Hat tip to my reader Robert Stroud of Mere Inkling for the following story about David Skeel.

Dr Skeel is a professor of corporate law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author. He is also an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

A World article relates how David Skeel converted between his second and third year at university. He was an English major at the University of North Carolina. He found he was missing the meaning of some of the assigned texts because he did not understand the biblical references therein:

We read lots of books with biblical themes. I never knew what the themes were because I had never been to Sunday school class. We read a short story by Wright Morris, “The Ram in the Thicket”—I had no idea what the subtext of the story was.

So he decided to take action:

After enduring a class where I felt really ignorant, I decided to read the Bible. The summer after my sophomore year in college a couple of friends and I drove a van across the country. I started reading the Bible in the back of the van …

Soon after:

by the time I’d gotten a few chapters into Genesis I was persuaded it was true. I had never read anything so beautiful, so psychologically real. 

The humanity of the people in Genesis profoundly affected him. That continued as he read the rest of Holy Scripture. Furthermore, by reading about the sins of men and women in the Bible, he began to think more about his own sinfulness:

Any book that doesn’t look like the world we inhabit I don’t find compelling. The flaws made it real to me, and that’s still a big part of what makes it real—that Peter renounced Jesus, when before he was willing to give up his life for Jesus. Those are people I understand. I guess, intuitively, at a very early age I had a sense of my own sin and the sin of people around me. Seeing that portrayed in a complex way I found very powerful and very real.

He was struck by Bible’s complexity and the various genres employed:

The psychological complexity of Christianity was really powerful for me, as was the complexity of the language in the Bible. Truth can’t be conveyed in a single genre, so the Bible’s mix of genres, language, and images is part of the evidence for its veracity. 

When Skeel returned to his fraternity that autumn, he began attending a series of talks on the Gospels designed for fraternities and sororities. Pity, I think, that they were not open to all students, but so be it.

Not everyone supported Skeel’s eventual conversion. One of his room-mates thought it was bunk. However, for Skeel, it was a life-long, life-changing commitment.

Skeel’s books are related to business and economics: Icarus in the Boardroom, Debt’s Dominion, and The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and Its (Unintended) Consequences.

He has just published a fourth book, True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World. He did so because:

I found it really frustrating to hear biblical Christianity and Christians described in a way that had nothing to do with my faith and what Christianity is. In our culture Christianity is often characterized as simplistic. This book is for people who think there’s no reason to take Christianity seriously. It’s to show people of that sort—they surround me in my professional life—that Christianity is much more plausible than they think.

One can only hope that the new book is successful and that it results in more conversions or at least an acceptance that Christianity is far from simplistic.

From the beginning of the Church, theologians have analysed and explained biblical Christian tenets among each other as well as to laymen. Yes, the Good News is intended for everyone. However, anyone who thinks Christianity is for morons should take several courses in theology. As I’ve said many times before, understanding the Bible properly requires the help of a sound commentary, with nothing extreme.

David Skeel’s is a wonderful conversion story, especially for a professor who teaches corporate law. It is good to read that he is part of a denomination that believes the Bible and adheres to centuries-old confessions of faith.

N.B.: Be careful when reading the World article. You get only so many views of it before you are given a summary and are asked to pay for a subscription.

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