Searching for the right words to explain his personal experience with God, Sven Östring was challenged bluntly by a friend to justify the reasons for his faith as they sat eating pizza one night.
"Are you a Christian because of intellectual reasons or because of emotional reasons?" his friend further inquired later that night.
Even though he was used to deep discussion with academic peers after moving to England for post-doctoral studies at Cambridge University, Sven felt challenged to consider more closely the reasons why he had such a strong faith in Jesus and the God of the Bible.
He remembers being inspired as a child to read the Bible because of by his mother's commitment to following Jesus.
"I grasped the reality of what Jesus did in dying on the cross for me and I wanted to accept His free gift of salvation and commit my whole life to Him because of it," Sven says.
He made a decision to follow Jesus as a young person but assumed he could journey through life alone without depending on God.
He admits this sense of self-sufficiency did not change until violin examinations and difficult high school studies in Hong Kong overwhelmed him with fear and loneliness.
Needing comfort, one evening he began reading about Jesus walking on the water during a fierce storm.
"As I read about how Jesus saved Peter from drowning in the waves, I turned away in my mind's eye and I had a vision of myself standing out on a stormy sea being terrified of the approaching waves," Sven recalls.
"Then I looked up and saw that I was being carried by Jesus and that He was smiling down at me. The waves did not touch me because Jesus was taking the brunt of them and carrying me above the waves."
“The waves did not touch me because Jesus was taking the brunt of them “After this personal encounter Sven felt an unexplainable sense of peace settle over him and he believes that the vision was God's way of sending encouragement in his time of need.
Although Sven can attest to many times in his life where he has felt God's presence and help in different situations, his personal studies also revealed a significant amount of evidence to support intellectual reasons for his faith.
"I remembered my youth pastor in Christchurch, New Zealand showing our youth group a video of a debate between William Lane Craig and Frank Zindler that was hosted at Willow Creek Church in Chicago, so I went on to Amazon to look for some books by William Lane Craig," he says.
In his search he came across a book of his called Reasonable Faith as well as J. P. Moreland's book titled Scaling the Secular City.
"Each night I would come home from my research lab, quickly cook dinner and then from about 7pm until late in the night I would stay up reading these apologetic books. I could not get enough of the material," he recalls.
He covered topics that included everything from the origin and fine-tuning of the universe to the rationality of the human mind and the grounds for objective morality but Sven says he was most fascinated with the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"If Jesus was literally raised from the dead, then God exists and moreover He loves us and His gift of eternal life is real," he says.
"I was totally captivated by this historical rock on which I could build my faith."
After years of academic study in the field of computer networking this realisation was enough to motivate Sven to radically switch career paths and move to Australia for theological studies.
He was later invited to develop a denominational university ministry in Perth and followed his passion for providing spiritual support and encouragement to people in his current role as the Multi-Faith Officer at Curtin University.
Looking back on his personal experiences and research, Sven says his friend's challenging questions provided the catalyst that brought him to the point of fully realising that he was "sitting on an absolute gold mine of faith". •