Interview with Anton Sylka, academic curator for non-resident students and UETS graduate.
My way to God was quite extraordinary… When I was I teenager, I became interested in creationism. Once, I saw a Christian magazine in our church library about dinosaurs which prompted me to study various issues related to intelligent design.
I often was even irritated by my peers’ unwillingness either to listen to me or account for the arguments I posed. At that moment, the truth seemed so obvious to me. The fact that other people did not believe what I believed disturbed me very much.
In order to learn more about the worldviews of other people, I decided to enroll in a religious studies program at a secular university. My aim was to objectively evaluate what both I and other people believed in.
However, the more I studied the history of religions and philosophy, the less I believed in Christianity. I came to the conclusion that Christianity was just another religion of many – another moral law restricting society.
As soon as I decided that Christianity was not unique, I felt freedom. There was no meaning in anything – no need to seek any answers for anything. I could just keep on living the way I had been.
How did you come to know God?
Once my mom invited me to a Christian conference at the UETS. Frankly speaking, I did not want to go, but, at the same time, I did not want to upset my mother.
There, at the conference, I met an American woman who ministers to elderly Ukrainians. Her name was Debbie Sutton. At the end of the conference, in order to experience what the disciples of Jesus experienced she suggested having communion and washing one another’s feet as Jesus did it. When she started washing my feet, I saw tears in her eyes. Then she told me that Jesus loved me. All the foundation I had built before was destroyed in that moment. I burst into tears. Though I had betrayed Jesus, He reminded me of His love.
What prompted you to enroll in the Theology program at the seminary?
I understood that I had to systematically and consistently research Christianity. That conference I attended inspired me to enroll at UETS. So, I became a theology student.
At the seminary, I realized how much I did not know and how much I would not have known, had I abandoned Christianity. The research tools I was equipped with helped me to understand what real faith in God is, what it is based upon, and who Christ and Holy Trinity are. I really enjoyed Church history. I also learned how to preach and to evangelize.
The more I studied the Bible through the prism of various disciplines, the more it helped me see God’s hand in my life. It is important not to restrict God with our own imagination. He is not the God I would always be comfortable with, but rather the God who so often takes me out of my comfort zone.
How do you see your role in the church and social life?
I would like the Church to be more active in social and political life, but to do it correctly. At UETS, I stopped fearing doubts. I am not afraid of not having all the answers anymore, because I believe that the Lord is not going to forsake me in spite of my doubts.