SBC Life Articles

From Prodigy to Prodigal, Physician Now Follows Christ

By every measurement, John Redman was a prodigy. He finished high school at 16, entered medical school at 18, and earned his doctor of medicine degree at 22.

He entered the Air Force as a major at 27. By 31, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, he was the youngest urology department chairman in any medical school in the country.

By 53, he had 240 of his medical papers published, had been president of the Southern Medical Association and had received the distinguished faculty award from his med school's alumni association.

"I had far exceeded any dreams of success that I had ever had," Redman says. "I had money, I had power, I had prestige."

He was just as pleased with his personal life, where he was known for his carousing.

"Not only did I violate God's laws, I flaunted them," Redman says. "My lifestyle even offended decent nonbelievers. Probably the most delicate way to describe my personal life was that no one, but no one, ever had me confused with being a Christian."

Redman admits he seldom considered his spiritual condition or thought of Christ, even though he had been raised in a religious home. His parents read the Bible aloud daily.

His father had an adult conversion, putting his faith in Jesus at the age of 30. But even though Redman walked the aisle at age 7 in his family's Baptist church in Fort Smith, Ark., he never believed in Jesus.

"I actually felt sorry for my dad," Redman says. "He was a sharp guy. He had lettered in track at the University of Arkansas; he was an officer in his class. He was gregarious. But I thought, 'Poor man. He could really have a good time but he's just stuck with this church thing.'"

His father often tried to share the gospel with Redman. But the conversations so irritated Redman that he finally became estranged from his dad. The two seldom talked for the last 15 years of his father's life.

Redman recalls a day in August 1985 when he was cooling down after race walking at a public track in Little Rock. He started walking with another man who had just finished jogging. They chatted a few minutes and went their separate ways.

The man was Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas and now president of the United States.

Redman recalls that day often, primarily because of another day, more than eight years later.

In December 1993, Redman's 81-year-old mother had a massive stroke and lapsed into a coma. She didn't recover and died on Jan. 7.

On Jan. 8, 1994, Redman attended his mother's graveside funeral in Denton, Texas. It was the same day and the exact same time, 1:30 p.m., when the funeral of Clinton's mother, Virginia Kelly, was held. Hundreds attended that funeral in Arkansas, and it was publicized nationally.

In contrast, Redman says he counted just 19 people at his mother's funeral, "including the grave diggers." Even his own brother didn't attend.

He sat virtually alone under the canopy, four feet from his mother's casket.

"That was when I came face to face with my own mortality," Redman says. "My own view was that it all ended right there. There would be no further remembrance of anything I'd done. I'd be dead like a dog. It would be like pulling your finger from a bucket of water."

At that moment, too, Redman realized the same thoughts must have been running through Clinton's mind.

As Redman sat there, a Bible verse suddenly came to his mind, Mark 8:36: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" It had been more than thirty years since he'd read the Bible, much less that specific verse.

For the next few days, he couldn't get the verse out of his mind.

"I said, 'This is ridiculous. I'm too overeducated for this. I'll get back to Little Rock and get involved in surgery and I'll be OK."

He did get re-immersed in his work, but the thought of that verse wouldn't leave him.

On Jan. 12, four days after his mother's funeral, Redman sat in his new office in Little Rock. He planned to resolve the questions he'd faced the past few days — with every intention of rejecting Christ and continuing his lifestyle.

Boxes of paperwork still unfiled were on the floor. On top of a box beside his chair was a letter his father had sent maybe 25 years earlier, one he'd probably never read.

As he expected, it pleaded with Redman to consider his spiritual condition. His father presented the plan of salvation and asked him to read Romans 10:9-10. But the letter didn't include those verses. And just beneath where the letter had been was a 25-year-old Air Force-issue Bible.

Redman read that if he'd confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God had raised Jesus from the dead, he would be saved.

As he began to try to rationalize everything, Redman first asked himself if there is a God.

"I was probably 50-50 on that one," he says.

As a medical scientist and amateur naturalist, he knew the universe is extremely orderly. He also considered the human body and conception.

It's a lot more complex than you'd imagine," he says. "Two human cells in nine months become a complex human being. Then all of a sudden, it hit me. There's no way all this could be an accident or a series of accidents.

"Then I got scared."

He says he knew there must be a "superior, intelligent, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator to do this."

"Then I began to think that He'd want to communicate with us and it must be this (Bible) I'm holding," he says. "Then next I thought, 'Could He have come to earth as Jesus Christ and done all the things He's purported to do?' For this God, that would be easy. He could do it any way that he wanted.

"Then, the very last thing I thought was, 'If I would trust in Him and follow Him, could He wipe out all of my previous sleazy life and I would have eternal life?' At just that exact instance, I actually said out loud, 'I believe in You and I'm following You.'"

No light went off and he heard no sound. But he felt a great load lift off him and a great peace come over him.

"It was like the blind man said, 'I was blind and now I can see,'" he says. "I completely did an about face. I went into that office one way, resisting, intending to reject Christ. But when I walked out, I was following Christ. I have not varied one iota from that day. I have never lost faith in any way."

    About the Author

  • David Smith