Answering non-Christian religious experiences

(Steven Croft) #1

Hello everyone and God bless,

Recently I have come across a couple of different objections to Christianity that I am having trouble with answering and I REALLY need some help here.

  1. As Christians we believe that we have real experiences with God and that everything we read in the Bible is true and really happened, however atheists say, “Well” other religions believe the exact same thing as it relates to their religion."

How can we answer this?

Thanks for any help.

(Carson Weitnauer) #2

Hi @Steven_Croft,

Great questions! I’m so glad you’ve asked them here. I look forward to what others have to share!

As for (1): Christians say they have real experiences with Jesus; other adherents say they have real experiences with their God or gods; we can’t both be right.

Some reflections:
First, Christianity actually offers a pretty unique theology about a relationship with God. The offer to know God personally, not only as our Lord and Savior, but as our friend, is remarkable.

Second, Christianity can explain diverse religious experience. The Bible teaches not only about an authentic relationship with the Triune God of love, but also about people who are worshipping other gods. This is one of the major themes of both the Old and New Testaments.

Third, on atheism or naturalism, a primary explanation for why we believe what we believe is because it is conducive to survival. The majority of the world’s population is religious. Therefore, to enhance his or her own survival, shouldn’t the atheist consider a religious worldview?

Fourth, if my own comprehensive experience of the world is that my friend Bob exists, what are any of us to do if other people deny meeting him? If you say to me, “I’ve never met Bob, but I have met Sally,” so what? There’s nothing wrong with me continuing to believe in Bob’s existence. Based on the experience of the world that I have access to, it is rational for me to continue to believe that Bob is real.

Fifth, we could ask, “If God exists, would you be interested in a personal relationship with God?” If the answer is yes, then you could explore with them the question of whether or not God exists. If the answer is no, then ask, “Wait, why not? If God is real and interested in a friendship with you, you aren’t interested?”

(SeanO) #4

@CarsonWeitnauer gave a very comprehensive answer

One thing to consider is that the Christian’s experience is rooted in a historical figure who claimed to be God Himself. No other religion can claim that kind of historical connection with God Himself. I think C. S. Lewis’ statement from the following two videos about his conversion is a good summary of this one angle on the question.

He was a literary critic. And as such, he said, “I know myth when I see it, I know legend when I see it and I know an eye-witness account when I see it. I recognize metaphor when it’s there. All of this is in the Bible. All of it is inspired. But far from all of it is literal history.” Well Dyson and Tolkien pointed out that the only difference was we don’t know that Osiris walked the earth. But Jesus left footprints. People saw him and talked about it.

(Tim Ramey) #5

Steven, I really appreciate your humility in expressing that you know that Christianity is the truth but how do you convey that to others. The Lord honors that and besides the brilliant responses from Carson and Sean, I believe the Holy Spirit is your Teacher and will branch out on what these intellectual minds have conveyed to you.

There are two resources that came to mind. The first is along the lines that Sean spoke of and that is CS Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.” If you’ve read it, read it again. I have purchased a number of copies and folks that I have engaged in conversations with, I read books that they recommend and then I share ones that I recommend that they read. I send them one, usually “Mere Christianity” and discuss it with them.

The second one that came to mind is J Wallace Werner. I won’t go into detail here about him, but apart from reading his books, he is on YouTube and has a session that is slightly over an hour that I think would give you some interesting perspectives. If you hear him, you will understand that he is not someone who takes things by “faith” (the definition that the world uses to just believe what you want or are told to believe.) In fact, he was an atheist but studied the facts and became a believer.

May the Lord give you His wisdom, Steven.

(Katherine Anderegg) #6

Hi, Steven,

Christianity has a answer for that. Demonic beings are quite capable of performing acts that may be perceived as miracles from God, and distinguishing the true from the false is not easy. False prophesy informed by demonic knowledge of the present can be eerily accurate. Psychosomatic healing, hallucinogenic-induced visions (sometimes without the person’s knowledge that he or she has been drugged), hypnosis, slight of hand, ventriloquism, mass hysteria and similar phenomena can closely mimic true miracles. Satan can and often does appear as an angel of light, and it is all to easy for anyone to be deceived. Without the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and protection, everyone is vulnerable, and by definition, unbelievers do not have the Spirit’s gifts.

(Jolene Laughlin) #7

Hi Steven,

I’m late to the party as I don’t always have consistent internet service, but your question intrigues me. A version of it has always lurked at the edges of my mind since high school - that is, everyone believes that their religion or god is the right one just as sincerely as I do. How do I know that the one I believe is right one? In all honesty, I think it’s a question that everyone has to consider in order to be honest and to truly be “believers.”

And this is also something that is addressed in the Core Module of RZIM Academy. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to ask questions when you talk to people. Which worldview or religion best fits reality? Do other religions have a coherent explanation for the state of our world? How do they explain or deal with evil? What about our innate awareness of never being quite “good enough” no matter how “good” of a person we might be? Or the instinctive awareness of right and wrong that guides the morality of nearly every religion and culture? Do those religions address the concept of fairness and justice, and if so, how? Christianity is the only religion, for instance, that offers mercy through justice, instead of at the expense of justice. (Learned this because of a fantastic talk by Michael Ramsden that I think is on Youtube as well as the RZIM archives). What are the truth claims that other religions make, and are they true? How do they stack up against the truth claims of Christianity?

This question presents you with an amazing opportunity to talk in depth with the person about all of these aspects of life, and the great thing is, you don’t even have to start out with a ton of answers yourself. Ask the questions and let them do the talking, and see where the conversation leads. If you just genuinely discuss these things with them and let go of your agenda for “telling them the right way” I think you’ll be surprised at where you end up.

The assignment to talk to a person with a different world view than yours and find out how their belief system answers questions about our origin, meaning, morality, and destiny - without actively trying to convert them or push the Christian worldview at them (or prove them wrong), was the single most important thing I took away from the class. I highly recommend that exercise. And taking away the pressure on yourself to “convert them” or prove something allows you to have a great conversation just sharing ideas, and it allows you to ask questions that open up their assumptions and plant the seeds of truth for growth later.