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Further Reading

Great Escapes

Captive No More

The Thoroughly Rational Conversion of Michael Minot

by Terrell Clemmons

Never in his 28 years did Mike Minot imagine he would entertain this unthinkable thought, yet lately of an evening he might easily be found pacing around his house like an awestruck research scientist muttering things like, "It just can't be! . . . Can it?"

The seismic shift had started quite unexpectedly just a few months prior. He was three years out of law school, and life was great. After years of living on beans and weenies as a student, he had arrived on the scene of success. He had a growing law practice, money in his pocket, and a teeming social life. The world was his oyster.

Article originally appeared in
Salvo 34

Then he had received an odd phone call. Normally confident and well-spoken, Jim, whom he'd met while studying for the Florida bar exam, spoke awkwardly, struggling uncharacteristically to get his message out. Finally he got to his point. "Sharon and I have been watching what's been going on in your life. And we decided we would give you a call and invite you to do something. We believe the Scriptures are very important. They're very important to our lives, and they're helpful to us. We know what you think about spiritual matters, but we want to challenge you to take some time at this point in your life and reexamine these things."

To say Mike was taken aback would be an understatement. He was a perfectly contented atheist, and he had no interest in interrupting his prosperous life to look at anyone's answers to questions he wasn't even asking. But he did value the relationship he had with Jim, Sharon, and their two adorable kids. If he were to summarily dismiss this suggestion, what would that do to their friendship? It seemed he should at least put forth a cursory effort, if for no other reason than for the health of the relationship.

Besides, he'd always considered himself one committed to truth. He didn't know that much about the arguments for atheism; here was a good chance to become more conversant with them. And to be fair, he didn't know much about the Scriptures either. He'd been exposed to them in Catholic grade school but had seen too many examples of hypocritical Christians and too few satisfying answers to the questions of miracles and pain and suffering in the world to go in for rote religion. Anyway, hadn't all his education authoritatively confirmed that there was a natural explanation for everything?

So, in a spirit of friendship and intellectual honesty, he called Jim back the following day and said he would take a look. But he made one thing crystal clear. He wasn't going to buy into anybody's program or be talked into anything. He would go about this his own way.

An Escalating Investigation

Discoveries from Science. With no predetermined plan, he delved into both the Scriptures and science. The Scriptures felt intimidating, though, and he was more comfortable with science. Not two weeks in, he found something that totally blew his mind. Ironically, it was something that had been there all along: the solar system—and the mind-boggling precision by which it operates. He marveled at the elegant complexity of it. It appeared way too precise, statistically speaking, to be an accident.

Suddenly, this was no longer a casual exercise. He had to find the natural explanation for the solar system. If he continued on his merry life without it, he would forever live plagued by lingering thoughts that he could be living a lie. Never did he want to go in for a lie, and intellectual honesty demanded that he keep searching.

So he put on his miner's lighted helmet, so to speak, and went to work. But instead of locating the natural explanation for the solar system, he found himself turning up all manner of equally troublesome phenomena—the fine-tuning of the earth for supporting life, with its balance of nitrogen to oxygen ratios and plate tectonics; the information content of DNA; and the complexities of animal and human life, to name a few. The perplexities mounted, and the whole project snowballed. He would go looking for the explanation for one natural marvel, only to encounter two more crying out for explanation.

Discoveries in Scripture. Meanwhile, he also read the Scriptures. Never before had he encountered a text so dense with meaning. He found it difficult to understand but plowed forward, sometimes reading a section two or three times before moving on. At some point he began to grasp the historical context of it and to see how the individual passages could be part of a larger story. There was much to ponder here, and his mind raced at times, trying to take it all in.

Discoveries in Church. Jim had also challenged Mike to visit a particular church in the area. The thought of it actually made him more uncomfortable than the suggestion to read the Scriptures, but in keeping with the spirit of honest evaluation, he complied.

To his great surprise, he found the experience "startlingly beautiful." He saw joyful people who seemed genuinely to care for one another. He heard music that was peaceful, soothing, and inspiring. And when the pastor spoke directly to God, Mike was struck by the sense of awe and reverence that fell upon the crowd unprovoked.

Personal Treason

He returned home reluctantly acknowledging, in a concession that felt something like personal treason, that the church visit had not gone the way he'd expected. Soon after that, he came across a pivotal admonition in his Scripture reading: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ."

"I recognized as I read this verse that I was in essence 'captive' to a certain philosophy," Mike wrote in his book, The Beckoning: Examining the Truths That Transformed an Atheist Attorney into a Believer in God. Miracles had never made sense to him. Since they violated what he saw as the inviolable laws of nature, he had, like most skeptics, dismissed the whole of Scripture on account of the miracles it contained. But it was beginning to dawn on him that the problem wasn't with miracles; the problem was his constricted worldview. "I refused to consider what couldn't be seen through the lens of science."

He pondered this scriptural admonition for days and ultimately resolved not to be captive to anything. "Every part of my thinking as well as the information that came from my reading would be put to the test. Every assertion must stand on its own merits." He also realized that no matter how much personal distaste he felt about hypocritical Christians, "no one's actions can either create or discredit the truth about whether God exists. God exists or doesn't independently of the actions of any person."

Intellectually Satisfied

At this point, what had begun as a casual glance at Christianity had become a consuming quest for truth, with the weight of evidence increasingly pointing away from atheism. Mike had tenaciously held onto the belief that there was a natural explanation for everything, but every time he went to find one, it was nowhere to be found. As for the Scriptures, he had long dismissed them out of hand, but he was now seeing that his grounds for dismissal had been remarkably shallow.

All his life, when he'd found a new truth, Mike had been willing to incorporate it into his thinking. After about four months of intense research, he was convinced that there did in fact in reality exist a Creator God. The time had come to incorporate this truth into his life.

He knew he needed to ask for forgiveness, but beyond that Mike had no clue how to talk to God. His first prayer was refreshingly sweet with childlike honesty. I'm ready to go; I want to have a relationship with you; and Show me what to do next. It was as simple as that.

Freed to Flourish

Other complications did follow, though. He had trustingly believed teachers and authorities who had taught that everything could be explained naturalistically. What else, now, needed to be reexamined? This went beyond science and philosophy to sociology, psychology—everything had to be rethought according to this completely new paradigm. He would later liken it to being planted on a whole new planet.

And his entire social life collapsed in a matter of weeks. But he joined a church, and it became his new social center as well as his spiritual lifeline. He volunteered to serve as a jail chaplain in the evenings, a post he filled to great satisfaction for fifteen years. He met his wife Nichole at church, and they went on to adopt five children. Life settled into a richly rewarding concert of family, jail ministry, and law. Nothing he'd ever envisioned back in his atheist days could match the prosperity of these blessings.

At first glance, it may seem ironic that an atheist committed to seeing everything through the "lens of science" would come back around to see God through the lens of science. But the truth is, it wasn't science per se that had hidden his Creator from view. Rather, it was the lens of philosophical naturalism imposed onto science—both in education and throughout the broader culture—that had fostered and fueled Mike's unchallenged atheism.

Mike Minot did go about his investigation his own way. The delightful irony of his story is that he set out guarding against anybody else's program—only to discover that he had already bought into somebody else's program. Once freed from the myopic captivity of naturalism, his keen analytical mind clearly saw—in fact could not deny—the Creator of all those complex marvels, who had been there all along. 




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