How actor Kirk Cameron lost his atheism

September 10, 2013

By Mark Ellis

Kirk Cameron at Emmy's, 1989

Kirk Cameron at Emmy’s, 1989

At age 17 he had it all. As Mike Seaver on the hit TV show Growing Pains, he became a teen heartthrob and was making $50,000 a week. Magazines like Tiger Beat featured him regularly on their covers.  He traveled the world meeting famous people.

But in his pursuit of a young woman’s affections, the girl’s father made it clear that amid all his youthful fame and success, there was one thing he lacked – God.

“There’s still something you don’t have, Kirk,” the man told a surprised Cameron. “You don’t have the Lord.”

“I don’t believe in God and that’s not something I’m interested in,” he informed the dad, matter-of-factly. Cameron considered himself a “staunch” atheist, too intelligent to believe in fairytales.

When the girl’s family invited him to attend church with them later, he went reluctantly. “I only went because the girl was really cute and I wanted to get to know her,” he admits.

Sitting in a church pew for the first time brought an unexpected reaction. “This man stood up there with a Bible, which I thought was a dusty old book designed to take the fun out of your life,” he recounts.

But the message grabbed Cameron’s attention. “He explained that we were designed by God to know Him and love Him and obey Him and be in right relation with Him.”

“But something separates us from God and that ‘something’ He calls sin. Sin is the selfish streak that runs deep through the heart of every person.”

The pastor explained that sin manifests itself when people lie, steal, or dishonor their parents. It can show up when you put other things in your life in a more important position than God.

When he heard this last part, Cameron felt a sinking sensation in his heart. “I realized my dirty socks were more important to me than God.”

As the pastor continued, he clearly stated the ramifications of sin. “God hates sin not only because it separates us from Him, but because it’s wrong. God will punish sin and those who commit sin in a place called hell.”

That seems really harsh, Cameron thought to himself.

But then the pastor offered good news, a way out of this dilemma. “God is also loving and compassionate and He’s provided a way to be forgiven by sending His Son Jesus to die on a cross.

“Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. If we humble ourselves and turn from our sins and trust in what Jesus did, God will grant us forgiveness and everlasting life. He did this because of His great love for us.”

As Cameron sat in the back of the church, a wave of guilt swept over him. “I knew I had sinned against God,” he admitted. At the same time, the first pale gleams of faith stirred his soul.

“My heart was swelling with hope that that this amazing God who sees my sinful heart would be compassionate enough to take my punishment for me and forgive me.”

Questions were swirling in Cameron’s mind when he took his girlfriend home. Where did we come from? he wondered to himself.  Where are we going when we die? Is there really a God in heaven?

“I didn’t know what to say to my friend’s father,” he says, but he began to pepper him with questions. “I asked him about the Bible. I asked him for answers and he gave me intelligent answers.”

Then one rejoinder stopped Cameron in his tracks. “Kirk, there’s one question you need to ask God Himself – whether or not He’s real.”

How am I supposed to do that? he wondered.

Over the next few weeks, Cameron began to read the Bible for the first time. He also went back to church a few more times.

Then he found himself alone in his sports car, parked by the side of the road. An unsettling issue dogged his thoughts. If I get in a car accident and die tonight, will I go to heaven?

He realized the answer was no. He had ignored God his entire life; he put everything else in his life in a more important position than God.

“I sinned against Him, even knowing the thing I had done were wrong because I thought I could get away with it. I knew God saw it all and there was no reason He should let me into heaven.”

For the first time in his life, Cameron bowed his head and prayed a brief prayer. “God, if you’re there, I need to know. If you’re real, would you please show me? Would you please forgive me for my pride and arrogance? Change me into the person you want me to be.”

Cameron slowly opened his eyes and felt a newfound sense of hope and expectation. “It wasn’t like a gust of wind blew through my window or I saw Jesus on my windshield, but I had a very real sense God heard me. I felt He was listening to me, that He is real.”

Cameron felt so good he went home and told a Christian friend about his experience. He began to read the Bible regularly.

“I started learning about this amazing God,” Cameron exults. “He’s not a big bad cop in the sky waiting to punish people,” he says. “He is a holy, just and righteous God who wants us to turn from our sins so we can be forgiven. It’s an amazing story of love.”

“That’s the God I have fallen in love with and live for. Of all the things I’ve done, nothing compares with the joy of knowing Jesus Christ.”

 

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