Dr. David Geisler On What Could Change My Mind

Recently Dr. David Geisler struck up a conversation with me on Facebook Messenger after he noticed a tribute I posted to his father Norman Geisler a year ago. LINK. David has a doctorate of Ministries in Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, and is the author (co-authored with Norm Geisler) of Conversational Evangelism: Connecting with People to Share Jesus. This book has gained the high recommendations of Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, Mike Licona and others. He is also the President of Norm Geisler International Ministries. He started messaging me, asking if I had even taken on his father's type of apologetics. Immediately I found out who he was, but as he kept asking questions I got a bit annoyed with his pleasant persistence. So I asked him why me? His response: "John, I consider you to be in a different category than most other atheists. I’m not sure there is anyone out there right now that articulates atheist augments as well as you do. I’m not trying to butter you up. I’m just trying to be honest with you. Why would I want to talk to other atheists?"
----- Well, okay then. He respects what I do. Let's talk, and we did. In the course of several messages back and forth he said something interesting: "I am praying that you would have that kind of experience because that kind of experience I think might be the only thing to first change your mind about God and Christianity." My response: Can I quote you? Mine was a personal subjective experience that first converted me to Christianity. Since I now regard that as a bad reason to adopt the Christian faith, I won't fall for a subjective experience from any god or goddess again. I require sound reasons based on sufficient objective evidence to change my mind. ----- David responded in length: About me thinking the only way you’re going to change your mind about God and Christianity is if you have some kind of experience like the apostle Paul, I probably should've said, is that once you truly understand the depths of what my father taught, and see that what he taught is really reasonable, then it would still take you some kind of experience to get your attention, which would take the work of the Holy Spirit. I apologize for not making that clear that that’s what I meant. I don’t believe that just religious experience in general is a good enough filter for you to know what kind of God, and what kind of religion you should embrace. I’m sure you are very well aware 1 Corinthians 2:14 teaches that "the natural man does not welcome or embrace the things of the Spirit of God." Please note it’s not that the natural man cannot perceive the truth according to Scripture, it’s that he cannot receive the truth. The Greek word is dechomai. It means to welcome or embrace the truth. Furthermore you may know that John 6:65 teaches that only God can draw people to Himself. Further, Ephesians 4:18 says people are ignorant because of the hardness of heart. These are just my thoughts about what the Bible teaches is true, backed up with scripture to prove my point. Now I know this is pretty strong language, and normally I wouldn’t even share these verses with someone who doesn’t claim to be a Christian. But since you’ve been to Seminary I assume you know all these anyways, so I’m not telling you anything new. I’m just trying to explain why I believe the Bible teaches it’s gonna take more than just giving you good evidence and reason for you to take that step to Christ. Concerning the Apostle Paul, as I said before, I thought his issues were also more theological since he was a good Jew, who would've had a vey hard time accepting the doctrine of the trinity. Now let me try to give you an example to back up my belief about this. In the last two years one of my staff and myself have been talking to this atheist. Over a period of time my staff member answered all his intellectual questions and one day he said to my staff member checkmate!, meaning he didn’t have any more intellectual barriers to faith. But he didn’t become a Christian. Then this atheist friend asked me to help him with a friend of his, who had made some bad decisions earlier in her life but was now having difficulty just surviving physically. So I reached out to a church in the city where she lived and they reached out to her, and helped her physically. Now I got an email from her a couple weeks later and she said "thanks for helping me...I feel like I’m on my way to becoming a Christian." I should also tell you that our atheistic friend whose name is John also, used to say to us “my Christian friends are nicer to me than my atheist friends.” So when our atheistic friend heard what I did for his friend a few weeks later, I learned that he became a Christian. Now I’m not saying he became a Christian because of what I did for his friend. I’m say that my acts of kindness contributed somehow to him being more open to allowing God to work in his sinful heart and repent. Sometimes I even say to atheists I talk to: "you mean to tell me if I could answer your question to your satisfaction right now about your biggest barriers to Christianity, that right now you would repent of your sins--you would turn around 180°--you would invite Christ to come into your life and ask Him to change you from the inside out as Philippians 2:13 says, and will follow as He taught us to live for the rest of your life?" Now sometimes if an atheist I’m talking to is more honest, they will say no because there’s probably some other areas that are barriers. So when I’m witnessing to a skeptic I always point out there are two questions you must answer concerning Christianity before you become a Christian: First is there enough evidence to believe that Christianity is true? Now that involves apologetics. But then once you’ve decided that it is true, it doesn’t automatically make you a Christian. You have a much more difficult decision to make. You have to decide “do you wanna believe in Christ?” That’s a decision of your will, not your mind, and that does not involve apologetics. Now both of these decisions are essential for someone to become a Christian. By the way my father would often say that both the presuppositionalist apologists and the evidentialist apologists don’t understand clearly the distinction between “belief that” and “belief in” That has been my experience in dealing with some of them as well. I also like Bill Craig’s distinction between that we know something is true and how we show something is true. Romans 8:16 teaches that "the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the sons of God." As you probably know, Saint Augustine said faith is an understanding step and the understanding step is faith’s reward. I’ll have to say faith and reason still can be complementary, I just have to clarify what you mean by faith, which a lot of Christians don’t do. As for your question about whether I’ve led any Chinese to Christ when I lived in Singapore. Singapore is a tiny little country but I did travel all throughout Asia over 13 countries I did training in. The answer is yes...a lot. Whenever I would preach it’s very rare that someone would not indicate they want to pray to receive Christ, especially if I ended I’m talking about my sister's suicide, and I’m telling my audience I’m not sure where my sister is because I’m not sure if she was ever a Christian...even though she grew up in the home of Norm Geisler. So that’s why I believe that it’s not always a matter of having enough evidence why people don’t take steps to Christ. In fact, it reminds me of what Jesus said in the parable in Luke 16:31. He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” You may be interested to know that my wife grew up with idols in her home. she did not grow up as a Christian home and many in Singapore did not grow up as Christians. I also want to clarify what I said about once you establish the evidence for a theistic God, then miracles are not only possible they are probable when you look at the evidence for Jesus. The Cosmological argument establishes that an infinite power exists that created the universe. So once you’ve established that logically then you can build on that argument. I’d like to say you can piggyback off of it. Afterward you can establish the moral argument for the existence of God. It's true you cannot start with a moral argument, because you haven’t demonstrated the principle of cause-and-effect that you do in the cosmological argument. Then you can hear the teleological argument and conclude that a theistic God exists. You can also add the ontological argument, although David Hume's criticism is correct that if you start with the ontological argument you cannot get where you want to go. And so we a moral intelligent personal and necessary being sounds like the God of the Old Testament, a Theistic God. But when you’re arguing for the cosmological argument I don’t think it’s enough just to argue beginning with the causality argument, because of the criticisms of Hume, but once you understand what act in potency is, and what a contingent being is, and what a necessary being is, then you can establish the current causality argument as well, and it strengthens the cosmological argument. Now I’ve already told you my father also has an argument for God based on the argument from being, that we have in the appendix of his book 12 Points That Show Christianity Is True. Now if you’re interested, I’ll send this to you and you can look at that and tell me whether you think it’s valid argument or not. I would be curious to get your opinion I plan to get it presented in philosophical journal sometime this next year, because it’s never been critiqued from an academic point of view. If you have any suggestions I’ll be glad to hear them as to where I should send it. I think I told you my father thought that this argument was one of his most important contributions to Christianity. Hope this is all helpful information for you, maybe not to change your mind, but at least to help you understand the Christian faith doesn’t have to be unreasonable! 😊 ----- David was kind enough to grant me permission to post what he said. I found it pretty interesting and want others to politely reason with him as an intellectual exercise. I do want to discuss one of the things he mentioned: "First is there enough evidence to believe that Christianity is true. Now that involves apologetics. but then once you’ve decided that it is true... doesn’t automatically make you a Christian. Then you have a much more difficult decision to make. You have to decide “do you wanna believe in Christ?” That’s a decision of your will, not your mind, and that does not involve apologetics. Now both of these decisions are essential for someone to become a Christian. By the way my father would often say that both the presuppositionalist Apologists and the evidentialist Apologists don’t understand clearly the distinction between “belief that” and “belief in” That has been my experience in dealing with some of them as well." My response: If I was convinced it was safe, completely safe, to sit next to people at a restaurant who might have Covid-19, then I would do it. But what if I was only 75% sure it was safe? Or 50% sure it was safe? Then what? I think the distinction of the belief that (BT) and belief in (BI) may be like that. It has to do with the level of confidence one has to make decisions, life decisions, based on probabilities, and the evidence related questions are, for many people anyway, only a part of they consider. The emotional ones (BI) take precedence for many of them. Maybe it's like wanting to marry interracially but not doing so because of social concerns. You know your potential bride is the woman of your dreams, but you cannot make that decision to marry her in a racist country or era. Or, maybe it's like drinking purified pee water. You know it's safe. There is an emotional reaction. In that case, the emotional reaction is irrational. So if you had evidence the water is safe to drink all you would have to do is reason with me based on that evidence by arguing it's irrational to think otherwise, which is an argument based on evidence. Now there are lots of irrational people out there, but don't think for a moment that this describes everyone. In my case, if you could show me sufficient objective evidence for your faith I would have no other choice but to embrace it. That's in, "no other choice." -----
David gets the last word: Like my father I wish that more Christians would read your writings. I especially like your question in your talk, "Miracle Claims Asserted Without Relevant Objective Evidence Can Be Dismissed!", especially where you ask that if God exists and Jesus is the Messiah, why didn’t Jesus come during our highly technological age, where we can potentially give greater proof of all that he did, with video cameras, and etc. It’s a great question and worthy of further contemplation! LINK.


FYI: I've allowed other Christian scholars to post on my blog. Just click on the tag below.