, I found common features between most religions, and I attempted to consolidate their basic tenets into one. I studied Judaism’s Ten Commandments, Islam’s Five Pillars, and Buddhism’s Five Precepts. However, the more I tried to harmonize these widely varying faiths, the more confused I became. As attractive it was not to have to adhere to any particular organized religion, I began to believe that if there was a god, surely that god would have established a clear way to him. Putting together my own hodgepodge of existing religions was not the answer.
A Misrepresentation of Truth
Born, raised, and living in America, I naturally started researching Christianity next. I watched preachers who claimed to “get in the spirit”. Then all of a sudden, they would begin babbling gibberish. Sometimes people claimed to have the “Holy Ghost” and began gyrating their bodies and screaming.
Other Christian programs were less amusing and more sobering. I watched sermons on television in which the preacher spoke about how the lost would burn in endless hellfire and where Satan would rule over them. I read about killings and tortures that occurred during the Christian inquisitions and crusades.
I used these superficial observations to formulate my view of Christianity, concluding that it was a hypocritical and oppressive religion based largely on fear and control. I believed preachers used the Bible to extort money from ignorant congregations. I thought, “I want to know the truth, not some archaic Bible.” It was the worst mistake I ever made. Satan had tricked me into cutting off the hand that was feeding me.
A Troubling Alternative
As a young African-American male, my religious odyssey eventually gravitated toward “black” religions. I first considered the Nation of Islam, primarily for its ethnocentric approach to explaining the nature of God. My secular education caused me to strongly believe in evolution, and evolution taught that life originated in Africa. So I saw the Black Muslim movement as a practical means of merging my deeply held secular views with my racial predispositions. I thought the truth might rest under layers of force-fed Eurocentric and Judeo-Christian beliefs. This slowly caused me to see African-Americans not as Americans of African descent, but rather as Africans born in an oppressive America being deceived into embracing a white man’s religious book and culture.
However, as a sincere seeker of truth and knowledge, I started questioning my own objectivity. I realized that much of the underlying mentality of Afrocentric religions ironically paralleled with Eurocentric sects such as the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan. Each group would twist their holy books to perpetuate their own racial ideologies. So while the Nation of Islam and other similar sects seemed tailored toward my carnal nature, my desire to find and know truth superseded my own ethnic biases. Arbitrarily assuming God would have my skin color was only allowing me to believe what my nature wanted to believe, instead of an honest search for truth. Truth, I determined, was neither black nor white.
Discovering Amazing Facts
Then one day, while channel surfing, I saw a part of some religious program called Millennium of Prophecy. The speaker, Doug Batchelor, dispelled many of my misconceptions concerning the Christian faith. His approach to the Bible caught my attention, presenting it with uncomplicated step-by-step reasoning. He would post a question, which appeared on screen, and then he would show relevant Scriptures, leaving it up to the individual to determine the proper answer.
When he explained the prophecy given to King Nebuchadnezzar through vision, it was shown through the Bible how the times, dates, and sequence of events matched perfectly with the historical record. The Bible’s prophetic accuracy in foretelling historical events made me consider that my previous assessments were probably wrong.
Come, Let Us Reason Together
I started tuning into the program weekly. In one sermon, Pastor Doug proved from the Bible the true day of worship. I became convinced of the seventh-day Sabbath’s permanence and its that New Testament Christians should follow it.
This truly astonished me. A major hindrance to embracing the Bible as the Word of God was that I believed absolute truths could not be gained from it — just as 1+1=2 is an unchanging, universal truth not subject to interpretation. If someone sincerely believes otherwise, then that person in sincerely wrong.
I knew of many intelligent people well versed in Bible study. The fact that they read the same Bible, yet came up with widely varying opinions on central doctrines further perpetuated my belief that Scripture could not be trusted. I thought, “If highly educated theologians can’t agree on the Bible, then why should I waste my time trying to figure it out?” But as time progressed and I studied the Bible for myself, I began to see agreement where I once saw contradictions.
As one writer I greatly admire states, “As several [Bible] writers present a subject under varied aspects and relations, there may appear, to the superficial, careless, or prejudiced reader, to be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful, reverent student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony.” This was the major turning point in my life. I began not only to understand the Bible’s concepts, but the manner in which it flawlessly fit together compelled me to believe. I later located a Sabbathkeeping church and eventually enrolled in baptism class.
The weeks approaching my December 28, 2002, baptism were the greatest stages of transition in my life. I knew the Lord’s spirit was working in me. Things I once loved, I began to despise. I became a vegetarian, stopped listening to secular music, and even became fateful in returning tithe. My attitude toward life and people turned around, and instead of seeing what I did not have, I praised the Lord for blessing me so abundantly.
The desire I had as a child to find truth was really the voice of Jesus saying, “You will call on me, and I will listen. You will seek and find me when you search with all your heart. I will be found by you, and I will bring you back from captivity.” I finally had my answer! Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I was searching for Jesus the entire time and just didn’t know it.
Now I see clearly that I was being held captive by my ignorance of God’s love and mercy. I know that slavery to my ignorance was slavery to the devil himself. For years I had secretly blamed God for the devil’s wrongdoing, but through faith in Christ, I have finally been made “wise unto salvation.” I have the peace that surpasses understanding, because Jesus, my Lord and Savior, the Author and Finisher of my faith, called and delivered me out of mental Egypt! Amen.