I never grew up in a Christian home, nor was anyone in my family particularly affiliated with any religious sect. I grew up in a simple, secular, and loving home with my parents and brother. However, becoming a little bit older at around 10 years, I first started telling my family that I was an atheist. With my brother’s conversion during his Junior year of high school, I still persisted in my declarative denial in the existence of God. We sometimes debated on where the universe came from, whether or not the Bible was true, if God was similar to Santa Claus, and so on.
I remember having dinner at an Outback Steakhouse telling my brother and father that life emerged from rocks in outer space coming to earth. This theory surprisingly wasn’t a speculative one, but is something I consequently agreed with for some time known as directed pranspermia (i.e. that life was planted). Things began to change when I was 15 and gained an interest in the doctrine of predestination. My 10th grade World History teacher began his unit (mid-November of 2010) on the Protestant Reformation with John Calvin and his theological association with the idea that God predestines individuals to eternal life.
Outraged by this notion, I began a serious and almost obsessed study of Calvinistic as well as Arminian doctrine. After long debates with my brother on this issue (himself a Calvinist), I slowly started reading the Bible and bringing it to school with me. Upon my studies in theology and the Bible I started to think that I was a Christian. Later, I came across the verse in Matthew where Jesus speaks against those believers who have no true concern for knowing Christ:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23, NIV)
This verse simply broke me down, and I ended up crying to the Lord for repentance in an office chair at a tax office I was working at for some time in front of an old friend of mine. It was late February of 2011 when I converted to Christianity.
Stumbling Upon Teaching
Later down the road after my conversion I had originally (through some means of conviction) told myself to go into the mission field for an extended period of time and become a martyr. Well, that conviction had become eventually short lived once I recognized that my calling from the Lord had shifted to another domain: apologetics. I became unbelievably interested in the discipline of apologetics for quite some time, even as so much as gaining another high interest in philosophy. After reading through Anthony Kenny’s exposition of the history of philosophy a few times, I stumbled upon Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?
Up until this point, Schaeffer’s book was unlike anything I had ever read. This book served as practically an intellectual authority for how I viewed apologetics, history, and philosophy. I even so much used the book as a guiding reference when I taught an introduction to philosophy to my Debate/Forensics class.
However, with respect to how I viewed the book (which was with very high regards), it eventually become concentrated and filtered once I ran into my soon to be discipler/mentor, Thom Schultz. It was a Friday evening in late June of last year (2012) where I attended a bible study on the book of Revelation at an old church I used to attend before I was a believer. At the end of the study, the group went to Dunkin Donuts to have something to eat, drink, and simply take time to hang out and talk.
Thom Schultz was running the group bible study, and since I haven’t talked to him in almost 3 or 4 years, we had some time to catch up. After talking to him for some time, I had come to realize that he was more than a youth pastor and church attendee who taught some bible studies on Wednesday nights; he was a philosopher and theologian with degrees in both fields. Upon my shock of hearing that, we began to talk about numerous subjects: Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Molinism, Francis Schaeffer, Wesleyanism, the American Philosophical Association, and many others.
Shortly after the bible study I had messaged him on Facebook asking if he would disciple me. In saying yes, he gave me three requirements for being apart of his authority/teaching:
- (1) Disciple someone even if you lack the time to do so.
- (2) Serve someone.
- (3) Regularly attend a church.
I was quite excited in his saying yes, since, I felt as if our theological as well as philosophical beliefs were in line so as to keep some compatibility and consistency in what he was teaching me. However, to note, the reason for my excitement is because in the past I have sought counsel or discipleship from an elder or superior in the church before with instances of rejection. All those I had asked either told me no (because I was a Calvinist and they weren’t) or said they simply couldn’t do it. This was probably a motivation for Mr. Schultz’s (1)st requirement.
The point as to why I am writing this can be made clear: I would not be where I am today in terms of my theological as well as philosophical path if it wasn’t for the direction of Thom Schultz. Simply in the conversations I have had (on my side of the couch) talking to Thom Schultz in his “thinking” chair have been the most interesting and meritous conversations I have had with a person. If I ever had an issue in my faith to wrestle with, I knew that I could come to him for it and not merely receive an answer based on his personal position, but also what he considers to be powerful and sufficient responses to the problem from other theologians and philosophers.
He has sparked an ever-refreshing interest into my consideration and reverence of the Greek and scholastic school of thought. I could not boast so as to say that we share a Socratic-Platonic teacher-instructor relationship, but surely in form the matters of trying to find my own conclusions in respect to truth is something he has commendably taught me how to do. I write this so as to thank my teacher, mentor, and friend, Thom Schultz.