My Testimony

I grew up in a divided household. My mother was an atheist and my father a Christian. My father took my sister and I to church some Sundays, and I used to sing in a church choir, but church was always something that I considered boring and irrelevant; I had no real sense of how the gospel message related to me. My parents chose not to baptise me as a child.

As a teenager and then into my early twenties I spent a great deal of time exploring the religions of the world. I was particularly interested in Eastern philosophy (Hinduism and Buddhism) and although I was studying Commercial Music at university, my deeper interest was really spirituality. I was an atheist and became obsessed with the idea of ‘self-realisation’ or ‘enlightenment’ – it seemed to me that it was through this kind of spiritual path that peace could be found.

I was so wrong. Throughout my years spent searching for enlightenment I was deeply depressed and confused. I had been brought face to face with death as I saw my mother pass away after a long and gruelling battle with cancer. I was trying so hard to make sense of the mysteries of life but spent most of my days in a state of mental turmoil.

The atmosphere in which I grew up, with my parents constantly fighting with each other, left a deep impression on me. It wasn’t until I started to attend psychotherapy in my twenties that I began to deal with the emotional distress I had experienced growing up. Psychotherapy was a tremendous blessing to me, making me more self-aware and mature and providing a space of deep compassion in which I could talk openly about everything for the first time in my life. Lots of healing took place in those sessions.

After graduating from university I took up a job in the music industry. I was heavily involved in music, playing guitar in a rock band and promoting and managing musicians both through work and in my spare time. I had a good job, and a very active social life, but I didn’t have spiritual peace. I used to spend lunch breaks and evenings meditating as I was still trying to find that elusive enlightenment that would give my spirit rest.

Despite many productive sessions with my psychotherapist, my mental health problems intensified. I began to experience delusions and panic attacks alongside a deep depression that made daily life a struggle. Many of my personal relationships began to break down and I became more and more confused, behaving irrationally and worrying others who didn’t really understand what was going on.

Eventually, after years of turbulent mental health, things got so out of hand that I had a serious episode of psychosis and ended up in psychiatric hospital for the first time. The psychotic episode that I experienced was confusing, but also very spiritual. I remember sleeping rough for several days outside a mosque and then finally making my way to a church up the road from the mosque. I believe that during this time God was teaching me about different religious paths and about my place in the grand scheme of things.

All of my four spells in psychiatric hospital have been very spiritual. It is during these times that I have begun to understand more about God by studying the Bible and being immersed in prayer. Some might argue that my belief in God is a delusion and a part of the mental illness that I have experienced. But I assure you, this is not the case. God is real, and when we humble ourselves before Him and repent of our sins, He really does listen and respond.

After my second admission to psychiatric hospital I continued to read the Bible and attend church and I returned to university to study Philosophy and Religion. During a spell of good health I wrote a book about my spiritual experiences and my philosophy. I went to several churches but eventually settled in to attending an evangelical church in central London. It was at this church, in 2010, that I raised my hands during the altar call and gave my life to Jesus.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing after that. I continued to wrestle with mental illness and as I continued to explore the Christian faith in depth I discovered aspects of Christian thinking that didn’t sit well with me. I spent several years in a kind of limbo; committed to God but questioning certain aspects of the gospel that seemed to make no sense. I wrote a second book criticising important aspects of Christianity that seemed illogical to me.

In the end I had to make a difficult decision. Do I commit to Christ despite my problems with Christian theology, or do I abandon the faith and carry on with my life regardless? This was a struggle that weighed heavily on my mind, and I prayed about it constantly. I desperately wanted God to reveal to me my purpose and His will.

And then in 2015 I was sitting in bed praying one night and the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to me saying “You’re going to get baptised” and “You’re going to take Holy Communion”. I was shocked and overjoyed by the certainty in this message, and I stayed awake all night thanking God and feeling a renewed sense of peace. As the scripture says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

I got baptised on September 6th 2015 and it was a truly special occasion and probably the best day of my life. I am now a committed Christian, attending church every week, reading the Bible every day, and serving on an outreach team to help others to hear and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is over three years since my last hospital admission and I am so grateful that God has blessed me with this period of stability.

The theme of this blog is ‘Perfect Chaos’. My spiritual journey has been chaotic, but I am quite sure that God’s guiding hand has been over every event in my life. I have sinned against others and against God, but I know that because of the precious suffering that Jesus endured on the cross I can live under the blessing and favour of Almighty God. I have the hope of forgiveness and of eternal life – is there anything more precious?

Find out more about my books here, and feel free to leave a comment below.

5 comments

  1. Hi Steven!

    Thank you for your testimony, which was interesting and helpful.

    I would like to know how long you believed in God without Christ and the Holy Spirit, who spoke to you in 2015.

    Some links below are relevant, I think:

    https://perfectchaos.org/2012/07/31/the-church-of-the-future/

    https://perfectchaos.org/2012/12/18/the-myth-of-the-fall/

    https://perfectchaos.org/2013/05/17/living-with-the-question/

    https://perfectchaos.org/2013/09/11/truth-beyond-christianity-there-is-no-free-will/

    https://perfectchaos.org/2014/07/28/dimensions-of-reality/

    https://perfectchaos.org/2015/06/18/what-is-the-meaning-of-life/

    I appreciate that you may have considerations for your readers to make your post as short as possible, but, if they are wondering, as I am, how you managed to spend several years believing in God without Christ and the Holy Spirit, then your post has a gaping chasm within it!

    What do your brothers from the Baptist Church think? Do you think that you had a true link with God, or was it a delusion from Satan to keep you from Christ and the Holy Spirit?

    I hope you can respond positively to my thoughts as I am genuinely curious, and I hope I’m not the only one who has this curiosity?

    Your brother in Christ,

    Dinos Constantinou

    1. Dear Dinos,

      Many thanks for your comment.

      I do still believe that God is in control of everything and that this is the case whether or not people believe the gospel. The panentheism which I used to discuss on this blog still figures in my mindset.

      You are quite right to point to the posts from my blog that recall the time when I didn’t consider myself a Christian. I don’t believe it was Satan at work; I believe God has been in control of every aspect of my life even when I was a non-believer.

      I believe we are all being taken on a journey with God at the helm. To illustrate my point: When we are young children we don’t have religious beliefs, but God is still in control, wouldn’t you agree?

      I realise some of my beliefs are quite unusual for a Christian but I have chosen to trust in the Bible and the gospel even where my intellect tells me there are problems. Faith over reason, you might say.

      I’m sorry if you feel there was something important missing from my testimony. As you quite rightly suggest, I wanted to keep the post as short as possible otherwise I fear few would have the patience to read it! My hope is that visitors to this blog will explore a wide range of posts and thus understand the theological issues I have battled with. I hope that this will enrich their own spiritual journey as well as helping them to understand mine.

      Best wishes brother!

      Steven

  2. Dear Steven,

    Thank you for your response to my comments.

    I too have struggled to find stability in my perceptions of God, particularly as a young child! You stated that we don’t have religious beliefs when we are children. This appeared to be true for you living as you did with your mother, who was an atheist, and your father, who was a Christian (Anglican or Protestant, if I recall correctly?).

    I was born in Cyprus in 1950 when it was a British colony. At that time, there were British people, military and civilians, living on the island, and they were mostly Anglican or Protestant Christians, not atheists! The indigenous population consisted of approximately 80% Greek Cypriots, who were entirely Greek Orthodox Christians, not atheists. Anyone who failed to attend church on Sundays had to explain the reason for their absence, in much the same way as we have to excuse children from absences at their local school in this country. The church was a common thread in the lives of all Greek Cypriots and I was born to Greek Cypriot parents, although we cannot claim to be thoroughly Greek (see Acts 13 vs 4 – 12, which show that there were Jews in Cyprus at that time, and that Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, used the power of discernment, detecting at once that Bar-Jesus or Elymas was a sorcerer!). The remaining 20% of the indigenous population were Turkish Cypriots, who were mostly Muslims.

    It was, and still is, the normal practice of Greek Orthodox Christians to be baptised as infants, and it would be normal to feel a sense of belonging to God’s larger family. You may get a sense of what it was like if you’ve seen the film, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’, which was filmed and based on the history of the Greek island of Cephallonia?

    My parents were always pacifists from the time I had an idea of what that meant. My father worked as a storeman on a British army camp during the early 1950s when he was approached by a Freedom Fighter from E.O.K.A., led by General Grivas, who wanted independence from Britain and union with Greece – Enosis. They wanted my father to supply a detailed drawing of the lay-out of the army camp, but he didn’t want to do it due to his pacifism. That’s why we emigrated from Cyprus to England, my father first in 1953, followed by my mother, sister and me, in March 1954, when I was three and a half, and my sister was one and a half years old.

    There was some bad feeling towards Greek Cypriots who emigrated to this country at that time, because of the killing of British army personnel by the Greek Cypriot Freedom Fighters. My parents were advised to make efforts for us to integrate into English society as quickly as possible. Part of the plan included sending my sister and me to Arbury Baptist Church in Arbury Rd, Cambridge, which was quite close to where we lived in Oak Tree Avenue, our first home. The change in church culture caused me to think a lot about Christianity from an early age. We moved home to Magrath Avenue in 1957, and went to the nearest church that my parents felt would be best suited to us, and that was Victoria Rd Congregational Church (later called United Reformed Church). I remember then thinking even more deeply about the nature of God and Christianity, with all its numerous denominations.

    The vicar of the Congregational Church, Rev. Wray, was aware of my deep thinking, and lent me books written by the Archbishop of the time, I think it was Runcie, and I developed my concept of God. I could not see how He could occupy space alone, then create the universe in another space that He then permeated into to maintain His omnipresence throughout it? I thought it made more sense that He created the universe within Himself, thus maintaining His infinite nature. If this planet were the only planet with life on it, God would not need the universe with all its stars, planets and other celestial bodies. God’s omnipotence would mean that He could produce just one planet, this earth, if we were the only sentient beings to exist within God (see Acts 17 vs 24,25 and vs 27,28).

    I was ‘confirmed’ into the faith when I was fourteen and to my surprise, Rev Wray asked me to be a Sunday School teacher! I thought about it for a long time but declined when I reflected on the problems some of the teachers had to control unruly children, who either did not want to be there, or they had short attention spans. I witnessed this myself as a Sunday School pupil. I remember feeling annoyed that the unruly children were spoiling it for the rest of us, and I could not see how I could maintain order when I was only fourteen, even if I was able to teach well.

    I hope this account of my early Christian development is helpful to you and I look forward to your response.

    Your brother in Christ,

    Dinos

    1. Dear Dinos,

      Thanks for sharing some recollections of your childhood. It seems as though your spiritual journey started at a young age, and God has taken you on quite a journey since then.

      I haven’t seen Captain Corelli’s Mandolin but I do have a DVD player so I will try and get hold of a copy.

      I would love to read more exposition of your philosophy/theology at some point, although I am of course aware there is lots of this in your comments on this blog and also in the emails you have sent me over the last few years.

      Best wishes,

      Steven

  3. Dear Steven

    The main theme of my second comment was that children did have religious beliefs in the fifties and early sixties when I was a child! I did not consider myself unusual in my quest for understanding the truth about God. People may have been more religious during my childhood as we were all talking about God, and nearly all children attended church with their parents!

    My parents did not go to church in Cambridge during my childhood because there was no facility for Greek Orthodox worship then. For my part, when we did attend a Greek Orthodox Church, occasionally, in London, I did not like it. I was not keen to kiss the icons because of the likely spread of germs. There appeared to be an unnecessary emphasis on rituals and a lack of substance in the sermon, which was short compared to all the sacramentalism and to the sermons in other Christian denominations. Most Liturgical services that included Holy Communion lasted two to three hours!

    The Greek Orthodox Liturgies put me off them, but not off God. I really enjoyed my childhood years with Victoria Rd Congregational Church, with all of its activities, including a thriving Youth Club excursions and summer camps. The style of the church was liberal and encouraged a challenging attitude about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. This suited me and other children engaged with the church and its auxiliary activities.

    Later, after we moved when I was nineteen, I attended Anglican and Evangelical churches close to our new home, 16 Harding Way, where I’m living with my mum now. It wasn’t until the nineties that I re-engaged with Orthodox Christianity, and this was due to the openness, charisma (human, not apostolic), and intelligence of Fr Maximos, the Greek Orthodox priest who conducted services at St Clement’s Church. A link showing its location is given below:

    http://www.stclementscambridge.org/finding-us.html

    Currently, I like the doctrines of the Orthodox Christian church although I prefer to attend services at other Christian churches. The Orthodox Christian church takes account of the writings of the desert Fathers and the Saints, especially St John Chrysostom who wrote Homilies explaining the meaning of biblical texts. A link to the list of saints who have contributed to our understanding is below:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/index.html

    Most Christian denominations are ‘Sola Scriptura’ orientated; the Orthodox Christian denomination is not and neither was Victoria Rd Congregational Church! Both Evangelical and Baptist churches tend to be Sola Scriptura orientated. The biggest problem I have with this approach is that it assumes that ordinary folk are extraordinary in their understanding of the scriptures. How was it possible for Moses, Noah and Abraham to be so close to God without the scriptures? God the uncreated Trinity, interacted in an extraordinary way with these biblical giants, not by the created vocabulary in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, from which we study here in translations in English. A link to an article on Sola Scriptura is given below:

    https://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/SOLASCRI.TXT

    I don’t expect you to make any changes to your current course; I merely offer you some of what has shaped my views from the time I was able to think and read about God. Incidentally, I was fascinated with Greek Mythology for a couple of years from ten to twelve. I was amazed to read that Hercules, the son of immortal Zeus and a mortal woman, was resurrected by Zeus after his death! I have provided a link below:

    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/hercules/a/Hercules.htm

    Finally, I have included a short summary of the main doctrinal points of Orthodox Christianity below:

    1) Belief in ONE God who includes Three Persons within One Divine Nature (This is the Mystery of the Holy Trinity which cannot be explained nor understood by human logic);

    2) Belief in the Incarnation of the One of the Three Persons (the Son or Christ) in such a way that His Existence contains two natures (Divine and Human) thus becoming perfect God and perfect man at once;

    3) Belief that the Union of Christ’s two Natures constitutes a bridge whereby all human beings will eventually be united with Him and thereby obtain Divine status by grace without losing their humanity – the Orthodox Christian meaning of mankind’s Salvation;

    4) Belief that all goodness inserted by God into His creatures remains inalienable unaltered even though most creatures disobey God’s commandments;

    5) Belief in eternal preservation of all God’s creatures so that no creature may be punished with annihilation because of any sins;

    6) Belief in practising all virtues towards all people no matter how bad and non- deserving some people may be.

    I would be most interested if you are able to supply a summary of the doctrines of the Baptist Church, of which you are a member, for my own contemplation? I would be happy to receive it directly by email, instead of on your blog, if this suits you better? I’ll leave that to your own judgement.

    Your brother in Christ,

    Dinos

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