Atheist Philosopher Led Me to Jesus - Sarah Irving-Stonebraker
Sarah Irving-Stonebraker arrived at Cambridge University convinced of her secular ideology and her perception that Christians were anti-intellectual and self-righteous. Her identity lay in her academic achievements and she was certain that her secular humanism was securely based in self-evident truths. After finishing a Ph.D. in history she would embark on a life of scholarship. The future was clear.
One day she attended a lecture by the famous Princeton philosopher, Peter Singer. As an atheist, Singer pointed out that the intrinsic value of all human beings is just an ungrounded assertion. Why should all human beings have equal value and worth? This triggered a reaction in Irving-Stonebraker.
I remember leaving Singer’s lectures with a strange intellectual vertigo; I was committed to believing that universal human value was more than just a well-meaning conceit of liberalism. But I knew from my own research in the history of European empires and their encounters with indigenous cultures, that societies have always had different conceptions of human worth, or lack thereof. The premise of human equality is not a self-evident truth: it is profoundly historically contingent. I began to realise that the implications of my atheism were incompatible with almost every value I held dear.
As a result of this experience, Sarah shifted in her worldview. She was no longer as convinced of secular humanism and developed an openness to theism. When she began her new job as Assistant Professor at Florida State University, she witnessed how the faith of Christians around her played out in their lives: feeding the homeless, running community centres, and helping migrant farm laborers. This experience, as well as others, made her increasingly open to the faith of those who followed Jesus. Before her 28th birthday, she went to church for the first time “as someone earnestly seeking God.” She soon found herself overwhelmed by divine love and feeling relief from the fact that she was “no longer running from God.” One night after a couple of months of attending church, she knelt down in her apartment and “asked Jesus to save me, and to become the Lord of my life.”
Sarah Irving-Stonebraker, “How Oxford and Peter Singer Drove Me from Atheism to Jesus,” The Veritas Forum, May 22, 2017, http://www.veritas.org/oxford-atheism-to-jesus/.