From Atheism to Faith: Discovering the Hidden Story of Humanity


About my journey from atheism to faith, and how our historical impulse for religion points to the hidden story of humanity. I also engage with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and his take on religious metafictions.

For my seminar and Q&A “Jesus for Atheists,” click here.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/jsparkblog

Love y’all, friends!
— J.S.

The Irretrievable Vacuum of Unhappily Never After.

Part of my hospital chaplaincy duties is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

No—it doesn’t always work out.

The storm doesn’t always pass.

There isn’t always closure.

Not everything will be all right.

I won’t know why.

There’s a moment in the hospital when our illusion of safety is shattered and the stark reality sets in:

Things won’t change,
they won’t get better,
there won’t be a miracle,
and there won’t be a happily ever after.

It looks like God has exited the building, and that maybe He’s not coming back, and that we will never, ever know why this awful tragedy had to happen.

Babies die. Spouses drop dead at thirty. Diseases take and they take and they take. Prayers go unanswered. Drunk drivers walk free and their victims die slowly in a fire. People die alone. Some people don’t know who they are when they die; some people don’t have a single number they can call. They’re cremated by the county without a trace.

I soon found that I was having a series of tiny panic attacks over faith, more and more disorienting, these little underground bombs that threw me into crisis and left me scrambling for answers.

After a particularly hard case where a young woman’s dad shot her mom and then himself, I came home and tried to pick up some random inspirational book from my bookcase. What I found inside was so unimaginably distant and disgusting that I nearly threw it at the wall. I went through a few more books, and words that had once comforted me were crass and trivial. I couldn’t possibly believe that any of these authors had really suffered or seen suffering. I’m sure they had—and that’s what I wanted to see. Their raw edges. Not these luxurious, over-privileged travels and extra tips on mental re-arrangement, completely removed from the wounded. I saw these first-world tales as they really were: shallow, out-of-touch, and bereft of consequence.

I was lost in the whirlwind of malheur, the pain underneath our pain. I was struck by intrapsychic grief, from the loss of what “could be” and would never come to pass. I was a wax thread in a hot oven, my old beliefs dripping and frayed.

I suddenly understood the intensity of the Psalms, all the anger and violence and whiplashes of doubt, encapsulating the moments when we can no longer un-see this garish void of the nether, the unreturned.

I wondered if maybe it was easier not to believe, because believing was so dangerously painful.

Continue reading “The Irretrievable Vacuum of Unhappily Never After.”

How Do You Keep Believing This Jesus Bulls__t?

Anonymous asked a question:

How do you believe when, pardon my french, you’ve been taught that everything about Jesus is bulls__t? I’d love to believe it, I really want to, it’s just hard to when you’ve been taught the opposite. Do I have to unlearn the foundation of my education?

Hey dear friend, to be truthful: you’re in the best place possible, with the single biggest advantage over someone who’s been raised in the church.

You get to be in a place where you’re starting with a hugely skeptical eye towards Christianity, which means that if God starts to lean in on you, you will have already encountered your biggest questions about faith. If only every Christian honestly encountered every doubt and argument and problem with Christian theology, with complete openness and abandon, then we might see how deep Christianity can really go.

Please do not think you have to unlearn anything you’ve learned. I suggest the opposite. Use your education to fairly weigh every piece of evidence you encounter. Keep digging into Christianity down to the bottom, to see that it’s both true and fulfilling, that it’s both intellectually coherent and existentially satisfying.

Continue reading “How Do You Keep Believing This Jesus Bulls__t?”

Finding Home in the Dark: A Fiber of Fine Light.


The hard part is that when you decide not to call on lesser idols to numb your hurt and you finally reach out to God, suddenly you’re inside the pain. It’s all there. You can’t do anything to hide it anymore. It seems like a terrible idea.

One of the toughest things about excruciating pain is that it’s embarrassing. There’s a humiliating stench of astonishment that this is happening to me. It’s malheur, or a pain about your pain. If you live with it long enough, you’ll begin to identify yourself by your hurt, as if this is your only value. It’s understandable, because it takes up so much space in your mind. It’s no wonder why we’re tempted to run to everything else.

The pain is blinding. But — blinding ourselves to the pain is even worse. In doing so, we erase ourselves down to the bottom.

So then: Calling out to God is remembering who you are.
Remembering where you come from.
Remembering what you were made for.
Remembering that you are not your pain.

Most of all, remembering who He is.

This will look different for everyone. It could mean taking a long drive to the shoreline. It could mean standing over the sea in total silence. It could mean opening your Bible to Isaiah 40 or Psalm 23. It means asking a friend to hot chocolate and hearing you out. It means actively seeking encouragement and community, because 1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” It means journaling, or busting out your guitar, or crying for a long time, or having an intense conversation with yourself. It means finding a need and serving that need. It means finding an older brother or sister and asking for wisdom on what to do next. It means dressing your Sunday best and singing at church at the top of your lungs, in hot tears and laughter.

A lot of this might feel rote and mechanical. You might not feel like doing any of it, and I don’t mean to add another burden on your hurt.

I just know that for a moment, when I can trace the sunbeam back to the sun, I remember who I am. It doesn’t make me instantly whole. It doesn’t solve things today. It’s often just a brief glimpse. But when I return to the heart who made me, I momentarily find something stronger than my pain. It is stronger than everything else that calls my name.

This is a difficult thing to do. It’s not merely psychological re-arrangement, because it requires getting up. It requires tapping into a very fine frequency, which is there for a flash and gone. But it’s there.

You might have even been on the other side of this and helped someone else remember. Maybe you took someone to lunch and listened to them without interruption for an hour. You made actual eye-to-eye contact, and you never knew, but you changed the course of that person’s day from driving off a cliff. You randomly volunteered. You wrote a thank you note. You picked up a call from a distant friend. You wrestled with someone’s questions, maybe not even fully paying attention, but you stayed with it to the end.

You didn’t know, but you were part of the frequency.
Once in a while, God breaks in. He reminds us of beauty. The pain doesn’t stop, but there’s a joy in the middle of it, just loud enough to remember.
We can break in, too.
You can pray. You can sing. You can seek others. You can visit home in His Word.

It is painful, sloppy, and scary. It’s not easy to turn our internal axis to Him, especially in hard times. But by slow, stumbling degrees, I can breathe Him in — and He is the only air that fills these crumpled lungs.
I remember: we’re not home yet.


J.S. Park | Mad About God


“The Gospel in Real Life” – Messages for Students from Yale


Hello wonderful friends! This is a series of three messages that I gave to students of Yale University, about the relevance and reason of Christianity.


The first is called: How Christianity Breaks Us Open and Painfully Puts Us Back Together.

It’s about how the Gospel uniquely differs from every other kind of motivation and completely restructures us.

Some things I talk about are: A meta-deconstruction of the Sunday church service, how to bomb a TEDTalk, the last two things I hear from dying patients in the hospital, the haunting of l’esprit de l’escalier, de-romanticizing adoption, the list of my flaws I gave to my wife before we started dating, and how a nine-year-old showed me the heart of Christianity.
You can also download it here.


The second is called: The Eternal Itchy Longing Within Us: Jesus Is Complete Fulfillment.

It’s about how the Gospel solves for two universal human problems and the greatest human need.

Some things I talk about are: How to tell an alien about the human race, conclusions about humanity after a survey with 700 replies, the instant anxiety when you walk into a crowded room, the itchy self-conscious moment when someone is slightly more talented at “my thing,” that loopy moment at night with your best friend when you start confessing everything, two universal human problems and our greatest human need, and the absolutely most important linchpin verse in the Bible.
You can also download it here.


The third is called: Where We Come From and Where We’re Going: Red Sea to Redeemed & Free.

It’s about how the Gospel compels us into action, neither by guilt nor religion, but deliverance.

Some things I talk about are: How long it actually should’ve taken the Israelites to get to Canaan from Egypt (not forty years), the moment right after the wedding, how the grace of my first pastor completely tenderized and galvanized me, the Christian life beyond “overcoming-sin,” and seeing God in the Philippines and a homeless shelter.
You can also download it here.



More messages on iTunes here or my podcast page here.

Be immensely blessed, dear friends! — J.S.

Photo by Alex, CC BY 2.0

The Revised Edition of “What The Church Won’t Talk About”


My first published book What The Church Won’t Talk About has turned a year old, and for its anniversary I’ve made a revised second edition with over 16,000 words of new content, plus a new cover. The paperback is here and the ebook is here!

The Foreword is by the amazing T.B. LaBerge and the updates include topics like marriage, ministry, social media, race, career, and fighting depression. The first edition is still available here.

The rest of my books are here.
Be immensely blessed and love y’all!
— J.S.


The Unpopular Story of Atheism to Faith

i-think-i-found-something asked a question:

I just want to start out by saying that I love your blog, it gives me reassurance about my faith in Jesus Christ each day, which is something I have been especially needing lately, so thank you for everything you do. I wanted to ask you about your journey towards Christianity. How did you go from being atheist/agnostic to believing in the Christian faith?

sstellarr asked a question:

What made you convert back to Christianity after being an agnostic atheist? I am currently an atheist and I go to a catholic christian school. So far I can’t find anything worth converting to Christianity.

Anonymous asked a question:

I need advice J.S. I have a brother who is an atheist. I am worried that our relationship will come to an end because of our differences. He is looks at everything in a logical manner and it can be very frustrating to talk to him. He always wants to debate. He even has begun to twist my words which greatly upsets me. This is such a dumb question but how do I talk to an atheist like him? I’m tired of his ‘logic’ when there is nothing clean cut about humanity. He’s so emotionless to everything.

Hey dear friends. I know that as a former atheist turned Christian, my own testimony is very, very unpopular. I always hesitate to share this on my blog. I’ve been blasted through messages and reblogs for my lack of intellectual honesty or my shoddy reasoning or my void of self-respect, and to be truthful, it does sting. Of course, some of the hate is understandable, but some of it’s just plain mean-spirited and dehumanizing. I don’t mean to have a “persecution complex,” but I’m always surprised by the vilifying reactions.

So whenever I bring this up, I want you to know that my own story is exactly that, my own story, and it’s not a knock against other atheists or an attempt at converting someone’s view.  My own journey isn’t a “template” to throw at atheism, nor am I saying that every atheist will “come around” the same way I did.

Please also allow me to blow up a few myths up front.

– Yes, atheists are capable of moral good.  They’re not eating babies in their basement.  The argument from morality (or ontology or design), while a worthy contender, is not going to win points here.

– No, not every atheist thinks Richard Dawkins is the Queen of England. His work is a starting place at best, an amateur college essay at worst. There are much more thoughtul scholars out there on both sides, such as Bertrand Russell and the ever-reliable Hitchens.

– No one anywhere has ever been “proven wrong” into Jesus. What I mean is, it’s not like someone brought a foolproof argument where I replied, “You proved my atheism wrong, now tell me about Jesus.” So while apologetics (the defense of faith) is helpful, it can also be cold and arrogant. This is true of any relational interaction. The more you think you’re right, the less anyone will hear you.

So there are three things to please keep in mind.

Continue reading “The Unpopular Story of Atheism to Faith”

Crazy Blessed: Thank You, Dear Friends.

Best Seller Hot Release Devotionals

On the Amazon Christian Kindle List for Devotionals.



Caleb

My friend Caleb sent this to me. Honored and humbled to be next to the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who I also quoted in my book.



LB soap writers block gift

My wonderful friend Lauren from the blog Yesdarlingido sent me this to celebrate the book release.



— J.S.

Get the e-book on Amazon here!

And now in paperback here!


Question: Why Is Jesus Right And Others Wrong?

tiedtoskies asked:

Hi, I’m a growing Christian and I’ve recently been doing research and gathering info to clarify my faith. I was wondering if you could answer some questions. 1) What is the basis of your faith? 2) How do you support the historical legitimacy of the Bible & New Testament as the true and sacred word of God? 3) How are other religions founded on false doctrine? Thank you so much!


Great questions, but please forgive me if I reply with unorthodox answers.  Also, I’m well aware that a “secular” or “liberal” worldview will have plenty of counter-ammo for anything I say here — the Bible itself says Christianity will look like foolishness to the untransformed heart — but apart from writing a monster-sized textbook, these are some basic strands to consider.


Continue reading “Question: Why Is Jesus Right And Others Wrong?”

Question: So I’m Not The Only One Who Struggles With Doubt

thegentleway asked you:

I just read through your Bio and I am so glad/relieved to know that I am not the only Christian struggling with doubts and questions. I’ve been struggling a lot because it seems like everyone have it all together on the outside. I thought perhaps it is because I am being over dramatic, but its so liberating and relieving to know that I am not the only Christian metaphorically (and sometimes literally) dripping sweat, blood and tears with my faith.


I’ll go so far as to say that every single person in the world struggles with doubt.  I don’t know if there’s a person who exists who can say, “I have never doubted God for a second,” whether it’s His existence, plan, power, or love.  All the great biblical heroes doubted, too.  This does not make them bad people, but just human beings.  And doubt itself is not a sin, though because some of us feel this way, it leads us to disobedience.

Continue reading “Question: So I’m Not The Only One Who Struggles With Doubt”

Honestly, Half The Time I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

I always thought my parents and these grown-ups had a super-secret system for organizing their life and making Huge Forever-Changing Decisions. Writing checks and doing taxes and paying the rent was like second nature to them. Me in my little kid boots, a sore neck from looking up all the time: it was daunting to think of being a grown-up.

It turns out, they were guessing most of the time.

Continue reading “Honestly, Half The Time I Have No Idea What I’m Doing”

Question: Spiritually Immature, Or Sick?

brianli asked:
Hey there, I’ve been following your blog as well as your tumblr for a while now and I just wanted to pass on some encouragement as well a ask a question that has been on my mind recently. I’ve heard the term “spiritual maturity” or even simply “oh I have/haven’t been doing well spiritually” and I was just wondering, what constitutes or defines whether someone is spiritually mature or whether they’re doing well spiritually? It’s gotta be more than an emotional thing, right?

I’m digging the idea of the Christian faith being susceptible to spiritual allergies, as if some days we can feel congested (I missed my QT) or we can’t stop sneezing (I cursed out my grandmother). But I don’t think spiritual maturity has anything to do with the strange claim of “I haven’t been doing well spiritually.”

So a little theology lesson: James 1, 1 Corinthians 3, 13, and Hebrews 5 all mention the actual definition of a legit mature Christian. You’ll notice that emotions don’t have much to do it with it, if at all. James talks about how we consider our trials, the Greek work hegeomai, which means to reason out or carefully deduce. Paul talks about infants drinking spiritual milk because they are still in love with the world, and later in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter, Paul says to put childish ways behind you. Hebrews 5 says spiritual solid food helps us to discern between good and evil.

There are other passages about maturity, but they all have one thing in common: they are more about the attitudes of our heart than what we say, do, or feel. And from the position of our heart comes the saying, the doing, the feeling. Christian maturity is a growing process of habits, obedience, experiences, biblical learning, accountability, and church involvement that accumulate over time and tough seasons, which result in a continually changed heart. Think of the four seeds, the Parable of the Sower, and while some say the seeds represent different types of people, it could also be the stages of one person’s spiritual journey.

When someone says, “I’m not doing well spiritually,” I understand what they mean — they haven’t been reading their Bible lately, they’re not connecting in worship service, they watched Jersey Shore and liked it — but that’s usually a cop-out for lukewarmness.

Continue reading “Question: Spiritually Immature, Or Sick?”

“Dealing with the Doubting”



A great article by Michael Patton at the Gospel Coalition Blog.

Excerpt:

“Doubt is not unbelief. Doubt is the bridge that connects our current faith to perfect faith. That bridge will stand until death or Christ returns. However, those who are going through a faith crisis don’t naturally see things this way. Once doubt come in and infects their life on a conscious level, they interpret it as outright unbelief. They don’t know how else to process it. They think that they are on an inevitable road to complete unbelief.

“Each person is unique. Just like with depression, the length of this faith crisis has no timetable. For some people, due to personality and life circumstances, their crisis will last a very long time. The more contemplative (and compulsive) might suffer with this intermittently for their entire lives. I know that it is a long time to teeter on the edge of unbelief, but this is sometimes God’s method.”

Continue Reading at Gospel Coalition


Read Related:
– My Faith Is Bigger Than Yours: The Gifted Class Vs. The Boom Boom Class
– Question: So you used to be an atheist
– It would be easier if I wasn’t a Christian: Part One