Over the years, from time to time I will share a person’s story that I believe will be interesting to you, the reader. Today’s blog is about the life of Mary Poplin, a very well-known professor at Claremont Graduate University. I first read about her while researching my book Reliable Truth. Recently I read an article that reveals some interesting aspects of her spiritual journey.
For many years as a college professor, she taught critical theory, radical feminism, multiculturalism, and postmodernism. During this period of her life she described herself as being “spiritual but not religious” which meant she could live a good life without God. In her spare time however, she would attend all kinds of paranormal seminars.
Prior to that, as a graduate student, she was involved with transcendental meditation and experimented with all types of drugs. In her first job as a professor in Los Angeles she says that she and a colleague “would regularly explore the city’s weirdest religions.” She even dabbled in workshops where they bent spoons and practiced hypnosis on each other.
She believed in her mind that she had life figured out and was experiencing real freedom. As she put it, “I was seeking happiness, self-fulfillment, and freedom from restraints.”
However, in certain moments, particularly in the middle of the night she experienced the darkness of depression. “I could see glimpses of who I really was. I was not growing freer. My heart was growing harder, my emotions darker, and my mind more confused. But I was unable to admit this candidly.”
Then in late November of 1992, she had an unshakeable dream and when she awoke, she could remember every detail. In the dream she says that she saw Jesus and through that encounter she says that she saw who she really was.
This began a spiritual search that eventually lead her to the Bible. She decided to investigate the New Testament. Not only did she read it but to really absorb it, she chose to write it out by hand word-for-word. This is what she said about the experience:
I felt my mind begin to heal. I felt clean and was healed. This word is a hitchhiker’s guide to the whole cosmos. Especially life on one amazing blue planet. Its author refines our vision of himself and ourselves. Not only does he reveal himself as the maker of the heavens and the earth, but even more so as the lover of our souls. In all the literature I’ve read, it was the Bible that described with piercing precision, my human heart, my angst, and the pathos of the human condition. “Where can I run from your Spirit?” I asked along with David in the Psalms. Jesus taught his disciples to pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” He knew my secret desire to condemn. He knew I could not forgive on my own strength. The Author knew I needed more than an abstract Veritas. I needed a human one living with and in me. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” Psalms 34:18 says. Though the Bible is calming and lovely, I knew it was not primarily a book of poetry and literature, but a book claiming to be the real story in which we live asking the reader to taste and see that the Lord is good, offering to prove itself true. And so, it is full of verifiable information, useful to every person as well as to archeologists, historians, scientists, healers, artists, lovers, parents, and so on. If it is false, we can find out and go on to something else. But if it’s true, we have sufficient basis for wise choices and for hope in this world.
Mary Poplin put her faith in Christ and over time in her teaching, she experienced a profound intellectual crisis. She realized that she was teaching the same things she had always taught, but now realized they were untrue. She says:
I was allowing secularism to define my intellectual boundaries. But the more I read the Bible, the more I could see how Christ’s wisdom reaches beyond secular thinking, even where it poses no contradiction. For example, almost every culture and religion believes that we should not do to others what we would not want done to us. Christ goes further: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12)
Mary Poplin found that Jesus was “the fountain of living water.” When she drank from it she found the peace and joy she had always been searching for.
Click here to watch Mary Poplin’s full message and Q & A to students at The Veritas Forum at the University of Michigan