Jana Harmon on Loving Atheists Well
When Jana Harmon was growing up, she didn’t realize she had options for her life other than being a stay-at-home wife and mother. She certainly didn’t foresee a career for herself in the world of academia. How could pursuing an education, much less a doctoral degree, play a part in what God wanted to accomplish in an introverted young woman who felt more comfortable on the sidelines?
Today, Jana holds a Ph.D. in Religion and Theology from the University of Birmingham in England. She is a Teaching Fellow for the C.S. Lewis Institute of Atlanta and former Adjunct Professor of Cultural Apologetics at Biola University. Despite the fact that she was raised in a conservative Christian home, her studies led her down a fascinating, complex area of research: the conversion of atheists to Christianity.
This journey began when she and her husband were leading a small group Bible study focused on non-Christians looking for answers about the Christian faith. She realized that despite a lifetime spent in church, she didn’t actually have the answers they were looking for. Jana decided she needed to spend more time learning why she believed what she believed. Was it just the tradition she’d known since childhood, or did the Bible truly contain life-changing, soul-saving truth? She wanted to know how her worldview held up against other worldviews, especially atheism.
As Jana pursued her graduate work in apologetics, she began interviewing former atheists who are now believers. She found that these people, many of whom once aggressively hated Christianity and all it stood for, were now some of the most passionate Christians she knew. She says, “It was very eye-opening, very inspiring, very enlightening to see the ways and means the Lord uses to bring someone so far away, seeming unreachable, to Himself.”
So what are these ways and means? How are we as Christians supposed to minister to those who hate the very idea of our ministry? These are the questions Jana now explores as the host of the Side B Podcast, a series where she interviews former atheists about how they came to faith in Jesus. According to the show’s description, Jana “encourages both Christians and skeptics to consider what motivates thoughtful, intelligent people to move from disbelief to belief.”
While she says that every person and situation is certainly different, Jana has found a major commonality in nearly every conversion story: love. A Christian showed them what the love of Jesus looks like.
“What you need to do is remain in the way the Lord remains with us,” Jana explains. “Remain is a way that is an embodied form of Christianity, that is authentic, generous, hospitable, loving, kind. It’s all those things they cannot provide an argument against. It’s providing an embodied picture of a meaningful, contented life.”