Tia Fink is a scientist and professor of environmental science at Lee College. She attended many churches growing up that had either very human-centered views of religion or very corporate views of religion. The focus was either on what humans should or should not be doing to please God or how a person would be blessed to the degree that they were willing to empty their pocketbooks on a Sunday morning. Both these unbiblical and damaging approaches left Tia with a distaste for God, church, and any kind of religion. She decided to become an atheist.
“I was just happy letting everyone believe what they wanted to believe,” Tia said.
In 2004, when Tia was 20 years old, a work friend invited her to visit Clear Creek Community Church. While the fill-in-the-blank sermon notes were pleasantly non-threatening, and the people seemed friendly, Tia stopped going after only a few weeks.
“I liked the fill-in-the-blank worksheets a lot,” Tia admitted, “but at that time, I just didn’t want to attend and didn’t think any of it was important.”
Sometimes people would talk to Tia about church and God, and her responses varied between ‘I don’t get it,’ ‘No, that’s not for me,’ and ‘Never again am I trying that.’
“There were other times when people really wanted to know what I thought, and I would say, ‘Well, everyone believes in some sort of “higher power,” no matter what name they called it.’ For the most part though, sometimes I would recognize that maybe there was a higher power, but that he doesn’t care at all because this world is so messed up and evil. But because of all the evil in the world, I believed that God didn’t exist at all, neither did Satan, neither heaven nor hell.”
Years later, this approach to life was no longer working for her. She and her husband found themselves in a huge financial bind that led to depression and eventual separation from one another.
“Within four months, I lost my husband and all my earthly possessions,” Tia recalled. “I thought we were still going to work things out, so I let him have anything he wanted from the house.” But then it turned out she had nothing left.
At that rock-bottom point, Tia had another co-worker who noticed that she was really struggling. He told her, “If you’re looking for answers, the Bible is where you could find them.” Although she was very skeptical, she had nowhere else to turn and she did need help. So in either a moment of courage or desperation (or maybe both), she asked him where she should start. Tia finally started her journey of truly discovering whether or not God was really real, and if he was, how he could possibly care about her life.
Tia began reading both the Old Testament and the New Testament at the same time. And being a scientist, any time she came across verses that didn’t make sense or that she disagreed with (or even ones that she didn’t like), she put on her research hat and started digging.
“I’m not one that if I read something, if it totally doesn’t make sense, I’m just going to move on and leave it alone,” Tia said. “I would research, ‘Why? Why would God do that?’ There were some very interesting parts that, from my standpoint, just seemed horrible and cruel. But when I researched the background for them and why they happened, it started to make sense why God would choose to want things done that way or allow certain things to happen.”
Her year-long process of excavating the truths underneath the scriptures led to a true discovery of what the Bible really said about God. This also led her to read supplemental books at the same time she was reading through the Bible. She was looking for answers to explain some of the most challenging topics she encountered both in the Bible and in her personal life: Why does God allow horrible things to happen? Where is God during my suffering? What does it mean that God is sovereign?
When Tia was reading through the Bible, she was looking for answers for her situation, but she wasn’t seeing those. Originally, she didn’t know you could look in the Bible about marriage, or divorce, or finances.
“I think the way I approached [reading the Bible] helped me have a bigger picture of it all, versus just looking at my current situation.”
Eventually, Tia came to faith after reading about the nature of God, Jesus, and her own need for a savior. She realized God wanted his people to worship him and him alone when she read about the pagan concrete idol Dagon in 1 Samuel that broke to pieces and bowed face down before the Ark of God and His presence. She realized Jesus was the only pathway to a right relationship with God when she read his words in John 14 that he was “the way, the truth, and the life.” She realized that because of God’s great love for the world, expressed in John 3, Jesus’ life was given up as a sacrifice for the sins of man. And when she read Romans 3, she realized that no one was good on their own and she needed this savior, Jesus, too.
The scriptures even revealed the kind of person she wanted to become because of her newfound faith in Jesus. She wanted to be like the deep-rooted trees planted along the riverbank that Jeremiah spoke about because these were the trees that never stopped producing fruit and could withstand heat and drought without worry. And she wanted to be like the wise person who builds their house on solid rock from the parable that Jesus told in Matthew because the person who builds their house on bedrock could withstand any amount of rain and wind and floodwaters.
It was clear to Tia that Jesus, who was both the living water and the rock of her salvation, was the answer to her circumstances. It wasn’t that the heat or drought or the rain, wind, or floods in her life would necessarily cease, but that her faith in Jesus would ground her to no end. It was only after these revelations that Tia decided to check out church again.
“This process of fact-checking the Bible also led me to fact-check some local churches, too, and I think that was unbelievably helpful,” Tia said. “I first started by watching some online sermons… and I found myself saying, ‘That’s not true!’ or ‘That’s not what the Bible teaches! Why are they teaching this to people?’”
Then she remembered Clear Creek Community Church and the fill-in-the-blank sermon notes. She started watching many archived sermons and decided to attend in person again. Tia even fact-checked Clear Creek messages. But after finding them to be biblically accurate, she knew she had found a church she could trust.
Tia has now been attending CCCC for over two years. She joined her current small group in February 2018. She serves on Sundays with the high school student ministry. And she is still a scientist.
“I feel like I understand everything in science better,” Tia said. “We know a lot of things [about our world], which is great. God gives us the knowledge to know these things. The what, the when, the where, and the why are pretty much mostly answered up to this point. But most of the time, scientists are so reluctant to put in the who.”
However, it seems that even the intelligent design of our solar system challenges this reluctance. The simple fact that our planet has an orbit keeps us from crashing directly into the sun. Our specific orbit keeps us from crashing into other planets. And Jupiter is so delicately positioned to act as a sort of shield for the earth, deflecting harmful gases and asteroids that might otherwise be bound for Earth [Opfer, 2015].
“You can read all these scientific things and you can see how the world works and the physics and the chemistry and the environmental science and the biology, but there’s always these holes, like these gaps of what we don’t know.”
The who, Tia explains, is the one who so carefully created both the parameters of the universe and the very atoms that make up a unit of matter.
“Subatomic particles and the strength of gravity appear to be finely tuned just right to support stars, atoms, molecules, and life,” Tia said. “Scientists believe if the Big Bang conditions had been slightly different, then the universe would not exist (Johnson, 2003).
“Or just take neutrons and protons as an example. Neutrons are just slightly heavier than protons. If it were the other way around, atoms couldn’t exist because all the protons in the universe would have decayed into neutrons shortly after the big bang. No protons, then no atomic nucleuses, no atoms, no chemistry, no life,” Tia claims. “Saying that God doesn’t exist in that is pretty much setting yourself up for more failure than understanding.”
At the same time that her understanding of the created world amplified, so did her compassion for her friends and her scientist colleagues who still do not believe. For Tia, choosing to believe in God within a community of atheists can be challenging, at times. Sometimes when presented with opposing discussions with friends or colleagues, she has to say, “I understand where you’re coming from, but that’s not what I’m gonna believe anymore. I’m going to be over here believing this, but if you ever have questions, I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”
“All you can do is try to share the gospel with them sometimes, and share with them in a gentle way so that they’re not going to be hostile towards it. But it’s not our work to do. It’s God’s work to save them.”
On top of these challenges, Tia’s personal circumstances—the ones that drove her to seek answers in the Bible in the first place—have not changed much at all. And yet, somehow, everything has changed. While Tia began her spiritual journey hoping for a restored marriage, along the way she found a new perception that God didn’t just exist, but he knew her by name, he was writing her story, and she could trust him.
“As you read through the Bible, there is all sorts of devastation; we’re not the first people to have war and famine and adultery and everything else,” Tia said. “Lots of people in the Bible had to learn how to be content. I’m sure they didn’t want to be in prison. I’m sure lots of God’s people didn’t want to have all the bad things happen to them that happened to them. I’m sure they didn’t like those situations at all, but He allowed it to happen—and it was still for their good, somehow.”
In the quest to be content in her circumstances, Tia admits that putting these truths into her mind and soul daily is the main thing that keeps her moving forward.
“If you look at the big picture, God’s sovereign over all of it, even from the grass growing to the condition of the soil to every drop of rain. So if He sees and controls all that, what makes you think that he doesn’t see and know and control your circumstances? Because He does.”
Opfer, C. (2015). What If Earth Changed Its Orbit. Retrieved from
Johnson, G. (2003) Can Science Prove the Existence of God? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/11/science/can-science-prove-the-existence-of-god.html