Throughout the month of February, this column will be featuring stories of noted atheists who experienced dramatic shifts in their views, eventually becoming Christians. The stories will highlight the reasons why they held their atheistic views to begin with, and the reasons they became convinced of the truth of Christianity.
Guillaume Bignon was born and raised near Paris, France. His family was traditionally Catholic, and attended all of the major Catholic events, however, this was more for the sake of tradition than from any strongly held belief. Bignon, himself, did not place any amount of faith in the teachings of the church, and had the sense that those around him weren’t committed to the particulars of the faith so much as the social and traditional aspects.
Bignon quit attending church as soon as he was old enough, and devoted himself to his own interests, becoming a computer scientist, amateur musician and volleyball player. At about this time in his life, he was also a self-described womanizer.
During a vacation trip with his brother, Bignon met an American girl from New York. When they began dating, she confessed to being a Christian, and as such, that sex should be reserved exclusively for the marriage bed.
Both of these ideas were very distasteful to Bignon, as was the extreme long-distance relationship between America and France.
Thus inspired, Bignon began his quest to disprove Christianity to his girlfriend so that their relationship might commence in earnest without this idealistic barrier.
Bignon’s primary reason for disbelief was the fact that all of the intelligent people he knew did not believe in God. He realized, however, that this didn’t exactly work as an argument against Christian belief.
Bignon’s first step was to pray that God, if he existed, reveal himself. He assumed that this prayer was simply going into thin air, but reasoned that this was a legitimate experiment in his investigation.
His second step was to read the Gospels.
It was here that he found himself surprised. Rather than reading like superstitious nonsense, the Jesus presented in the Bible spoke with an air of authority that Bignon found unexpected. Jesus’ masterful way of speaking and in maneuvering through conversations and debates left Bignon uncomfortable.
It was also clear to Bignon that the accounts of Jesus were at least nominally based on an actual, historical figure.
This was far from enough to change Bignon’s mind however, and he continued about his lifestyle as per normal.
Bignon’s volleyball schedule changed when his shoulder began to flair up during games; forcing him to take time off from playing. With nothing else to occupy his Sundays, he decided to visit a church.
Bignon found the church experience uncomfortable in the extreme, and was put off by the way the people around him seemed totally committed to these beliefs.
Despite the discomfort Bignon felt during the service, he felt compelled to speak to the pastor regarding his beliefs. One discussion turned into many, until Bignon found himself meeting with the pastor regularly and studying the Bible independently.
Christianity was beginning to make a kind of sense to him, however he was unclear on the primary issue: Why did Jesus have to die?
It was in response to this question that Bignon felt the guilt for his misdeeds suddenly bubbling up inside of him, destroying the lies and suppression he had used to cover them up. He describes his moment of revelation like this:
“I still remember lying there in pain in my apartment near Paris, when all of a sudden the quarter dropped; it made sense: “That” is why Jesus had to die:…me. He who knew no sin became sin on my behalf, so that in Him I might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). He took upon himself the penalty that I deserved, so that in God’s justice, my sins would be forgiven freely, by grace as a gift, rather than by my righteous deeds or religious rituals. He died so that I may live. So I accepted the whole thing: I placed my trust in Jesus, and asked Him to forgive me in the way the New Testament promised He would.”
This moment of repentance dissolved the guilt Bignon had felt and replaced it with relief and peace. He was a Christian.
After his conversion, Bignon moved to New York and began to study apologetics and theology, eventually gaining a PhD in philosophical theology.
He is now a full-time theologian and scholar and well-respected in his field.