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Monday, June 25, 2012

My Christian Journey

Each of us who believe that Christ is our Savior has our own individual story – or journey- of how we came to Christ.  How we became a Christian and how we crossed over the line from unbelief to belief, from doubting to faith!  Even if that faith was small when we first believed. (Jesus said that we only need a small amount of faith – the size of a mustard seed! – Matthew 7:20) There are so many enemies to the Christian faith.  So many things that can stand in the way!  The Bible tells us that God sends the Holy Spirit to draw us to Him. (Romans 8:13-14)  But of course we can resist. You have your exciting story – your Christian journey and I have mine.  And of course there is much in our stories of how we came to Christ that we probably don’t see or understand – that only God sees and knows. 

Here is one Christians’ (my husbands’) story of how he crossed over the line from being an “agnostic” to becoming a Christian.

My Christian Journey
Brendan F. J. Furnish

I was born into a Roman Catholic family and grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Boston.  My father was a serious practicing Catholic, while my mother was a very nominal Catholic.  She seldom attended Mass, although she always referred to Protestants as “damn Protestants.”

My mother went to work when I was six years old, leaving my live-in grandmother to take care of me. Grandmother Mary was a war widow, who migrated from Ireland with her young son (my Dad) to America. She was a fanatical Irish Catholic, who taught me Catholic doctrine with a vengeance.

My grandmother was also a deeply mystical person, with a strong knowledge of practical theology.  She would talk to me for hours about spiritual issues (although I did not grasp the full import of this at the time.)  I still vividly recall her story about the encounter of King Canute and the old woman who was trying to sweep away the sea.  This was her illustration concerning the mystery of the Trinity. 

 I had to attend each and every “holy day of obligation,” as well as all the innumerable novenas that Saint Mary’s Catholic Church offered.  Onerous as this was there was a beneficial aspect to all of this. There was a seemingly self satisfied feeling after performing all of these works.-  a coming to God through a system of works rather than by grace.


My grandmother died when I was fourteen.  Despite the best efforts of my father, I began to lose interest in the Catholic Church.  By the time I was sixteen, I viewed God as “an old man in a nightgown” who was trying to spoil my fun. I had no real knowledge of who Jesus Christ was.

 I was seventeen years old when Pope Pius X11 brought out the birth control encyclical.  I had just learned about the population explosion problem in the world. and I realized that this new policy condemned millions of Catholic couples to poverty and I was enraged.   This was one of several things that led me to question my Catholic faith. I also began to question a lot of the superstitions held in Catholicism.  On my eighteenth birthday I became a publicly declared agnostic.  In retrospect, I did this because I was bored with my church and because being an agnostic seemed to be intellectually fashionable.  At this point in my life, I had no real idea about the significance of Christ. 

I went off to the University, where I had a difficult time as a freshman, eventually dropping out.  Because the draft board was breathing down my neck I joined the Army Reserve and spent some time on active duty.  After my active duty stint I worked at Varian Associates as a technician and then moved to Stanford University where I became an operator on the Linear Accelerator (e.g. an “atom smasher”).  This allowed me to work night shifts and go back to college during the day.

While at college I met my future wife.  She was a Baptist, and a pretty fundamentalist one at that.  I didn’t give that too much thought, except to occasionally tell her that she was a religious fanatic.  My parents were none too pleased that I had married a “damn protestant,” but quickly accepted her into the family. 

Our early life together as a married couple was difficult.  I worked full-time and carried a full load in college and was also in the army reserve.  I soon became a father but I loved my wife and children so the difficulties seemed not particularly onerous.  I also was flying for the Civil Air Patrol. 

My wife was concerned about my salvation, although I didn’t give it a thought.  She would talk to me about spiritual things, but I tended to discount what she said as the ravings of a religious zealot.  I had become very interested in positivism and the philosophy of science, so I was now viewing all “religious” ideas as “pseudo constructs.”  My wife went to a nearby Baptist church: I never went with her to services, but occasionally went to church socials.  As a consequence I got acquainted with the young pastor there at her church.  Unbeknownst to me, my wife had been praying for my salvation since we had been married. 

I became the Executive Officer of the Civil Air Patrol squadron that I flew with.  We needed a Chaplain, so I recruited my wife’s pastor, and he took that opportunity to engage me in spiritual dialogues.  Concomitant with this, other spiritual events began to occur in my life.  I was attending San Francisco State College, where I encountered a student who literally became a “fool for Christ.”  (1 Cor.4:10), in her defense of Scripture in my class.  This incident led me to check Biblical references whenever they were given in class lectures, which occurred more frequently than one would imagine.  Around this time my father died suddenly and unexpectedly, causing me to again begin to seriously consider the afterlife in more than a cursory manner.

These and other event coalesced to lead me to a somewhat Pauline conversion.  My wife’s pastor continued witnessing to me and answering my spiritual questions. As a consequence, after some months of struggle, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in the pastor’s study.  And I began to grow rapidly in the Lord.  I voraciously read the Bible and other evangelical literature. Several years later I became a professor at a Christian College in Santa Barbara, California. I have since then had many struggles persevering in my faith in the crucible of academia – even within the confines of a Christian college.  My faith has matured and I am at peace with the Lord.   

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