I love to read encouraging stories, especially redemption stories. One of the most compelling stories I have read recently is from WORLD magazine’s “WORLD on Campus” website. If you are ever tempted to believe that someone can be beyond the reach of God’s grace in Christ, the story of Rich Suplita is a good message to hear. I hope his story is as encouraging for you as it is for me.
Ask a (Former) Atheist
by Kelsey Deans
Psychology professor Rich Suplita used to sit in the University of Georgia’s Tate Plaza holding a handmade sign that read “Ask an atheist” any time a preacher came to campus to share the gospel. As the faculty sponsor of the school’s atheist club, he was adept at explaining how to tackle the issues of life without God.
“Essentially what I was trying to do was offer an atheistic apologetic of how you can explain whatever happens to be true through the lens of atheism, and I think I was pretty good at that,” Suplita said during a recent interview. He was so good, he almost convinced himself. But after six years denying God’s existence, Suplita had a dramatic change of heart. When he visits Tate Plaza now, he’s the one sharing the gospel.
Suplita grew up in a legalistic Christian denomination, which he declined to name, that equated salvation with good works. As he got older, Suplita could not reconcile what he saw as a contradiction in his church’s teaching that a person is freely granted salvation through the grace of God but then has to work to maintain that salvation. He said he could not believe in a God who would give salvation freely at first but make the assurance of that salvation contingent on a person’s ability to stop sinning.
Unable to believe in God, Suplita embraced the ideas of atheistic humanism. He went to graduate school at the University of Georgia and earned his doctorate in psychology in 2005. By the fall of 2010 he was teaching everything from introduction to psychology to pharmacology and neuroscience and had become the school’s best-known atheist. His ability to present atheistic apologetics made him popular with the 50-member UGAtheist club, which he sponsored.
Suplita said he believed the God of the Bible was unjust in many of the judgments that he carried out, and that a good God who allows evil to happen in the world could not exist. He often quoted 1 Samuel 15:3, in which God commands the Israelites to go to war with the Amalekites and to destroy them.
“It actually lists to put to death the men, women, children, infants, cattle and sheep, basically, to wipe them out entirely,” he said. “And that whole idea of God commanding His army to kill babies, if you just extract that from everything else there is about God, then it seems so atrocious that the conclusion is, ‘Well, a monster like that must not exist.’ That was my point at the time.”
If someone had asked him last fall if he believed in God, he would have said definitely not. But now, Suplita says he is unsure whether he ever really believed that in his heart. He could give a whole list of reasons why he thought it was ridiculous to believe in God, but he now wonders whether he really believed what he was saying.
“It was more like I was trying to convince myself,” he said.Suplita always struggled with the atheist worldview’s
existential crisis – the idea that if atheism is true, life is ultimately meaningless and not worth living. Suplita realized that the existential crisis extended far beyond the parameters of his own life. If it were true, it would mean the same thing for the lives of his daughters, aged 10, 7 and 4.
Suplita said that while he could spend his time on campus telling his students that there was no God, he could not bring himself to tell that to his own children. He could not justify teaching them that their lives were meaningless and that there was no God to glorify.
Last spring, near Easter, Suplita went to an event at Tate Plaza that was sponsored by Watkinsville First Baptist Church. He listened to the preacher and talked with some of the church’s members. They encouraged him to re-read the gospel of John and to reconsider the truth of biblical Christianity. A few weeks later, Suplita prayed to receive Christ as his savior.
He still believes the existential crisis is real, but he now understands its purpose is to point people to God.
“Only when you postulate an eternal God that you can actually have some sort of meaningful relationship with can you get around that existential crisis,” he said.
Belief in the existence of God, the invitation to have a personal relationship with Him and the opportunity to live to bring Him glory were the answers to the meaning of life that he was looking for, Suplita said. Only when he saw that there was life after death and a purpose for life here today did he have hope, security and a reason for getting up in the morning, he said.
Suplita’s decision to embrace Christianity got him kicked out of the atheist’s club, even though he offered to stay on as its sponsor. But the reactions of his former friends, who decided he must have gone “off the deep end,” hasn’t deterred him from his new faith.
“It’s helped give me peace in that sense, in that my life’s about something and the lives of my daughters are about something that is lasting and enduring and can never fade away,” he said. “And there is intrinsic hope in that.”
The Regents High School Cross Country team competed at the Lufkin Coke Classic on Saturday, October 15. All the team members competed well and improved their times. Special congratulations goes to Will Young, who finished in 1st place in the 1A-3A race. Coach Tim Young is pictured below with the team.
Regents Academy has gained a reputation in the Nacogdoches area for its academic excellence, its distinctly Christian worldview, and its loving community. But there’s a dark side to our school’s notoriety: many people know a little bit about the school and then fill in the gaps in their knowledge with assumptions, myths, and rumors. “Classical schools are harsh and oppressive.” “Classical schools were good for the past, but we need something new and innovative today.” This body of perceptions is out there in the form of something like urban legends, imaginative modern folktales that aren’t true but are just plausible enough to seem true.
Here are two more urban legends about classical Christian education that have cropped up as the movement has grown.
“Those schools are only for really smart kids.” Or, “My child is not smart enough for a classical school.” Many parents observe Regents students, and, seeing that they are diligent, motivated, and capable, assume that every child at Regents must be a gifted child. Parents look at our classrooms and curriculum and suppose that all the children must have exceptionally superior intelligence. The germ of truth here lies in the way Regents’s classical methodology capitalizes on children’s natural abilities to learn and is able to help ordinary children achieve extraordinary results by using learning methods that have been proven through the centuries.
The fact is that Regents students range from average or even below average to exceptional abilities. As a friend of mine used to say, there are pints, there are quarts, and there are gallons! We have all kinds at Regents, and all kinds of students can and do succeed at Regents. When you have a motivated student, involved parents, caring teachers with small class sizes, and proven classical curriculum and methods – that is a formula for success for a child with almost any ability level.
“Classical Christian schools are too radical.” A healthy amount of skepticism is often a good thing. I’m glad I was skeptical about hoarding for Y2K. And many parents are skeptical when it comes to “messing” with their children. Things that seem new and innovative, bold variations from the norm, are often met with uncertainty. But the stubborn fact is that classical education is the method of education that has been the educational model of Western civilization for centuries. It’s a bit of a stretch to consider the schooling of Cotton Mather and Thomas Jefferson to be new-fangled, yet many do.
Contemporary education is in a constant state of flux because of pedagogical experimentation. New methods are tried and abandoned, and then newer methods are introduced. In this milieu anything traditional seems out of phase and even extreme. But this is precisely the point where we need to think rightly: classical education provides a basic structure for teaching children that complements children’s natural, developmental growth and that draws on the wisdom of 1,000 years of educational tradition. Any family who wants to the very best education possible for their children should look into classical Christian education. Period. There is no better model out there.
I hope that you who are experiencing classical Christian education first-hand can attest to its effectiveness. I hope that these urban legends appear to you to be the myths that they really are. Do you have questions about classical Christian education? I would encourage you to do some research – either online or with a good book (I can recommend many sources of each kind). And I would encourage us all to be advocates of classical Christian education in our community. I am so thankful for the difference it has made with my own children, and I hope you feel the same and are able to share your enthusiasm.
Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of the urban legend. Urban legends are modern folktales, stories believed by their tellers to be true but that don’t necessarily have any basis in fact. Remember the giant alligators in the New York sewers? How many of us have believed at some point that saying “Bloody Mary” three times facing a mirror will cause her to appear? It doesn’t matter if it’s true; the story just needs to be sensational.
Not surprisingly, urban legends have cropped up around the classical Christian school movement. Never mind that these myths are no more true than the thousands of myths, urban legends, and internet rumors discussed at Snopes.com. They are still out there, and families should be well-informed so that they can fend off these tales.
One urban legend about classical Christian education is that it is harsh and oppressive. When people hear words like Latin, classics, uniforms, and recitations, they immediately think of the film Dead Poets Society with frustrated children being pushed to the breaking point by grinding homework loads and dictatorial teachers.
But does challenging curriculum lead to unhappy children? Just the opposite, in fact. To quote our friends at The Ambrose School, “The excitement of children learning Latin grows as they become able to describe the world in a language that most adults do not understand. The rich and complex texture of classical literature is strangely amplified by youth. Science and the history of Western Civilization come alive for those who hunger to know about their world.” When you visit Regents Academy you find children who are excited about learning. Learning new things can be intimidating to adults, but to children it is exciting.
Classical Christian schools insist on order and respect in the classroom, but this order does not require students to sit quietly with eyes directed downward, never interacting with their teachers. In fact, students at Regents are encouraged to ask questions, offer opinions, make observations, and vocalize answers. Regents students sing, chant, debate, invent, and inquire. Our classrooms are lively places with active students who are learning from a demanding curriculum with joy.
Another urban legend about classical Christian education is that classical education was good for bygone generations, but it is no longer relevant in the modern era. The fact is, however, that a classical school teaches students facts, shows them how to relate those facts coherently using logical tools, and then gives the students the ability to relate their ideas beautifully and persuasively. This is a skill set that is as much in demand today as ever and is as applicable to technology and science as ever. It was people who were trained classically who made the great scientific discoveries that have birthed our technologically marvelous world.
To quote our friends at The Ambrose School once again, “The process of teaching students to think extends far beyond filling their heads with knowledge. Modern education, to varying degrees, has succeeded in teaching facts and some skills. Classical education helps students draw original, creative, and accurate conclusions from facts and then formulate those conclusions into logical and persuasive arguments. . . . Parents who are exposed to classical education recognize that its back to the basics approach contrasts with the distractions of modern education. . . . Classical education teaches children the timeless skills of thinking, reasoning, logic, and expression.” Yes, we teach Homer and Virgil and Dante and Milton, but our subject matter is as current as any curriculum out there. It’s just that we add a depth of Christian reflection and a dimension of time-tested methodology that make our curriculum unique and very effective.
Next time I’ll add a couple of more urban legends that are out there. Until then, please know that if you face a mirror and say “Trivium” three times quickly, Dorothy Sayers will not mystically appear in the mirror. But no shame if you give it a try.
On October 3 the fourth graders went on a science scavenger hunt at Lanana Creek Trail and the SFA arboretum.
The class started the trip off with a picnic lunch at Pecan Park. It was a lovely day for a picnic at the park!
Then, led by their teacher Mrs. Katrina Terrell, the students headed off with their bug catchers and scavenger hunt list. They were looking for things such as butterflies with mostly white coloring, an insect or cocoon that had wrapped itself inside a leaf, a bird with nesting material, the sound of a woodpecker drumming, a praying mantis egg case, etc.
The students were true entomologists! They even found a dry creekbed in the arboretum that they descended in search of creatures. A few puddles produced a tadpole and a couple of frogs. The class had a very successful day with their list. Most of the students found almost all 30 items. Some of the boys wished a bat flying wouldn’t have been on the list since the trip was during the day.
This will definately be a repeated field trip for years to come.