How would you respond to this assertion that our relationships and experiences with Jesus in life are simply a figment of imagination?

Hi, Matthew!
To start off, I just want to say I really admire the work you and your father have contributed to the apologetics world. Your father has also been kind enough to contribute on some polls I have done on my Twitter page (@someapologist) and I am extremely grateful for that.

Recently, a former Christian who deconverted after graduating from a Christian university, has started to interact with me on Twitter and my Periscope streams. We both mutually ask one other for advice on different topics and we have a good correspondence overall. He is beginning to write the story of his deconversion and one line particularly stood out to me. He says, “It was difficult for me to come to terms with the reality that my best friend, who I thought was the Son of God, and the Savior of the world, was a figment of my imagination.”

Now, as a current psychology major, that last phrase struck me. How can we show that our experiences with the Holy Spirit aren’t simply the result of the powerful and creative minds we possess?
My main question for you really boils down to: how would you respond to this assertion that our relationships and experiences with Jesus in life are simply a figment of imagination? Is there any way to show that they are genuine?

With thanks,
Karsten Friske

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Hi Karsten, wow thank you for the encouragement! I’m just getting started, but I’m also very thankful for my dad’s work in the apologetics world. Glad you’re doing what you do on your twitter and periscope—we need more people contributing in this vital arena!

I also love hearing about your relationship with this lost friend. So often our world assumes that people who disagree cannot be friends, but it seems like you’re able to continue the conversation without unnecessarily pushing him away. Bravo!

Psychology is important, but by definition it only studies what happens within the mind, so it shouldn’t be the main method to speak to the reality or falsehood of things outside of it. When Freud or others attribute belief in God to the desire for a father figure, they overreach when they say that must mean that God doesn’t exist. God may have simply designed us to desire a heavenly father—which seems pretty reasonable if he created us for relationship with him!

Also as a side-note, the book Faith of the Fatherless points out that most of the notable atheists throughout history have had absent or abusive fathers. Perhaps their ardent desire for there not to be a God was partially motivated by their own experience?

Ultimately our beliefs don’t create reality. No matter how hard I believe in God, if He’s not there, I won’t cause him to exist. And no matter how hard an atheist disbelieves in God, if He is there, He won’t cease to exist. We need to ask the question, “What is true about reality?”

So when it comes to answering that question, we need to look at the evidence. Fortunately, the evidence is very strong for the existence of God, and the truth of the Christian faith. In my father’s book, Confident Faith, he builds a cumulative case for this with 20 arrows of truth that point toward the cross. These include evidences like the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the fine tuning of the universe, the historical evidence for the resurrection, fulfilled prophecies in the Bible, and more. When we examine these arguments, doing our best to remove our biases and motivations and to look at it with an open mind, it seems to me to be overwhelmingly clear that the God of the Bible is real. I don’t know the specifics of why your friend stopped believing, but if he’s never taken the time to consider each of these reasons (and their cumulative weight in pointing toward Christianity), I would encourage him to do so.

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