Reading Time: 4 mins

Help My Unbelief

Reading Time: 4 mins

In this piece, 1517’s Director of Publishing, Steve Byrnes, shares a personal story about a period of doubt in his life that eventually was replaced with confidence through God’s provision, and the care of the Christian community.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. I Cor 15:14

When I was eleven, my pastor told me that although the Bible was true and contained the truth, whether or not the events depicted actually happened was irrelevant.

This understanding shocked me because I had never questioned the Bible or God being the author.

I was confused, and painfully so. I had been raised by my mother to believe in the Bible, and my pastor had just told me that I didn’t have a leg to stand on.

I believed still, despite being told by someone older and smarter, someone I trusted, that I had no right to do so. I had been baptized as a baby and catechized in the faith. Still, my pastor, who catechized me, had just told me that it was all a story, and although a beautiful story that shaped our life together, having mythic truth did not, in fact, hold any hope of a real resurrection.

I lived in this space for years, well into my junior year in high school, trusting and praying to Jesus, whom I hoped could hear me.

He was the whole time.

I left my church. I looked around for another one and was unsuccessful. A friend invited me to a Lutheran Church, and I found myself in a youth group. It turned out that when pressed, both pastors who ran it were on the same page as the pastor from my home church. Neither one believed Christianity was true in the walk-across-the-street-and-look-both-ways sense, but in some ethereal, more sophisticated sense I couldn’t quite grasp. But I had friends there, and so I went anyway. Depression crept in, and maybe a fissure started between my intellect and my faith, a hairline fracture that caused a mental limp when it came to prayer. So, God carried me through this part like he has everywhere else.

I think I was about 14 when my Mom told me she liked a radio show called The Bible Answer Man hosted by Dr. Walter Martin that she had been listening to for some time. She purchased a book of Martin’s called Kingdom of the Cults, which covered various non-Christian groups and gave instruction for sharing the Christian message to them. She was going down to the bookstore to get it signed by the author and it was obvious that she wanted me to go with her, and so I did. We arrived not five minutes later, and Dr. Martin was outside sitting at a table. I remember him wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, although I didn’t know him then and didn’t realize he was the author my Mom had come to see. My mom didn’t recognize him either and went directly into the bookstore to get her book signed. 

Dr. Martin called me over. I don’t remember what was said, but I do remember that he reached over at some point and flicked me on the forehead, not hard, but hard enough that it left a permanent impression on my memory.

He said, “You can use your brain regarding your faith.” I don’t remember what I said that prompted this from Martin, but I’m sure it was something I parroted from one of the unbelieving pastors. Even though I don’t remember the interchange, meeting Dr. Martin had a pivotal impact on my life. I became enthralled with apologetics. I was no longer depressed about a faith I desperately hoped was true but feared might not be; I would be an apologist like Dr. Martin, defending a historic faith against all the onslaughts of unbelief.

I became an avid follower of Dr. Martin’s show and his organization, the Christian Research Institute, and eventually worked for him.

I started reading anything Dr. Martin suggested and listening to his tapes. His first suggestion was to read C.S. Lewis (I had read the Chronicles). His second was to read everything by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery. The funny part about this was that I already owned some Montgomery books but hadn’t read them yet. Now, Dr. Montgomery’s books, tapes and his radio show became constant companions.

Several years later, I had Dr. Montgomery’s student, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, as a professor and then as a friend and mentor. It was through Rod that I met Dr. Montgomery in the flesh and, after many more adventures, became his publisher.

Jesus knew where I was the whole time and let me go through some pain and confusion so that I would meet these men who would bless and equip me to bless others.

1517 is all about the proclamation of the Good News, and I revel in giving that away, but I’m drawn to those who say,  “If what you Christians talk about is true, it would be the best news. God forgives me for the sake of his Son, makes me his heir, and invites me to live with him eternally. That death has been defeated, and in its stead, a great party will be thrown. If only it were more than a nice fiction.” Well, that’s what St. John and St. Paul and Walter Martin of blessed memory, and Dr. Montgomery, and Rod Rosenbladt, and everyone in our organization wants that person to know: It is quite a story, but it isn’t fiction.

Jesus knew where I was the whole time and let me go through some pain and confusion so that I would meet these men who would bless and equip me to bless others

God subjected himself to the publishing process, including ghostwriters, historians, composers, singers, bands, poets—writers in various genres—editors, scribes, and printers. Many people produced the collection over thousands of years in multiple iterations and languages, published and distributed it widely in different versions and translations. This collected work still constitutes the bulk of Christian publishing today. God published and consolidated a library of books and then owned the whole process by showing up as a character in the story and as the author, claiming it in various and sometimes exacting ways. The scriptures are a fully human-divine enterprise, and Jesus endorsed the whole beautiful mess and claimed it as his own. The Bible is as God intended. Jesus took on flesh, investing himself in history, and spoke, forcefully claiming the Bible as His Word.