How an agnostic archaeologist came to join the leagues of the Christian ‘crazies’

A standard archaeology trowel used in Great Britain (by HeritageDaily, via Wikimedia Commons).

Editor’s note: Today’s testimony comes to you from one of our fans from across the pond. This is his story of what pushed him away from Christianity to agnosticism, and what ultimately brought him back.

I was 28 years old when I converted to Christianity. For most of my life, I had been an atheist, but as I grew older I slowly became more of an agnostic as I realized what I could and could not say about the universe.

You see, I had been exposed to all the “cultish” elements of Christianity — Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, young-earth creationists — and had come to the point of view that I could never be a Christian.

I remember a Christian youth worker who visited my school claiming that there were definitely no aliens in the entire universe. I thought, “Wow, how can you be so sure, buddy?” It was this that confirmed my suspicions that their faith really was overstepping its boundaries. Apparently, according to this guy, if the Bible didn’t mention it, it didn’t exist. How foolish, I thought, to go to kids and tell them these things. And if I was thinking these things, I’m sure other kids were put off by them.

I also got invited to something called “Joshua Tribe,” and what I experienced there convinced me that Christians were crazy. There were a lot of uncharitable words said about atheists and lots of charismatic worship without any explanations; to a kid of 15, it was all very confusing and scary.

So that was that until I went to university. When I did, I didn’t want anything to do with “the crazies,” and all the time, I had my father hardening me against religious people as well. Even after university, I had become an agnostic, because I knew that I could never “know” that there wasn’t a God. However, at this point of my life, I still made it my quest to avoid “Christians” and ridicule them for their ignorant blind belief.

As I progressed in my post-college career, I was further hardened to the Christian faith. Any other faith was OK, because they weren’t the ones who exposed me to all that craziness as a kid. At that point, I hadn’t met a single Christian who was speaking clearly about what the gospel was; it all seemed to be focusing on side issues.

Eventually, I found a job in evolutionary science in an archaeology department. During my time there, I joined an atheist group called “Brights”; we would meet up to scoff at Christians and other “idiots” and drink, whilst at the same time having the same level of disregard toward one another, and all the while stating how proud we were to be free thinkers (ironically, these guys were almost as ignorant to evolutionary science as any other group).

However, due to the work God was obviously doing in my heart and my growing knowledge of science, I had begun to consider myself a deist. I had come to the conclusion that, “if God is everywhere and in everything,” then the universe must either be God or a God-like entity created it. Something can’t come from nothing. The fact that the universe had order to it, and that life brought a higher level of order spoke to me that there was more to it than met the eye.

I was no longer convinced of a solely naturalistic worldview to explain origins. I thought “You know what? Belief in a God is a perfectly reasonable conclusion.” I just didn’t know I could talk to this God (yet) or that this God had already revealed himself in Christ.

At this point, I had started dating my now-wife, who was in the process of exploring her faith (unknown to me at the time). As I kept attending Brights, I started getting a real distaste toward the attitudes of some of the more militant aspects of this group. I felt I actually had more in common with those who didn’t hold people with faith in such low regard and came to regret my past approach.

To my surprise, a Quaker turned up at Brights one evening. He believed in scientific orthodoxy and God. That was the first time I had seen a guy with faith who wasn’t afraid to meet up and talk with anyone.

Prior to this, I had a growing fondness toward people who positively acted on their faith. York is steeped in Quaker history. The first mental hospital was built there by Quakers and one of the first surveys into poverty was carried out by Joseph Rowntree there. Something in me longed to be a part of that good work and to meet with other people who shared those beliefs.

The first time I actually defended a Christian was when I was on an archaeological dig in Turkey. We were drinking in the bar one night, and the topic of God came up. One lady there was a professing Christian and when the group found out, they immediately started ridiculing her. I could see why she may believe in God and that it was reasonable for her to do so, so I stuck up for her and said I believed in God too (I just didn’t believe in Jesus).

After my partner and I had been dating for three months, she was proselytized and had professed faith in Jesus Christ. As you can imagine, this caused alarm bells to start going off in my head. I had been taught that Christians are not allowed to be in relationships with non-believers (which is not entirely true). I was scared that if I could not believe in Christ, I would lose her.

I also had all these prejudices and knew I could not believe all the things these Christians were claiming to be necessary for salvation. I thought I could not simply stop being who I was in order to conform to their ideas (I obviously didn’t understand the gospel). I could have walked away, but I didn’t. God let me for the first time want to understand his word.

I asked my housemate to lend me his New Testament and began by reading Matthew (thank God for those Gideons giving out those Bibles in schools) and letting the Bible do the talking. The more I read, the more I loved the Christ I was reading about, and slowly, my mind and heart began to open up to him.

I started attending a Quaker meeting, and this was my first Church experience. I got told that all Quakers were cultists (which I now disagree with, considering lots of Quakers claim that Christ is the son of God) and so moved to a Church of England with a colleague. At the time, I had asked a Christian work colleague to have lunch with me so I could talk to him about his faith, despite his YEC leanings. He was the first Christian to let me know it was not necessary for salvation to hold a particular view about the creation.

After this meal, I went with him to church and met a number of colleagues who I hadn’t known were Christians (I just thought they were nice people). I went through a number of church changes, from Quaker meeting, to Anglican to Presbyterian. It was at the Presbyterian church that I learned the most about the Bible and was given the freedom to “work out my salvation.”

Two months after reading Matthew, I went from being unable to believe in Christ’s divinity and resurrection — but loving him anyway — to believing it. Since then, I have only been growing in my faith. It wasn’t until recently that I gained a conviction to stick up for truth and came out as a theistic evolutionist evangelical Christian.

I have YECs in the family, and it is difficult to talk honestly with them without it turning into a major issue. I think they see me as the weaker brother and that eventually, I will grow up in Christ and forsake my “Darwinism,” as they call it. So, for the most part I shield them from my work in this field and just try to let my fruit do the talking.

— Rick Allen, County Durham, England

Readers, do you have a story like this author’s? If so, and you don’t mind sharing, email it to Tyler Francke for consideration on GOE’s Testimonies page. The American church needs to hear from you.