My Journey From Agnostic to Apologist
by Greg West
The hands down number one thing in my life is my Christian faith. Next in line are my wife, son, extended family, friends, and others. I believe that being a Christian helps me to be a better person in all areas of my life. I make an honest effort (not always succeeding) to live by the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), treating everyone like I would want them to treat me. I'm the kind of guy that knows the names of the store clerks where I stop and get my daily morning Diet Coke; I'm the kind of guy who will let you in front of me in traffic or in line at the store; and I'm also the kind of guy who will always open the door for you, especially if you're my wife (which only one of my readers has that title, privilege, or bad luck, depending on your point of view). I give money to those who ask whenever I can, and sometimes even when I can't afford it; without worrying about getting it back or what they will do with it (I like to think of this as a "Heavenly Deposit"). My friends, I think, would be quick to agree if you mentioned that you thought I was a really nice guy.
Now, I'm not saying all of this to brag on myself (although I do take pride in my humility <--- sarcasm), I'm saying this because before I committed to being a Christian and a follower of Christ, I was pretty much a grade A schmuck! I cared for few other people other than myself and lived as if I was accountable to no one.
I grew up as what I would call a "cultural Christian". I was basically a Christian because that was what I was taught to believe by my parents and from going to church three times a week. Although my parents and church gave me a good foundation for my faith, all I really knew about the truth of Christianity was that it was true because we believed that the Bible was true and because my parents and pastor said so (aka, ‘circular reasoning’).
By the time I finished my four-year enlistment in the US Army at age 24 in 1990, I wasn't sure what I believed anymore and doubts about my faith being the true faith began to creep in. After all, Muslim terrorists were blowing themselves up for their faith, and one prominent Christian leader after another was being caught in scandal. I used my doubt as an excuse to go my own way. But doubt was just that, an excuse! The real reason I decided not to pursue Christianity was pure selfishness and vain deceit. I knew that the things I wanted to do with my life did not line up with God's perfect will, so I used doubt as an excuse to put God on the backburner.
Now, those of you who are familiar with Luke chapter 15 know that when one of the Shepherd's sheep goes astray, the Shepherd puts a plan in action to bring that lost sheep back into the fold. One poet refers to this Shepherd as the Hound of Heaven, which you should read because it's a really great poem. Meanwhile, following my own way wasn't working out so well. The world's deteriorating moral climate was starting to get to me, especially since I was in the camp of those adding to it. The climatic event was a Russian submarine. Okay, I know I just threw a lot of you for a loop there, and you are wondering, "What in the world does a Russian submarine have to do with faith in Jesus Christ?" Well, I'm going to tell you. On August 12, 2000, K-141 Kursk: The Oscar II class sub sank in the Barents Sea after an explosion on board. All 118 men on board were lost.
Over the next few days, when no one knew if there were any survivors or not, international rescue efforts were stalled in the name of military secrecy. I've got to say that for some reason my heart ached for those 118 men to the point of tears. I had the sudden epiphany that mankind had an obvious problem, and that problem was sin, and this sinfulness of man was also obviously, not going to cure itself.
My thoughts were that if this is the way the world was going (and these many years later it is definitely only getting worse; just watch the nightly news if you don't believe me) then I did not want to have anything further to do with it! I fell to my knees and asked God for his mercy, his grace, and his forgiveness-- and guess what? I got it. Instantly and freely. Ever since that day God has been changing me from the inside out. I am still not perfect; far from it in fact. I still struggle with the same everyday temptations and sins that you do, but when I look back through the years, it is plain to see that God's Spirit has not been idle in my life!
After that day I promised myself that I would never be able to use doubt as an excuse to turn my back on God ever again. I began by reading and studying the Bible, and before I even knew what it was, God led me into studying apologetics, and I earnestly began digging into the truth claims of Christianity. The first apologetic work I ever read was The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, which if you haven't yet read, I highly recommend doing so. Not only is it a great primer for apologetics, but it also introduced me to a host of theologians, scholars, and apologists whose works I am still reading today.
The study of apologetics had given me more confidence in my faith that I never thought possible. It has given me more confidence in sharing my faith with others, and it has also deepened my relationship with Christ, because when you can no longer ignore the stark reality of Jesus Christ, you can no longer be apathetic about your relationship with him.
Currently, I am in the process of earning my certification in apologetics via BIOLA’s distance learning program. I teach apologetics in my community and at my local church. I am a member of the administrative staff of the Christian Apologetics Alliance and also the Ratio Christi Student Apologetics Alliance chapter director at Missouri State University.
That's the short version of my story. If anyone wants a longer one please let me know!