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How I Went from Atheist to Bible Believer

Photo of Jonathan CieckaJonathan Ciecka | Bio

Jonathan Ciecka

Jonathan attends and works at The Experience Community Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where he serves as a small group leader and class teacher. He has a B.S. from MTSU in Aerospace with a Professional Pilot concentration. He is best described by his loving and sarcastic wife, Emily, as “eclectic.” His Hawaiian shirt collection, vinyl record collection, book collection, coffee brewing methods collection, and ever-present memo pad all testify to this. His passion, besides Billy Joel, Clint Eastwood, and hand brewed coffee, is relational discipling and expository teaching.

Making an Atheist

I grew up in a church that encouraged me to become an atheist. I didn’t leave Christianity because of any moral objections or being hurt by a church. I left because of that church’s grounding for its faith.

They offered an apologetics class where the teacher very confidently explained many geological, cosmological, and historical reasons why everyone who wasn’t Christian was either willfully or naturally stupid. My faith in God rested on arguments that Noah’s ark might be in the Himalayas, creation took seven literal days, and evolution had to be a myth. I was sold on all these reasons, ready to defend any of them to anyone.

When I was exposed to a world outside my Christian bubble, these arguments started to crumble.

I realized none of the arguments necessitated the existence of an all-powerful, personal God, and my faith crumbled with them. For this reason, I am extremely cautious when explaining the reason for my faith in the Bible. Today, it is the foundation of my faith. If one believes the Bible is authored ultimately by God and can therefore be trusted wholly, all Christian life will follow. The existence of God, His character, and the resurrection of Jesus can be shown if the Bible is clear, authoritative, and inerrant.

If we are careless in defending the foundation of our faith, those we teach will lay a poor foundation for their faith.

But why should we believe those things about the Bible? How should we explain our belief that the Bible is God’s word? If we are careless in defending the foundation of our faith, those we teach will lay a poor foundation for their faith. Just as a building with a poor foundation will soon crumble, so too will their faith in Jesus Christ. So for the sake of their eternal souls, let us proceed with extreme caution.

Historical Evidence, But…

In my experience, most Christians’ first defense of the Bible is that many of its claims can be historically validated. As I discovered, this is absolutely true. Here are a few examples of claims which are verifiable and have been corroborated:

  • Caiaphas was Israel’s high priest at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion (Jn. 11:49-50).
  • Belshazzar was the final king of the Babylonian empire (Dan. 5:30).
  • A people known as the Hittites occupied parts of the Ancient Near East (Josh. 1:4).

Now let’s dig into one of the Bible’s claims a little deeper.

How can we believe that Jesus was a real man who was crucified in Jerusalem during Tiberius Caesar’s reign?

One reason is that two independent non-Christian ancient historians talk about a man named Jesus who lived during this time. Flavius Josephus, in his Antiquities Book 18, Chapter 3, Part 3, wrote of a Jesus called Christ who was crucified by Pilate. Tacitus, in his Annals Book 15, Part 44, explained the origins of the Christian movement in Rome as the crucifixion of “Christus” under Pilate. These two sources, in combination with each other, lend significant credibility to the claim that Jesus Christ was a real man.

However, the existence of Jesus the man does not necessarily prove the existence of Jesus the God-man. Imagine reading a history textbook that is incredibly well cited and accurate in all its historical claims. What if the author of this book inserted a short claim to deity in a random passage? Do the surrounding historical claims in any way validate this author as a god? Of course not.

Similarly, there has to be something beyond historical evidence that can convince us that God is the Bible’s author.

God Reveals

Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian church, addressed a similar issue. How could the Jewish people be convinced that Jesus was the fulfillment of the old covenant? Though our questions seem different, their essence is the same. The essential question is: how can we be sure that a message is from God?

Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.…For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:15-16, 4:6 ESV)

For brief context, when Moses would speak with God, seeing the glory of God would cause his face to literally shine with glory. After speaking with God and before speaking to Israel, Moses would wear a veil over his face to conceal this shining. Paul interprets that Moses wore this veil so Israel could not see his progressing old age. Symbolically Moses represented the old covenant, so Moses’ fading glory was equal to the old covenant’s fading glory. Therefore the veil Moses wore is a symbol of preventing glory from being seen.

What Paul is asserting here is that a similar veil lies over the hearts of people. This new veil results from peoples’ sinfulness and Satan’s influence (v. 3-4). This new veil prevents them from seeing not the glory of God in Moses’ face, but the glory of God in Jesus’ face. So it was their sinful nature that prevented them from seeing that a unique glory, one that could only come from God Himself, was found in Christ and His gospel.

What then are we to do about the same veil which lies over our hearts?

How are we supposed to see God’s glory? It requires action both on our part and on God’s part. We have to turn to the Lord. We have to ask a God we do not yet believe in to show us that He is real, that Jesus is His Son, and that the Bible is His word. Then God, with the very same powerful word with which He created us and everything else, must shine His glory and light into our hearts to remove this veil.

It is by seeing “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” that the Jewish people could understand Jesus as the fulfillment of the old covenant. And it is by seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” that we can understand the Bible as God’s Word. So we believe the Bible is God’s word because He shows us such a peculiar glory in it that it can only be from God.

This is the power that convinced me the Bible is God’s word.

I couldn’t be shown by any man that the Bible is true. No moral, ethical, or philosophical argument would suffice. It could only be God working in His sovereign power working in my heart to see His glory. So we shouldn’t expect that we can argue anyone into faith.

Apologetics may open the door to faith, to show Christianity is a reasonable and consistent worldview, but it cannot enforce saving faith. Only God by His power can reveal to us the truth of His word.

That’s what He did for me.