From Baha'i to Jesus
February 03, 2013
Bryant Parsons, M.Div - General Studies
Bryant Parsons was born in Trinidad, but moved to Brooklyn, NY at the age of four. Bryant was not brought up in a Christian home, although his family attended a Unity Church, a New Age cult that emphasizes meditation. Bryant considered himself a Christian at the time, but wasn’t really saved. During his senior year of high school, he suffered a horrific anxiety attack that kept him from sleeping and eventually caused such severe paranoia that he was shaking on the ground. In his moment of weakness, Bryant recalls, “I cried out to God, ‘God help me!’ I thought I was going crazy. And then the anxiety subsided and peace came over me. I didn’t get saved that night. I didn’t know who Jesus was, but I felt that God helped me during that time.”
Bryant continued to suffer repeated anxiety attacks throughout high school and during his time at Howard University. Despite his struggles, he felt that God was still with him in some way, so he decided to attend various spiritual events held on campus. While attending a school-sponsored chapel, he met a man who belonged to the Baha'i faith. He began to meet with his Baha'i friend to study their scriptures and doctrine during his first month at Howard. Unbeknownst to Bryant at the time, God was using this Baha'i man to bring him to His Son.
Because the Baha'i faith emphasizes the unity of all religions, Bryant’s Baha'i friend had no problem inviting him to attend a Christian Brothers United meeting on relationships. Bryant describes his experience, “I saw a bunch of men who looked like me, a young black man, worshiping Jesus, and they were talking about relationships from a Christian perspective, and I thought, ‘These people really love God! I want to come back.’”
To this day, Bryant’s Baha'i friend regrets ever having invited him to that meeting. A friend from the Christian fellowship eventually invited Bryant to church, and afterwards shared the gospel with him. His friend said the Baha'i faith didn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God, and that Bryant couldn’t remain Baha'i and be saved, so Bryant decided to follow Jesus from that time forward.
Bryant says of his conversion experience, “I didn’t understand fully what ‘Son of God’ meant, but I knew that I wanted to follow Jesus. I didn’t want to do anything that would take me away from Jesus.” Bryant eventually met a pastor who helped him gain a worldview where he saw God as sovereign and in control. With this realization, Bryant’s anxiety attacks slowly began to disappear as his vision of a God who is totally in control of his life became clearer and clearer.
Another influence in his life was Christian rap, specifically the music of popular artists such as Lecrae, Flame, and Timothy Brindle. Bryant was introduced to John Piper’s ministry and teaching through their music, and although at first he rejected Reformed theology completely, he was drawn to their commitment to scripture.
By this time in his life, Bryant sensed a clear call to ministry and transferred to Nyack College to complete his degree in Biblical and Theological studies. While at Nyack, he took a class on the book of Romans taught by Dongsu Kim (M.Div, 1993; Ph.D, 1999). It was this class that shaped Bryant’s theology and led him to Westminster. Bryant says, “[Dr. Kim] was teaching the class, going chapter by chapter, and we were reading John Stott’s commentary, and then BOOM, we hit chapter 9, and I was like, ‘Paul says so clearly that it’s not up to man who wills but on God who has mercy.’ I remember reading that and it just hit me. It was a huge blow to my Arminianism. I had read the book of Romans before, but after reading through the whole book in the class and listening to John Piper’s sermon on John 6, I fully embraced Reformed theology.”
Dr. Kim further encouraged Bryant to pursue his calling to ministry by attending Westminster. When asked what he has found most rewarding about his Westminster experience, he says, “There are so many great classes here and so many great things I’ve learned, but I think so far I’ve loved Van Til’s work the most. Van Til taught me that we are to be Christian in everything that we do, and of course he focused specifically on apologetics, but he was a man who taught me to apply Christian presuppositions to everything. Whatever you approach, think biblically. That has been very impactful.”
Bryant hopes to bring more of a Reformed influence to the African American community after he graduates. While understanding the challenges this entails, he says, “I think the most important thing that needs to happen is that we preach the Bible. That’s how I became Reformed. I love Jesus and once I saw that Reformed theology came from scripture, I embraced it.”
Please continue to pray for Bryant, that God would give him more clarity in regards to his calling and that he would submit every area of his life to his Lordship.
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