A Journey through a Wide World of Men and Beliefs
At the beginning, during my early years, I lived in an old-fashioned Christian home full of happiness and love. On my mother's side of the family, Christian faith had gone back beyond memory through a lineage of English Baptists. Both of her parents were born in England, although they did not meet until after they had emigrated to America. My father's parents also were Baptists. He himself was a lay preacher who, for a time, operated the Volunteers of America mission in Toledo, Ohio. In the last ten years of his working life, he was supervisor of the main desk at Moody Bible Institute. He often quoted Psalm 84:10 to explain his ministry. Among my relatives are many, including my two sisters and various cousins, nephews, and nieces, who have spent their lives in Christian work.
In my youth I gave every evidence that I was a true believer in Christ. I accepted Christ at age six under the preaching of Hyman Appelman. During my childhood and teenage years I maintained a clear Christian testimony, even when it made me unpopular. While at Wheaton, I took courses equivalent to a minor in Bible, and I did some work for Moody Press as a reviser of Bible study materials. Yet, tragically, my testimony soon fell apart. I was sidetracked into disloyalty to Christ by a secular graduate education that, playing upon my egotistical ambition, sold me unbelief as my ticket to honor and success in a godless world. The road of ruin was made easier by my fear of sacrifice, my love of pleasure, and my disillusionment with certain Christian leaders whom I had trusted.
I obtained a Ph.D. in social psychology from Northwestern University in 1967 and went to a Western university as an assistant professor of psychology. But God did not allow me to prosper as an apostle of political correctness. After two years of growing frustration with my lukewarm success as a teacher and with my failure in far-flung research to discover anything earthshaking, I, when I was not yet twenty-seven years old, precipitately abandoned my academic career. I broke contract and left town almost overnight to join my generation in quest of a countercultural utopia. Soon I was lost in agnosticism blended with an almost religious faith in man's destiny. Bereft of any hope of heaven, I sought happiness in the Whole Earth Catalog (a periodical promoting back-to-nature thinking and products).
(From my testimony, some people have jumped to the conclusion that I was a hippie. I did have a beard. But my wife and I never had any hankering for the hippie scene, with its drugs and immorality and admiration of the unwashed. Yet there were plenty of other pitfalls that might have destroyed us except for the Lord's help. I thank the Lord that during those years, He was faithful to us even though we were faithless to Him.)
During my years of wandering, I spent much time thinking, studying, and writing. I was searching for an alternative to the hope of a Christian. But I came to very pessimistic conclusions about the human condition. In philosophy, I found that there are basically two roads—synthetic and analytic, monistic and positivistic (however you want to label them)—and both lead to huge paradoxes. I found also that in consequence of using self as the starting point, every modern system of philosophy leads to doubt about the existence or knowability of anything else. In my reflection upon man's future, I discovered that the half dozen or so trends carrying human society toward extinction are irremediable. I wrote several books but did not seek to publish any. I was not sure that they told the truth. My utopian fantasy, The Mound, was probably publishable, but I finally scrapped it, fearing that it could be used as an apology for totalitarian world government.
It was in 1977 that I finally made peace with God. About two years before, when I read The Chronicles of Narnia to my children, the lion named Aslan, who is a picture of Christ ("Aslan" is a close anagram of "slain"), wakened in me a keen sense that I had lost a dear friend. I did not immediately return to the church, but went through a long struggle with doubts about the fundamentalism of my youth. I had to confront and reject Satanic attempts to lure me into false religion; I had to overcome barriers of pride that kept me from fully submitting to Biblical authority; and I had to learn how shameful my sin was in God's sight. But at last, I learned that true wisdom starts with fear and faith—fear of God coupled with faith in God. Then, with my wife's support, I began to rebuild my life as a real Christian.
Soon, in great mercy, the Lord restored me to usefulness. In 1979, concerned to provide our sons with an education that would not destroy them, my wife and I took jobs in Christian education, and we have remained in Christian work ever since.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.