Premise A: People claim to have experienced life-change by encountering God
Premise B: There is no reason for these people to lie about their experience.
Premise C: Others bear witness to the miraculous change in these same people.
Conclusion: Therefore, a life-changing God exists.
The testimony of the Apostle Paul
There is often a remarkable change when someone becomes a Christian. When people give their lives to Christ, their habits change—people who were compulsive gamblers don’t gamble anymore, a husband who abused his wife turns things around, an alcoholic is freed of a desire to drink. Thousands of Christians have testimonies about how their lives have been changed by the power of God. The Apostle Paul explained these stories of transformation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
There is no greater testimony to the life-transforming power of God than the story of Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Apostle. He was born a Jew and studied under Gamaliel, the greatest rabbi of his time. He was passionate about his Jewish traditions, and, as a result, he fervently hated the new sect of Jesus’ followers. He was a witness to the martyrdom of Stephen, holding the cloaks of those who stoned him. He threw Christians—whole families of them—in prison. In his determination to persecute believers, he received permission to travel to Damascus and oppress any Christ-followers there. Saul was a Jew, he was totally committed to his Jewish community, and his status and prospects depended on his love for his Jewish faith and nation.
But on the road to Damascus, he had a surprise encounter with the risen Christ. Jesus appeared and spoke to him in a blinding light that knocked him off his horse. Because of this encounter with Jesus, Saul became a Christian. Initially, other Christians were skeptical about his conversion, but it soon became obvious that he was as passionate about preaching his new faith as he had ever been about persecuting it. As the Apostle Paul, he spent the rest of his life traveling around the Roman Empire and telling people about Jesus. He also wrote over half the books of the New Testament. Saul went from murdering Christians to being one. He went from being a Jew, with all the advantages that conferred on him, to being a follower of Jesus and exposing himself to a life of persecution. He went from someone who hated Jesus to someone who died for his faith in Jesus. The reason he gave for this tremendous change was his encounter with the living God. The same God still changes people’s lives today.
How God changed my father’s life.
My father was accepted to West Point, the elite military academy of the United States. He was a proud man, intellectual and arrogant. He had read lots of philosophy and thought he was one of the five smartest men in the world. He said, “I never met the other four, but I figure I am in the top five.” However, two weeks before graduating from the Academy, my father’s arrogance got the better of him. He walked into the campus bookstore and saw a jacket that he liked. While he had the money to buy it in his pocket, instead of taking it to the till, he tucked the jacket under his arm and walked out of the store. Two military policemen saw him do this and he was arrested for theft. He told the officers, “I just forgot to pay”—but they didn’t believe him. Because of this incident he was not allowed to graduate.
If my father had graduated, he would have entered the military as a second lieutenant. But, because of his mistake, he had to serve as a private. The Army sent him to Germany where he was assigned to be an orderly at a military hospital. There he met a Christian. The man tried to witness to my father, but my father argued vehemently with him. My father thought the Christian was foolish and stupid because he had no answer for my father’s philosophical diatribes. But one day, my father realized he was miserable, and the Christian was happy. My father asked himself, “Why am I so miserable while this dumb Christian is always happy?” Being a smart guy, he decided to investigate Christianity.
He began by reading through the entire Bible in four months. He started in Genesis, and by the time he finished the book of Revelation, he realized that he believed what he was reading. He became a Christian, and from that time on his life was completely transformed. His arrogance and pride were broken and he started caring about other people. Some years later, after my father had met and married my mother, he was called into Christian ministry. He remembered that the Christian who had witnessed to him had talked about attending Oral Roberts University, so my father decided to apply to the seminary there. When he arrived on campus, he found the man’s apartment and knocked on the door. On opening the door and seeing the proud man who had always argued with him, the Christian tried to slam the door in my father’s face. But my father stuck his foot in and exclaimed, “No, you don’t understand—I’ve changed. I’m a Christian now!”
History is proof that Jesus changes lives
The Bible and history record life-changing encounter after life-changing encounter of humans with God. Adam walked with God in the Garden of Eden. Abraham heard God’s voice; Moses saw God’s face; David experienced God’s presence. Peter, James, and John walked the dusty streets of Israel with Jesus, God Incarnate. On December 6, 1273, the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, experienced a heavenly vision. Both Saint Augustine and Martin Luther encountered God’s grace in the book of Romans. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) had visions from God.
These encounters with God have led people to live lives of sacrifice in order to spread the Gospel and see people set free. David Brainerd (1718-1747) took the Gospel to the American Indians; William Carrey (1761-1834) became a missionary to India, Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) went to China, and Adroniram Judson ministered in Burma. Jim Elliot gave his life to take the Gospel to the Auca Indians in the Amazon jungle. William Wilberforce, a British politician, worked tirelessly to end the scourge of slavery. A thief before he was saved, George Muller established homes to help thousands of orphaned children. Because of her faith in Christ, Corrie Ten Boom was able to forgive the Nazis who imprisoned her family and tormented her sister (who died in a concentration camp).
John Chrysotom, an early church father, said, “Let us overcome by our manner of living rather than by our words alone. For this is the main battle, this is the unanswerable argument, the argument from conduct.” In the course of American history, many men and women who have been the living example of this statement. George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, Francis Asbury, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, R.A. Torrey, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Billy Graham have all testified to the life-changing power of God. Each of these people dedicated themselves to the proposition that the God of the Bible exists. They preached about Jesus, took care of orphans, opened hospitals, fed the hungry, and defended the faith. They gave their wealth, their energy, and some their lives because they believed in a living God.
Luis Palau, a fellow evangelist, shares a story about an atheist, who, during a debate, proclaimed that atheism had “done more for the world than Christianity.” In response, Palau promised to produce one hundred men whose lives have been changed for the better by Christ if the atheist could bring in one hundred men whose lives have been changed for the better by atheism. The atheist was forced to sit down because he knew he would lose the challenge. While Atheists mock the Christian faith by pretending to worship the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” or the “Invisible Pink Unicorn,” such ridicule is rendered powerless in the face of clear evidence that people have been transformed by their faith in Christ. When did the Invisible Pink Unicorn ever cure a drug addiction? When did the Flying Spaghetti Monster ever turn a wife-abuser into a loving husband? But the reality that Christianity changes peoples’ lives in an instant is beyond dispute.
Ad Populum proof for God’s existence
The atheist might say that this accumulation of evidence just proves that people have been deceived for a long time about the existence of God. Claiming that people are deceived about the divine is one of a four responses available to people who are presented with the evidence from religious experience:
1. The person may be lying. For personal gain or glory the person has falsely claimed an encounter with the divine.
2. The person may be deceived. They are not lying, but the experience they had was not a legitimate experience of the divine. Rather, it was some trick that they are the dupe of.
3. The person may be misinformed and improperly interpreting the evidence. No one is tricking them, but the experience they had is not really supernatural. Instead, it was a hallucination, or a mirage, or some other kind of unexplained natural phenomenon.
4. The person is telling the truth. They really had an encounter with God.
Given the sheer number of testimonies to the existence of the divine and of lives that have been changed by God, the last of these responses cannot be dismissed. Imagine you are on a jury in a court of law. For the case being tried, you hear the testimony of one witness after another–and the witness of one is only confirmed by the witness of the others. Now, given the possibility that one person may be deceived, and that ten people might be trying to pull off a practical joke, and that hundreds more might be crazy, what are the chances that the testimony of millions and millions of people could all be wrong? In the court of human history and experience, the evidence from the witnesses is overwhelmingly in favor of the existence of God. There are too many witnesses to refute. There are too many who say, “I saw Him!”—“I heard Him!”—“He healed me!”—“I know that He exists!”
Two thousand years of testimonies gives me great confidence in the value of believing, not just in the supernatural in some general way, but in the God of the Bible specifically, and in Jesus Christ his Son. I add my own experiences of God to the tide of that testimony. God has spoken to me. I have seen him do miracles. He has answered my prayers, not just once or twice, but hundreds of times. As Alfred Ackley, the hymn writer, sings, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!”
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About the Author: Dr. Daniel King is a missionary evangelist who has traveled to over seventy nations in his quest for souls. His goal is to lead 1,000,000 people to Jesus every year through massive Gospel Festivals, distribution of literature, and leadership training. Because of his experience and research on evangelism, he is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in mass evangelism. As an evangelist, he has a deep interest in using apologetics to convince skeptics that God is real.