April 2008


To Love and Cherish

Doing Apologetics

Christianity: The Basics

What is Wrong with Social Justice

Christianity and Secularism

Evidence for the Bible

Archive for April, 2008

Testimony V

Friday, April 25th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

Listen to the MP3  

Last time I described how I learned about Mormonism, and how, after a long period of discussions the Missionaries had suggested that I try prayer and fasting.   As I said, I failed miserably, but they were nice about it and suggested that I try again. And again I agreed.

This time I took it more seriously.  Working on Minuteman missiles does not have a regular work week, so I picked a time where I could devote my three days to prayer and fasting. This time things went a lot better.  As I approached the end the fast, I found it was a much more positive experience than my first attempt because I was not rebelling against it. 

I was reading the Bible, Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not the result of works, that no one should boast.”  That is when it happened. God spoke to my heart again, as clear if not clearer than the first time. 

The best way to describe it is to imagine yourself in a darken room.  Your eyes have adjusted and you think you can see everything pretty clearly, and pretty much know what is around you.  Then somebody comes in and turns on the light.  Suddenly you can see clearly and you realize that nothing is what you thought it was. 

This is what happened to me, the Holy Spirit turned on the light, and suddenly I could see clearly. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God; not the result of works, that no one should boast.” Suddenly in the light of the Holy Spirit, those words were very clear.

Just as the Holy Spirit had touched my heart to confirming that God existed, He touched my heart to show me that the Bible was the word of God.  Also in that instant I knew that Joseph Smith was not a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon was not God’s word.  God had answered my prayer. It was at that moment that I accepted the gift of God spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9;  I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. 

Being the sort of person I am, when the Missionaries returned to see how my prayer and fasting had gone, I did literally tell them, “I have good news and some bad news.  The good news is that I had an answer to my prayer.  The bad news is that it was not the one that you wanted.” 

So we sat down and I began to describe what had happened. Quickly the discussion turned to salvation by grace.  Starting from Eph 2:8-9  we began to discuss the Biblical plan of salvation. Mormonism teaches that grace comes into play only after you have worked; that grace sort of makes up the difference between your works and what you need to be saved, but that the works are required for salvation.  This conflicted with Eph which say that salvation is not of works, but by grace through faith. 

The discussion lasted several hours.  Eventually we came back to Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith” One of the Missionaries said “Yes, that is what we believe!”  But I said that it wasn’t and picked up one of the books he had loaned me on the writings of their prophets.  I read him the statement of a Mormon prophet that the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith came out of the pit of hell.  He got very quiet, and the discussion ended a short time later. 

He was transferred out of the area later that week, which is what can happen when a missionary gets into spiritual or moral trouble, and I never saw him again. However, though a very strange coincidence I was talking to a friend of mine just after this and he mentioned how his wife was depressed because her brother was suddenly transferred.  It turns out her brother had been the missionary, and I was able to get his new address, and wrote him a long letter.

Not too long after this my enlistment was up and I returned to California, losing contact with those who had played such an important role in my spiritual life.

In some respects my spiritual odyssey was over. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I had finally become a Christian.  A week after my conversion, I led my wife to the Lord.  But in many respects this was not the end of my journey, but the beginning.   While I had accepted the Lord as my savior, there was still a lot of baggage left over from my life to that point that had to be dealt with.  There were also issues such as finding a church to attend, as clearly continuing to attend the Mormon Church was not an option.

And while I have clearly come a long way since first becoming a Christian, I certainly wouldn’t say I have yet reached my destination of really knowing God and really seeking to follow him. That is, quite literally, I believe, an eternal process.  But through it all two things remain constant: God is not done with me, and He is very patient.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.    

Testimony IV

Friday, April 18th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

Listen to the MP3

My first exposure to Mormonism occurred fairly early in my odyssey to find God, during the period that I was exploring the New Age Movement.  While on a trip that took my wife and me through Salt Lake City, we decided to stop at the Mormon Temple.  The visitors’ center was very nice and did a very good job of explaining the origin of this religion.

I have to say that the story of Joseph Smith struggling with how to determine which religion was true; his asking God for guidance; and how God answered his prayer struck a cord with me, as at that point, it had only been a few months after my answer to pray, that God existed.  In addition, the whole story of the corruption of Christianity and the Bible, the aspects of secret knowledge, the history of central America as revealed in the Book of Mormon, and the account of how the book of Mormon was written on Golden plates that were discovered by Smith, fit in well with where I was at the time, as criticism of Orthodox Christianity, secret knowledge, and different views of history were very common in the New Age Movement.  And after all where would a poor boy get all that Gold.

As such toward the end of the tour, I was beginning to think that the trip to the Temple was more than a spur of the moment stop, but that perhaps I had been guided here.   However, that did not last long as near the end of the tour, someone asked where the golden plates were now, and we were told that they had been taken up into heaven.  That just seemed all too convenient to my sense of evidence.  The one thing that really would have supported his claims, the one thing that he really could not have faked, was gone and could no longer be check. So as we left Salt Lake City to continue on our trip, while we had a generally positive view of Mormonism, the missing gold plates caused me to question all of their claims.

My next encounter with Mormonism occurred while I was at Tech school in the Air Force.  There was no base housing for married people at my rank, so my wife and I lived in a rented small single wide trailer, in Rantoul Il. We became friends with Dean and Nancy, another young couple at the trailer park, as Dean was also in Tech school.  After Tech school I was transferred to Great Falls, Mt to work on the minuteman missiles, as was Dean, though after awhile he left to become and officer.  During the time we knew them, we learned a lot about Mormonism, not in a theological sense, but from watching a couple live out their faith.

Last time I described my eventual disillusionment with the New Age Movement, and my discussion with Christians, including a key one with an officer. From time to time during this period we had some contact with Mormons, either through friends at work, or missionaries stopping by. But not much came of it, until shortly after my meeting with the officer. I was for the first time giving Christianity serious consideration.  I am not sure whether the missionaries just stopped by, or were if a Mormon friend at work offered to have them stop by, but they did start visiting our house on a regular basis.

They started by going through their normal presentation, but I pretty much already knew all of that, so before long we were into my specific issues and problems. Some of these dealt with Mormonism, but most dealt with more general problems of God, good and evil, and salvation. In fact after a while Mormonism ceased to be an issue at all.

At some point my wife and I started attending the Mormon Church and my wife became involved in church’s Relief Society a Mormon women’s group. In fact, except for the fact that I could not go to the priesthood meeting, we were effectively in the church.  We did not officially join because I never received and answer to prayer that the Mormons say you should have.  As I described in part one, I had had a clear answer to prayer before and thus knew what an answer to prayer was.

After awhile, the Missionaries became more friends than missionaries, sometimes just stopping by just to talk, or to bring me a new book to read and I read a lot, not just the Book of Mormon and the Bible, but the Mormon prophets, writers, and books on thing like the Mormon view of archeology of Central America.

After many months, I think the Missionaries were getting some pressure to get me to make a decision.  One day they suggested that I try three days of prayer and fasting, and I agreed.   However, I had never fasted before and failed miserably. Rather than focusing on prayer, all I could think about was food and how many hours or minutes I had left before I could eat again.

But the missionaries were pretty good about it and suggested that I try again. And once again, I agreed.  Next Time I’ll describe how God, once again answered my prayers.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

Testimony III

Friday, April 11th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

Listen to the MP3

I left off last time explaining how I had become increasingly dissatisfied with my exploration of the New Age movement, but I had picked up a whole range of arguments against Christianity, some from reading critics, others from the critical scholars I had read, mistakenly believing I was reading the other side, and a few I had come up with on my own.

I had also gotten married and joined the Air Force.  After Tech school, I worked on Minuteman missiles which brought me in contact with a lot of different people.  Minuteman missiles were scattered across the country side, and so to work on them involved a lot of drive time.  My team member and I would load up a truck, pick up a guard and drive out to the missile site, driving 1-2 hours each way on average. As a result, there was plenty of time to talk.

Most of the time the discussion was on more mundane topics such as sports, but from time to time I we would get a guard who was a Christian and the talk would turn to religion.  When that happened often the sparks would fly.

Few of the Christians I would talk to actually knew very much about the Bible other than citing a few verses they had memorized.  When I would point out the contradictions  or problems from the list I had made, for the most part they had never even heard of these potential problems, much less did they have any answers, other than to say that the Bible was the word of God and was to be believed despite what might seem to be problems.

All of this reinforced my belief in the error of Christianity, as it seemed a faith one could believe in only if one did not look too close, or ask too many question.

Still, from time to time I would come across a Christian who knew something about their faith and the Bible.  I would run down my list of potential problems, and they would actually have an answer that could stand up to my questioning.  When that happened I was never too concerned, as there were many more items on my list and I would simply move to the next item.

When someone did raise a serious objection to one of the things on my list, however, it would tend to stick with me, and I would seek a way around it.  While sometimes I would find some weaknesses in their proposed solution, there were also times when I had to admit, if only to myself later, that they had a point, and my alleged problem was not really a problem after all.

As a result, over time, my list of problems and contradictions got smaller and smaller.  In addition two other things happened.  First, with each problem dealt with, the credibility of the critics correspondingly suffered.  After all, if the critics were wrong on these alleged problems and contradictions in the Bible, perhaps they were wrong on the others as well.  Second, my diminishing list of errors was being replaced by a growing respect for the reliability of the Bible. I did not yet believe the Bible was the word of God, but I could no longer write it off as simply a collection of myths and legends either.

It was at about this point in my odyssey, that I had one of the more significant of these discussions.  I think this was the only time we had this particular guard, and unfortunately his name has long since been forgotten.  He was different than many of the other Christians I had met in the way he listened to my challenges without any confrontation in his responses. It was not that he knew how answer my remaining challenges all that much, but he did do something, none of the others did.  He offered to set up a meeting with someone who he said could better answer my questions and I agreed.

This someone was an officer at the base, and we talked for several hours one evening. I explained my spiritual journey to that point and we talked about some the remaining problems I saw with Christianity and the Bible. He was able to provide some answers. On a few others, such as why would a loving god allow evil, I was not convinced.  But he did show me a different side of Christianity even when his answers were not completely satisfying.  He showed me that Christianity and the Bible were something an intelligent thinking person could take seriously.   Even if I did not agree with him, I had to respect him, as someone who had thought seriously about his faith.

When I left that evening, he encouraged me to continue my journey and seemed oddly sure and confident as to where that journey would lead me even if I had not reached it yet.

And I hadn’t.  In fact I still had a ways to go, and strangely enough, my path would next take me to the Mormons.  More next time.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

Testimony II

Friday, April 4th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

Listen to the MP3

Last time, I detailed my transition from atheist to theist. But I was still a long way from form being a Christian.  In fact as I began my odyssey to follow God, I started by going in the wrong direction.

Now at the time I did not really know any Christians, or if I did, they were inconspicuous enough in their faith that I didn’t realize that I did. However I did know some people who were involved in the New Age movement which was basically a hodgepodge of beliefs drawn from the Eastern Religions, Paganism and the Occult.  Most of these taught some form of spiritual progression, which fit in pretty closely with my belief in evolution in general.

So I began to explore a whole range of beliefs, from reincarnation to astrology.  While many of these did conflict with my scientific outlook, with my change from atheism to theism I was giving things a second looks. And as I said last time, truth has always been very important to me, and I have never been afraid to explore ideas, even controversial ideas and ideas that are out of the mainstream.

So I looked at both sides of these issues, and in the process, I learned something very interesting about scientists.  When scientists are attacking things they disagree with, they are at time so sure they are right, they get very sloppy.

For example, I remember reading a book against astrology that mentioned a study on military recruits and the planet mars, the planet that supposedly governs war, as an example of a failure of astrology. But the study just didn’t make a lot of sense, and some of the points it made where hard to take seriously.   So I did what I normally did, and still do, in such cases; I checked out the source.

The study was published in The Journal of Irreproducible Results.  I found this to be a puzzling name for a scientific journal, as science is built on the ability to reproduce the results of an experiment.  As I looked through the journal, however, the reason for my puzzlement became clear.  The Journal of Irreproducible Results is not a serious scientific journal, but a journal of scientific humor.  The study cited, was not a serious study refuting astrology, but was a joke, and many of the things that I found hard to take seriously in the study were meant to be funny.

This was more than just sloppy research.  It showed that the scientist who wrote that book was so busy rejecting, that he did not really understand what it was he was rejecting.  The absurdities meant to bring a smile were completely missed. The study seemed to support his position, and that was good enough.

Long after I had moved on from astrology to other explore and test other things, the lessons I learned about the fallibility of scientists remained. It is one of the reasons I find many of the arguments against the Bible, and creation to be so flawed, as the scientist putting forth the arguments have very often not take the time to really understand what it is they are trying to refute.

Another thing that happened during this period, was that my general anti-Christian views were strengthen and deepened and given substance.   While there was a range of religious views in the New Age Movement, one thing most agreed on was that orthodox Christianity was at best false, and often evil and corrupt.

For most in the New Age Movement, the teachings of Christ had been corrupted by the church fathers who rewrote the Bible at the councils so they could control the masses.  Now at the time this seemed plausible, as I still did not know very much about Christianity.  For example, I remember reading a book at about this time where the main character was betrayed by “a Judas kiss.”  But I didn’t know what “a Judas kiss” was, so I asked my future wife if she knew, and she explained it to me.

So without anything to counter these views, I accepted them. When I went to the library to check out the “Christian” side of the story, the books I came across were from liberal scholars who also were critical of the Bible. While checking out the “Christian” view of Genesis, for example, the books I read rejected the authorship of Moses.  So while I thought I was getting both sides, in reality I was only getting two versions of the same side.

So what had been a uniformed rejection of Christianity, over time became a much more informed rejection.  Vague reasons began to be replaced by specific arguments.  Eventually, I became committed enough in my rejection that I thought I needed to become better informed and so I bought a Bible and began complying a list of contradictions and errors.

But at the same time, I was becoming increasing dissatisfied with the New Age Movement as a mass of conflicting and often incoherent beliefs, and was beginning to look elsewhere.  I still believed in God and I was still seeking him.  Thankfully God was still not done with me and thankfully He was and is very patient.  More next time.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.