World magazine reported recently on an unexpected comment by English columnist Matthew Parris about desperate conditions in Africa and what he saw as the solution to them. Parris was raised in Malawi, from which he had just returned, and undoubtedly surprised his London Times Online opinion page readers with the following title of his report: "As an atheist, I am truly convinced that Africa needs God."
Elaborating on his surprising conclusion, World quotes Parris as saying, "Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem -- the crushing passivity of the people's mindset." He then went on to say "... in Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good."
Matthew Parris isn't the first atheist to observe that the message of God's love changes lives. The late well known writer, C.S. Lewis, may be the most noted for moving from atheism to faith and his many books and other writings for both children and adults show that his conversion was not only real to him but powerful enough to change the minds and lives of many others.
Charles Colson, known for his part in and imprisonment for the Nixon-Watergate break-in tragedy, was handed a book by a friend that not only changed his life but led to the founding of his immensely successful mission to bring prisoners to faith and new life, called "Prison Fellowship."
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The book that set Colson, and therefore ultimately thousands of other prisoners, free from their doubts and fears, titled "Mere Christianity," had been written by former atheist, C.S. Lewis, who at the end of his long search for peace said "I gave in, and admitted that God was God," adding "God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing."
Note again the clarity of Matthew Harris's comments about the Christian message of faith and his desire for missionaries to spread it throughout Africa.
1. It changes people's hearts.
2. It causes a spiritual transformation.
3. It brings about a rebirth in those who believe.
4. It produces lasting and desirable social change.
This atheist has observed that something very special has happened to Africans who have responded to the words of missionaries. Those who have heard and heeded their message of faith are changed from within. A transformation has taken place that has produced new life. He has seen this approach to Africa's problems break old bondages and bring hope to those who believe. No wonder he pleads for more missionaries rather than more money!
Congratulations Mr. Parris! You've called for an approach that is true, time tested and effective. But don't confine your correct conclusion to Africa. Spread your good words and embrace them personally. End your search; then find a good church. And your online readers will be helped by discovering you're not a doubter anymore.
Roger Campbell is an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org