I often argue that Christianity is convincing to the mind as well as to the heart. Here are the conversion testimonies of several intelligent people – whom we would be very hard pressed to describe as ‘morons’, ‘uneducated’, ‘ignorant’ or ‘gullible’ – who became Christians because they were intellectually convinced of the truth of Christianity’s claims.
The people I mention here are great thinkers, with more powerful and logical minds than mere bloggers like myself. Their imposing intellects were each convinced by the claims Christianity… What does that say about its truth?
Commenters are welcome to say their piece, and introduce me to any other famous logically-sound converts to a thinking faith in Christ.
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:37
Lee Strobel was a staunch atheist, skilled investigative newspaper reporter, and award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune.
His wife was agnostic, but then one day accepted Christ. The positive change in her behaviour and character encouraged Lee to start going to church, just to see what it was like. From there, he was challenged to investigate how true the claims of Christianity were.
In his own words from The Truth…What Is It? testimonies:
So I decided to take my legal training and my journalism training and investigate: is there any credibility to Christianity? I would do what I did at the Chicago Tribune. I would check out stories to see if they were true, if they could be printed in the papers. So I would investigate. I went out, and I applied those skills to the question of, ” Who is Jesus Christ?”
I didn’t do it with an antagonist attitude; I did it with a journalist’s attitude… I said, “Give me the facts. I’m going to look at both sides, I’m going to look at other world religions.” And I began to do that.
And it was an amazing journey: to look at other faith systems and see the eternal contradictions that, to me, disqualified them from being true. And yet to see in Christianity, as I looked into the historical evidence for Jesus, as I looked at the reliability of the New Testament, as I looked at the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies in the New Testament, as I looked at the resurrection: very powerful evidence.
And I looked at some of the most brilliant legal minds of history: Simon Greenleaf of Harvard, Sir Lionel Luck, who, the Guinness Book of World Records describes as the most successful lawyer in the history of the world (had more murder trials won in a row than any other defense attorney ever). These are brilliant people who have applied the laws of evidence to the resurrection accounts and walked away convinced that they are true.
So I did this investigation for almost 2 years of my life: looking at evidence inside the Bible, outside the Bible. One of my favorite things: I found 110 facts outside the Bible recorded in ancient history that confirmed (and again these are many things some are higher quality than others, most are somewhat questionable) that form together a very powerful corroborative aspect.
I just had a great time as a journalist investigating all this stuff. On the plus side, journalists respond to evidence; the negative side is I tended to be an observer, I was never a participant, I was the critical observer. I didn’t join anything; I kept things at arms length.
So the idea of making a commitment to God was alien to me; and yet the evidence was so powerful that on November 8, 1981 (after spending two years of checking this out) I just realized that in light of this torrent of evidence that points so powerfully towards Christianity, it would have required more faith to retain my atheism than to become a Christian.
Because to maintain my atheism I would have had to defy the evidence. To become a Christian, I just had to make a step of faith in the same direction that the evidence was pointing. That’s logical, that’s rational, and that’s what I did.
Lee Strobel went on to author various Christian apologetic works, including the popular series of interviews detailing the evidence and arguments for Jesus (A Case For Christ), God (A Case For Faith) and creation/Intelligent Design (A Case For A Creator).
Josh McDowell was a skeptic of religion who was challenged to disprove intellectually the claims of Christianity while in university.
After countless hours and much expenditure, his research led him to the conclusion that the claims of Christianity were based on solid historical fact.
In his own words from In Search of Truth:
My new friends challenged me to examine the claims of Christ. I thought most Christians were idiots. But these people were persistent. Finally, I accepted their challenge, out of pride, to refute them.
One of the crucial areas of my research to refute Christianity centered around His resurrection. More than 1,000 hours of studying this subject showed me that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was either one of the most wicked, heartless, vicious hoaxes ever foisted upon human minds, or it was the most fantastic fact of history.
In my attempt to refute Christianity, I made some startling observations about the resurrection. The testimony of history, for example. I had no idea there was so much positive historical, literary and legal testimony supporting the factuality of Christ’s resurrection. But the more I investigated, the more evidence I found. I came to see why the Apostle Paul had said, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
The more I studied the historical-biblical Christian faith the more I realized it is a thinking person’s faith. As Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Having set out to refute the resurrection and Christianity, and then having been compelled by the evidence to believe that Jesus Christ was indeed exactly who He claimed to be – and that He indeed rose from the dead, I faced a new problem. My mind was saying, “Christianity is true,” but my will was saying, “Don’t admit it!”
It came to the point where I’d go to bed at ten and wouldn’t fall asleep until four in the morning. I knew I had to get Jesus off my mind or go out of my mind.
Finally on December 19, 1959, at 8:30 p.m., I became a Christian.
Josh McDowell went on to write several excellent works and compilations of the historical basis and evidence for the claims of the Bible. One of his best works IMHO is New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, a university textbook-style collection of evidence with citations.
His changed heart also enabled him to forgive and reconcile with his alcoholic, neglectful and abusive father whom he blamed for causing the death of his mother.
Through Josh’s newfound, Christ-enabled capability to love such an unloveable person, his father came accept Jesus as well, and turned his own life around – from the town drunk, to an inspiring testimony to all who knew him.
C.S. Lewis is a name almost synonymous with Christianity, but it wasn’t always that way. He was born into a Protestant family, but rejected Christian beliefs beginning from the death of his mother when he was 10, and he became an avowed atheist at age 15.
From Christian Odyssey:
C.S. Lewis was born into a Protestant family in Belfast, today Northern Ireland, on Nov. 29, 1898. He endured a rather unhappy and lonely childhood. He was especially crushed by the unexpected death of his mother from cancer when he was not yet 10 years old. Her death left a hole in his heart and caused him to be disillusioned about God’s nearness.
Early in his life he rejected any Christian beliefs he might have had, even as a youth, and became an avowed atheist. When asked at age 18 what his religious views were, he called the worship of Christ and the Christian faith “one mythology among many.” By the time he had served in the British army on the front lines of France during World War I and began his studies at Oxford University as a student, now barely 20, he was a thorough-going materialist.
Despite – or rather because of – his intimate familiarity with all sorts of medieval liteature and mythology, Lewis came to be convinced of the truthfulness of the Christian story.
Yet his immersion in European literature repeatedly confronted him with the fact that the writers he most admired were Christian. By 1929, Lewis felt compelled to adopt a cautious theism. In his 1955 autobiography, “Surprised by Joy” (there’s that term again), Lewis described himself at this point as “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, was to take a decisive role in the next step of Lewis’ conversion. On a fall evening in 1931, Lewis had dinner with fellow professors Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. They walked through the college’s park, talking, until the early hours of the morning.
The conversation turned to mythology. Lewis felt that myths, despite their imaginative appeal, were, in the end, merely lies. Tolkien proposed instead that the beauty of Christianity is that it is a myth that happens to be true. The universal hunger planted in human beings by God, evidenced by all the world’s mythologies, was made manifest in time and space. In Jesus Christ, God really did walk this earth, die, and rise again.
A few days after that late-night walk, Lewis, still pondering the conversation, got into the sidecar of Warnie’s motorcycle for a trip to the zoo. He later wrote, “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.” It was a distinctly intellectual conversion, a laser-like search for Truth, unaccompanied by emotional tumult.
C.S. Lewis went on to write various Christian and Christian-themed works, including philosophical and theological nonfiction such as Mere Christianity, and of course the beloved Narnia series.
He also put forward the Trilemma argument: If Jesus was not a liar (He was a stickler for the truth), nor a lunatic (He showed remarkable emotional insight and calmness), then the only option is that He is LORD (i.e. telling the objective truth that He really is God).
(Yes, you can catch that little insertion in the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where after a crying Lucy bumps into the Professor, he informs Peter and Susan “Well if she’s not mad and she’s not lying, then logically, she’s telling the truth.”)
As a lawyer, Frank Morison set out to write an exposé on how impossible the trial and resurrection was but, after an exhausting study, the book he actually wrote was the opposite. As one book reviewer said: “Just like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes – Mr. Morison showed logically and diligently that after all the facts have been weighed, the solution that is supported by those facts – however unlikely it may sound or look – would have to be the truth.”
AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO
Augustine of Hippo lived his youth as a hedonist, dualist, skeptic and Neoplatonist… All in all, a very knowledgable student of various philosphies. He finally found peace of heart and mind in the Bible (beginning with the Book of Romans).
From Crisis Magazine:
St. Augustine came to intellectual certainty about the truth of Christianity before he embraced it in faith. “What I now longed for,” he wrote in his Confessions, “was not greater certainty about you, but a more steadfast abiding in you.” The obstacles lay not in his mind but in his heart, “which needed to be cleansed of the old leaven. I was attracted to the Way, which is our Savior himself, but the narrowness of the path daunted me and I still could not walk in it.”
St. Augustine depicts himself as enchained by the obstacles to his wholehearted conversion, specifically his lustful habits and his enslavement to the lure of the flesh. The real obstacle, however, lay not so much in the flesh per se as in the wrongheaded will that bound him to it: “For it was no iron chain imposed by anyone else that fettered me, but the iron of my own will.”
Augustine went on to become one of the most influential early Christian authors, debating against various skewed doctrines.
For more logic, facts and evidence based arguments for Christianity, see also:
The Heart of My Faith (which has a list of historical and intellectual evidences)