Intent on Making God Pay - Liam Back’s Story

Intent on Making God Pay - Liam Back’s Story
Side B Stories
Intent on Making God Pay - Liam Back’s Story

Mar 01 2024 | 01:01:43

Episode 0 March 01, 2024 01:01:43

Hosted By

Jana Harmon

Show Notes

Liam Back, a deeply entrenched skeptic, had a vendetta against God fueled by personal loss. His quest to “make God pay” led him to an unexpected embrace of the Christian faith. 

Liam's Resources: 

Resources & authors recommended by Liam:

  • Various books by Lee Strobel, author
  • On Guard, William Lane Craig
  • I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Norm Geisler, Frank Turek
  • The Story of Reality, Greg Koukl
  • Tactics, Greg Koukl
View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: You. And it was at that point that I decided that I was going to do a study of whether or not God actually existed. The end goal of that makes me laugh now because there's a lot of Hebrews here. The end goal of that was if he existed, then I was going to make him pay for what he had done to us. We all know how that turns out. [00:00:23] Speaker B: Hello and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to sidebeastories, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptic, but who became a Christian against all odds. You can hear more of our stories on our website at We welcome your comments on these stories on our Facebook page or on our YouTube video channel. You can also email us at [email protected] we love hearing from you. As a reminder, our guests not only tell their stories of moving from disbelief to belief in God and Christianity, but at the end of each episode, these former skeptics give advice to curious seekers as to how they can best pursue the truth and reality of God for themselves. They also give advice to christians as. [00:01:13] Speaker C: To how they can best engage with. [00:01:15] Speaker B: Those who don't believe. I do hope that you're listening in to the end to hear them speak from their wisdom and their experience. As someone who has once been a skeptic but who is now a believer, we do have so much to learn from them. Ideas have consequences. When you believe there is no God, your life most likely reflects that. Your purposes, your values, attitudes and lifestyle reveal what you think are good and true. When you believe there is a God and you call yourself a follower of Christ, your purposes, your values, attitudes and lifestyles should become quite different, sometimes dramatically so. In light of these expectations, the question at hand is how someone's attitudes, passions and experience change as they move from their beliefs and life as an atheist to their belief and life as a Christian. Does the way someone lives their life change as a result of conversion? Our story today is a compelling example of life change through changed beliefs. As an atheist, Liam back describes himself very differently to who he is now. As a Christian, he was once quite angry generally and especially contemptuous of religion and religious people, and yet now he has changed in his outlook and attitudes, passionate in his pursuit of God and in helping others to know Jesus Christ as well. How in the world did that happen? I hope you'll come along to hear his story. [00:02:56] Speaker C: Welcome to Sidebee Stories podcast. Liam, it's so great to have you with me today. [00:03:01] Speaker A: Hi, how are you? [00:03:02] Speaker C: Wonderful. As we're getting started, I'd love for the listeners to know a little bit about you. Can you introduce yourself a little bit about what you're doing now? [00:03:13] Speaker A: My name is Liam. I currently live in South Carolina. This is not where I've always lived. I've lived in Michigan and California and Georgia, so I bounce around quite a bit. Right now I am a student pursuing a bachelor's of religious studies degree at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte. And when I'm not doing that, I play board games. [00:03:33] Speaker C: Oh, board games. That's terrific. You must be a very thoughtful, strategic person, have that kind of a mind. [00:03:41] Speaker A: Yeah, sometimes my wife's better at it than so interesting. [00:03:48] Speaker C: So let's get started with your story. Let's go back to your childhood. Liam, why don't you tell me where were you born? Where did you grow up? Tell me a bit about your family and whether or not there's any religious history there. [00:04:02] Speaker A: Yeah, I was born and raised in the flint, Michigan area, and that's pretty famous now because of the whole water crisis that happened at a certain point. My mom moved us in with my grandparents in grambling. So it's like a little step up from Flint, but it's ten minutes away from Flint, so you're in that same general area. You just have a little bit better of a living situation going on from there. The biggest thing there, I think, is that my mother and my father were not married when they had me, so custody was kind of a weird thing. I'd go visit my dad, but most of the time I was with my mom and my grandparents. The culture in Michigan is kind of weird. There are churches everywhere, but people who live there, I think, adhere more to what I call cultural Christianity. And that is we go to church on Sunday, and then for the rest of the week we live like hell because it's okay, we're going to go to church on Sunday. [00:05:06] Speaker C: Got it. [00:05:08] Speaker A: So I was exposed to some of it, but really the only time we ever went to church was for funerals or weddings. My great grandparents were ministers and 7th day Adventist, if I remember correctly. So when I was very little, I got some stories from them, but after they passed, I didn't really have anything going on there. So there wasn't a lot of talk about God or Christianity or what we believe. It was just kind of, you do your own thing and if you want to go to church, you go to church. If you don't, then that's fine. There was a ministry when I was in middle school, going into high school, called the Gap, and what it was is a local church on Friday nights would open up a section of their church to high school students and students who wanted to come. And they had a room that had old arcade games, and you could go and you could play games for free, it didn't cost you anything, and you could buy food, chips, et cetera. But about half way through, they would shut the games down and you would go in for a sermon, and then when the sermon was done, you'd come out and you could play games for like another hour. You could go outside and play basketball. So we would go to that, my friends and I, just because of the video games, not so much because of the sermon. I would go in, but it didn't really do much for me. So that's probably about all the impact and religion that I've got. My dad's side is greek orthodox, but even then, since I wasn't around them that much, I didn't really get a lot of that. So I was kind of listless in that area as to what the family. [00:06:57] Speaker C: Believed, and it didn't stick with your grandmother or your mother. So you grew up and it was really a non issue. It seems like it wasn't in your immediate world. And you said that there are churches dotted around Michigan. Was it any part of any of your friends lives apart from the junior high, high school thing, the gap on Friday nights? But growing up, did you have any touch points of anyone who considered themselves a serious follower of Christ or where it was a real part of their life? [00:07:38] Speaker A: No. And that's the issue. Kind of going back to the cultural Christianity thing, like when we define it as serious Christian. No. Okay. Some of my friends did go to church with their parents, and a lot of them were like, yeah, we're christians, it's cool. They focused more on the cool stuff, like dragons in the Bible and warrior angels, because we're guys, we like to play guns out in the wood. [00:08:02] Speaker C: Sure. [00:08:02] Speaker A: But we didn't really talk about what the Bible was, who God was, who Jesus was. It was just kind of this thing that was out know, in the culture that we didn't really have much going. [00:08:19] Speaker C: It really. It sounds like that it wasn't something that you were really interested in or engaged in, or had exposure to, but it wasn't really something you were against or had animosity for. [00:08:32] Speaker A: No. So it transitioned when I was younger, it was just nothing to worry about. But as I kind of grew older, and this is where school kind of comes in. Went to public school, and we know public schools are not allowed to talk about the Bible or Christianity or God or Christian anything in any capacity. And I remember clearly being in science class, and they introduced us to Darwin's on the origin of species. And then my science teacher was telling us, hey, evolution is the way that it happened. They didn't harp on Christianity to say, hey, this is just what it is. This is what the science says. And I kind of took that and started informing it into my own thing. And so when people who were Christian or claimed to be Christian would come and try to talk to me, I would just rebuke them with, hey, evolution, your view is it doesn't fit. And then they would push back, because as children and teenagers, we don't know how to communicate that well yet. And it just kind of ingrained in me that it was okay to argue in a way that wasn't healthy. And so I don't really know where it came from. But a hatred and dislike of christians began to form, and I equated that with Christianity, which I then equated with God, which brought hostility. So from maybe towards the end of middle school until I was 22, 24, I would describe myself as the new atheist. Kind of like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, the four horsemen, as they're called. Yes. And I was very aggressive. [00:10:22] Speaker C: Okay, so you had come to, I guess, the conclusion that Darwin was right, religion was wrong. It wasn't something that you needed, but yet you had a growing animosity towards it. What do you think fueled that contempt towards religion and religious people? [00:10:46] Speaker A: I think there are a number of things. If I really kind of sat down and thought about it for a while first, which is now kind of hindsight, because I'm studying the Bible and I've been a Christian for ten plus years. Greg Coco says that you bump into reality. So there was this idea that this thing that I didn't like was probably true, maybe somewhere in the back of my mind, and I didn't like it. And so the way that I had learned from school and being in sports and wrestling and some family issues was to fight back. So that was that aspect. If I saw you as a threat, then I treated you as a threat in that area. So that would automatically apply, at least in my head, to those who were pushing Christianity, because I don't want to have to deal with the implications of. [00:11:43] Speaker C: What that might mean. [00:11:46] Speaker A: I think that's probably the biggest thing. Would I have realized that back then? Probably not. Like I said, hindsight. But another aspect was just being so tired of hearing about it. Even though people weren't serious, it was everywhere, God bless this home. And people would come and be like, oh, did you go to church today? And here's what I learned. And, oh, you're an atheist. You don't believe. Let me talk to you about it. I don't want you to talk to me about it. I want you to leave me alone. So there was a little bit of an aggression. And also I thought I was smarter than everybody else in that way. And so I would look upon christians as though they're brainwashed idiots that needed to be treated as such. [00:12:29] Speaker C: Right. So did you actually identify or give yourself a label of atheists? Like middle school, high school, not middle. [00:12:40] Speaker A: School at that point, I hadn't really come to that term yet. But the more I kind of explored and talked to other kids in school that had similar views as mine, that term started kind of coming up. So I kind of adopted it. I was never like, straight out, oh, I'm an atheist. I was like maybe leaning. That was, it was about the time, like, the Christopher Hitchens was starting to become very popular. His writings, I didn't really read his writings until later. So for us, there wasn't really this label for me to kind of adhere to. Looking back on it, that's what I was. But I never really said, hey, I'm a straight out atheist. [00:13:22] Speaker C: So as you were going along, it sounds like you knew that Christianity, religion was not something you needed. You didn't think it was true, right? That it didn't cohere with science, that you were smarter than religion. What did you think religion and Christianity and belief in God was made up? [00:13:47] Speaker A: I thought it was just made up. And I still kind of struggle with this. When churches ask for money or want stuff like that, it was just a system put in place to control people and get their money. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, so leave my money alone was kind of the view. But I think back then probably would have been, when I think about it, how I felt about it. [00:14:17] Speaker C: And how did you know that atheism was true? Was it the Darwin? I mean, these obviously authorities, the new atheists, had very compelling rhetoric. Really. Was it their writings and just science or that you knew that religion wasn't true? And so it was the most natural conclusion. [00:14:48] Speaker A: It was the idea that what I can see and what I can learn from science, it made sense to me, like, the physical world is all that I can experience. So anything that says there's something outside of that must be false. Now little did I know that philosophically that's incorrect, but we're talking about a teenager whose frontal cortex hasn't fully developed. But that's just kind of how I viewed it. Like, if I can't taste it, touch it, experiment with it, then I don't care about it. [00:15:22] Speaker C: Yeah. Did you find, during your time of atheism, did you find others who were rather like minded that other atheists, did you become part of a community of others who thought as you did? [00:15:37] Speaker A: No, that didn't quite happen until after high school, and that was mostly, like, on Internet forums. And then until I moved to California is kind of when I found a small group. I was extremely vulgar back then. I'm six foot, 4280 pounds, wrestled and played football. I was extremely aggressive. If I didn't want to hurt you physically, then I wanted to hurt you mentally and emotionally. And that's just the person that I was. So after a while, people just stopped kind of approaching me because they knew that it was probably a bad idea, at least in that context. If it was something else, like football or hockey or something I was interested in, then we're good to go. So I don't know. There were a couple of atheists in school that I would talk to, but mostly my friends and I, we just kind of had other interests that connected us together and we never really talked about it. [00:16:32] Speaker C: Okay. But you were, I would presume, fairly settled in your position? [00:16:38] Speaker A: Yeah, it was very hard to move. [00:16:41] Speaker C: So how long did you live with this kind of way of thinking or identifying as an atheist and thinking along those terms? [00:16:51] Speaker A: 15 plus years, maybe. [00:16:52] Speaker B: Okay. [00:16:53] Speaker C: That's quite a long time. Pretty long to be pretty solid in a way of thinking. So it makes you wonder then what might have breached that solid way of thinking and being. Yeah. [00:17:11] Speaker A: I mean, the short answer is God, but I know that's not what we're looking for. My wife and I, my current wife, we began dating when I was right out of high school. We actually knew each other. Our parents had gone to high school, so there was this kind of funny story. Like, I started hanging around her and then we started dating, and to this day, we're still married. So that's a blessing in and of itself. So I started dating her in 1999. I think she would describe herself as religious. She was raised lutheran and believed in God and believed in Jesus, but we did not live that way. Our relationship was not the strongest at the beginning. We were sexually active before we were married. I would belittle her for her faith. To this day, I'm still surprised she married me because she married me before we were Christian, right? So there's something there. I was never physically aggressive with her, but I would try to belittle her mentally and emotionally. She was not dating me to do the evangelistic dating thing where she's like, oh, I can save this person. But she had told me once, like, hey, she really thought God put us in a path together, whether that meant we were going to get married and continue or not. So she could kind of show me what God could be. She didn't really know either, but she knew Jesus was the way and I needed to know about it. So we moved to California in 2004. Together we jumped ship from Michigan, took my truck, which was breaking down almost every state, and moved to California to live with her family in 2004. And we both got a job at a local Christian printing company, which is kind of weird for California, a company that is overtly christian operating in California. [00:19:06] Speaker C: That is unusual. [00:19:07] Speaker A: Sounds kind of weird. [00:19:08] Speaker C: Yeah. [00:19:09] Speaker A: She happened to know the people that owned that and managed it as pastors and people in the lutheran church in California, and this company would have Bible studies on the clock every Thursday. They were optional. I was not forced to go. They were aware of my position and they hired me anyway. So I thought that was kind of cool. And there I am in this position in the Bible study, and I'm just asking hard questions. [00:19:43] Speaker B: If you're listening to this podcast and are interested in growing your relationship with Jesus alongside others who have a deep desire to do the same, I'd like to take a moment to tell you about the C. S. Lewis Institute Fellows program. The Fellows program is a year of intensive discipleship that leads to significant life change. Since 1999, the Fellows program has helped transform the lives of thousands of people and has been commended in the legacy of C. S. Lewis. The Fellows program holistically focuses on discipleship of heart, mind, and life and includes directed Bible study, book reading, and lecture from notable christian authors and speakers alongside group discussion on what was read and heard. Changing monthly themes center around growth in spiritual formation and apologetics. Each fellow is also supported and encouraged throughout the study year with the help of a personal spiritual mentor who walks alongside all in the context of a small group of like minded believers. This year long program is designed for those who want to live as fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ who make an impact in the world for him now located in 17 cities in the US and in Ireland. If you'd like to see if it's for you or if it's in your city, or to find out more information, go to the [email protected] fellowshiprogram. Now back to our story. [00:21:32] Speaker C: Excited to go. I'm shocked, actually. [00:21:37] Speaker A: All of these christians around me are looking at me like, what is he doing? [00:21:43] Speaker C: Did you go out of curiosity? [00:21:46] Speaker A: No, I went because I didn't want to work. [00:21:49] Speaker C: Okay. [00:21:50] Speaker A: It was, like, legit. You go sit for 30 minutes and do nothing. [00:21:53] Speaker C: Okay. Got it. Okay. [00:21:58] Speaker A: Yeah, it was interesting. Like, why am I going to this? Because I don't want to do any work. [00:22:03] Speaker C: Okay. [00:22:03] Speaker A: So they're asking tough questions, and they were doing their best to give me the answers that they could, and I'm kind of overwhelming in my position. And the company hired a lady as a new supervisor. Her name was Lily. And she found out I was an atheist. That was kind of aggressive, so she decided to engage with me. And same thing. I was aggressive with her, but she was very nice, which I thought was kind of weird, like, who is this person who keeps coming back to talk to me even though I'm belineling what she believes? But the questions I started asking became out of her league, is how she described it. So she wanted to introduce me to someone who knew the answers, which happened to be her brother, and his name is Bedros. And so she had him come in into a Bible study, and I was asking questions, and he was giving me answers, and he happened to kind of take a liking to what was going on. So bedros at that time, was in Bible college, and he was studying apologetics on his own, and he was very valuable in my journey for this stuff. So that's kind of the first exposure I had to what is called apologetics. [00:23:22] Speaker C: In the Bible study, were you actually reading the Bible and doing the study? So you were actively participating, like, preparing? Okay. [00:23:32] Speaker A: I was reading the Bible to try to find sections that I thought were too crazy to use them against christianity. [00:23:44] Speaker C: Okay. So you were reading to disprove? [00:23:48] Speaker A: Yes. Okay. [00:23:49] Speaker C: Were you in some ways, surprised by what you were reading? I'm not sure what your thoughts were of the Bible even before you opened it. But were you surprised, perhaps, by the content, by the historical nature of it? [00:24:07] Speaker A: That was it. The historical nature. I remember clearly sitting and study once, and I was like, oh, and then the roman soldiers did this, and I was like, hey, wait a minute. You're telling me that there's historical documentation that this sort of stuff happened during the roman empire's era. And he was like, yeah. And I was like, okay, that's interesting. I still don't believe it, but that's interesting. So I think there were little inroads being developed as we were doing that, but it was still a long road. [00:24:35] Speaker C: So you were just looking for things to push back? [00:24:39] Speaker A: Yes. Especially, like miracles. [00:24:43] Speaker C: Right. [00:24:44] Speaker A: Stuff like that, which I thought were just a little bit too much to handle. Kind of going in from there. That was the thing. So with all that kind of going on, the biggest catalyst for me, which is kind of what we're talking about, was a miscarriage. So we were married, we decided to start a family. We got pregnant. This was before I was a Christian. The one thing I really wanted was to be a dad. And we got pregnant. So I'm super excited. And we're going along, we're doing all the doctors visits, and we get to the one where you're supposed to be able to hear the heartbeat, the baby's heartbeat. So I'm like, okay, cool. We go to the doctor's office. There's no heartbeat. So he was like, hey, it could be the equipment. The benefit of that doctor was that he's attached directly to the hospital he works for. So we were able to get in immediately to an ultrasound so they could kind of go and see if they could detect a heartbeat. They didn't find one, so they had me come in. My wife's sitting there on the edge of the bed. She's distraught, she can't walk. So I basically have to lift her up and carry her from the hospital back to the doctor's office to be told that if they couldn't find a heartbeat after trying for 45 minutes, then we had miscarried. And the toughest thing, I think, if you were to talk to my wife was, I mean, there's so much stuff going on there for her that she was so far along that they couldn't do like a normal DNC, which means they couldn't just go in and bring the baby out. She had to be induced and give stillbirth. So we were in the hospital for two days. The one thing I really wanted at that point was to be a dad, which was going down the drain. My wife, I don't even know how to help her because I don't know what she's going through. Her aunt was there. Her aunt is a lutheran school teacher, and she said she wanted to pray with us. And I was like, whatever you can do whatever you want. And so she was praying and she was thanking God for what he has done for everyone. And in my head, and my wife's agreeing with her on this, and in my head, I'm like, this is some BS. How are you going to pray to a God that just murdered our child and thank him for doing so? Like, what? What kind of cultish, brainwashed, stupid, ignorant person are you? And it was at that point that I decided that I was going to do a study of whether or not God actually existed. The end goal of that makes me laugh now, because there's a lot of hubris here. The end goal of that was if he existed, then I was going to make him pay for what he had done to us. We all know how that turns out, but that was the end goal. It wasn't so that I knew God existed and to worship him. It wasn't so that I knew God existed and then I could just straight out reject him. It was so I could make him pay because that's just the type of person that I was at that time. And that kind of pushed me towards doing certain studies and asking questions. [00:28:19] Speaker C: Were you still involved with the christian printing company at that time? Were you still involved with that Bible study at that time? And Lily's brother? [00:28:31] Speaker A: Yep. [00:28:31] Speaker C: Okay, so you decided to figure out if God exists. What did that look like? [00:28:41] Speaker A: Part of it did start before I started interacting with Bredros, that friend of mine who was doing apologetics and stuff like that. But they kind of overlapped. So a lot of this stuff overlaps. I don't know how to explain it without kind of pulling things out. I would read the Bible, I would read other religious texts, like the hindu texts, like the mahabharata, stuff like that. Dabbled in the quran a little bit, looked at the Mormon stuff, looked at some new age principles, a lot of science books, because I thought science would disprove it. At that point, YouTube was a little bit better, so I was watching videos. I would ask bedros questions, very difficult questions, and he would either have an answer, whether I liked the answer or not. He was like, here's the answer. That's what it is. And if he didn't have an answer, which I think is very important, he didn't have an answer, he would say, so he would say, hey, I don't know, but I'm going to go find out. And so I think that was a big part of my building a trust for him as well, kind of going from there. So I would say for about two and a half years, I would just read and read and read and read and read and try to determine whether God existed or not. And since we're sitting here talking, I came to the conclusion at some point that he did. And that was while I was trying to connect the big bang theory to Genesis. Now, I'm no scientist, so I can't explain how that happened, but I have seen videos and read documents, explain how science of the big Bang theory fits with the creation story. And so at that point, it just kind of clicked for me. Like, if God did this because something. [00:30:35] Speaker C: Had to do, right? [00:30:37] Speaker A: Something had to be there to do it. And if that happened, this something had to be very powerful in order to create all of what's around us. And for some reason, I don't know how I came to this conclusion. It had to be personal. And these are things that I know Frank Turk talks about. Like, this is what you can learn just from the first verse of the know. In the beginning, God. [00:30:59] Speaker C: Yes. [00:31:00] Speaker A: Very personal, very powerful. And at that point, the only way I can describe it, and it's so far back now that I wish I could capture the emotion, but it was like he was waving at me from the pages of the Bible, like, hey, I've been here the whole time. You've just been resistant to it somehow. And the odd thing for me is that people that I've talked to who have had similar experiences, they're like, oh, you know, I felt this calm and peace. I did not. I was terrified. And that's because of understanding this being created, everything, and could take it if he really wanted to. And I had been disparaging him and I had been out to try to harm him. And those feelings subsided after a while as I started studying. But there's still a healthy respect for who God is in my life because of that. And I think that's probably part of why that came up. [00:32:01] Speaker C: So you came to the conclusion after study, after two and a half years that there was a first cause, and then it was a personal and powerful cause and that you admitted that there was a God. Now, there's a very big difference between believing that God exists, even if it's a personal God, and believing that God not only perhaps superintendents the world, but actually personally engages with the world. I mean, there's a difference between a know remote God and believing in the person of Jesus Christ and believing that the Bible is true and the miracles in it can somehow make sense. So can you step us forward a little bit? [00:32:49] Speaker A: It took years. I mean, I'm still learning. I think that we're finite humans who don't have the capacity that God has. So we're not going to know everything, but that doesn't mean we can't know some things. And so I would do studies. I would continue to ask questions. I would do studies. My friend Bedros would take me to apologetic conferences. I would engage with pastors that I knew. We started going to a church, and they were gracious enough to answer my questions. I'm kind of going from there. But I think the biggest thing was that there were things happening in our lives ever since I had admitted that God was real. And I started kind of pursuing not so much to try to harm him, but to learn more that I would say were not coincidence. I think they were kind of like, hey, God's leading me in this direction to go do this thing. Not all of them were what I would call good. Some of them were painful, like the removal of certain sins from my life, the removal of certain people from my life that were not good influences. But a lot of it was good to gaining an understanding of something that you mentioned that I was concerned with, like, how do I know the Bible is true? How do I know this massive book wasn't just made up and there were people who stepped in to kind of give me that information? I was doing those type of studies. We started going to a church, which I still kind of watch on YouTube from time to time there in California, started engaging with the pastor there. He would challenge me. He would answer my questions. And I think the Holy Spirit got a hold of me at that point. I can't really explain how I came to those conclusions, but there it was. And slowly I began to kind know the big term is sanctification. Like, you become more like Jesus as you go along. That was happening to me. Some people, it happens very quickly. I know people who are like, I'm a Christian. Bam. Everything sinful in my life, especially the big thing I've been dealing with, God has taken away. He didn't do that for me, which is fine now that I'm looking back, it's fine, because I would not have pursued truth the way that I am without those promptings kind of going from there. Are miracles possible? I just posted a thing on my instagram as to why miracles are possible. It's not a historical question. It's a philosophical question. A lot of people like to approach it like I did. Well, miracles are too crazy to happen. And we know that nature has rules that can't be broken. Well, that's not necessarily true if God's the one who is temporarily putting certain things on hold to perform a miracle to show us that. So there are certain things. Once I got into apologetics and started learning philosophy and started kind of going there, and how you can connect that back to theology proper and how God works and how logic and apologetics and stuff actually flow from, like, we can't do what we're doing right now, talking about apologetics and theology without God making that possible, it all kind of goes back. And Jesus is the one truth that I kind of came to. [00:36:02] Speaker C: For those who may actually not be even familiar with the word apologetics, can you describe what that is? [00:36:11] Speaker A: Yeah. Apologetics is the defense of the faith. So the way I like to describe it is you can be an apologist for anything. I know some Mormon apologists. So all it is is defending your belief. But for christians, it comes from one. Peter 315. Revere Christ as Lord in your heart. Always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask you for the hope that you have. And the word defense there is apologia, or apologia depends on who you talk to, which in the original language means a defense. So you're basically doing apologetics to provide a defense. There's more to it than that. There's an offensive side. Not offensive, like, we're trying to offend people, but being able to go out and provide content that shows that Christianity is true. And also the defensive side, like, hey, how do you answer a question if an atheist comes up and says, your religion is just man made? There are ways to kind of confront those things. The interesting thing I found about first, Peter 315, which is my favorite verse. It's in the context of the people that Peter is writing to being persecuted for their beliefs. And so he's telling them, like, you are being mistreated, possibly tortured, killed, and just being oppressed. But you're always to be prepared to give them an answer for the hope that you have. So what hope is that? That's the hope in Jesus, because Jesus is the truth, and God's going to keep his promises in the face of persecution. And when they see you acting in that way in the face of persecution, they're going to wonder why you're acting like that. There is your way in, and then it tells you to do this with gentleness and respect. So you're also supposed to love those people, which we all know can be very difficult. I'm surprised me thinking about who I was before Christ got a hold of me. I don't know how people loved. Like, I was so aggressive and the things that I would do is so bad. And that even brings up the question, like, how does God love me? I don't know. He just does because I'm his creation, and he wants that relationship with me. So apologetics is defending your faith with gentleness and respect, but also with knowledge and tech, I guess, is what I was saying. There's a lot of people who focus on different Greg Kokola standard reason wants to be winsome, which makes sense. [00:38:38] Speaker C: Thank you for explaining that. I'm sure through your process, it sounds like it really did take an extended amount of time and study and coming to it takes time to change your mind about things, and especially it takes time to change your life. I presume that your wife became a Christian. And I wondered, you were so forthcoming at the beginning of your story as to who you were and how you treated one another in your marriage. And I wondered how things have changed. How have you changed? How has your marriage changed as a result of believing in Christ? [00:39:24] Speaker A: She was on the ride, even though she didn't know it. And when I've talked to her about this, during that time where I was searching and doing my research, she detached. And her fear was that I would find something that would prove Christianity to be false. And she didn't want to deal with it because she knew how tenacious I was about finding things that could debunk your thoughts and how aggressive I could be. And it wasn't until a point where we were sitting on the couch and I just straight out looked at her and I told her, hey, just so you know, I'm doing the study, and I know who Jesus is, and I want you to know who he is, too. And we started kind of doing studies together. So she was Christian, but she wasn't living as a Christian. And so as we continued to do apologetics and go to the church together and join, know, small groups, et cetera, she did. She decided to be baptized nine years ago. About the year after that, I did to kind of show like, hey, this is who I am now through there. So there was that. In terms for me, I'm no longer constantly angry or aggressive. I can be in the right circumstances because I still have that nature. But God has really worked with me to focus that towards things that I should be angry about. The mistreatment of people in third world countries is something I'm very angry about. The epidemic of abortion in our nation is something I'm I'm angry about, but those are. Those are. I'm not going out and trying to beat up people, you know, who do this stuff. It's an anger that prompts me to speak out about it so that people know the truth. I don't try to fight people anymore. Part of my background that I did not share was that alcoholism runs in my family, and I was on the path in my early 20s. Down that road, that's no longer an issue that has been removed. Another aspect was that I was addicted to pornography. The number of men in the church that have issues with pornography and lust is staggering. And it's something that needs to be talked about more amongst men, for sure, because it's taboo, I think, to talk about it. But if it's not out there and we're not calling it what it is and learning how to deal with it, then we can't deal with it. If we don't put it forward for our brothers and sisters to carry, depending on the circumstances, to carry the burdens with us, then we're just trying to do it on our own. And if we're not willing to go to God, we're never going to be able to deal with it. So that's another aspect that he's removed. I don't deal with that anymore. I'm always cognizant that it could pop up because the enemy likes to take the one thing that he knows gets to you and try to use it. And it's very difficult for us right now as men in this culture. My Instagram, I have to be very careful when I'm on there putting stuff on, because if I click on the search button, even if I don't look at the stuff, it's know. So I have to be very quick and very careful about how I do things. But the previous me would have never cared about that. So there's this thing inside of me. It's the Holy Spirit telling me, like, hey, that's not how God wants you to live. You need to live this way. Let's implement those things. I'm more attentive to my wife. I do Bible studies with my wife. I try to take care of her needs over mine. Sometimes I fail. I think that's human nature. And that way I have a big burden for the youth right now, and that's because I know where I was. And it's even worse for them now, I think with the access to TikTok and getting their theology from soundbites, I mean, overall, I'm a better person. I'm not perfect. If I was, I would be Jesus and there's only one of him. I still kind of struggle with sin. From time to time things pop up. But I know who I am in Christ. And so that allows me to continue on and say, hey, I've messed up, but I know that I'm forgiven and I can work with the Holy Spirit to do this. And I'm always assessing myself. Not hardcore, but like, hey, is there something that I'm doing consistently? Is that because I'm being rebellious and I shouldn't be doing it? Or is it because I don't really care and God hasn't worked on it yet? So I'm always trying to figure out where I can grow to be more like Christ. And as I said at the beginning, I'm bought into this so much that I'm pursuing a degree in biblical studies. So I want to take what I learn and share it with other people. [00:44:14] Speaker B: For those of you who are listening to this podcast, I'd like to take a moment to ask you a question. Are you growing in your life and in your faith? Each year, many of us will go through a physical checkup, a performance review at our workplace, perhaps do a financial checkup at year's end or at text time. But how often do we take time to review our spiritual lives? If you are a follower of Christ, you are called to grow in grace and in knowledge. You're called to live a life of love, love for God and love for your neighbor in the power of the Holy Spirit. [00:44:54] Speaker C: Too often, in the busyness of our. [00:44:56] Speaker B: Day to day lives, we let other priorities crowd out the most important priorities that Jesus gave us. If you'd like to take a closer look at how you're doing with your spiritual life, the CS Lewis Institute has developed a checkup of sorts, asking important questions to help us evaluate our own desires, our lives direction, our investment and service, our attitudes and actions, and our love for God and for others. Alongside these questions are wonderful, encouraging resources for listening and reading that guide you in the right direction towards growth. If you're interested in taking a closer look at your own spiritual life, take the spiritual checkup on the CS Lewis Institute website. It can be found at Forward slash annual spiritual checkup now back to our story. [00:45:59] Speaker C: Yeah, that truly is extraordinary, Liam. I mean, the life change is such a huge paradigm shift from the way that you described yourself as an angry young man, essentially, who was so resistant towards everything God related, but yet here you are. I just sit here and think, only God could make a change in someone's life as dramatic as what you're describing here. And I'm also sitting here thinking of those who might be listening, who are just like you were, maybe resistant, or they may be further along the path that they may actually be seeking to destroy or disprove, or they may actually be actually genuinely curious about Christ or whether or not God exists, how to put all this together, or may be disturbed at things in the world even, and know that it not ought be this way. And I wondered what you would say to thinking of your former self, what you would say to someone who is skeptical but curious and wanting to know more. [00:47:19] Speaker A: I would tell them, number one, like, this is going to sound stupid to you, but pray about it. Pray about it. Tell God that you really want to know. But you really want to know. You really want to have to know. You can't go in with some half cocked idea that I'm just going to do it and he's going to show me. He wants to respond to you, but he wants to know that you're searching for him, I think, in certain aspects. So pray about it. The next thing I would say is, don't approach the evidence from an echo chamber. And what I mean by that is we have a tendency, and I used to do this, too, to kind of go towards the authors and the videos that agree with what we think. All you're getting there is confirmation bias. They're just going to keep kind of telling you what you want to know, what you want to know, what you want to hear. You need to kind of expand your horizons and read those who disagree with your view and engage with their arguments. You need to have conversations with others who have different views from you. Come as neutral to as neutral as possible. I know we all have bias on one side or the other. Approach it like you really want to understand it. Don't just assume that you do already. From my personal experience, I did not understand it in the way that it's meant to be understood. The next thing I would say is, engage with the actual arguments. Don't pick on people. So what I experienced, and I used to do this myself, was I would create a straw man. This is your view, and I'm going to knock it down easily because it's made of straw. There's nothing there. Don't do that. Engage with the actual argument. And if you have something good against it, then great, we can talk about that. I'm not saying we turn around and ignore it. We deal with it, but don't come and say, this is my view, and not really understand it, and then think that you have debunked Christianity because you've taken this false God or this false view and knocked it over. So just think about it that way. If I'm speaking to an atheist, I don't think they would like me to do that to their position either. So that's one of the pushback you get sometimes. Oh, well, that's a straw man. We need to kind of get past that and engage with the arguments together to kind of go from there. Next thing I would say is, read the Bible, but learn how to read it in context and then learn how to interpret it properly. There's a lot of misunderstanding about how to read the Bible in context and interpretation. [00:49:58] Speaker C: If they opened the Bible, where would you encourage them to start reading? [00:50:02] Speaker A: I would say mark. The gospel of Mark. And the reason for that is when you look at the gospel of Mark, each gospel has their own little. Each author had their own little thing they're going after, right? Mark is action packed, and it's short. Mark. The gospel of Mark is Jesus in action. You get to see Jesus being who he was, right? And so if they're wanting to know who Jesus is, what better way than to see him acting? So we have a shirt from one of the churches I went to. It says, love does. And it was an initiative. And it was like, love is more than just saying, hey, I have a feeling love is action. And so when you see Jesus in action with the people he was dealing with, then you kind of get a sense for who he is. And then you can kind of start developing a theology from. [00:50:53] Speaker C: If someone. If you could recommend one or two apologetics books, like perhaps something that was influential for you about whether it's God's existence or the integrity of the text of the Bible, or where would you. I know it depends on the pushback, but do you have a couple? [00:51:13] Speaker A: I do, and I think they're the standard ones, only because I don't want to throw people into the deep end too quickly. So I'd say, hey, anything, least Roble has written, I think is a good go. Those were very influential in my reading. There is a book by William Lane Craig, and it's one of his more popular books. And by popular, I mean it's written for the layman. It's not one of his deep philosophical books. I have trouble with those, too. It's called is. Even though it has complex ideas, he does a very good job of kind of laying it out. So that was helpful for me, too. There's a book by Frank Turk and Norman Geisler called I don't have enough faith to be an atheist. That was one of my favorite books. And then I would say there's a newer book by Greg Kochel called the Story of reality that gives a very quick backbone of the biblical story, which sets you up to understand the overarching story and then how the details get in. So I think those are some of the places I would suggest starting. [00:52:22] Speaker C: Those are really excellent. I'm so glad, too that you brought up the story of reality. That's one of my favorites. It's beautiful because it really does give you the big picture of the christian worldview. And I just think it's excellent for any Christian who's out there. And speaking of christians or anyone who's seeking to really understand the fullness of the christian worldview for christians who are out there and they've got friends in their life or people like who you used to be, and they want to be able to engage in a meaningful way, like Lily or Boudreaux or even like what you're doing now. And could you give us some hints or tips or insights on how we can better do that? [00:53:11] Speaker A: The focus for me, which I think is very important for everyone, is if you're going to engage with someone who's seeking or has a different view, there are two things you need to know. You need to know your own view well enough that you know a fake when you see it. So there's a story of like how do they train FBI or CIA agents or whoever it is, ATF to recognize fake money? They don't give them fake money. They take them and they have them handle and look at and smell and touch and work with real money for days on end so that as soon as they grab a fake bill, they know it. This is false. You need to know your own beliefs that well, I think before you can start going super deep. I'm not saying don't go and share the gospel. Like, obviously we're all called to go share the gospel, but if you're going to engage with someone who might have been like me, who is pushing back and is aggressive, you need to know what you believe because there is a danger, I think for some people not being solid enough that it brings in doubts. That can cause a lot of issues. I'm beginning to doubt everything. And then it becomes more of an issue for the Christian than it does for the atheist. Yes, the atheist has essentially won at that point, getting you to doubt. So read your Bible. Don't just take what your pastor says as 100% absolute truth. Be like the Bereans and act and go acts and go and take what they're saying and compare it to scripture. Learn how to read scripture, learn how to interpret scripture. You don't have to go super deep, but there's a lot of programs out there that help you do it. Know what you believe so that you can help them understand it. And then secondly, know what they believe to an extent. If I'm going to talk to a Muslim, and I have no idea what Muslims believe, I'm not going to be able to communicate with them very well. If you're going to go talk to an atheist and you don't know what atheists believe, which can kind of be hard to pin down nowadays with strong atheism, a weak atheism, it's all atheism, then you're not really going to know how to engage with them. So you need to do some research. But don't get bogged down too much that you lose focus on what the truth is. You always want to point them back to Jesus at some point. So you want to do that. And then the last thing is, I was guilty of this. Don't back the dump truck up. By that means when you're in a conversation, don't dump everything you know on top of them. It's not going to work. I actually used to do that and it was like the worst thing I could do because I'm just kind of bombarding them with information they're not really getting. And to that effect, I would suggest another book which is tactics by Greg Coco that kind of helps you go through how to have a conversation to do this. So make sure that you know their view accurately so you're not making a straw man. Know your view so you understand what's going on and then learn how to talk to them. And for each person it might be different. Like I'm going to approach this person over here differently than this person over here. And I think Paul, the apostle Paul, is a great example of that. When he was talking to the Jews, he was jewish. When he was talking to the Greeks, he was greek. Didn't make him not a Christian. He just knew that different people needed to be spoke to in different ways. And so I think those are kind of some stepping points. Build a relationship with them. If you only have 5 seconds, I get it. If you have the ability to kind of sit down and disciple them, then that's even better. [00:56:43] Speaker C: Wow, you are full of wisdom, Liam. Is there anything else that you would want to either add to your story or to advice or anything that you think we might have missed that you wanted to add before we finish? [00:56:58] Speaker A: I don't think so. Mostly if there are students listening to this, because right now, that's my heart. Please don't get your information from TikTok. I did a research paper for school, and I interviewed some of the high school students in my church. Hey, where do you get your theology? And almost 70% of them are like, oh, short videos on TikTok or Instagram. Please don't. I know they're popular. And you can get some information, but go deeper. Christ wants you to go deeper. Seek out substantive information. You don't have to do a PhD dissertation or go get a master's degree, but don't be a TikTok theologian. Which is funny, because I'm doing an Instagram page. I'm trying to counteract it as much as possible. If you go look at my Instagram page, almost every post is ten slides chock full of information. Whether it's effective or not, I don't know. I mean, I'm getting followers as I go, but I don't want the students to think I have the information because I watched a three minute TikTok video. I think there are better ways to do it. Use that as a vaulting point, but study more. [00:58:15] Speaker C: Yeah. We all need to have more than a sound bite theology, don't we? It's a challenge these days to think longer and to think deeper and to really use our minds to love the Lord and to love other people. Well, thank you, Liam. I'm just inspired by you, considering that you said you've been a Christian now for ten years, or 1510 to 15. [00:58:43] Speaker A: I think it's at least ten plus. [00:58:46] Speaker C: Yeah. And even still, in the big scheme of things, that's a long time. But yet for many of us, we've been christians for decades, and yet your enthusiasm for the word, for studying, for showing yourself approved, truly a workman who's rightly dividing the word of truth, you are that person who is kind of like your admonition to read Mark, that Jesus was active, he was doing. And you're not only learning and growing and being know this major life change, but you're also actively studying so that you can help others to know and find Christ in a substantive way, as you have. And I am just so honored to have you on to tell your story, Liam. And we will be posting your Instagram address in the episode notes so that people can follow you and see what you're doing. And just so grateful for you coming to tell your story and very honored to do that. Thank you so much for coming on today. [00:59:59] Speaker A: No, thank you. This is the first time I've done anything like this. [01:00:03] Speaker C: Wow. [01:00:04] Speaker A: We'll see where it goes. [01:00:06] Speaker C: Oh, you're quite a pro. [01:00:08] Speaker A: My view was, even if one person hears it and it helps them, then it was worth it. [01:00:15] Speaker C: Fantastic. Well, I hope it's the first of many, many opportunities you get to really proclaim Christ in your life because it really is such a compelling story. [01:00:27] Speaker B: So thank you again. [01:00:29] Speaker A: Yep. [01:00:30] Speaker B: All right, thanks for tuning into side b stories. Hear Liam back's story. You can find out more about his recommended resources as well as his instagram in the episode notes for questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me through our email at [email protected] also, if you are a skeptic or atheist who would like to connect with a former atheist or skeptic with questions, please contact us on our sidebeastories website or through our email and we will get you connected. This podcast is produced through the CS Lewis Institute through our amazing producer Ashley Decker and audio engineer Mark Rozera. You can also see these podcasts in video form on our YouTube channel through the wonderful work of our video editor, Kyle Polk. If you enjoyed it, I hope you'll follow rate, review and share this podcast. [01:01:21] Speaker C: With your friends and social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time where we'll. [01:01:26] Speaker B: See how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

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