Andreas Köstenberger’s Journey of Faith

I’ve been a follower of Christ for many years now (it’ll be forty years this year). As you read my conversion story, and my subsequent life with Christ, I hope you’ll be led to praise God for his grace in the life of sinners and for his great love that prompted him to send his Son to be the Savior of the world—my Savior.

Life Before Christ: Call to Salvation

I was born in Vienna, Austria, and grew up a nominal Roman Catholic, but when I was in college, back in Vienna, I became an existentialist. I resonated with those French thinkers who said that if there’s no God, we’re thrown into a meaningless existence, and it’s up to us to create some purpose for our lives, even though ultimately, life has no transcendent meaning. I really liked their intellectual radicalism, because I felt that being religious simply because of tradition was pointless. Yet I also started realizing that, in the end, existentialists were inconsistent themselves, because if life has no meaning, why bother writing plays and convince others that life is meaningless? Still, I loved plays like Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, which is about a guy who keeps waiting for a friend named “Godot”—an obvious reference to God—who never shows up. The message is obvious: There’s no God.

Then, one day, while I was still in college, I decided to board a train to travel to Venice, Italy, for the weekend. If you’ve ever been to Venice, or even seen pictures, you know it’s a beautiful city well worth seeing. But God had other things in store for me on that trip. On the train, I met an American opera student who told me about her faith in Christ and read some verses of Scripture to me from the book of Galatians. She started with chapter 5 verse 1, which says: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.” That resonated with me, because more than anything, I wanted to be free. But then she followed that up with verse 13: “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Now what made the most abiding impact on me and awakened in me a deep longing were verses 22–23, the passage about the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.” I was longing for those things, but if I was honest, at that time my life was rather marked by brokenness and pain. I was still reeling from my parents’ divorce, and the band I had been playing in ever since I was a freshman in college had recently split. Even though I had grown up in a nominally religious country, I had never read the Bible before, but when I heard those verses, it was as if they spoke truth directly to me. I decided that if what this student told me about Christianity was true, not only was I not a Christian, but neither were my parents, my sister, or anyone else I knew.

So when I got back to Vienna, I bought an English Bible (my first language is German, so there was a fresh feel to reading the Scriptures in another language), and I read through the Bible, cover to cover, twice over the next six months. Gradually, the Spirit of God was doing his work in me, and after I struggled for some time with the idea that I was a sinner in need of a Savior, I gave my life to Christ and trusted in him alone for salvation.

Life After Christ: Call to Ministry

After I had become a Christian, I remember telling my Catholic mother that salvation was by grace, and that there was nothing I had to do to be saved; it was simply a gift of God. But she said, “No, Andreas. It can’t be that simple. There are things we have to do.” I also shared my newfound faith with virtually all my friends. But very few listened. In fact, one of my friends by the name of Peter told me, “Andreas, I’m really sorry for you. You’re telling me you’ve found the truth. But the adventure is in the journey. You need to always keep looking without ever arriving and settling for anything you firmly believe.” Kind of like the old U2 song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

But I wasn’t going to look back. As far as I was concerned, God’s call on my life was not only a call to salvation but also a call to ministry. So over the next few months, I sold an apartment I’d inherited, packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and came to this country to go to seminary in Columbia, SC. There, I met my precious wife Marny, and after earning my PhD in New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, I have taught at various schools for the past thirty years.

My God-given passion is teaching others to study God’s word accurately, in the original languages if possible, using proper principles of interpretation. So I teach classes, and have written books, on subjects such as New Testament Greek, hermeneutics, John’s Gospel, and biblical theology. My newest book, Biblical Theology, covers all sixty-six books of the Bible and represents the culmination of three decades of research and teaching. My wife Marny and I have four grown children, two girls and two boys.

For a more detailed account, see the introduction to Andreas’s book, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. For a complete list of publications, see here.

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