Doubting Thomas. What a nickname to be saddled with. A close follower of Jesus, chosen by Jesus to be one of the Twelve, those who would have closest access to the Rabbi, to his miracles and his teachings. Yet, he was so disillusioned by the crucifixion of this man whom they were so sure was the Messiah that he refused to believe in his resurrection, even when ten of the Twelve testified that they had witnessed it with their own eyes. Thomas – a true skeptic. Then Jesus appeared to him.
Thomas stands in a long line of converted skeptics. Saul of Tarsus was a young Pharisee, full of passionate zeal for the law of the Jews. He detested the early Christians as the patriot detests the traitor. He was so convinced that Jesus was a false prophet and his followers were spreading blasphemies that he hunted them down like animals, going from house to house to find them and drag them to prison. Then Jesus appeared to him and he became Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ.
C.S. Lewis stood out among his peers as a true intellectual genius. He began teaching English at Magdalen College, Oxford when he was only 27. He had made a conscious and reasoned decision to become an atheist at age 15. He could not see any rational logic for the existence of a God – until Jesus appeared to him.
While studying in the English School in his fourth year at Oxford, he encountered another student who stood out among the rest, Nevil Coghill was “clearly the most intelligent and best-informed man in that class.” To Lewis’ shock, Coghill was also a Christian.
Of the copious books he was reading, a strange feature kept repeating itself. The best written books and the most interesting authors were also Christians: George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Edmund Spenser, John Milton and others. It was the most religious authors upon whom “I could really feed,” while those “who did not suffer from religion … “seemed a little thin…. There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books.”
Of his conversion, Lewis writes, “In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?” (Surprised By Joy) Over the course of the next two years, Lewis moved from theist to Christian. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity, has provided one of the best presentations of the Christian faith written in the last 70 years.
Lee Strobel knew from childhood that he wanted to be a reporter. He went to one of the best journalist schools in the country and followed it with a Master of Studies in Law from Yale. He landed a job with the Chicago Tribune at a young age.
Strobel was unscrupulous as an investigative reporter and ruthless as a colleague. He once had a fellow reporter fired from his job who was on his honeymoon when he got the call. He had no use for religion or God. His moral base only served his selfish interests. Then Jesus appeared to him.
One day his wife announced she had become a follower of Christ. Strobel believed it was the worst thing that could happen to their marriage. He told her that she could give no money to the church, because that is all they wanted, and that he would never go with her, “because I’m too smart for that.”
For the next few years, the stress of their religious disparity nearly destroyed their marriage, but Strobel could not complain about the positive changes in his wife’s life. Occasionally she invited him to church, but he refused. Finally, one day he went and was not turned off. He decided to use his legal and investigative skills to examine and disprove the Christian faith. After nearly two years of critical scrutiny he conceded to the evidence and trusted in Christ.
Strobel wrote two books that presents the evidence with integrity and persuasion: The Case For Christ (1998) and The Case For Faith (2000). He served on staff at Willow Creek Community Church and now is a teaching pastor at Saddleback Valley Community Church in California.
Stories abound of similar conversions, like Josh McDowell, who invested 700 hours in trying to disprove the Bible and the resurrection story, but finally decided the evidence was overwhelming. McDowell has been one of the leading speakers on campuses over the last 50 years for Campus Crusade for Christ. To millions of skeptics over the centuries, Christianity became rational, even reasonable. For them, faith was not a blind leap into an unknown darkness after shedding the harness of the mind and the parachute of reason. At some point, Jesus appeared to them and they could no longer argue with the evidence.
God is not frightened by the doubts, the defiance, the arrogance of the skeptic. There is a “Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.”