Testimonial – Joshua Johnstone, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
I started going to the weekly meetings on Monday nights. Here was a group of intelligent, respectful people who fully and completely believed in the Word. The difficult questions long-seeded in my mind were addressed, one after another, in ways to which I simply could not find a rational counter-argument...
My name is Joshua Johnstone, and the following is my testimonial concerning my renewal of faith in Christ. First, a bit of background: Born and raised in North Carolina, my family sporadically attended an Episcopal church as I was growing up. I participated actively in the church as an acolyte and cross bearer, and was confirmed at the age of fifteen. Towards the end of high school and into my undergrad years at NC State University, I fell out of practice with my faith, and grew more and more distant from God. I tend to think very analytically, and I started to ask myself difficult questions. Why does suffering exist if there is an active, benevolent God? Why do we ask God for things through prayer if He already has a plan? How could Christ have performed miracles, and how could he have been raised from the dead? Is there a need for God when science can explain such a great deal?
Faced with such questions, I gradually transitioned from Christianity to atheism. I became indifferent about faith and religion. After a few years at college, major clinical depression slowly set in. I was wracked with self-loathing and suicidal thoughts for months, until eventually I was hospitalized. At this lowest point in my life, I realized a change was needed, and auditioned at UNC Greensboro to transfer into a degree in piano – an instrument with which I have lifelong experience. I was accepted, and spent the next three years completing degrees in both music and mathematics.
My time at UNCG has not only yielded learning and education, but has also been a time of healing, maturing, and reflection. I was given an opportunity by my choir director to sing in the chancel choir at First Presbyterian Church in Burlington, NC. Through this experience, I was exposed to the Word again through hymns and anthems, through the sermons of Dr. Ron Shive, and the compassion of choirmaster Patrick Murphy and my fellow choristers. This went on for a while, and I began to ask myself the difficult questions again. I conjectured that the emptiness I had felt for so long might just be the spot where Christ was supposed to go. I wanted so very much to believe, but still my analytical mind refused to surrender reason to faith.
In my last semester at UNCG, through some fellow pianists in the music department, I was invited to come to Ratio Christi. Thus,
I started going to the weekly meetings on Monday nights. Here was a group of intelligent, respectful people who fully and completely believed in the Word. The difficult questions long-seeded in my mind were addressed, one after another, in ways to which I simply could not find a rational counter-argument. I began reading Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, and I started reading the Bible again – a Bible given to me by a member of NC State’s Ratio Christi.
Finally, one Sunday morning, I heard Tom Are, Jr. give a sermon on the problem of evil. It was powerful and comprehensive, and it shook the congregation. As he closed with a prayer – “We believe, Lord, help our unbelief” – I wept. All through the hymn of response, I sobbed into my hymnal. That was the moment I knew I was a Christian again. I suddenly realized that I did not have to sacrifice reason for faith; rather, I could not have one without the other. Christianity is truth, and thus I have no choice but to believe it.
As I think back and reflect on this journey, the most incredible part of it all is that you cannot help but notice God’s guiding hand. I was introduced to all the right people, heard the right sermons and arguments, sang the right hymns and anthems, all in the right order and at the right pace. I am so thankful to Him for bringing me back, and I am so thankful to RC, my church, and everyone else who has helped show me the way.
As an amazing and fitting postscript for this testimonial, I want to describe my conversation with Ross Hickling, who has an incredible mentor and influence for me, shortly after I came back to Christ. As we were grabbing coffee and discussing the next steps in my journey, he told me that, in his experience, behind every person who comes to accept the truth of the gospel and be saved through Christ, there is always someone in the background praying. Weeks later, I called my grandmother, who has always been a devout follower of Christ, and the sweetest lady you’ll ever meet. I told her the good news, and she broke down crying over the phone. She told me, “Oh Joshie, that’s so wonderful – I’ve been praying for you every night.”
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