From Atheism to Christ
Dr Robert Carter interviews molecular virologist Dr Yingguang Liu
Dr Yingguang Liu with students.
Dr Yingguang Liu is an associate professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, USA. Born in China, he graduated from medical school there and then earned a Master’s degree in microbiology. After practising medicine as an infectious disease specialist for several years, he came to the United States for further education and obtained a Ph.D. in molecular virology. For the last 13 years, he has taught at Christian colleges, first at Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Wisconsin, and now Liberty University.
Yingguang Liu was born in rural northern China during the politically stormy years of the 1960s. He was taught atheistic philosophy from an early age, then worked hard to pass the highly competitive national college entrance exam in 1984. After graduating from a premier medical school, he went on to earn a Master’s degree in microbiology in 1993. Motivated by a desire to do ‘tangible work’ he left research to work as a physician in his home province, specializing in infectious diseases.
Atheism from day one
Since he and I grew up at about the same time but under very different circumstances, I was intrigued by his story. I asked Dr Liu what it was like to grow up in a rural Chinese village at that time, and he described a life of poverty where nobody took care of the community goods, theft was rampant, begging was common, and most children were malnourished. Despite living in these conditions, he did not question the basic philosophy of life he was being taught. The school system, the media, and the government all united in authoritatively preaching atheism as the only rational, scientific view of the world.
Dr Liu has happy memories of his grandfather, who was a school teacher and a devoted Confucianist. Despite being supportive of the Chinese government, “during the ‘Cultural Revolution’, he was labelled an enemy of the people. He was forced to walk from village to village to confess his ‘sins’ to the farmers he met, and accept the harsh ridicule that came from the darkest corner of sinful men. But when he returned home at dusk, I always joyfully ran to his arms, which was the only comfort to his wounded heart.”
No thought of God
Dr Yingguang Liu as a young boy.
The idea that there might be a God never entered Yingguang’s mind while growing up and the only philosophical beliefs he knew anyone held were those of atheism. “Confucianism was mentioned in textbooks only to show how wrong it was. Yet, atheism gives very little guidance for morality. A local official took the last few silver dollars on my grandma’s table, and did much evil to my family, and my grandma cursed him.”
Yet, despite this harshness of life, surprising acts of kindness also occasionally occurred.
“When I was six years old, I slipped into a pond of water while playing by the edge. I could not crawl out because the mud was slippery. Water got into my mouth, and it got harder and harder to keep my head above water. The same official who had stolen my grandma’s money was walking by with a bag of flour on his back. He heard my desperate cry, put down his bag, walked to the pond, and reached both of his hands to pull me out of the water. Grandma learned of it, and thereafter never failed to mention who saved her one and only grandson. Yes, atheism has turned people into offspring of the devil, but there still remained something good in this man’s heart.”
This is a reflection on the Bible verses that say we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27), with a God-given conscience that, even after much indoctrination and evil practice, still occasionally triumphs (Romans 2:15).1
Darwinism the basis for atheism
There is a relationship between atheism and Darwinism, Dr Liu explains, “We were taught that atheistic historical materialism was built on the three major scientific discoveries of the 19thcentury, namely, the First Law of Thermodynamics, the cell theory in biology, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. It was said of Darwin’s Origin of Species: ‘Although it is developed in the crude English style, this is a book which contains the basis of natural history for our views.’” 2
Note that the first two items on this list (the First Law of Thermodynamics and cell theory) are good science. The third (Darwinism) is a philosophy, not hard science, and is in fact scientifically impossible.3
Moral impact of atheism
Upon graduation from high school in 1984, Dr Liu passed the highly competitive national exam and was admitted to a premier medical college in Shandong for a six-year program in medicine. He notes, “Darwinism was the guiding philosophy as I learned the biomedical sciences.”
Dr Liu had seen the devastation caused by endemic hepatitis and wanted to find a cure. Motivated by that desire, he went on to pursue graduate studies in microbiology. “During those years, I learned something about the negative side of science. The equation for a scientific career was: Science + politics = grants = fame + fortune. I was disillusioned by the monopoly and hypocrisy of the scientific community. Although at that time I wasn’t a Christian, I wanted to do something more concrete for my people than getting ahead in the circle of scientists. I began working as a physician in 1993, specializing in infectious diseases.”
Dr Liu found that decades of enforced evolutionary atheism had taken a toll on society. “With people considering themselves to be evolved animals, morality in the Chinese society had deteriorated to an unprecedented situation. The most popular idol in China in the 1990s was ‘Brother Square-Holed Metal’. (This is a reference to the ancient Chinese coins that had a square hole in the middle, and the word for ‘hole’ was also the family name of Confucius.) Rebates from drug companies, which were essentially bribes to encourage physicians to prescribe unnecessary and expensive medication, had become a significant part of the physician’s income. Most of my patients suffered from chronic viral hepatitis B and were at the mercy of the virus all their life. How long should I go on making a living through this dirty medical practice without doing much about the actual virus?”
First ever encounter with Christians
Coming to the United States in 1997 to pursue a Ph.D., Yingguang was introduced to Christianity through other students of Chinese descent at Ohio University.
He says, “There were leaflets in the library of the university written in the Chinese language: ‘New students are invited to a free dinner on the College Green.’ I went to the picnic without thinking who would provide the food. There I encountered Christians for the first time in my life. I shall never forget those lovely people and their welcoming smiles. They identified themselves as the Chinese Bible Study Group. At first I thought it was a program of the university! I asked, ‘So which department does the group belong to?’ They told me they met in the house of a professor from Taiwan. The pastor of a local Bible Church taught the class. Attracted by the friendly Christians and motivated by an interest to study the ‘core values of Western culture’, I attended the weekly Bible studies.
“We surveyed the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation in three months. What impressed me most were the many prophecies and their fulfillment. I did some research to prove to myself that the books of the Bible were indeed written by authors who lived hundreds of years apart, and I became convinced of the existence of a supernatural God. If the God of the Bible exists and inspired the prophets, the gospel documentation of Christ must be true. In addition, the unique love of the Christians was a demonstration to me of the Holy Spirit. I had never experienced such love before. We were taught by our parents to be on guard against others.”
“During the first winter break, the Bible Study group took me to a Chinese Christian conference in Chicago. There, God used an evangelist with experiences similar to mine. After a message in the evening of 27 December 1997, as the evangelist gave the invitation, my heart was burning and my body was shivering, but I refused to raise my hand. Didn’t I claim to be a scientific atheist just three months ago? How can I become an ‘apostate’ so quickly? The evangelist invited the converts to come to the front, I could resist no longer. I stood up and went down the aisle. On that day, the God of the Bible became my God and heavenly Father. Jesus Christ was now my Saviour, Master, and Friend, who is always with me.
“Back in Ohio, I was invited to join the prayer meeting of the Chinese Bible Study Group. The group kept a record of prayer lists in a notebook. When I curiously thumbed through it, I found that my name had been on the prayer list for several months!”
Dr Liu’s advice for young Christian students
Dr Liu was awarded his doctorate in molecular virology from Ohio University in 2002. Currently an Associate Professor at Liberty University, he lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, with his wife, daughter, and two sons. Knowing the path that took him, I asked how young Christians can best protect themselves from atheistic philosophy. He waxed eloquent, “Our faith can be strengthened by studying science from a Christian perspective. Ideally, they should attend uncompromising Christian colleges, read the works of Christian scientists and creation ministries, or communicate with such ministries in person. Among alumni of Maranatha Baptist University, where I taught for 11½ years, I found that ministers who took science courses are stronger creationists than those who did not. I myself initially tried to stay away from the debate on the age of the earth until I gained insight into the scientific evidences.”
Did that mean an appreciation for God the Creator had affected his understanding of science? “As the founding fathers of modern science emphasized, the world can make sense only in the light of benevolent divine design. I cannot comprehend, let alone teach biology, without referring to design and purpose.”
Has belief in a Creator led to any new scientific discoveries? “My students and I proposed some hypotheses that evolutionists are not particularly interested in, and God granted some interesting findings. There are elements in the human genome that evolutionists believe to be remnants of accidental viral infections of a common ancestor of humans and animals (therefore they are termed ‘selfish’ junk DNA), but we found these elements respond to female sex hormones, implying a role in human reproduction.”
Although Dr Liu grew up with no knowledge of heavenly things, our faithful God did not forget him—reminiscent of the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3–7).
SOME OF DR LIU’S RESEARCH
Evolutionists commonly invoke ‘duplication’ as a way to create brand new genes. A copying error can lead to an extra copy of a gene, which supposedly can then go on to evolve into something else (‘neofunctionalization’) without compromising the original gene. Dr Liu discussed what happens after a theoretical duplication, and the picture was not pretty for evolution.1 First of all, degeneration is expected, because a non-important (‘neutral’) gene can freely mutate or even be deleted with no threat to the organism. With no selection pressure to maintain the gene, the opportunity for neofunctionalization is quite limited. Also, the main difference between the various forms of life is how genes are regulated, not the number of genes. Gene duplication does not help evolutionary theory.
Dr Liu also studied the human immunoglobulin genes involved in making antibodies.2 They occur in families, with several similar genes in each family. The genes in this system would seem to be ripe for originating by duplication. However the immunological system could never have functioned as a single gene because multiple genes functioning together are needed. The proteins that regulate this gene family do not exist in lower organisms (thus brand new functions still have to arise, but this time from non-related proteins); degeneration happens faster than the supposed diversification.
Dr Liu also researched Endogenous Retro Viruses (ERVs),3 which evolutionists claim are accidental leftovers of retrovirus infections in the genomes of humans, chimps, etc. Even though they are supposed to be ‘junk DNA’, and ‘proof’ of evolution, scientists are finding many essential functions for ERVs. This includes important roles during reproduction, thoroughly undermining the evolutionary story. Dr Liu proposes that retroviruses came out of genomes, not vice versa.
- Liu, Y. and Moran, D., Do new functions arise by gene duplication?, J. Creation 20(2):82–89, 2006; creation.com/gene-duplication.
- Liu, Y., The immunoglobulin heavy chain gene family and gene duplication, J. Creation 22(3):18–20, 2008; creation.com/immunoglobulin.
- Liu, Y. and Soper, C., The Natural History of Retroviruses: Exogenization vs Endogenization, Answers Research Journal 2:97–106, 2009.
- Cosner, L., Broken images, Creation 34(4):46–48, 2012; creation.com/broken-images. Return to text
- Letter from Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, 19 December 1860. Return to text
- Batten, D., Plant geneticist: ‘Darwinian evolution is impossible’: Don Batten chats with plant geneticist John Sanford, Creation 30(4):45–47; creation.com/sanford. Return to text
My heart leaps at the knowledge that God has touched this young man raised in atheistic evolution; and that he would respond and become a follower of Jesus Christ. How wonderful that he, the young man, would then use his skills to train and encourge young people in science and Christianity. Praise be to God.
This is a really encouraging story of a learned man coming to faith. I love how after decades of study from secular colleges and universities, God turned him in just 3 months. That's awesome!
I'm currently involved in a youth program at a local christian school. There are many teenagers attending from Atheist homes, and sometimes for them to have a relationship with God can seem far away.
This article has helped in inspiring me to keep battling the challenges of youth ministry, thank you.
I have a collection of conversion stories, a couple involving people who were active atheist evolutionists bent on proving creationism was wrong or evolution was a solidly-proven fact. It's wonderful to see this story where the attitudes and living testimonies of believers played such an large role! I am ashamed when I see creationists responding to evolutionists with name-calling and other harsh responses. Let's not return evil for evil, but turn the other cheek and bless those who curse us!
The power of the prophecies of the Bible in this case reminds me of several others, such as the author of Ben Hur, where skeptics became convinced of the truth of God's Word when they studied it.
Dr. Liu is a wonderful committed brother. We serve together in the Chinese Creation Science Association, begun five years ago and of which he is one of the founders. We just finished helping many of the about 3,000 Chinese believers at the Chinese Missions Conference to know God's truth can be trusted as He told us in the first chapters of His Word. Dr. Liu is working tirelessly to put excellent materials, many from CMI, into Chinese. He is available to speak, especially to Chinese groups.
I'm particularly interested in his statement that he was on the groups prayer list for several months. That really encourages me to continue to pray for family members that are not saved. Thanks for this!
So powerful and wonderful to see how the holy spirit can bring anyone to God's kingdom. I'll pray that Dr. Yingguang will continue to grow in Christ and proclaim God's word in his work to help the other scientists in the world learn of the truth and refuse the lie that society has instituted as the main stream standard.
This is certainly an uplifting article! Though I knew God was all-powerful, I kind of thought that secular scientists were generally too set in their ways to even want to consider the Bible. But now I am reminded that even set-in-their-way athiestic scientists can be turned around! Thank you!