By Mark Ellis
His parents were both dentists and his grandfather was an Orthodox rabbi in Delaware. But from his earliest memories of childhood, he wanted no part of God.
“I was an enemy of God from the beginning,” says Dr. Elliott H. Snyder, M.D., a practicing psychiatrist in Dallas, Texas. When he was four-years-old, he defiantly told his parents he would not go with them to synagogue during Rosh Hashanah. “If you make me go, I will embarrass you,” he threatened.
When the rabbi started his sermon, little Elliott got down on his hands and knees and started barking like a dog – a crude but effective way to mortify his parents.
He went “kicking and screaming” to Hebrew school three days each week until he was 13. At the school, he once delivered a sermon against religion, but he wasn’t quite sure what he was really rebelling against.
Later on, Snyder was admitted to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, affiliated with Yeshiva University. “I didn’t have the hand skills to be a surgeon, so psychiatry was a good fit,” he says. Although the school had religious ties, the program was completely secular, which he liked.
During his third year of medical school, he learned about transcendental meditation (TM) from a girlfriend. She had given up her drug use when she began meditating, a fact that intrigued him.
“I was a reprobate, a total sinner, an enemy of God, and a secular humanist to the max,” he admits.
But when he began to explore meditation, it opened his mind to the possibility of a supernatural reality. “As a total atheist, it was a gateway to spiritual things. I began to see there is a creative intelligence in the universe.” As he moved from being an atheist to a deist, he thought TM was the answer, not the Bible.
In 1993, he was flipping through the TV channels late at night and happened to land on Jack Van Impe Presents, a half-hour weekly program that examines the news through the lens of Bible prophecy. “I wasn’t really interested in the return of Jesus, but in geopolitics,” he confesses. Fascinated by Van Impe’s view of the world, he watched every program for the next seven years.
“At the end of every program he did an altar call. I didn’t want to hear the Jesus stuff so I turned it off.”
But slowly, he began to realize that Van Impe was making a good case. “I could see how things were taking shape in the world, with the European Union and the birth of Israel.” The dawning of this realization led to inescapable conclusions.
Wait a second, he thought to himself, if I believe what he’s saying, what am I supposed to do with the prophecies about the Messiah? I believe the things that haven’t happened, what about the things that have happened? If there is a Jewish Messiah, it must be Jesus…
He realized that Christianity never fizzled with time. In fact, it shaped western civilization.
Instead of turning off Van Impe’s altar call, Snyder began to watch the invitation with intense interest. Finally, one evening, he felt led to pick up the phone. He was ready to make a decision for Jesus Christ as his Messiah.
He confessed his newfound faith to the person who answered his call and they sent him a book in the mail, “First Steps in a New Direction.”
Shortly after that, early on a Sunday morning, he took a bundle of newspapers to a church down the street and placed them in their recycle bin. An older man standing nearby noticed Snyder and said, “What are you doing today?”
“I don’t have any plans…” Snyder replied.
“Would you like to come to church?” he asked.
“Okay,” he said, surprising the man. Snyder went home to change and returned for the next service.
This began Snyder’s growth in grace and his understanding of the deeper truths of the faith. The man who had once rejected God and scorned religion found the Promised One his ancestors longed to see.
If you want to know God personally, here are four steps…