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Former French Atheist Unravels His Quest to Jesus

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Author, Confessions of a French Atheist, (Tyndale Publishers, 2022)

Software Engineering Manager; Received a Master’s in Biblical Literature from Alliance Theological Seminary in New York; PhD in Philosophical Theology at the London School of Theology

Executive committee member of Association Axiome, a society of French speaking Christian scholars

Writes in English at theologui.blogspot.com and in French at associationaxiome.com

Married to Katherine; Five young children

ATHEIST

Guillaume grew up in France in a town southwest of Versailles, but still close enough to Paris by train. His family was nominally Catholic and they attended Mass every Sunday. He attended catechism class from time to time but did not remember much about it. His family did not talk about God outside of church. “Faith in God had no real impact on my life,” shares Guillaume.

After elementary school he professed that he was an atheist and his parents were okay with his confession. As he became a young man he began to believe you were “stupid” if you believed in God. He chose to seek knowledge of the world through valid and rational pursuits such as math and physics.

He believed, “People who believed in God were either steeped in tradition or simply refused to think logically.” Guillaume was also a talented volleyball player who played in a national league traveling the country as well as a skilled musician. He played the piano, opening a show for Superbus, a French pop/rock band that went on to release five albums.

Yet despite all of his success Guillaume questioned the meaning of life. He continued his pursuit of happiness often at the expense of others. “I broke more than a few laws in the mysterious code of a man’s moral duty toward women.”  

CHANCE ENCOUNTER

After he graduated from college he and his brother went on a vacation to Saint Martin, an island in the Caribbean. It was there he met a beautiful woman who would ultimately change his life. One day after spending the day at the beach, Guillaume and his friend decided to hitchhike to avoid a long walk back to the opposite side of the island. Two young American tourists stopped to get directions to the airport and ended up giving them a ride.

Guillaume was attracted to the tourist named Vanessa. They began hanging out on the island. During one of their conversations Vanessa dropped a bombshell on Guillaume when she said, “I believe in God.” To him, “This was the equivalent of intellectual suicide.” The other devastating news she shared was that she believed in abstinence from sex before marriage.

Despite those two obstacles, they pursued a long-distance relationship when Guillaume returned to Paris and Vanessa returned to New York. He decided to convince her that her religious convictions were unfounded so she would stop believing in God. Guillaume found a dusty Bible in his closet left over from a catechism class. Despite years of attending mass, he had no idea what this book contained. He began reading the New Testament. He figured if any of this was true he would ask God to reveal Himself to him. 

TAKING THE PLUNGE

A couple of weeks later Guillaume’s shoulder began causing him severe pain. He was not able to play volleyball for a few weeks so he decided to go to church. After listening to the pastor, he wanted to escape. “I literally got one foot out the door, and I sensed a strong wave of chills in my chest going all the way to my throat and grabbing me. I just was frozen on the doorstep with chills all around so I took a second, I closed the door in front of me, turned around, and I walked straight to the head pastor, Robert, and I introduced myself.”

Over the next several months they would get together, and Guillaume would ask questions based on his research. Many of his questions were answered in his visits with Pastor Robert, but one remained: Why did Jesus have to die on the cross? What was the connection between Jesus’ death two thousand years ago to his life today? Pastor Robert began to pray that something would happen in Guillaume’s life, something quite unpleasant for him but necessary.

At the same time, Guillaume was praying for God to show him truth in a powerful way. To Guillaume’s surprise, God reactivated his conscience and exposed his sin of pride. Up until that conversation, he did not feel guilty about anything he had done. The awful way he had treated his girlfriends and some of his closest friends. He had cheated on Vanessa several times with a French woman who was in a committed relationship. When God surfaced the memories of what Guillaume had done it made him physically ill.

In his pain, the message of grace and forgiveness hit him like a ton of bricks. He realized that Jesus had been condemned to death so that he could be forgiven. His life experience lined up with the intellectual understanding he had gained through his research of the Bible. He prayed, “God, I give up…I’m ready to accept the fact of your existence and the free gift of forgiveness offered in Jesus. Forgive me; rebuild my life; do with me what you will.”

A few months later Guillaume went to New York to visit Vanessa. He met her pastor, Vincent who baptized him in the bathtub of Vanessa’s apartment. He recalls being filled with peace as he came up out of the water. His guilt was gone and he finally confessed his unfaithfulness to Vanessa. There were other significant problems in the relationship, but Guillaume moved to New York to pursue the relationship with Vanessa. Soon after he moved there they realized that they were not meant for each other and broke up. 

APOLOGETICS 101

Living far away from his French friends, no longer with his band or volleyball team, Guillaume began to question God’s call on his life. What was God trying to teach him? He found himself describing his newfound faith to family and friends which found him in the middle of written debates. These were his first steps in the field of apologetics. He had to think about what each person was saying and answer each one, one by one. Some of those objections include:

•    “If we are saved by faith, why not continue to sin?” Guillaume’s answer, “Good works don’t save us, but true faith necessarily entails a changed heart which leads to good works.” 
•    “Religion asks us to question the theory of evolution…Life appeared through a long evolutionary process and not by the work of some biblical God who created the world.”  A starting point for this argument would be, “Life on earth appears to be the fruit of intelligent design.”

Guillaume says, “Rational arguments are useful to help the mind understand and embrace the Christian faith, but accepting the Gospel is not just an intellectual process. It involves repentance, a change of heart, for any person who will turn away from sin and place their faith in Christ. True conversion engages the emotions as well. 

MEETING HIS WIFE

Guillaume was studying at the seminary in New York and working when he decided to go home to Paris for a week to be with his family. He went to Pastor Robert’s church and hoped they could have lunch afterward. Before the service began he noticed a young woman he had never seen before at the church. When the service was over Pastor Robert told Guillaume, he was unable to go to lunch, but introduced him to their assistant and au pair, Katherine (the woman he had noticed earlier in the service).

She was an American who had come to spend a year with Pastor Robert’s family, take care of their children and work at the church before beginning a graduate program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Katherine invited him to eat lunch with her and Robert’s children. Guillaume did and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her better.

After he returned to school in New York they kept in touch. A few weeks later, his boss asked him to return to Paris for a business trip. During this visit, Guillaume and Katherine began dating. Katherine finished her year of university studies in Virginia and they maintained their long-distance relationship. The next year she transferred to the famous Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. The following summer they were married in Virginia. 

 

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