From an evolution-believing atheist to a born-again Christian—my testimony Part I

In 1952, I was born in Manjimup, a small country town in the South West of Western Australia, but as my parents divorced early in my life I went to several different schools, finally completing high school in Perth. In my teen years I thought I was an atheist. But I soon found out that God had my number and He was after me. I studied mathematics, chemistry, physics, and cosmology.

I was not brought up in a “Christian” family and received a very secular education, but did attend Sunday school, and, back then Scripture classes were taught in the public schools. We even prayed the Lord’s Prayer every morning at school assembly. How times have changed.

One interesting thing I do remember though from very young.  When I was about 8 or 9 years old I heard my father ask my mother the question, “Who was Cain’s wife?” In the book of Genesis one of the sons of Adam and Eve, Cain, killed his brother Abel, and we don’t read much about his life after that except the scripture tells us Cain took a wife, and had children. Well, who was she? This question not having a logical answer, to my father, meant that the Bible must be wrong. See the importance of good foundational biblical teaching, early in the lives of our children?

Those sort of influences did affect my thinking, but also that of my father, who died in 2013, still rejecting the saving Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. But there is a logical answer to that question, like many others I had back then. The answers are found in the book of Genesis and they are consistent with what we have learned through good operational science. By reading the straightforward history of the book of Genesis, without putting it in a straight-jacket dictated by modern scientism, one gets a clear understanding of the real history of the universe.

By the time I was 15 years old, I became a sort of an intellectual Marxist. With some friends we even formed the Manjimup Senior High School Marxist Party. The headmaster was not too thrilled, believe me. But then my thinking was founded in atheistic beliefs, just like Karl Marx’s was. See Totalitarian government is communism.

I believed the Universe had no beginning and no end—an eternal universe. This idea was popular back then before the big bang theory gained some much ground. These ideas were based on the Steady State cosmology of Herman Bondi, Thomas Gold and Fred Hoyle. It was the eternal universe. But the theory itself was not so eternal, as in 1965 the discovery of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation had really thrown this model into a tailspin. The CMB was a prediction of George Gamow in 1948 and hence was heralded as ‘proof’ of the big bang cosmology. But that conclusion is not so robust when you look at all the evidenceSteady state model has no origin in time but the big bang does. This fact is has been very unwisely used by some evangelicals as a defense of Genesis creation.

Yet, at that time, I still really wanted to believe in the eternal universe, even in 1968, when I co-authored a book where we reviewed different cosmologies at that time in 1968. My best friend and I won second prize in a state-wide science competition with that in the second last year of high school.

Accordingly, the universe with no beginning needed no Creator.  If there was no Creator then we had nothing to worry about—we are free. Well, so I thought. I was a deluded atheist because, like atheists I meet today, back then I spent a lot of time trying to convince Christians that the world, in fact, the whole universe, evolved over billions of years by the laws of physics and random chance processes and there was no Creator. I believed in Darwinian evolution. I believed it was the mechanism by which ‘we crawled out of the scum.’

Then in 1972 I was regenerated by Christ. Before that rebirth I had become an enemy of Christ.  My best friend, who co-authored the book on cosmology with me, became a Christian so I took it out on all Christians I could find. This attitude continued as I went to university where I would argue with them about the origin of the universe, the earth etc. They had no answers.  But God had plans for me and I fell in love with Catholic girl, who later went on a Catholic aboriginal mission for 2 years in the Outback of Western Australia. The Outback is as the word implies out of the cities in the desert areas, with very few trees, mostly populated by kangaroos, emus and some camels and goats. The only religious (I mean “religious”) material that I had was from the Roman Catholics.  The fact that she went away to serve a god I did not believe existed, and many other troubles and stresses I had, had me resisting God until one night I could not resist any longer and I broke down and called out “God help me!” I prayed and He, the Creator God, heard my call. That night He came into my heart and revealed Himself to me.

In the Catholic literature was one word picture that made sense to me, that was the picture of Jesus standing at my heart’s door (Revelations 3:20).  It made logical sense to me that if someone was at the front door knocking and I did not open the door, there is no way I could meet him.  This was probably the first time anything made sense from Christians who would often tell me to ‘just believe’.

Some people obviously need a rational argument before they make that decision to trust in Him (1 Peter 3:15).  Though it was a misapplication of the meaning of the verse, Jesus humbled me until I cried out to Him knowing I was a depraved sinner.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:19

I knew I could not just believe in my own mind, and the Lord gave me the power to believe in Him. There was no preacher, there was no one but Christ. His light shone on my heart. There was nothing I did or could do. He gave me faith and I accepted it.


DR1


And though my external problems were still there, the turmoil within stopped and I had a new outlook. He changed my stony heart to one of flesh.

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: Ezekiel 11:19

I did not seek Him. He backed me up against a wall and humbled me and I repented (turn my heart and mind to Him). Instantly it was blessed assurance and I started to seek and draw closer to Him. And I really wanted someone to teach me His Word. I craved it like water for my thirsty soul.

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. 2 Timothy 1:9

I knew He chose me. Well, I learned that later after I tried to tell others about the revolution in my heart.

Since I had little knowledge of churches, and my girlfriend’s family was Catholic, I went down to the local Roman Catholic priest and he gave me some instruction in salvation by grace through faith, because that particular priest was a follower of the writings of Cardinal John Newman (1801 – 1890) who left Anglicanism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. The priest passed on some of his teachings to me. The details aren’t so clear now, but besides the emphasis on being a Roman Catholic I definitely got the message of salvation by grace through faith. Amazing! God works in strange ways.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9

John Newman was really a Roman Catholic while he was in the Church of England and did much to send many Anglicans over to the Pope. But what is amazing is that he brought over any such teachings or that any priest would even teach them.  The priest even told me I did not need to do the confession thing, as I knew enough at that time to know that Jesus Christ was my high priest and I was not going to confess my sins to a man.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

This means I knew I had a high priest, Jesus Christ, who made intercession for me with the Father. He paid it all, forever, for all my sins and redeemed me from Hell forever. This I understood, which excited me. I grew in my love for the Lord; maybe the brokenness I felt and the isolation from anyone who loved me had the effect of driving me closer to the Lord.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD (Jehovah) will take me up. Psalms 27:10.

Gid 1973 22I grew in my zeal for the Lord, I knew I needed to serve Him and within my limited knowledge at the time I joined the local Roman Catholic church. I would attend the morning mass every day, 7 days a week. Monday to Saturday it was at 6.30 am with only me, the priest and one other woman attending.

But I never really accepted the Catholic traditions, and I found their ceremonial stuff dead.  I did get the real message as I read the Bible I had then (“Good News for Modern Man”; now I would call that ‘brackish water’ but still I got something from it).  As a reborn babe, new-born in Christ, I understood the atoning work of Christ in my life. I was so overjoyed to the point that my parents could not understand me.  They thought I had really gone mad.

I finished my fourth year of a bachelor degree in physics with first class honours, at the University of Western Australia, but turned down a postgraduate fellowship to do a PhD. I had excelled in my studies and the professors could not understand it.  I just seemed to have entered another dimension (like in that TV series The Twilight Zone) and my life could not continue as it was. Actually, at that time, I had only decided to take a year off further studies to consider my options, but I knew I had to find what God wanted for me in my life.

END PART I

Additional Reading

  1. Who was Cain’s wife?, Creation Answers Book, Chapter 8, PDF available here
  2. What I believe, in song.
  3. YHWH the Creator God
  4. The great I AM born in a manger
  5. One serious scientist
  6. Book: Dismantling the Big Bang: God’s Universe Rediscovered

About John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.
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