By Anna Meyer
Professors Jennifer Wosmek, Nicholas Hauman and Resident Manager/Seminarian John Spivey all have something in common.
They all experienced “moments of clarity.”
Spivey put it this way, “there is no such thing as becoming Christian, you’re either alive, or you’re dead, but there are moments of clarity. You realize how dead you were and how alive you are now.”
They all had a point in their life where they did not know God as they do now, and were either atheistic or agnostic. They shared their experiences in a public panel discussion, showing their “moments of clarity,” and in doing so, gave those in attendance some of their own.
On Monday, Nov. 14, Chaplain Don Moldstad hosted this discussion as part of the “In-Depth Series” talks.
“I’ve often thought that people who come to the faith as adults, especially those who came out of atheism or agnosticism, they have a unique voice or perspective that those of us who grew up in the church don’t have,” Moldstad explained.
“All of us probably know somebody who is an atheist or agnostic, and I think we would love to know how to talk to them, and connect with them.”
The discussion started off with each of the panelists describing their previous way of life and conversion, followed by a question and answer session.
After talking about their own conversion, they opened up about their thoughts and views and how their lives overall changed with their new change of heart.
They all had had similar beginnings: being baptized as a child, but from then on religion wasn’t a “big deal” in their life, as Wosmek put it.
John Spivey, the first to give his testimony, was a staunch atheist.
“Atheism is a religion. Everyone has a religious belief, so atheists are just as religious as anybody else,” Spivey said. “I never at that point had considered religion a part of my life, just a spherical influence of my life.”
Spivey went on to say, “I didn’t think it was normal to be Christian, I thought it was weird,” which is something most born-and-raised Christians take for granted.
Abraham Faugstad, a Bethany senior who attended the panel, related to that very point.
“One thing I got was, don’t take it for granted. Because, especially here at Bethany, we’re all surrounded with a lot of other people who were raised with a Christian background, and we should really appreciate that.”
While talking about his life as an atheist Spivey cleared up a few concepts.
“Atheists, against popular Christian mindset, are quite happy people. I mean, I was a happy person, it’s not like I thought I was missing anything from my life. It’s not like I felt a giant God-sized hole that only God can fill. You don’t feel that.”
After visiting his future wife’s church a few times to listen to her play organ, Spivey realized he needed to dig a little deeper to find out what this was all about.
“I always tell my wife that, it wasn’t until I was 21, until I heard the word ‘grace’ used as a noun. It was all very confusing,” said Spivey.
After doing some research and talking with his pastor, Spivey realized, “It’s crystal clear mud. If God’s not giving you grace to see that, it’s just all mud.”
Spivey’s real clarity came through reading the book of Romans.
“In Romans it says, through one man, Adam, we all have fallen, and through one man, Jesus, we’ve all been reconciled. If we haven’t all fallen, we should be able to get ourselves up, then Jesus didn’t need to die for you. And I’m like, you got me there, dude. [My pastor is] like, you know you need reconciliation with God, well there it is. If you were able to save yourself, you know, you’d be doing that right now, but you’re not.”
Following Spivey’s conversion, he attended Martin Luther College for two years to study to be a pastor. He now attends Bethany’s Seminary, where he will be for the next three years. He now wants to share what he knows with those he used to know, and has insight to help us do the same.
“We have philosophical disagreements, atheists and Christians. I honestly think we should look into that more as Christians, when we say, ‘Oh it’s so obvious God created the world. It’s so obvious, look around you.” When you look at the atheists’ side, it’s not obvious. And I’ve been there, and it’s just not. It’s not obvious.”
“Having a firm foundation is completely crucial when talking to atheists because my former foundation is actually very well knit together. It’s a very solid foundation,” Spivey explains.
“And when you’re talking to them and discussing with them, have your firm foundation and know God’s Word and promises, don’t shift the promises, know what God is promising. And know the things that he hasn’t promised you, because atheists are not going to look at the promises of God, they’re going to look at what you say, that he hasn’t said, and they’re going to scrutinize and criticize you on those points. Just have mercy and compassion and understanding. Be prepared to answer, but don’t be prepared to pummel them.”
Spivey also reminds us that, “Atheists need mercy, just like you do. Just know they’re coming from not understanding. They don’t have what you have. And what you have is because of grace alone. It’s the secret of the universe.”