[Originally published as Dr. Patrick Briney, Atheist-Turned Christian]
As many readers probably know, I was once an atheist but was “argued into the Kingdom.” Because of this, I tend to collect stories of other atheists who have become Christians. What intrigues me about these stories is that few of them are alike. God seems to use many different means to call people to him, which is both wonderful and fascinating. Every now and again, however, I find a story that is similar to mine. Recently, I learned about Dr. Patrick Briney, and while there are some differences between his journey and mine, there are some similarities as well.
In his personal story, he talks about wanting to be a medical doctor from an early age. When he went to university to start pursuing his dream, however, something happened. A young lady who eventually became his wife called him to tell him that she had become a Christian, and she put him in contact with a person on his campus, the University of California, Irvine. According to Dr. Briney, this
…led to Bible studies, discovering answers, and eventually my salvation about two years later.
In this version of his story, he is short on the details, but according to another article he wrote, creation science played a role in this process. As I read that article, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities (and differences) between his story and mine.
He was an atheist when he went to university. That’s slightly different from me, as I was an atheist until my late high school years but was a young Christian when I went to university. However, it seems that the design found in nature was an important part of his realization that atheism isn’t a scientifically reasonable position. That’s also what first drove me away from atheism. To this day, I find it hard to understand anyone who has studied the natural sciences to any great extent and is still an atheist. As a scientist, I think the data point unmistakably to a Creator.
There is at least one important difference in our stories. Even as a high school student, I recognized that evolution was a terrible theory for biological origins. Thus, while I was an atheist, I was not an evolutionist. I simply thought that science had not yet come up with a robust theory of origins. It seems Briney was a committed evolutionist, and the evidence against evolution was another important factor in his journey away from atheism.
He became a Christian at university, and then decided to go on and get a Ph.D. in microbiology. This leads to another difference between our stories. I went to graduate school and studied nuclear chemistry with the plan of becoming a university professor, while he went to graduate school with the plan of being a campus minister. He thought that by pursuing and earning a Ph.D., he would not only be more integrated into the academic community, but he would also be better able to minister to those who were experiencing the university environment.
This brings us to another similarity between Dr. Briney and myself.
Even though I planned to be a university professor and did so on a full-time basis for a while (and still do so on a part-time basis), I also ended up in an academic ministry. While Dr. Briney focuses on university students, I focus on homeschooled students, many of whom will attend university.
Nevertheless, we are both trying to show students how studying science is really studying the Creator’s works.
Many great scientists of the past understood this, and some great scientists of the present understand it. Dr. Briney and I share the goal of helping future scientists to understand it. This is probably the most important similarity in our stories!