World of the Free to Choose: Part Two

By 1992, I was barreling through my reading marathon and renting space for my one-man eponymous real estate business at a small office park in suburban Atlanta (I hadn’t yet met my future friend and business partner). The tenant next door was a small company whose owner was a pleasant enough man who I never took the time to get to know. We’d pass each other in the parking lot and wave or nod. The few times we did talk, I didn’t find him to be a riveting conversationalist, or overly interesting, or outwardly sharp. To this day, I can’t remember his name. I suppose I can’t rule out that he was an angel.

One late afternoon as I walked to my car to head home for the weekend, he waved me down to ask if I wanted to come to a men’s Bible study that evening. 

I tried to be polite. “No thanks. That’s really not my thing.”

He persisted, “What do you think about the Bible anyway?”

Game on. “I think it’s a good book with solid moral values, but not the Word of God by any means,” I informed him. “Just a good book by smart men.”
 
He looked at me peaceably and smiled. “Well let me know if you change your mind.” Then he left (angel for sure).

I stood there for five minutes in cold silence feeling like a little boy who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Here’s this rather unassuming guy that I had no real connection with, and he invites me to a Bible study, and now I’m left standing there thinking, “Isn’t this funny. I’m all puffed up about reading the so-called ‘one hundred greatest books ever written,’ and the Bible isn’t even on the list.” Although I’d never read the Bible, somehow that wasn’t palatable. So I went home and decided—in the interest of scholarly thoroughness, mind you—to track one down and read it.

I was surprised to find one with an inscription from my Aunt Joy and Uncle Jack, dated Christmas, 1969, stuffed way back in the closet with the aforementioned scorpions from childhood. I never read it in those days, but I did suddenly remember that I used to be fascinated by the cover—a color depiction of Adam and Eve running through a beautiful garden, un-garbed but for scanty leaves, and looking quite anxious.

Over the next several months, I read that Bible cover to cover, every name in Genesis, every lamentation, psalm, and abstract symbolism in Revelation. I’m sure I even read the publisher’s preface. Not that I understood much of what I read, but when I was done I could sense my heart was stirring just a little more. I had a sense I was on the trail of something big, but didn’t know yet that I was pursuing a Lion.

Adding to this convergence of influences, on my long drives to and from work I happened upon a regular radio show featuring Ravi Zacharias, a gifted speaker and skilled Christian apologist whom I took to instantly. Inspiration struck early on and I turned my attention to the subject of apologetics, the logical defense of the Christian faith, adding another genre to my reading list and filling my head with promising and novel ideas.

The more I read, the more compelling the subject became, though I was always careful to temper my enthusiasm with a rather surprising filter in my brain. It said, “Would Dad be convinced by this?” Certain points sure convinced me, such as the brilliant treatise in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity on how morality speaks of a transcendent and loving God; Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica and his proofs that there must be only one God and not many as the Greeks supposed; and Pascal’s Pensées, where oddly enough his simple comment “Man is a thinking reed” hit the mark with me. Indeed, what other creature admires the beauty in cloud formations and finds in their forms the shapes of a whale, a ship, or Winston Churchill? Neither a dolphin nor Koko the sign language gorilla can do such a thing. Eureka! Man is a thinking reed! Not mere matter, or another part of nature, but something more. Animals think. Man thinks deeply, abstractly. Man asks, “Why am I here?”