Explaining how or why someone becomes a follower of Jesus Christ can be pretty challenging, but perhaps the easiest way is just to relate how I first began to believe there might be more to life. My view of the world in grad school was pretty narrow and self-consumed, so it's not surprising that coming to believe there was a God would up-end my apple cart. CS Lewis, an Oxford academic, related much the same shock and upheaval in his own faith experience, titled 'Surprised by Joy'.
Well, to set the scene I'd just defended my dissertation. Being 'done' was a high point, but I had a gnawing sense of deflation. There had to be more, so I thought getting married and having a family might do it. I determined that marrying the girl I was seeing was the missing part of what a 'fulfilled life' was; and began to make plans, only to see it all crumble when an early morning phone call to San Francisco found otherwise. I can only say I was crushed to the point where I fell on my knees in my little apartment and cried out to a "silent" God.
Some writers call it a dark night of the soul. For me it was an end-of-the-road prayer of desperate disappointment, I'd tried but couldn't get things to work. Being disappointed was one thing but the words that followed out of my mouth were even more surprising, 'God take my life and use it. I just can't make it work.'
I was still wounded when the weekend came. A university colleague had invited me to a small church, so I went and sat in the back row. I didn't know anyone as my friend was missing, but I drew surprising comfort from listening to everyone sing. They really were quite enthusiastic. The message began but was interrupted by a woman bringing a note forward to the pastor. He related that someone had received a 'word' from the Lord, and then asked the woman forward to speak into the microphone.
'There's a young man here who's just broken up with his girlfriend. The Lord wants you to know that Yes, He would use you.' It's still hard to explain, but at that point a glimmer of belief began. I can remember the thought 'My God, it's all true!!' rocking my world (1 Corinthians 14: 24-25). It is not that I had it all worked out, it was only my first encounter/data point.
Much to the amazement of my Australian and South African friends on campus, I was baptized a month later. 'Pritchard had found religion' was one humorous anecdote. But really it was quite the reverse. God had found me, that as Francis Schaeffer wrote, "He Is There and He Is Not Silent. There was little doubt that I could not acknowledge things were different. I remember relating the account of it all some time ago to a medical doctor on one of my flights to a conference in Virginia. His wife was a believer and he a skeptic.
I still recall him noting that if more details had been added to that 'word' then he too might have believed. It seems we all tend to place different requirements on what God must do before we will believe. Jesus captured the situation when he said our generation 'plays the flute, sings a dirge' and wonders why God does not dance to our tune. But if there is a God then aren't we subject to Him revealing Himself? If you haven't tried God before on this I would recommend giving Him the chance to reveal Himself. Bend your knee and talk to him.
Friends describe me
encouraging; optimistic; energetic
golf; tennis; hiking; biking; fishing; cooking
Fantasy dinner guests
Eric Liddell; My Dad; CS Lewis; Jesus
My undergrad alma mater
Mount Lawley Teachers College, Perth Western Australia
My worst subject in school
If I weren't a professor, I would
be a cattle rancher, cook or a fishing guide
Lord of the Rings; John Carter, Warlord of Mars; Acts; Wild at Heart
The Winslow Boy; Gladiator; True Grit
Stump town coffee out of Portland
Nobody knows I
Tried to propose to my wife on a 1-800 number (but she wouldn't let me).
My latest accomplishment
Organized two Veritas Forums at our university. The first on Social Justice with Dr. Mary Poplin and the second on the Nature of Mortality and Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with Dr. Gary Habermas.
The structure and nature of attitude ambivalence. Worldview, ontological beliefs and the God Gap.
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