By Nathan Jones
Can someone who is so steeped in the sex, drugs and rock n' roll culture find Jesus? Is there no hope of freedom for those who are engrossed in Eastern mysticism and the occult? Can Jesus fill the emptiness and hurt of this world?
Lamb & Lion Ministries interviewed one of today's foremost defenders of the faith, Eric Barger, the founder and director of Take a Stand! Ministries headquartered in the Dallas area. Dr. James Kennedy once told his congregation everyone needs to read Eric Barger's insights. And, the late national radio host Marlene Maddox called Eric one of the utmost authorities on the cults, the New Age, and rock music today. From his past as a former drug addict and rock n' roll musician who was deeply involved in the New Age movement, Eric has emerged since he gave his life to Jesus Christ to become one of today's greatest defenders of Christianity in America.
We asked Eric to share his amazing testimony with us.
How did you come from a lifestyle of drugs and rock n' roll to become a leader in Apologetics?
Well, it was quite a trek if you will, to make it from one place to another, but God has his way.
My wife and I met each other when I was producing records and I was playing in a rock band. We were both drug addicts and we were both involved in New Age occultism. When I met my wife she had a case full of witchcraft books. I was throwing the I-Chin and the arrow sticks and reading my astrology chart faithfully and religiously. And so, that was where we were. In the process our marriage was nearly falling apart and having two daughters that my wife was very concerned for them, and I wasn't being a father at all. I was living the rock n' roll lifestyle.
In that process we found a Christian marriage counselor. It happened by me closing my eyes and putting my finger down in a phonebook. But, it turned out to be a true Christian counselor. In Seattle in the late 1970's who knew what you might get under Religious Counselors. Back then that was the hot bed of New Age philosophy in those days. And, it is still is to a certain extent today.
After about the third visit I didn't want to go back anymore, because I was under what I now understand as conviction. I didn't want to go back anymore, but my wife kept on going. She bought a Bible she received about Jesus Christ. I was there when the marriage counselor actually lead her through the sinner's prayer and she confessed Jesus.
You would have thought that a guy like me would have figured out that maybe it was good for me, too. Instead, I got her out to the car, lit up a joint, blew smoke in her face, went home, packed a suitcase, and left for three weeks. I mean, that was where I was at. I did not want this religion. She wants to be a Jesus freak, well not with me! That's where I was coming from.
In those three weeks my wife found a little church around the corner from our house. She had gone and started a Bible study with some friends she knew that were Christians and suddenly she was hooked up with them. When I came back home you would have thought then I would have gotten saved. When I walked into the kitchen I expected to see the Apostle Paul's sister cooking dinner, but it didn't work out like that.
For two years I put my wife through a living hell, and she stuck it out and stayed with me. She was about to the end of her rope until on a rainy, cold, night in February 1981 she found my car sitting outside one of my girlfriend's houses. And remember, if you are in the rock music industry it is kind of like you can do your own thing as there are no restraints and no rules. It's complete anarchy to yourself, so whatever you want hedonism is the rule. In the process of all of that I had overdosed on cocaine that weekend after a three day binge. I was a heavy drug user. I had used drugs for 14 years and was a 3 1/2 year addict to cocaine costing $1000-$1500 a week, or somewhere in that neighborhood. And, mind you, now I am producing records. I have what all my peers all call "good." I am driving around a really nice car and I've got way too much money and too many credit cards for a guy my age and no sense at all with what to do with them. I have what the world calls "good," and yet I am so empty inside. I am pouring these drugs in trying to hide the pain, trying to cover it up. Well, I was on a three day binge on cocaine.
It's a long story how it came to this, but on a rainy, cold, Sunday night that whole weekend was stormy in Seattle. I went to our house to ask my wife for a divorce and in the process of it all, because of a book she had bought in the bookstore to keep her mind off of me, things she had marked in that book, I opened it up and saw where it said that God hates divorce. I just fell on the floor and God got a hold of me and she came down off that couch and put her arms around me and began to hug me and console me. I look back at that picture and I think that is Jesus hugging the adulterous drug-addict through his wife. And I remember, she says although I don't remember but I remember her telling me later on because, remember, she is straightened out. She has gotten saved and she is off drugs. My daughters were not involved because they were gone at that point to Grandma's house, so they didn't see any of this. But, at 3 or 4 in the morning I finally confessed Christ and I just began to say, "God forgive me." I believe that was the spot where Jesus came into my life and my sins were forgiven.
The next morning we went to see our marriage counselor and when he prayed with me that morning something happened that I can't explain. People say that God doesn't do miracles today, well, I am a walking miracle. I never went through any rehab or any drug withdraws. I was delivered that morning and never went back. I mean, that is what God did for me. Now, God uses drug rehab, don't get me wrong, and I don't want anyone to think out there that there is something wrong with them and that they missed it somehow, or that God doesn't love them. But, God delivered me quickly and called us into ministry within just a couple years. Some of the greatest miracles that God performs today are the miracles of transformations in lives like he transformed my life.
How did you get there from that point into ministry?
I began to read the Scripture like crazy and I had good mentoring. The marriage counselor was a good mentor to me. He was solid. He had been a pastor and he was doing marriage counseling and selling real estate, and doing marriage counseling in his real estate office. He didn't have a congregation to preach to on Sunday, so he got me every Tuesday. He began to minister to me and really poured himself into me.
I'll tell you how it happened. I was listening to Christian radio, voraciously listening to everything out there. I was just hungry for God and was hearing the great teachers at that point and time. There was a station in Seattle where I heard Walter Martin everyday and I heard J. Vernon McGee and all the great teachers.
At night the radio also had these people on who were not Christian and I knew a little bit to know that wasn't it. They had a known occultist on the radio at night. So, I made an appointment with the station manager. I called him up and was going to go down and straighten him out because maybe he really don't know. It was from that instance, meeting the owner of the station and challenging him about some of the programs that he had on, that a week later he called me and said, "How would you like to have a program on the air?" The owner of the station told me, "No one has ever challenged anything I have done in 30 years of radio in this town." He owned the number one rock n' roll radio station in the northwest as well. By the way, that is the first time I realized that just because it says it is Christian doesn't mean it is. Well, I walked in and he told me there was no theological test to buy radio time on the station.
You actually grew up though in a Christian family and gone to church and all, hadn't you?
My family were cultural Christians. My grandparents took me to church and I was baptized against my will when I was about 2. I heard all about the things in Scripture, I heard about all about the great stories in the Bible, and heard all about Jesus. I sang in the choir and was in the kids plays at Vacation Bible School, but I didn't know Jesus.
There are a lot of people out there right now that because of all of their works and all of the good stuff they do, even by the Bible they might read every day and even by the prayers they might pray, they think that does it for salvation. But, none of that does it until you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and that you are a sinner and you turn from your sins in repentance and follow after Him. That is the whole key right there.
I just encourage anybody right now that if you do all this Christian stuff it is just so many good works, but none of those things can absolve our sins and none of those things can take us to Heaven. None of that makes us be born again.
How quickly did you start doing your radio program?
I did the radio program for 2 years. And, during that period of time I started doing the seminars and I was also the youth pastor at a local church. I studied like mad during that time. But, I started doing the one night seminar on rock music wherever a door might be open, and now it has turned into about 40 different messages that we have full blown PowerPoint for.
I'm kind of a mixture of a teacher and evangelist now.