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October 29, 2021

 ‘I Am Deeply Grateful for How God Uses Christian Union to Engage Students’

By Daniel Norton, Harvard ’14

I grew up attending Catholic mass most weekends with my family. When I enrolled at Harvard in 2010, my faith could best be described as moralistic deism–I felt compelled to attend mass, do my best to behave biblically, and label myself as a good Christian. Yet my faith was built on a weak foundation, rooted in a flawed belief system that I could somehow win God’s favor through church attendance or by occasionally behaving more biblically than my college peers. 


I would regularly go through periods of time where I would lose faith in God altogether, opting instead for the objectivity of my scientific understanding of the world. I often fell victim to my colleagues’ insistence that the notion of a deity was a mythical human conception, reducible to fiction once shown in the light of human evolutionary principles. I frequently oscillated between the performance-based religion that I had learned as a child and an outright nihilistic worldview, and I found myself increasingly with more questions than answers. 


aa dan norton Tahlia and Dan Norton At first in a perpetual state of existential confusion, I began to gain a degree of comfort by labeling myself as a skeptic with Christian values, thinking myself too intellectual to pursue Christianity in earnest. I had neither a relationship with God nor a real understanding of the gospel of Jesus, and I began to believe that I would spend my life without a higher purpose. Nevertheless, I continued attending mass, perceiving my attendance as a “just in case God is real” salvation hedge – a kind of perversion of Pascal’s Wager. I was dead in my sin and utterly unable to save myself. 


After several years of rejecting Ministry Director Don Weiss’ offers to join Harvard College Faith and Action events (now called Christian Union Gloria), one of my college roommates, Zach Young, invited me to an HCFA Bible course on Romans that Don was leading. Zach had been a militant atheist for years but had recently come to faith in Jesus and witnessed to me persistently for several months before I reluctantly agreed to attend the Bible course.

It was at that event that I first felt the Holy Spirit pulling on my unregenerate heart. I started to regularly attend Bible course as well as a church plant in the Boston area, and my faith began to slowly develop. By the end of senior year, equipped with a rudimentary knowledge of the New Testament and an emerging understanding of gospel theology, I felt my heart beginning to bend toward Jesus and away from the things of this world. My obsessive intellectualism began to evolve into biblical obedience, and I first began to experience true hope in Jesus. At this point, however, I had not fully come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.


Upon graduation, I accepted a job as an investment banker in New York. I engulfed myself into my work, laboring over one-hundred hours per week at the office and earning an excessive amount of money for a 22-year-old recent college graduate. I became addicted to money, and I could not get enough of it. The Holy Spirit’s call on my life felt dampened, and a sense of worldly hedonism had shifted over me. After a couple more years of living for the world, dead in my trespasses, I felt a great call on my heart – that enough was enough, and that it was time to follow Jesus with all my heart and mind. By His unmerited grace alone, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and I never looked back. 


Soon thereafter, I accepted a new job and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, a city with a strong heritage of widespread Christian practice. Charlotte offered me a wealth of great churches, pastors, small groups, and volunteer ministries where my maturing faith began to truly prosper. Not long after, I felt God calling me to get baptized. At first hesitant because of my christening as a baby, not wanting to offend my family, I suddenly felt absolutely convinced that I needed to make a public statement of my faith in Jesus through believer’s baptism. That next weekend, in front of a large crowd at church, I got baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ.

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I have found myself with an insatiable appetite to learn more about the nature of God, and more grateful each day for what He has done for me on the Cross. Through my church community group, I have developed a strong network of Christian friends from whom I receive regular encouragement and guidance as I live out my Christian life. Married to a wonderful, wise Christian woman who loves the Lord, I receive daily encouragement and support from my loving wife. She and I labor each day to put God first in our relationship, however counter-cultural that often may be. After years of praying for a godly wife, God has exceeded my expectations beyond what I could have imagined.


I have found contentment in the glory of Jesus Christ that is fulfilling beyond what I reckoned possible. The Lord has set me free from greed, from lust of the flesh, and from the pride of this life, and He has given me a new hope and a new foundation in Him, for my good and for His eternal glory. Even to this day, I will sometimes become very emotional and even cry, while reading Scripture, listening to worship music, or gazing out at God’s magnificent creation, overwhelmed and unable to comprehend the unthinkable, indescribable love and undeserved mercy that God has shown toward me. Through God’s abundant grace, I have become a new creation in Christ Jesus, and I intend to follow Him all the days of my life. 


I am deeply grateful for how God uses Christian Union to engage Harvard students of all faith backgrounds and perspectives in conversations about the life and ministry of Jesus. The Christian Union staff was faithful in sharing the gospel with me throughout my college years and was prepared and willing to lead me as my faith began to take root. I have had the great privilege of serving on the HCFA alumni board for two years, endeavoring to see more Harvard students like me come to know Jesus Christ. I thank God for the men and women of Christian Union for their commitment to making disciples at Harvard and across college campuses throughout the country.

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