Paul Lim – Atheist to Christian

This is a story of someone’s journey from atheist to Christian.

Dr. Paul Lim was born in South Korea and describes himself as a “happy-go-lucky boy” until the age of nine when things suddenly took a turn for the worse…

Professor Lim divides his life into four “I” stages, which all had a bearing on this journey:

1. Incarceration
2. Immigration
3. Identification
4. Inquiry


One day after school, Paul’s mother told him his father wouldn’t be coming home that night.  This didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.  However, several days passed, and still, his father hadn’t returned.  Paul’s mother eventually told him his father had been imprisoned, and no one knew when he was coming home.  Although Paul was raised in a “non-religious” family, he pleaded with God to release his dad from prison.  When his boyhood expectations were not met, he got angry with God and became an atheist.


Paul’s father was released from prison three years later.  When he was fifteen, the family immigrated to America and moved to Philadelphia.  His parents decided to join a local Korean church to help them become acquainted with their new surroundings.  Paul didn’t fit in at school.  So he was encouraged to join the youth group at church, which the youth pastor called “Triple B” for Bible study, Burger King, and Bowling.  Unfortunately, he was ostracized by the others and wound up sitting alone, eating alone, and bowling alone.  This once happy-go-lucky boy was now an isolated and lonely young man.


Paul found his self-identity by pursuing academic achievement and playing sports.  He was accepted into Yale University.  There he was required to take some “Humanities” classes.  One New Testament professor he admired claimed the Bible was not something “to hang your life on,” which reinforced his disbelief and atheism.  And made any journey from atheist to Christian even more unlikely.

In fact.  Lim hated Christianity.  But he loved his mom.  He called her regularly, and she would always ask if he was going to church.  He usually drank heavily on the weekends but went to church occasionally so he wouldn’t have to lie to her.

During this period, his sister became engaged to a Christian man who was in Seminary.  One day his mom told him about a retreat his future brother-in-law was putting together and asked if he would attend.  He didn’t want to go but went reluctantly.  He thought it was terrible.  But on the last night of the retreat, the praise team played a song by Keith Green called “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice.”  Paul heard the words as if God was speaking directly to him and began sobbing.  He hadn’t cried up to that moment since the age of nine, but all his defenses broke down, and he became a believer in Jesus Christ.  So all along, Jesus had been laying a path for him to move from atheist to Christian.


New life always produces hunger, and that’s exactly what Paul Lim’s new spiritual life produced: hunger for the milk of the Word of God.  He “devoured the Bible” by reading it seven times from cover to cover in one semester.  His faith grew.  But there remained a lot of questions in his mind.  He was planning to go to law school after graduating.  But he decided to go to seminary and study the Bible for a little while instead.  His professors at seminary thought he had an inquiring mind and suggested he get his Ph.D. so he could come back and teach with them.

Today Paul Lim is a self-proclaimed “academic missionary” and professor of Christian history at Vanderbilt University in Memphis, Tennessee.

After traveling a road from atheist to Christian, he knows Jesus Christ personally and walks with Him.

Learn more about Jesus:

“I am living forevermore.”


© Kathy Unruh 2020 and beyond

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