FIRST-PERSON: I was an atheist & feminist

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- I grew up in a city in southwest China. Its location in China is like Texas in the United States. I studied in Beijing for six years and earned my bachelor and master's degrees there.

Before I came to the U.S., I had never seen a copy of the Bible and I only knew one Christian in all my life.

In 2000, I came to this country as an international student. It is in Texas that I met many good Christians and eventually my Savior Jesus Christ.

I was an atheist at that time. I believed that there was no God who could save us and that we must strive for success by our own ability, diligence and luck.

As soon as I arrived in Texas, I found that I was surrounded by Christians and churches. I had an attitude of contempt toward Christianity. Some Christians invited me to go to church. I refused without hesitation. I also mocked Christianity. I thought it is so humiliating to worship a God who was crucified on a cross. This is exactly what 1 Corinthians says, that "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him" (1 Corinthians 2:14). I was actually the foolish one.

Although I was foolish and defiant, God had mercy on me. The last three days of 2000 changed my life completely.

I attended an evangelistic conference where I mainly heard two speakers talking about God. Through their messages, I became convinced that there is a God and that He is like a Father who waits for us to return to Him.

On the last day of the conference, I decided to follow Jesus Christ. After I made the decision, amazing things happened.

I felt that my eyes were opened, and it was almost like I could see the world more clearly than before. I experienced a kind of gentle, bright and great love that I had never experienced. I surely know that there is indeed a God and I am experiencing His love. Life is not meaningless anymore because there is this God.

The first step of obedience of the Christian life is baptism. After several months of intensively studying the Bible and asking all kinds of questions, my faith grew and I joyfully signed up to be baptized.

In the baptism class, the pastor communicated the significance of baptism with Romans 6:3-13. Through immersion, which symbolizes burial, we are united with the death of Christ; then we are also united with His resurrection.

On Easter Day of 2001, I was baptized in front of a loving Christian community. I invited three or four of my non-believing friends to attend my baptism. Two of them later became Christians.

After baptism, I continued to experience God's transforming grace in my life. Previously I was not only an atheist but also a feminist. In college I had studied mass media and literature, and feminism was pioneered in these areas. While I was struggling with the decision of whether to follow Christ, I even mentioned to a sister, "If I become a Christian, I cannot study feminism anymore."

That misunderstanding did not stop me from following Christ. After my conversion, however, my question became: With what kind of woman is God pleased? What is God's original design and purpose for man and woman? How does this relate to God Himself?

Throughout my doctoral studies in systematic theology, I explored these questions. The answer to these questions was contained in my dissertation, "A Development Not a Departure: The Lacunae in the Debate of the Doctrine of the Trinity and Gender Roles," (P&R Publishing, 2018).

Reflecting on what God has done in my life in the past 19 years, I can only say that I am a completely new creation, once an atheist and feminist, but now a Christian and complementarian. The Gospel has changed and continues changing my life, my mind and my whole person.

Hongyi Yang serves as assistant professor of systematic theology in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's women's studies program and director of the Mandarin translation project for the master of theological studies program. Yang holds an M.A. in theology, biblical studies, and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southwestern Seminary; an M.S. in radio, television and film from the University of North Texas; an M.A. in media studies from Beijing Normal University; and a B.A. in film and TV from Beijing Normal University.
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