David A. “Doc” Noebel, President of Summit Ministries (www.Summit.org), is famous for his pithy observations – most of which are referred to as “Docisms.” My favorite is when Doc tells students “If you want to lead you have to read.” Doc specifically challenges young people to read a book a week. Since most teenagers read a book’s worth of text messages a week, I think that’s a reasonable challenge.
I was reminded of the importance of reading (and leading) when I received the following email from a reader named Mark Warren just a couple of weeks ago:
I'm sure you might not remember me. A couple of years ago, we had an e-mail dialogue going about how an intellectual can be a Christian. I asked you how it was that you could be a Christian.
You recommended that I read two books - Tornado in a Junk yard & I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. I read them both - twice. As a non-theistic person for almost 40 years, I had always said that if someone could prove it to me, I'd believe it.
I just wanted you to know that I am now a Christian. No kidding. I made the decision on June 13th, and boy was my family surprised.
Thank you so much for leading me to those books. It was what I needed to be able to understand some of the conflicting things I'd learned over the years.
When Mark first wrote to me he expressed surprise that my (in his view) otherwise logical and well-informed opinions could mesh with Christianity. We went back and forth for several rounds. I asserted vigorously that it was because of reason and evidence (scientific and historical) that I converted to Christianity. I also shared my view that one could not know and understand the evidence and not convert to Christianity.
I kept asserting that the Christian worldview is the inevitable destination of every thinking man who is open to reason and evidence. But Mark wasn’t buying it. So I told him to read a couple of books and get back in touch with me.
When I finally heard from Mark after two years I expected that we were going to resume our debate. But the battle was already won in his heart and in his mind. All that was left to do was to rejoice.
As I sat in my cabin at the base of Pikes Peak and read that email I was struck by an amazing coincidence. I had not heard from Mark in the two years since I had recommended that he read those two books – one of which was co-authored by Frank Turek. At the very moment I was preparing to respond I heard a knock on my door. It was none other than Frank Turek who had come by my cabin (unexpectedly) to invite me to step out for a cup of coffee.
I had not seen Frank in almost three months. He had just flown in to give three speeches at Summit Ministries. I knew I would see him the next day but not that night. Not at that very moment. Mark was thrilled when I wrote back and told him who had just come to see me.
I guess it could all be a coincidence. And I guess a monkey could sit down at a keyboard and type the words to The Merchant of Venice. Stranger things have happened. Like the spontaneous generation of DNA molecules. Sorry but that little monkey just stepped on my sarcasm key.
The year that I made an intellectual decision to follow Christ was a good year indeed. The works of intellectuals like Norm Geisler (specifically Christian Apologetics) and J.P. Moreland (specifically Scaling the Secular City) were indispensible. When I read their books I had no idea that I would be joining them on the faculty of Summit Ministries in less than a decade. It is still too much for me to comprehend.
I’m glad I spent that year reading and forming a strong intellectual basis for my beliefs. If you do the same, you’ll benefit, too. And so will others when you help show them the pathway that leads toward the Truth.