God Isn’t Relevant – Daniel Rodger’s story

Apr 16, 2021

Side B Stories
Side B Stories
God Isn't Relevant - Daniel Rodger's story
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Many people presume there is no God because that’s all they’ve known. The question of God seemed irrelevant. In today’s episode Daniel Rodger tells his story of moving from a culturally-informed atheism to an unwavering belief in God who completely transformed his life.

Learn more about Daniel and Critical Witness: Critical Witness link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QksajfJj_o


Episode Transcript

Hello, and thanks for joining in. I’m Jana Harmon, and you’re listening to the Side B Podcast, where we listen to the other side. We try to understand why and how people either move away from or move towards God and Christianity. We want to listen to the lesser-heard B side of either nonbelief or belief, depending on what side you’re coming from. Each podcast, we’ll listen to a story from a former atheist who changed their mind and came to belief in God. They know both sides of the story. These stories might look a bit different from different parts of the world, from different parts of western culture.

Today, we’ll be talking with Daniel Rodger, who lives in London, England. He’s a former atheist who came to the Christian faith against the grain of his culture. Welcome to the podcast, Daniel, it’s great to have you on the show.

Thank you very much for inviting me on.

Oh, good, good. As we’re getting started, can you tell me a little bit about who you are? What you do? Your life?

Yeah, sure. So I have a background as a registered healthcare professional that specialized in working in the operating theatres, and for the last nearly four years, I’ve been working as an academic at a university in London, where I teach, and it also gives me the time and flexibility to research and do research into areas I’m interested in, usually related to things in bioethics, so abortion, artificial womb technology, and then some other areas kind of related to my more professional area.

That sounds really quite interesting, and with the nature of culture these days, probably quite exciting at times. And that makes me think about just the context of where you are. I know, in the US, we’ve been sensing a push back against Christianity in the last few years, but in England, it’s been going on for quite a long time. Just to give me a context to your story, can you tell me a little bit about what it feels like in England in terms of Christianity and religion and those kinds of things?

Sure. Yeah. I’d say, in England, it varies in different parts of the UK, I guess a little bit like the US. I’m in London, so it’s the southern part of England. And that’s kind of known—I mean, it’s not really the Bible belt, but it’d be a much smaller equivalent, more like just the buckle, and that’s sort of in the south/southeast of England. There’s more Christians than there is probably in the midlands and the north, so in my own context, there are more Christians than there are probably in other parts of the country.

You wouldn’t necessarily know that, and that’s for a number of reasons. One is, I think, we learn from quite a young age that there are certain things you sort of keep to yourself, and I think people who have religious beliefs kind of know that it’s something they can talk about at home and pray and read their Bibles, but they kind of leave it at home, and they bring it with them to work or to school or wherever they find themselves. And I’d say generally the culture is apathetic, really, to religious belief. I think probably if we go back 10 years ago, a sort of high point of new atheism, it was a lot easier to have discussions about religious belief, often hostile, but it was at least easier to have those, whereas now I find, at least in my own circles, that it’s very difficult to have fruitful discussion about religion, God, Christianity more specifically. And if you do, often it doesn’t last very long because people are very uncomfortable talking about those things, really. I think that’s it, the general summary.

So when you were growing up as a child, was it different than it is now? Did you have much exposure to Christianity as a child? Was your family Christian? Did you go to church? Were you exposed to it in school? What’s that like as a child?

Yeah. I’d say, in terms of a sort of demographic, I come from a sort of white working class/benefits class, and the think about white working class culture is that religion plays a very, very minute part of life. You tend to find very few churches, or at least very few active churches, and where you find the most active Christian faith is in the middle class. So in my own sort of context growing up, I remember having very, very, very few discussions probably in the first 16 years of my life in regards to religion. I don’t remember ever really having any very long, serious conversations about God and none really regarding Christianity.

I remember a few things. I remember being in a biology class at high school and a friend asking me if I believed in God, and I said, “I like the idea of God, but there’s no evidence of such a being,” so I didn’t have any belief. And within my own home, so single-parent household. My mother didn’t have any religious belief I was aware of. It was never discussed at home. Actually, it’s quite good to talk about things. It kind of reminds me. It triggers things. So I did have a neighbor upstairs who, at least for some period of my early childhood, would read me Bible stories, so I actually remember one. I actually remember it was a gold children’s Bible that she would bring down, and I remember one of the stories about King Solomon and the baby and threatening to tear it in two to try and identify the true mother, who the mom was. And I remember that story quite vividly, but other than that, I can’t really remember having any Christian discussion or input at all.

And I think I’ve always been relatively honest. I think there could be a tendency sometimes for some Christians to look back at their own views and start seeing themselves as sort of a Christopher-Hitchens-type figure, perhaps being more hostile to it. But I was never like that. I was a hopeful atheist, you know? I would have liked the idea of there being a God. I just didn’t have any reason to think someone like that existed or that it had any relevance to my life, really.

Yeah, so that’s interesting. So you had a lack of exposure, really, in your world. You had bits and pieces, I guess, just dots from your neighbor, maybe a little bit of religious education at school or something-

Yeah. We had religious education as part of the curriculum. I think that’s an agreement going back over 100 years when the churches were running the schools, and so when they took that over, they’ve always had religious education in the schools in England. But I just used those classes for messing about. I don’t remember ever really listening or taking that seriously. We used to hide under the tables. I didn’t do well at school. Again, being white working class, we’re actually, in terms of educational attainment, we’re the lowest demographic in the UK. Actually, no that’s not true. There’s only one group below us, which is the Romani Travelers, but other than that, we are the lowest attaining demographic in the UK, the least likely to get the minimum 5 A to C GCSEs at school. And I didn’t attain that. I didn’t get even 5 A to C GCSEs. And my mom never finished school. She got expelled from school.

Wow. And just considering what we know about you so far, that you work as an academic in a university, that makes me very curious about how you got from A to Z, but I’m sure we’ll get there. But backing up, here, when you said that you didn’t think that there was any evidence for religion or Christianity or anything like that, evidently there was something about it that seemed attractive, that you wanted to believe. You just couldn’t.

Yeah. I don’t know. I failed to take too many atheists—agnostics, obviously, not so much, but atheists who don’t even want there to be a God. It just think that’s . . . I find that very difficult to believe. But I can understand not believing in God, but I find it hard to believe not wanting to believe in God. Because it changes the whole nature of existence that there is a purpose behind the universe, that there’s a purpose behind why there’s something rather than nothing, that life might have some sort of meaning that’s discoverable to make a life more satisfying to live. And that especially offers hope for people who have very little. I think it’s easy to think like that sometimes. If you have everything you need, but for the vast majority of human beings now and in the time past, that hasn’t been the case.

Right. There are such huge implications for life without God, but so many seem to think that they’re perfectly content without God, and perhaps they haven’t thought through those implications that you just expressed. Again, just trying to get into your mindset, if you didn’t believe God existed, that it wasn’t viable enough for belief, what was Christianity or belief in God to you? Was it some kind of wishful thinking? Was it a fairy tale? Myth? Was it something man made up to soothe those needs that they have inside? What did you perceive it to be?

Yeah. I don’t even know if I can give an answer to that, because I just didn’t give it that much thought. It was literally just very rarely entered my consciousness. I had interest. There was no one to talk to, no one talking to me about it. And so I just lived. Without really giving it much thought. And I think there’s a benefit and there’s a downside to that because I didn’t have any . . . . The criticism I had of belief in God, I just kind of absorbed from culture, through things about the degree of suffering, especially human suffering, and natural evil and things like that, so I could come up with objections, but I wasn’t really heavily invested in them in any sort of meaningful way. I would have enough to say if someone brought it up, but as I said, I think I just didn’t really care, to be honest.

Yeah. I know that, as you expressed in your current context there in England, just not caring about these bigger questions. There seems to be a bit of an apathy about it. I think that’s very, very common.

Yeah. It is. And it makes it difficult as a Christian now to have those conversations, because I think people do view it as a kind of . . . . It’s just not something that’s taken seriously. I think there are so many other views and perspectives that more currency and validity, and religious belief is sort of at the end of the line, really, I’d say.

Right. So you didn’t care that much but you just knew it was not that.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I didn’t have any good reasons to take it seriously and to see that it made any difference to anyone’s life, really. So I didn’t have any strong reasons for it, but I didn’t have anything against it as well, so it wasn’t like I was reading Nietzsche and then Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell and things like that. I didn’t really care enough to read things like that. I wasn’t even aware of them, so it wasn’t like I was . . . . I didn’t give it any sort of intelligent thought, really, in a way, either for or against it. I wasn’t bothered. I wasn’t interested. So it’s not like. . . . As I said, going back, I wasn’t a Christopher-Hitchens-type person. I was just a normal person who didn’t care about God and had some reasons to kind of back that up but wasn’t really that invested in it. I wasn’t really invested in arguing about it for or against.

I think I probably subconsciously accepted some of the conclusions that kind of follow from that, perhaps, in that I just did what I wanted to do. Captain of my own ship. And just wanted to have fun and be a bit lazy and just normal things. I don’t know. It seemed normal at the time.

Sure, sure. So it was a bit of a default atheism in a way.

Definitely, yeah. So I wasn’t agnostic because I could give you reasons. I didn’t think God existed. I didn’t think there were good reasons to believe in God, certainly not any persuasive ones. And no one had ever told me otherwise.

Right. So you weren’t around any good reasons, any good exposure to an embodied Christianity except perhaps for that neighbor who might have introduced a moment of it, but other than that, it seems like it just wasn’t in your world.

Yeah, I guess I just viewed them as stories. Even when I was being read Bible stories, they’re just. . . like finding out about the Greek myths. They’re just stories that you’re told, and I wasn’t led to believe they were historical or anything like that. They were just stories. I read my children stories at bedtime. It’s just a story at bedtime. I didn’t really give it any greater thought than that, really. They were just some interesting stories.

Right. And this was a bit of your attitude until . . . . How old were you when you began to turn the page or come to a place where you were questioning your beliefs? Or what happened that made you turn the corner and become open towards God?

Yeah. So when I was 19, my grandparents had become Christians about maybe five years earlier to that, and so at the time, I think I was working in a frozen warehouse at the time. And also would so some sort of gardening work for my grandparents sometimes, and so when I went ’round their house, they would often talk to me about God, especially Jesus. And we would just talk, and if I’m honest, I thought they were in a cult. I thought they were mad. And often expressed that in sort of choice, coarse language and tell them just to shut up because I just didn’t want . . . . I was just sick of every time I go in ’round there, it was like, “Oh, just stop talking about Jesus for a while. It’s doing my head in.” So that would carry on for a while.

But what kind of started it. I wasn’t taking them seriously. And I would ask lots of questions, and I think, at that point, kind of looking back, it was interesting now to look back and look at some of the questions I remember asking, you know, what about different religions. “If you speak to a Muslim, they’ll feel just as strongly as you do about how right their beliefs are. They might have had religious experiences. You say you’ve had a religious experience.” So I remember asking those types of questions, and I think, going back to what we were saying earlier about rethinking about it, but looking back, I must have given it some thought in a way because I did have objections and questions, that I wasn’t ready to embrace something unless my questions had reasonable answers I think. But I definitely remember asking questions about evil in the world and suffering and different religious experiences, about the existence of different religions and they couldn’t all be true. So those types of things. So I remember asking those types of questions and thinks about sex and, well, you know, “How can God want you to be with one person forever? That sounds like madness.” All sorts of things like that, I guess, were just coming into my head at the time.

And so they would try their best to kind of give me answers. Some were satisfying. Some, probably most, were not. But what it did is it sort of stoked an interest to maybe think about some of these things a little bit more. I didn’t do very well at school. I was never in a context in my home life that allowed . . . would encourage me to see any value in education, in learning, in reading. I hardly ever read books. I don’t remember having any books growing up, like reading really. So I wasn’t really in an environment where I was kind of intellectually nurtured, but I also wasn’t stupid, and so I thought that, if he’s going to keep talking about this stuff all the time, I should at least have a more informed criticism, and so it’s really at that point when I started taking those questions a bit more seriously, thinking about those bigger sort of questions, and doing a little bit of reading here and there, looking at stuff online, going to the library.

So that’s interesting. You were, at first, asking questions back to your grandparents, it seems like in an objectionable way, like trying to disprove it or push back against it because they were bothering you and so you wanted to bother them back with some hard questions, but then somewhere along the way, that push back turned into interest, and then you began a more genuine pursuit of the answers. Would you say that that shift in attitude or willingness to actually investigate-

I think part of it was I wanted to prove them wrong, and I think part of it was wanting to be more informed about it as well. I didn’t really have . . . my questions were valid. They’re valid questions. They’re important questions that anyone should ask. It’s not like I’d read books about that. They were just sort of things that, as I said, I’d either absorbed or was kind of thinking of objections at the time, and I think, yeah, at some point that shift kind of . . . . My approach shifted at some point from just wanting to show them wrong, to show them that they’re wrong, to thinking more openly about it. And again, I’ve never been a close-minded person. Even before I knew of G.K. Chesterton, you know, he says the purpose of an open mouth is to clamp down on something solid, just like an open mind.

And so it came to a point where I actually stumbled upon a book in a library, which a lot of people I’m sure will be aware of, is The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. And I stumbled across that book. And, let’s say you’re not being in England, how unlikely that is to happen. To come across a good Christian book in a council library is highly unlikely. I’m not saying it’s miraculous, but it’s close to being, because there are so few good Christian books around, especially in libraries. But I came across that, and I think it was at that point, I thought, “All right, well, let’s see what they’ve good,” and having a read of that. And that book was a real turning point because, although there’s valid criticism of that book and those kinds of books, it led me to Christian thinkers, which I didn’t realize was a category. It led me to read what they were saying and have people I could actually read and listen to and get a pretty comprehensive understanding of Christianity, of engaging with sort of objections that I have had, and just sort of led me to thinking about Christianity a bit more seriously. I think it was kind of after that that I realized, whether it’s weeks or months, coming to a kind of point where I sort of crossed a threshold where I think . . . I always explained it as knowing a bit too much to sweep it under the carpet.

So when you were investigating . . . or you saw this book by Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith. That’s definitely Christian oriented. Did you take a look at other world religions? Did you compare them? Did you want to see if Christianity held a candle to any of these other world religions, like Muslims, like you said, that they’re very strong in their belief, or others? How did you narrow it down to Christianity as the one that you were willing to pursue?

Yeah. That’s a good question. I remember thinking at the time that I could probably rule out quite a significant number of them, especially those like Hinduism, where reincarnation suggests I would get another chance, exploring in the future, so I kind of focused on the Abrahamic faiths because these seemed like the ones that, although the Jewish faith is quite small, at least Islam and Christianity have a significant proportion of the population as their alleged adherence, and so Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, especially those faiths, come with a sort of finality after death. They seemed like the ones that should be taken most seriously, so I specifically focused on thinking about and reading about the three different Abrahamic faiths.

And then, once I guess you settled in on monotheism and then you looked at those side by side, and what made Christianity more persuasive as an ideology or a worldview or that you came to a place where you settled on that?

Yeah. I think, in terms of reading The Case for Faith and reading some other books and reading some things online. I’d say the point in which I guess it took a foothold is when I starting reading the Bible. It was the person of Jesus, reading the gospels, and God, looking back, speak to me through the gospels, and so I’d say that was the thing that really . . . the distinguishing factor between the three was Jesus, I would say.

In terms of what He had to offer with grace and salvation? Or did it have anything to do with his resurrection or the viability of that? Or a combination of everything?

Yeah. I mean it’s what he said. It spoke to me. The resurrection, I think, especially after reading The Case for Faith and reading stuff around . . . William Lane Craig and other scholars. The resurrection I found incredibly persuasive, and I didn’t know . . . . It was much stronger. Like I kind of thought the resurrection would have, in terms of historicity and stuff, the strength for those claims would be relatively weak, and they were much stronger than I anticipated. So I think the resurrection has been a great source of hope and strength, and it’s sort of helped me to continue on that path for the last decade. So yeah, I think the resurrection was really key in that.

So, at the end of the day, you came to a place where you were able to realize or appreciate the fact that Christianity is more than just a story, more than just a Bible story, that there’s some kind of historical grounding to these events that are in the Bible?

Yeah, yeah. I think the more I read . . . . It was a combination of things. I think first I had to . . . kind of looking back on my journey. First, I had to see that it was perfectly reasonable to believe that God existed. So that was the first stumbling block. I remember thinking, “Okay, well maybe you don’t have to be such a dummy to think that God exists,” as a first stumbling block. I’d sort of got over that. And then it was looking more at the specific claims of the main religions, and I think the one that speak most persuasively to me, especially at the time, was the gospel. How it considered the human condition, my own experience of the impact of sin and hope and love and resurrection. Those sort of biblical themes spoke so persuasively to me compared to the alternate claims of other religions of just where Moses left off and the claims made by Mohammad in the Koran. And so it was a mixture, I’d say, of the rational but also the experience as well. I did have later a religious experience of sorts that I think probably pushed me over the line.

So, Daniel, what you’re telling me is that I hear that it seemed to be a rationally historically based kind of religion that seemed to really speak existentially also to your human condition. There was something in it that drew you. You could see yourself in it with sin, yet hope and love and grace and renewal through the resurrection. But you also speak of a spiritual experience. Can you tell me about that?

Sure. This is why, I think, the gospel is such good news and so transformative, especially to people who feel that they are insignificant, that they feel they have nothing really to offer, that no one really cares about them beyond sort of immediate family. What the gospel is saying is that, insignificant as we are, as small as we are in the universe, that someone created the whole universe and loved you enough to enter it. To live among you, to enter into the world, the human world. And there’s something beautiful about that to people who feel like they’re insignificant, and I think that spoke to me in a way as well, sort of existentially. But it was also the rational aspect as well, especially in regard to the resurrection, and I think the final part of that journey was . . . . I remember just reading the gospels and just feeling utterly convicted of my own sin, of knowing that I needed forgiveness and knowing where the source of that forgiveness could be found. And just knowing that I had to repent and that, if I asked God for forgiveness, that I would receive it, and I remember . . . . No shining lights or noises but just a real experience of the depth of my sin but also the depth of God’s love for me at the same time. And I haven’t had anything like it since, but it’s always stayed with me.

I bet that was, in a sense . . . . It sounds like such a marker, but it sounds like it was just a bit overwhelming but in a good way.

Yeah, yeah. It’s a unique experience, and I think . . . I could be more skeptical because, as I said, people from other religions have experiences, and I think I’ll be more . . . . Looking back perhaps, I could be skeptical of just that experience, but it wasn’t just the experience. It was different things. It was the experience plus reason and a rational case for God. It was the experience plus Jesus in the gospels and knowing that what he was saying is true and how it makes sense of the things I already know. It makes sense of the universe. It makes sense of my moral intuitions, my knowledge of certain things of right and wrong objectively. Suffering is evil. Something that shouldn’t be welcome. That pain is bad. That there’s beauty. You look out at a sunset or a mountain range. There’s no reason to have a sense of awe from that. And there’s all sorts of things. I think there are certain things as human beings that we know, and I think any worldview has to be able to provide good answers to what we already know, and I think Christianity does that.

Yes, it seems that the Christian worldview, in your mind and for you and for your life, and really I would presume that you would say for all of humanity it makes the most sense of reality, of what we know about the universe, what we know about ourselves and our own human condition and about our loves and our longings, all of those things that you spoke of. Our ability to understand right from wrong. How long ago was it that you became a Christian?

So it was about 15 years ago now. So I’m 35, and I was 20 when I started following Christ.

Well, tell me about that. Tell me about how your life has been affected and changed. You used the word transformed. How has your life been transformed in moving from atheism to Christianity?

Yeah. In a lot of significant ways. I think certain people . . . . There’s only actually very few people that I’m still in contact today who knew me before I was a Christian for various reasons, and I remember one of them saying, of all the people they knew who have become a Christian, I would be last on their list. And he meant that quite genuinely.

Yes, I bet they were surprised.

Yeah. Just a little bit. And so I mean it was definitely difficult to begin with. Just basic things. I mean, I didn’t know what to do. Before I started attending church as a Christian, I’d never been to a church really, other than maybe . . . I don’t even remember going for a wedding. I don’t really ever remember going to a church. I remember going to a synagogue and a mosque when we were at school, but I don’t really remember . . . I definitely never went to a church service before being a Christian. I didn’t know what to do. It was a whole different culture, different language that Christians can speak. You know, their own in-group language. And I didn’t really know what to do with my life.

I remember being at the church where I was part of, that a lot of them worked in healthcare, and so I decided that—well, probably led in some way—that going back to school and getting some qualifications and maybe training to be some kind of healthcare professional might be a good thing to do. And so I went back to college. I worked night shifts, and then in the morning, I went to college during the day.

And at the time, there was some family situation that meant it was very difficult—when you first convert, you’re quite zealous in a way that doesn’t necessarily consider . . . inconsiderate zealousness, I would say. And I think I annoyed quite a few people with that sort of early zealousness, and I regret some of the things I said and did at that point. Not intending to break relationships and things, but you know, just silly things. Listening to Christian sermons loud in the evening when my mum was trying to watch TV and just not really . . . I didn’t think . . . and other things as well. I basically ended up—it became uncomfortable and no longer possible to live at home, so I moved in with a guy from church, and I lived on his floor, so I would basically work night shifts, go to college during the day, and then go and stay at my friend’s house, and I did that for about a year.

I basically got all the qualifications that I needed to go back to try and get into university, but before as well I said, growing up, not someone who’s stupid but just didn’t . . . I was never really nurtured. My mind was never really nurtured in a way. And so I think God just gave me a love for learning, especially reading, and I just started reading. And I’ve never stopped. I just read all the time. I just read, read, read, read, read. Also trying to catch up. I’d missed so much. I didn’t listen at school. My English was pretty rubbish. I didn’t know how to write an essay. I was not a blank slate, but I was a poorly developed slate. Damaged.

And God really used books to change that, and I’m still learning today, but reading stuff like Christian apologetics and philosophy and reading the Bible of course, reading a lot of the Bible, just shaped my mind. Renewed. My mind was renewed. And I don’t want to waste that. And so I went to university, got my qualifications, and I’ve just kind of been studying and working and doing things since then.  Also things as well . . . . I never wanted to get married. Everyone in my family was either a single parent or had been married multiple times, so obviously there was some misunderstanding of the nature of marriage, and I was fortunate. At university, I met my wife, and we’re married with three children today.

That sounds like quite a transformation. And I guess, if you’re teaching at the university level, then you must have pursued graduate level education yourself. Is that right?

Yeah. So I’m fortunate that, in the UK, if you’re a healthcare professional, if you go to an academic post, very, very few people will have their clinical expertise and also a doctorate, and so usually the minimum requirement to get an academic job as a healthcare professional is to have a master’s degree plus you usually have to have five years clinical experience as well. So I have a master’s degree from Heythrop College, University of London, in contemporary ethics, and since then I’ve done a graduate teaching course as well and some other small things, but yeah. I don’t have a doctorate, but they tend to encourage you to get one at some point, which I’ll probably do at some point, but because I’ve got three young children, I don’t want to take on too much that will affect me and being a rubbish husband and a rubbish dad.

Understandable.

So you obviously love to learn but you love for others to learn as well. I understand you have a YouTube channel. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Yeah. So I think during lockdown due to COVID-19, it was difficult to maintain normal relationships with people, and so a friend of mine who’s a pastor at a church in Guilford, a good friend of mine, we sort of decided maybe to start up a podcast, and we like speaking to interesting people, and having a podcast is a great way to get interesting people and get to chat with them for an hour or two. And that’s what we’ve been doing for the last couple of months now. I think we’ve interviewed about seven people. We’ve got another one coming out tomorrow. And it’s just great. It just means that we can contact interesting people and just get to chat with them, ask them questions, and get to know them a bit better. It’s called Critical Witness on YouTube. And it’s great. I’m enjoying it. I look forward to having you on there at some point.

Excellent, excellent. Yeah, I’ve watched your YouTube channel, and the content is excellent. It’s stellar. Very substantive content, so I would advise anyone who’s listening to take a look at that. Before we wrap up our conversation—your story has been amazing—what would you like to say to those listening to this podcast who are skeptical about God and Christianity, perhaps those who’ve just presumed that atheism is right just because of what they’ve heard, like you were once? Or like you once did?

Yeah. If you have a Christian friend . . . . I mean, that’s half the problem sometimes. I would imagine I had friends who were Christians. I just never knew. So one thing, as Christians, is to speak to non-Christian friends, and also if you’re a skeptic, if you have a Christian friend that you know is a Christian, speak to them. If you’ve got some objections and questions, go straight to them. Ask them. Maybe they’ve got some recommendations. Podcasts to listen to. Videos on YouTube. There’s so many resources available now that weren’t available 15 years ago, really, and it’s amazing content. So that would be something. Another thing is I also encourage skeptics to read the Bible as well. I think that Christians, especially those who have an interest in philosophy and apologetics, can often be so quick to go to a book. Read Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig or read a John Lennox book or something like that, but actually just reading the Bible . . . . God can speak to you through the Bible. He’s been doing that for over 2,000 years now. And so I would strongly recommend that skeptics read the Bible. Wherever you speak, but I think I remember starting from Genesis for a bit but also just reading the gospels, getting to know Jesus through an unfiltered lens. I think that’s important.

Yeah, an unfiltered lens, I think, is a good idea. I think there are so many ideas about what the Bible is without having read it. But for those who aren’t familiar with the gospels, where could someone find those in the Bible?

Yeah. So there’s New Testament . . . I think the one I’ve always enjoyed reading is the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a physician, historian, and his gospel is written specifically for people don’t necessarily have a religious background, contrary to something like Matthew. Matthew is a great, great gospel but specifically written for people of a Jewish background, so I think starting from Luke . . . . Luke and Acts, I think, are always places I love to recommend people going to.

Yeah, I think that’s good advice. And on the flip side, what would you say, in this culture where there’s an increasing push back against Christians and Christian beliefs, what would you like to say to Christians today, if anything?

Yeah, it’s difficult. And this is probably one of the questions where I might be the least helpful person. Especially as someone who’s in academia, and it’s a very difficult place to be a Christian. I’m not sure I have many good answers. I’m a natural pessimist by nature, a redeemed pessimist, and so I . . . I think Christians need to read the Bible more. I think reading the Bible more. Definitely I need to read my Bible more. I think Christians need to read their Bibles more. I think we need to just get in a habit of speaking to people who aren’t Christians, forming that sort of habit of making it more natural to talk about how great the gospel is, how amazing Christ is, and that there are good reasons to be a Christian. I think those sort of things can make a small difference, I think especially as I said, in the UK. A lot of the US has different places, different cultures. I think just Christians need to have a habit of speaking about their faith more and not giving in to popular expectations to just keep everything at home and keep faith locked away. As soon as you step outside the door to work, school, wherever you’re going, playing football, whatever you’re doing, to find ways of showing people that Christianity shapes who you are and everything you do.

Because I think one of the most common but pernicious ideas about Christianity and belief in God in general, is that it doesn’t have any relevance. It doesn’t change anything. I think people think, “Okay, you might believe that. You believe God exists. You believe Christ died for your sins, but what does that actually change?” And I think it’s so important to show people, actually, it changes everything. And I think something I get frustrated about sometimes is . . . . People see me as I am today, so on paper, you think, “Okay, he’s married for 10 years. He’s got three children. He’s got some degrees. He’s working as an academic. He’s published academic papers.” And things like that. And people can make assumptions about me, about my life story, about my background, about how I grew up, and most of them would be false, because what they see now is someone who’s been transformed by the love of God. But they don’t see that. They just see me as I am now. Whereas my whole life is . . . . Everything I have is but for the grace of God.

Yeah. It is amazing how we are so quick to presume and to make judgment without really taking the time to enter in to someone else’s life story. And I think your advice is really timely and necessary at this moment, when we’re so, like you say, kind of at the very beginning, when you talked about, in England, that religion is private. And we all have a tendency to kind of close our doors and keep our lives to ourselves and especially in this day of distraction and technology, during COVID, it seems like everything is just amplified, but as you are telling us, I think it is very wise and judicious to just take the time to get to know someone, whether they are pushing back against belief about God or whether they have a very strong belief in God. You don’t know their story, and you don’t know the reasons, why they are, what they believe, who they are, all of these things. And it would be good if we just took time to listen to the other side, and that’s kind of the point of this podcast, and I hope that those who are listening really have listened to you. Because you are a life that has been transformed, and it’s, for me, a really beautiful thing.

So I want to thank you, Daniel, for coming on and for sharing your story with us. Is there anything else you want to add to your story before we close?

No. I think it’s been interesting. It’s been cathartic, sort of, talking about it, and yeah, I just really appreciate you having me on and wish you all the best for your future interviews.

Fantastic. Thank you again, Daniel.

Thanks for tuning in to the Side B Podcast. If you enjoyed it, subscribe and share this new podcast with your friends and social network. I would appreciate it. Again, to hear more from Daniel, take a look at his YouTube channel called Critical Witness. I think you’ll find it well worth your time as he and his guests think through issues of culture, apologetics, theology, and evangelism. For questions and feedback about this episode with Daniel, you can reach me by email at thesidebpodcast@cslewisinstitute.org. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we’ll listen to the other side.

 

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