Note: Although other sources have been used, a primary source to adapt Rosalind Picard’s testimony for this post was Christianity Today.
She used to think religious people were ignoramuses. But Rosalind Wright Picard was not the first one who thought believers in God were weak-minded, ill-informed simple folk. Some are very dismissive of those who worship God – as if they are unenlightened, narrow-minded social misfits who have very little to offer society at large.
Rosalind Wright Picard dismissed God when she was a much younger rising scholar. Her keen intellect made her a Straight-A student. She seemed to take pride in identifying as an atheist and held very negative perceptions of those who believed in God. She participated in a debate where she argued for a “godless form of evolution” versus the Creator-Creation Bible belief.
Today she is devout Christian and worshipper of the Eternal God and a lover of the Lord Jesus Christ. And at the same time, she is a lead MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) professor who is currently working on programming robots with human-like emotions. Her research is known around the world. In 2019, she received one of the highest honours in the professional world of engineering – election to the National Academy of Engineering. (1)
Picard writes about her love for Christ. She is public with her faith. She enjoys Philippians in the Bible. She can relate to the transformation in the life of the author of that letter to the Christians in Philippi.
In her blog post she writes:
[The Apostle] Paul was one of the best-educated and most highly respected Jewish men of his time. If anyone had cause to boast, in birthright, law, zeal, and righteousness, Paul did. As a zealot for the most important issues of the age, he actively persecuted the new followers of Jesus who were perceived as a threat to the Jewish establishment. But after his dramatic conversion (Acts 9), Paul joined those whom he had persecuted. He was a “Christian Jew” at the time of writing Philippians. (For those who don’t know, Jesus was a Jew.)
If he were here today, he would likely be a distinguished graduate from one or more schools such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, or even MIT. Perhaps he would be a zealot for Naturalism, and would rail against those who acknowledged the possibility of a supernatural deity, ridiculing them – as has become the “educated” way to operate today.
His conversion to Christianity would be just as shocking today as it was nearly 2000 years ago. (2)
And then Picard quotes a favourite section from Philippians:
Philippians 3:8-9 …More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
How do you explain the transformation of Rosalind Picard from an arrogant atheist to a happy Christian?
No one has always been a Christian. No one has always been a worshipper of God. No one has always been a follower of Christ. There is always a prior life and a subsequent one. Even if you were raised in a Christian church from infancy and experienced all its rituals – a real Christian consciously becomes a Christian at a memorable point in their life.
As a young person, Rosalind Picard’s neighbours invited her to accompany them to a Christian church service. She knew the doctor and his wife. She babysat their children. She had no interest in attending. She was able to fabricate excuses each time they invited her. At one point the couple told her that ‘going to church’ was not the most important thing in life but rather, what one believed.
Her neighbours introduced the Bible to her. One can only imagine how Picard processed the gift they had given to her. How could a young bright mind slam the door of her inquiring intellect on such a legendary book even if it was riddled with fantasy and fiction – as she thought!
Could she refuse to read the world’s best-selling book and still claim to have an open and inquiring mind?
The doctor suggested that she might find it helpful to start reading in Proverbs. Read one chapter a day. And that she did. To her amazement, she found it was filled with wise statements that caused her to stop and think. She decided to purchase a Bible written in everyday modern English.
I quietly bought a modern translation called The Way and read through the entire Bible. While I never heard actual voices or anything to justify summoning a neurologist, I felt this strange sense of being spoken to. It was disturbing yet oddly attractive. I began wondering whether there really might be a God. (3)
Picard read the entire Bible through and then read it again. She wondered why she was being attracted to the book. To ensure she didn’t get duped by the narrowness of her understanding of religion – she decided she should study other belief systems. She spent time visiting synagogues, mosques, temples, and other holy sites.
Intellectually, Picard wanted to complete her ‘due diligence’ investigation of religion and then move on to the things that really matter on this planet and in her life. But she was conflicted. A desire to spend time with the God of the Bible persisted in her inner being even though she did her best to ignore the Jesus in the New Testament.
There were two passages I found especially troubling: Matthew 10:33 (“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”) and Matthew 12:30 (“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”). I resented what felt like an unwelcome ultimatum. I didn’t want to believe in God, but I still felt a peculiar sense of love and presence I couldn’t ignore. (4)
A fellow-student in university invited Rosalind Picard to his church. He was another brilliant intellect and also a basketball and football star. She accepted the invitation and listened to the sermons and attended other sessions where she tried to learn more.
One Sunday the pastor explained the difference in believing there is a God and following God. With her increasing exposure to the Word of God Picard now knew that Jesus Himself claimed to be the “way to God.”
Jesus said … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
The pastor asked a searching question: “Who is the Lord of your life?” He went on to say that human beings had elevated themselves and sat on the very throne the Lord Himself should occupy.
Picard was challenged by this. It seems she acknowledged that up until that point in her life she had been ‘captain of her own ship’. If she surrendered fully by placing her faith in Jesus Christ, would God in fact be willing to lead her in life? Still somewhat hesitant because of questions in her mind, she believed she had much to gain and nothing to lose by trusting Christ.
Have you ever been there in your thoughts? Perhaps you still have some doubts – but you think of the amazing possibility of what it would be like to have a relationship with God and you are wondering whatever could you lose by taking one faltering step of faith? Perhaps you are also thinking if you don’t by faith receive Christ and enter into a relationship with God – “What do I have to lose?” Everything – your soul.
No longer running from Jesus Christ, Picard yielded. “Jesus Christ, I ask you to be Lord of my life.” That was the transforming moment of the new birth. Born into the family of God. A Christian. A believer. Joy and freedom entered her life and she became new in Christ.
Without this miracle of amazing grace and this incredible transformation in one’s life, no one will ever enjoy a relationship with God or experience eternal life or be in God’s Heaven.
This testimony of Rosalind Picard would not be complete without ending with this excerpt from her story:
Today, I am a professor at the top university (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in my field. I have incredible colleagues who have helped translate my lab research into difference-making products—including a smart watch that helps caregivers save the lives of people with epilepsy. I work closely with people whose lives are filled with medical struggles, people whose children are not healthy. I do not have adequate answers to explain all their suffering. But I know there is a God of unfathomable greatness and love who freely enters into relationship with all who confess their sins and call upon His name.
I once thought I was too smart to believe in God. Now I know I was an arrogant fool who snubbed the greatest Mind in the cosmos—the Author of all science, mathematics, art, and everything else there is to know. Today I walk humbly, having received the most undeserved grace. I walk with joy, alongside the most amazing Companion anyone could ask for, filled with desire to keep learning and exploring. (5)