James Tour is well-known and respected intellectual and scientist, a synthetic organic chemist to be more specific (he obtained his obtained his PhD in organic chemistry), who specializes in the field of nanotechnology. He is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and Professor of Computer Science at Rice University in Houston, Texas (1). He is also a visiting scholar at Harvard University, has published 650 articles, has 120 patents, and seven companies with products ranging from medicine to material science, electronics, and computer memory. Tour is known for two major events in his life: being voted as one of the 50 most influential scientific minds in the world (2) and his conversion to Christianity (3).
Tour says that he was brought up as a Jew but wasn’t particularly “into religion,” especially after one day being brushed aside by a Rabbi who he had presented some honest questions to. He first encountered Christianity as it was practiced when he was studying at university. He began meeting people who referred to themselves as born-again Christians, a strange term that he couldn’t understand for a time. Tour also had an unique encounter in a laundromat when a man showed him an illustration explaining the chasm separating man from God. The man labeled the chasm as “sin,” to which Tour objected stating that he was not a sinner,
“I looked at him and said, ‘I’m not a sinner. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never robbed a bank. How could I be a sinner?’
The man encouraged Tour to read Romans 3:23 which states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In an effort to affirm this message the man turned to the teaching in Matthew 5:27-28 where Christ warns that whoever lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart. Tour felt the impact of this message particularly because he claims to have previously objectified women by looking at pornographic magazines,
“All of a sudden, something that’s written in the Bible, somebody who lived 2,000 years ago was calling me out of it, and suddenly I felt convicted and I realized I was a sinner. When I read the Scriptures, I knew I was a sinner. How would I get to God?””
Tour begun examining the Bible, absorbing and studying its contents. He came to find that what the person in the laundromat had said was in fact true in light of what the scriptures affirm. There is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood: in the Old Testament this forgiveness took the temporary form of animal sacrifice, whereas in the New Testament it was Christ who stood in as humanity’s Passover Lamb. Christ paid this penalty on the cross as demonstrated in his bodily resurrection. Tour remembers that it was on the 7th of November 1977 that, while alone is his room, he realized Yeshua was the Messiah: “I said, ‘Lord, I am a sinner. Forgive me. Come into my life.’” That’s when Tour recounts how Christ appeared to him in his bedroom,
“Then all of a sudden, someone was in my room. I was on my knees. I opened my eyes. Who was in my room? That man, Jesus Christ, stood in my room. This amazing sense of God, Jesus was in my room. I wasn’t scared. I was just weeping. The presence was so glorious because He was there in my room. I didn’t want to get up. This amazing sense of forgiveness just started to come upon me. That was Him.”
Tour informed some of his close family that he realized Christ was the Messiah: “Telling my mother how I had invited Jesus into my life, she didn’t say much. She was weeping. She told my father. They weren’t happy at all.” His mom condemned Christ stating that she didn’t “blame the Jewish leaders for killing Jesus after the things he said. Who is He to come against the religious leaders, who have dedicated their life to helping people and to tell them they are ‘white-washed tombs? Who is He this young man in his 30s to say this to these scholars? He got what He deserved.” But his family’s rejection was not the end of the story. His mom soon started reading the Bible, comparing the Old Testament and New Testament together, and when she turned 72 felt that she couldn’t deny the scriptures affirmation that Christ was indeed the Messiah. That’s when she called her Tour on the phone,
“Jimmy, you wouldn’t believe what happened. I was just reading and it hit me. It hit me — the way He gave His life. I believe it now. Jesus is the Son of God!”
1. James Tour Welcome page. Available.
2. The Best Schools. The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today. Available.
3. Catalano, J. 2018. Jewish scientist found the Messiah, faced family rejection. Available.