The Conversion of Patrick Greene

Numerous news sources have recently reported the story of Patrick Greene, the former atheist who converted to Christianity.  Greene grew up Catholic, but became an atheist as a young man.  According to the Christian Post,

He says he used to believe in God as a child too, but that ended one Christmas Eve when the members of his family became drunk. He went outside to play with the family dog, and afterward he looked up at the sky and began to wonder why nothing in nature – the dog, the trees – seemed to treat Christmas as a special day.

“That’s what got me…nothing in nature was acting any differently than any other day of the year,” he said.

He also became disillusioned with the Catholic Church when he discovered there were other viewpoints than the ones he had been taught by the church. He says the church taught him they held the only correct view of things, which he disagrees with.

Patrick Greene

Why did Greene become an atheist?  He had questions about his Christian beliefs that apparently nobody could answer reasonably.  1 Peter 3:15 tells Christians to “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”  Apparently, the Christians around Greene either could not or did not do this.  December 25 is in all likelihood not the actual date on which Jesus was born; it is merely the date His birth has traditionally been celebrated.  Even if it were the actual date, there would be no rational reason to expect dogs or trees to act any different on that date than on any other.   As for viewpoints that differ from the teaching of the Catholic Church, I would actually agree somewhat with Greene’s disillusionment.  Neither the Catholic Church, nor any other denomination, has a monopoly on truth; only the Word of God, the Bible, is 100% accurate regarding the truth.  Human interpretations and understanding of God’s perfect truth contained in the Bible are sometimes flawed, because humans are sinful, and have fallen, limited minds.  Perhaps if Greene’s questions had been answered in a reasoned manner, based on Scripture, he might not have become an atheist in the first place.

Greene has been known as a long-time atheist and somewhat as a militant atheist activist.  He hosted an “intro to atheism” show on a local television station in North Carolina, and has sued several cities for their Christmas displays.  He recently threatened to sue Ray Comfort because of  a bumper sticker from Comfort’s ministry suggesting April Fool’s Day should also be called “National Atheist’s Day.”  He received considerable notoriety for threatening to sue Henderson County, Texas, over a Nativity scene that was placed on public land outside the county’s courthouse in Athens.

A short time later, Greene was diagnosed with cataracts and glaucoma, and discovered he was going blind.  Because of his condition, he had to quit his job as a taxi driver.

A local church, Sand Springs Baptist Church, organized a fund-raising campaign for Greene’s medical expenses and other bills.  This caught Greene completely off-guard; why would the very Christians whose beliefs he had ridiculed and threatened to sue over do this for him?  Because of that act of kindness, Greene reconsidered his beliefs.  Again, according to the Christian Post:

“There’s been one lingering thought in the back of my head my entire life, and it’s one thought that I’ve never been able to reconcile, and that is the vast difference between all the animals and us,” Greene told The Christian Post on Tuesday, as he began to explain his recent transformation from atheist to Christian. The theory of evolution didn’t answer his questions, he says, so he just set those questions aside and didn’t think about them anymore… He eventually began to realize that evolution would never have the answer to his questions, he says, and it was at that time he began to believe in God.

Two things seem to have brought Greene to Christ:  Christian love, and the irrational presuppositions of Atheism.  I’ve written about the irrationality of Atheism in other blogs, so I won’t address it again here.  However, when we look again at the end of 1 Peter 3:15 – “…with meekness and fear” – we get a better understanding of what happened to Greene.  Rather than having a prideful superior attitude toward Greene, local Christians showed gentleness and respect toward him, and demonstrated God’s love in a tangible way.  The Holy Spirit then used these actions to melt Greene’s hardness of heart toward God.

Reactions have varied to Greene’s conversion, both from atheists and Christians.  Some say the only reason he converted is because he wants more money.  Atheist PZ Myers ridicules him and calls him a “crank” and an “idiot,” which is pretty much what Myers calls anybody who disagrees with him.  Many Christians are thanking God for his conversion.  A few atheists are blaming themselves for not helping him more in his time in need, and allowing Christians to show more compassion than they did.

What can the Christian learn from the story of Patrick Greene?  First, we should never give up on anyone.  The Holy Spirit can draw anyone to faith in Jesus Christ – even a long-time militant Atheist.  Second, Christian love and compassion will draw more people to Jesus Christ than criticism and condemnation.  And third, Christians must be able to rationally defend the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV):  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

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