Testimony of Dr. Carl S. Hale

 

“…because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom
and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength…God
has chosen the world’s foolish things to shame the wise, and
God has chosen the world’s weak things to shame the strong.”

I Corinthians 1: 25-27


Although I was born into a loving family with Catholic and Presbyterian roots, my childhood faith was underdeveloped. I attended Catholic mass, went to confession, and made my first communion and confirmation without really understanding how these religious acts related to God the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. In spite of exposure to church and religion, I did not really understand the things of God. As scripture states, I had eyes but did not see. I had ears but did not hear. Jesus Christ became a stumbling block to me. This testimony should not be construed as criticism against my parents or any denomination, however. My parents were loving and my Christian education was sufficient. So I do not condemn anyone by my testimony; indeed, I myself am no longer under any condemnation. It is sufficient to say that my understanding of God was far from adequate. Without God’s grace and indwelling Holy Spirit, I was unable to navigate the unseen world of Spirit and Truth. Attending church was an obligation expected by others, rather than an opportunity to stand in God’s presence and enter into joyful thanksgiving and worship. I had a growing suspicion that religion was a sham, a human contrived myth to avoid the unpleasant reality of death and the unrelenting terror of human history. Although I was still believed myself to be idealist at heart, I was beaten down by a world of appearances that seemed so big and real compared to the rarefied nuances of faith and God.

By the time I was in early adolescence I had already become a cynic and a pessimist about God and His creation. Religion seemed to be a farce constructed by little human beings who, as T.S. Eliot noted, “cannot bear very much reality.” My appreciation of literature, psychology, and science grew stronger in the face of increasing spiritual ennui and despair. My religious upbringing became a prison rather than a source of strength and faith. I found myself attracted to psychology and Eastern religions, which paved the way for an interest in New Age ideas and post-modern philosophies. I believed that human ideas and philosophies would provide the deeper answers I was searching for in my heart. Although I did not know it at the time, this growing spiritual emptiness, and an increasing reliance on human thoughts and beliefs, grew like a tumor year after year, culminating in atheism and spiritual death that would last nearly two decades.

Plagued by serious doubts about God, my spiritual life was more or less a stillbirth until I entered college at 18. College life at Indiana University was completely different than attending high school in a small Indiana town. My eyes were suddenly opened to a whole world of intellectual and artistic ideas that seemed at first to quench my thirst for knowledge and truth. I read everything I could find about philosophy, history and philosophy of science, psychology, literature, Neo-Platonism, humanism, existentialism, and evolutionary theory. By the end of my freshman year at Indiana University, I was a self-proclaimed atheist. I read and studied Nietzsche, who falsely proclaimed that “God is dead,” the foundation of most post-modern humanistic philosophies. Although I did not know it at the time, Nietzsche was a man consumed by hatred for God. In the 20th century, no writer or philosopher has brought more evil and suffering than Nietzsche and Marx. Their followers fueled the death of millions in concentration camps and gulags, yet universities around the world continue to promote their ideas as revolutionary forms of knowledge and understanding. Even today, these same philosophies promise freedom when they offer only servitude and spiritual death. I did not yet realize the implications of these Godless philosophies, nor the sheer foolishness and depravity of the ideas they expounded. I was also drawn to New Age and Eastern philosophies that promoted the false belief that evil does not exist, the devil is a human myth, human beings are the masters of their own destiny, and that “higher states of consciousness“ were the solution to human suffering. I was an atheist who believed in science and evolutionary theory. My new religion was secular humanism, which placed human beings at the center of all moral decision making, not as intelligent creations of a loving Creator, but as random physical beings in a Universe as meaningless as it was vast.

Atheism is a poison that begins to pervade every aspect of your life. The “fruits” of atheism are pride and self-righteousness. Like all atheists, I had the audacity to say that there was no God, that God was a remnant of primitive human cognition, the anthropological remnant of an earlier and less developed state of consciousness, and I had the nerve to argue that the 95% of humanity who believed in God was not only wrong, but also completely out of their minds. In all honesty, I believed it. Without recognizing it, the man who believed that human beings evolved from apes had made a monkey out of himself. The Bible states “a fool says in his heart ‘there is no God.’ ” A fool is not a court jester; nor does this term refer to someone who is simply ignorant. A fool is someone who is morally corrupted. I was a fool because I denied that God existed, much like a man who says “I didn’t have any parents. I was not born of a mother. I simply am. I simply came to be.” As the philosopher Renee Descartes said, “Cognito, ergo sum” or “I think, therefore I am.” But only God can say: “I am that I am.” God is self-existent. Nothing defines Him, but He creates and defines all things and all beings. Thinking does not explain our existence. Yet here I was, along with many other post-modernists, that is, atheists, evolutionists, and New Age proponents, claiming this self-existent quality applied to human beings, but not to God. I had become a fool, and men’s foolishness knows no bounds. Scripture says, “the wise will seek Him“ and “all will be taught by God.” But is wisdom possible if we deny the source of wisdom?

Soon I experienced the despair and darkness that falls upon those who are cut off from God by their own pride. “God resists the proud.” Indeed, I had a glimpse of a personal hell. God the Father, the source of all love, never stops pursuing us through His Holy Spirit, who came into this world through the death of His only Son Jesus Christ. Although I was walking blindly in darkness, denying God, He covered and protected me from my own willful pride. Although I denied Him, He never denied me. Although many assume that atheists are in search of the Truth, most atheists are out to deny God’s existence. Scientists seek to replace God with human reason and science. I am not opposed to science; indeed, as a neuropsychologist, I was trained as a scientist. But scientific atheism is dishonest and false, and the “theory of evolution” is not based on sound empirical methodologies or accurate observation of the natural world.

Proclaiming myself to be an atheist, I was now “open minded,” which meant studying world religions and the ideas of occultists, “secret” teachings and societies, Tibetan Buddhism, world mythologies, Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi “gospels,” secular humanism, ancient philosophy, transpersonal psychology, existentialism and phenomenology, anthropology, and “higher states of consciousness.” I read the Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Chang, Tibetan Book of the Dead, Upanishads, Diamond Sutras, and many other so-called sacred texts from around the world. I believed that there were many paths to God and that all paths were valid, not realizing this assertion was like saying you can reach a desired destination no matter which direction you travel. It is like saying, no matter which direction you go, you will arrive in Ohio. But if you go due north from Michigan, you’ll end up a long way from Ohio. Sooner or later you’ll have to change course, or you’ll be lost. I had not learned yet that some paths lead to the Truth, while other paths lead far away from the Truth. The idea of one path to the Truth seemed elitist and even hateful to my mind. I believed that “all roads lead to Rome,” as the old saying goes. Yet, if truth is defined as “fidelity to the original” then it follows logically that there is, and only can be, one path to the Truth. There may still be many roads that lead us to that path, but the road to God is a singular path that He chose; He established that one road before we even existed.

We don’t choose the direction we must travel to get to Ohio; the direction has already been set before us. Jesus Christ stated that He is “the way and the truth and the life” and that “no man comes to the Father except through me.” This “narrow path” sounded so harsh and unfair to me that I rejected it outright. I maintained that God could not be so cruel and unusual as to have one path, but God simply tells us which way to go, so that we don’t end up lost, heading in the wrong direction, unable to turn back. Now I see that it was my own sin that led me to reject the one path of Jesus Christ. I wanted to conform God to my own false ideas. I was not interested in reading the Bible, God’s revelation to man, to discover what He had to say about Himself. Instead, I was going to tell God who He was and what He was all about; my pride knew no bounds. Millions of people are still telling God who and what He is, while He lovingly responds: “I am that I am.”

The key word in these statements is “me” and “my.” Like so many other people I was trying to conform God, a perfect being without blemish or sin, to my own limited ideas of Him. But God wants to remake us in His own image, which is the likeness of His only Son Jesus Christ. God wants to shape and form us according to His perfect revealed Word, the Holy Bible, but I wanted to go my own way. That’s how it’s been since the beginning, since the Garden of Eden. We human beings want to go our own way, believing it’s better to have the illusion of freedom than to submit to God’s plan for our lives. So we go our own way, becoming buried in sin, causing suffering to ourselves and others by our actions, but also being unwilling to admit any wrongdoing. So I followed my own road, trying to conform a perfect and all loving God to my sinful, erroneous, and sightless ideas about Him. As Paul said, “for we see indistinctly, as in a mirror .” Before the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, the Truth is so unclear that we don‘t recognize it as the Truth. We have eyes, but we don’t see.

I had Thangkas, prayer wheels, and Tibetan statues in my home including (as I discovered later on) statues of demons representing lust and anger. I admired Tibetan Buddhists for their doctrines of non-violence & meditative chanting that supposedly lead to “higher states of consciousness,” not realizing that Tibetan society was marred by a long history of violence and darkness (like all cultures without the light of Jesus Christ), and that the “wrathful deities” the lamas worshipped were demons, including the “king of hell,” satan himself. I went down my own road, denying God, refusing to accept His grace. I thought I knew more than God. I call this road the little trinity: ‘me, myself, and I.’ We try to become God, which is a contradiction in terms. So I spent nearly three decades on the “road to Damascus” before the living promise of God’s redemption came upon me unexpectedly. Like C.S. Lewis and other atheists who are suddenly reborn, I was “surprised by joy” when God’s love and grace found me exactly where I was: imperfect, broken, deeply wounded, buried in sin, wayward, an unbeliever, lost, the Prodigal Son.

The best analogy is swimming on your own strength. For years I swam on my own strength. I was prideful about how far I had traveled, not realizing that swimming out into deep, shark-infested waters at nightfall was not only unwise, but outright foolish. I swam as far as I could on my own strength, only to find that I was bleeding, drowning in years of sin, completely broken by my own actions and my denial of God’s invitation to know His only Son. Jesus Christ calls every human being, but we have the choice to accept His love or turn away. If choice was not part of the equation, we could never truly love God. Love is spacious; love chooses; love makes a decision. God made us completely free to choose or to deny His love. I would like to think that no one will deny His love in the end, but the Bible says some will deny His love. Some people will deny Him, while in the end all will bow down before Him, even satan himself. I shudder to think that I could have been one of the those stiff-necked, hard-hearted, foolish people who would deny Jesus Christ until the end.

Like David and others in the Bible, brokenness is where we will eventually find ourselves on the road of life. Some will realize they are broken by sin early in life, before they‘ve even had an opportunity to commit serious sin; their understanding is very wise indeed. I am still amazed by youngsters who give their lives to Jesus at 15, 12, 8, or even 5 years old. Jesus said we must come to Him like a child. But others, like myself, will spend many wasted years, finally giving up all hope, before realizing we are broken by sin. So I swam on my own strength; every road I followed was a cul-de-sac, a dead end, a blocked alley, a road to nowhere. I swam until I could not swim anymore, and I was starting to go down beneath the dark waters. The devil wants us at that point, when we give up and say, “I don’t care what happens to me!” The next time you say “I don’t care what happens to me,” remember that the devil is the father of lies and liars! Fortunately for us, God can use any situation in our lives to bring grace and redemption. God waits patiently for us to admit our failure and sin, because He knows we may then repent and accept the love He’s been trying to give us all along.

So I gave up. The sharks were swimming around me, waiting for the final kill, and I was bleeding, feeling all alone in deep waters. The effort and willfulness, swimming and swimming for many years, which was supposed to lead to truth and wisdom, had lead me to destruction. I was carried out to sea, alienated from God, from people, even from myself. I was without hope waiting to return to dust. Atheists are resigned when death comes, because they have no faith that human beings can and will live again in God’s presence. I believed that death was the end and that human existence was absurd, meaningless, a cruel joke. So I finally gave up. I quit. I was finished. I let myself sink below the surface, into the deep waters below; this thing I had fought against with all my strength for so many years, I could no longer fight. I had no faith and no hope. I simply gave up.

But then something wonderful happene d. It was when I began to let go of everything that was me, my dreams and ideas and hopes and doubts and fears, that the grace of God came over me like a “mountain of honey” and renewed my mind and heart. It happened slowly at first, week by week, month by month. But it was in September of 2003 that I cried out to Jesus to help me, and to my surprise and disbelief, He not only heard me, but He reached His hand into those cold dark waters and saved me from drowning. He lifted me up from the murky waters and set me upon the rock, which is Christ Jesus Himself, who came to save all those who are broken and beaten by this world. I was suddenly in my right mind. I could see. The darkness fled. I read the Bible and really understood it. I was deeply moved by the life of Jesus. I saw that His teachings were true wisdom, unlike any other “sacred texts” I had read. I saw that Jesus Christ was the only Son of God. I understood that sin and atheism had kept me from His grace. I was filled with love.

Finally, after so many years, I found what I was looking for all along. It was right in front of me all those years, but I had simply brushed Jesus Christ off as “just another prophet” and “just another sage,” because I wrongly believed that “all roads lead to Rome.” If all roads were the same, then why didn’t Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Neo-Platonism, or Transpersonal Psychology lead me to this place? Because Jesus was telling the truth; He is the way, the Truth, and the life. In Him I saw how glorious and wonderful God the Father really was, and my heart melted. My hard heart broke open. As scripture states, my heart was circumcised, allowing God’s tenderness and love to come inside me. This was the Truth, but not as I had misunderstood it all those years. It was from the heart, not the mind. It was easy, light, joyful. It was like moving from darkness to light, from death to life.

All those years I thought I was alone, but now I saw His footprints next to me every step of the way. God is with us: Jesus Christ is Immanuel. He never leaves us. Yet because God is a Spirit, invisible and subtle, it is easy to make the mistake of saying, “I’m all alone. God has abandoned me.” But the truth is, we’re never alone here; not for one moment; not for one minute. God is with us always. That doesn’t mean we don’t get lonely. We do, and we will. But Jesus promised He would never leave us. He never left me. Jesus was true to His Word. He kept His promise.

Yes, Jesus Christ came for the weak. He came for me and for you. The strong and powerful have no need for Jesus because they are serving themselves, the idols of this world, and the prince of this world, the devil himself. Paul boasted about his weakness because he knew that this is where the Holy Spirit enters into us. Wherever we are strong, however, we close ourselves off to God. Strength says “I’ve got it covered. I’m doing fine. I don’t need you. I can do it on my own.” But weakness says “I can’t do it on my own. I’m weary. I’ve given up. I need help. I’m lost and I can’t find my way.” It was this yielding to my own weakness, what every human being fights against, the sin of prideful self-sufficiency, that I finally confessed to Jesus: “Lord I am weak and I need you. I can’t make it on my own. I’m quitting. I can’t do it anymore. I‘m a wretched sinner.” When we admit and confess our sin, we repent. We become deeply sorry for the things we have done, and we ask Jesus to give us the strength we need to stop sinning. It was this path of weakness and repentance that lead me to love, forgiveness, grace, redemption, and salvation. This prodigal son returned home, after squandering His inheritance on sin and lies, but God welcomed me home like a king, like a member of His own family. We are all prodigal sons.

I tell people today that accepting Jesus Christ was the easiest and the hardest decision I’ve every made. The easy part comes from God. The hard part comes from us. God makes it easy: accept and receive His Son Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” But the hard part for me was admitting that I was wrong all those years, a wretched sinner, and that I was not the “good person” I believed myself to be. I was a sinner who deserved judgment. That is why it is so hard for us to come to Jesus. We don’t really believe He can forgive us because we can’t be honest with ourselves and simply admit “I‘m a sinner and I need a Savior.” We believe we can save ourselves with our own strength, with our “good” works. We think we have the strength to swim across the ocean. But no one can swim across the ocean on his own. So we run away from God right when He is running toward us. He yearns to love us in ways we’ve never known, but our shame and the denial of our own guilt blinds us to His presence. So we run away, hiding, lost, waiting to be found. And I’ve learned that those who hide from God also blame Him.

We blame God for the state of the world, for evil, sin, and suffering, for all the problems we’ve created here. We accumulate a list of questions: “why did you let that happen, God?” and “God, why didn’t you answer my prayer?” and “why didn’t you do this or that, God?” We wait for the next life expecting to convict God with our questions, when we ourselves are under condemnation due to disbelief. God is completely blameless. When the ledgers of human history are examined line by line this conclusion will become clear: God is good. God is blameless. God always did the right thing. God always loved. God never tolerated evil, not even once. God kept all of His promises. God called every person over and over again to accept His Son. God is merciful. God is just. God never lied. God always told the truth. Can any man make this claim? What human being, other than Jesus Christ Himself, can say “I am blameless?” We are all tarnished by sinfulness. We are all liars. Adam and Eve hid because they were guilty. But Jesus Christ is God, and God is without any sin or fault whatsoever. All believers in Jesus Christ testify now and always about His perfect goodness and truth to “the ends of the earth.”

I was lost and Jesus Christ found me. This is my testimony; it is, above all else, lived experience. It’s not fiction, a novel or story, an allegory, or someone’s else’s idea about salvation. It is my personal testimony about how I wouldn’t give Jesus the time of day, how I wouldn’t give Him even a care, and how He couldn’t do anything but care for and seek me day after day, year after year. I will take my testimony to heaven, to Jesus Himself, to proclaim His glorious love on the cross of Calvary. It is a testimony to God the Father, who loved us so much that He came down to earth as the Son of God, taking the form of a humble Savior to wash away the sins of the world with His own blood, so that He could redeem His fallen creation, so that He could redeem us from ourselves, from our own sin and pride. The Son of God paid the full price for our sin and ascended into heaven, where He sits forever at the Father’s right hand. Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit into the world to live in those who receive Him, who are willing to repent of their sins and simply believe that He is Lord and that He rose from the dead. I am a living testimony of God’s only plan of redemption, which is available right now to every human being. Although He left this world, He did not leave us alone. His beloved Holy Spirit is in the world and lives in us.

Who can predict where the Spirit will blow? Maybe into you or someone you love. God’s Spirit is moving throughout the world to redeem all those who are lost, and Jesus said “this is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day.” He will not lose even one of sheep, and He is separating the sheep from the goats, the believers from the non-believers. It is belief that saves us. Belief was “credited” to Abraham “as righteousness.” Every child knows this truth. It’s so simple, yet so profound. Believe. Believe in Jesus and you will be saved. After 38 years of going my own way I was finally able to believe, and that simple belief gave the Holy Spirit permission to come into me and change my life. The old man died and the new man was suddenly alive, filled with a deep conviction of loving and being loved. I had finally come home. I was reborn. He wooed me with His love and forgiveness. No human being has ever loved me that way. I can shout it from the mountain: “Jesus loves me and I love Him.” He loves you too. If, as the song states, you are saying: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” then look no further. Jesus is right here. He is with you. He loves you. Let Him in. Pick up the phone. Give Him the time of day. He is calling you to be one of God’s children. Don’t let another day pass by without Him. Make Him Lord and Savior of your life.

I, Carl S. Hale, am one of His sheep. Not because of anything I did, but because of what Jesus Christ did for me and in me. From beginning to end, my salvation was the work of God Almighty through His Son and the Holy Spirit. I heard His voice, finally woke up from my sinful slumber, and recognized Him as the Son of God. I was lost and Christ Jesus found me. I was blind and He gave me sight. I was deaf and He gave me ears to hear. I was dead in sin and He gave me new life in Him. I am living proof that Jesus Christ is the Savior of this world and that He loves you and me beyond all measure. He is calling all of His children. I pray that you will hear His voice and simply respond ‘yes.” If you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He rose from the dead, that He is the Son of God, then you will be forgiven of all your sins and you will be saved. May all human beings know Him. May we again place Him at the center of our lives and our world, for Jesus Christ is the Savior of all who are lost and broken by sin. May we praise Him with our lips all of our days!

 

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