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The Mysteries Science Couldn’t Unlock

Biochemist Sy Garte shares how he came out of a radical background to faith in Christ:

I had an unusual childhood for an American. Members of my extended family were left-wing radicals, and my parents had even been members of the American Communist Party. My indoctrination in the dogmas of communism and atheism was deep. At the same time, my father gave me a love of science and reason, and the importance of asking questions. These gifts, along with my training in scientific thought and research, eventually cracked open the prison cell that held my soul captive during those early years.

Breaking free was a slow process, akin to chipping away at a dungeon door with a dull spoon. I saw contradictions in some of what I had been taught. If humans were a blind product of evolutionary chance, with no special purpose or significance, then how could the stated goals of socialism—to advance human dignity and value—make sense?

I also began to contemplate other questions. Where did the universe come from? How did life begin? What does it mean to be a human being? What is the source of our creativity—of art, poetry, music, and humor? Perhaps, I thought, science cannot tell us everything.

Then I read the Gospels and had another shock: I found them beautiful and inspiring. So far as I could tell, they carried the ring of truth. ... The door to my prison cell was swinging open, and I stood there gazing out onto a new world, the world of faith. Yet I was afraid to fully leave. And then the Holy Spirit pulled me over the threshold.

It happened one day while I was traveling alone with a long way to go. Turning the radio on, I heard an evangelical Christian preacher, the kind I used to mock and avoid. But this preacher was really good. I listened for a few minutes before turning the radio off. Driving in silence for a while, I began wondering how I would sound if I ever tried preaching. The first thing that came to my mind was something about science—how, if there were a God, he might have used science to create the world.

And then something happened. I felt a chill up and down my spine and could hear myself preaching. I could see an audience in front of me. It was not a vision exactly, but it was intense. I talked about knowing that Jesus loves me. With a voice full of passionate emotion, I assured the crowd that whatever their sins might be, they were no worse than my own, and that because of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross we could all be saved.

At some point during this experience, I had pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, where I sat behind the wheel crying for some time. The only explanation I could fathom was that the Holy Spirit had entered into my life in dramatic fashion. “Thank you, Lord,” I said out loud in between sobs. “I believe, and I am saved. Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ.”

When I recovered my composure, I was aware of a great feeling of joy and release. I had no more doubts, no trace of hesitation—I had crossed over, stepping over the ruins of my prison cell into my new life of faith. From that day onward, my life has been devoted to the joyful service of our Lord.

Along the way, I made many discoveries. I learned about the power of the Bible as a guide from God to the central questions of our existence. I learned that the true purpose of science is to describe how things are, not to engage in misplaced speculation about why the world is the way it is. Most importantly, I learned that nothing (has come) through my own merit, but only from the grace of our Lord, whose love and mercy are beyond understanding.

Editor’s Note: Sy Garte is a biochemist who has taught at New York University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Rutgers University. He is a fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation, the largest organization of Christians in the sciences, and the vice president of its metropolitan Washington, DC, chapter.

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