Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth is a book I have read and re-read, and one I intend to read again in the very near future. As I flipped through it today I came across the fascinating account of her conversion.
While still at L’Abri, I had once accosted another student, demanding that he explain why he had converted to Christianity. A pale, thin young man with a strong South African accent, he responded simply, “They shot down all my arguments.”
I continued gazing at him somewhat quizzically, expecting something more, well, dramatic. “It’s not always a big emotional experience, you know,” he said with an apologetic smile. “I just came to see that a better case could be made for Christianity than for any of the other ideas I came here with.” It was the first time I had encountered someone whose conversion had been strictly intellectual, and little did I know at the time that my own conversion would be similar.
Back in the States, as I tested out Schaeffer’s ideas in the classroom, I was also reading works by C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Os Guinness, James Sire, and other apologists. But inwardly, I also had a young person’s hunger for reality, and one day I picked up David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade. Now, here was a story exciting enough to suit anyone’s taste for the dramatic—stories of Christians braving the slums and witnessing supernatural healings from drug addiction. Fired up with the hope that maybe God would do something equally spectacular in my own life, that night I begged Him, if He was real, to perform some supernatural sign for me—promising that if He did, I would believe in Him. Thinking that maybe this sort of thing worked better with an aggressive approach, I vowed to stay up all night until He gave me a sign.
Midnight passed, then one o’clock, two o’clock, four o’clock … my eyes were close in spite of myself, and still no spectacular sign had appeared. Finally, rather chagrined about engaging in such theatrics, I abandoned the vigil. And as I did, suddenly I found myself speaking to God simply and directly from the depths of my spirit, with a profound sense of His presence. I acknowledged that I did not really need external signs and wonders because, in my heart of hearts, I had to admit (rather ruefully) that I was already convinced that Christianity was true. Through the discussions at L’Abri and my readings in apologetics, I had come to realize there were good and sufficient arguments against moral relativism, physical determinism, epistemological subjectivism, and a host of other isms I had been carrying around in my head. As my South African friend had put it, all my own ideas had been shot down. The only step that remained was to acknowledge that I had been persuaded—and then give my life to the Lord of Truth.
So, at about four-thirty that morning, I quietly admitted that God had won the argument.