What Would Change Your Mind about Christianity?

By Robin Schumacher

"When, as a very young man, I first began seriously to study the life of Christ, I did so with a very definite feeling that, if I may so put it, his history rested on very insecure foundations." [1]

Albert Henry Ross was a strong adherent to science and Huxley's assertion that "miracles do not happen", but nonetheless he still held a strong admiration for the person of Jesus. Ross decided to conduct his own personal, historical investigation of Jesus' final days and compile his findings into a work he planned to call "Jesus, the Last Phase", which he believed would help remove the superstitious notion that a dead man could come back to life.

Ross mentions this plan in a chapter called "The Book that Refused to be Written", which begins a very different work he wrote instead of the one he had planned, whose conclusions brought him to what he calls "an unexpected shore". [2] Penned under the pseudonym Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone? is a work that showcases a change of mind for someone who was previously a skeptic of Christ's resurrection, but now is a person who believes one dead man truly did come back to life.

Ross' story raises an interesting question: What would it take to change your mind about Christianity? What would it take to turn you in a completely opposite direction such as what happened to him?

If you're a Christian, what would it take to convince you that the atheists are right? If you're an atheist, what would move you to believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be and that God created everything, including you?

The Single Torpedo Needed to Destroy Christianity

For Christians, there is only one piece of evidence needed to convert every church into a vacant building and stop printers from producing additional copies of the New Testament. Find the body of that Jewish carpenter, and Christianity is undone.

Yes, it really is that simple. And really that hard.

Christianity differs from all other faiths in the world in that it is not purely epistemic, pragmatic, or existential. In other words, Christianity is not just about learning something like in Buddhism, performing some set of works like in Islam, or experiencing something like in various new age religions.

Instead, Christianity is ontological—it is all about a Person. It is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ and His work. This is why Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12, "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed..." and "not what I have believed."

While Christianity certainly contains teachings, practices, and experiences, the primary differentiator of it versus all other faiths is this: remove the Founder and disprove His declarations, and you remove the worldview and faith.

The interesting thing is that Jesus made it very plain how you can rule Him out as being legitimate where His truth claims are concerned:
The Jews then said to Him, "What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:18–19)

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet." (Matthew 12:38–39)
Jesus was very clear as to what crowning piece of evidence He'd supply to prove that all the claims He made were true: His resurrection.

In like manner, the Apostle Paul makes no bones about what it should take to change the mind of every Christian so that they abandon their faith—finding the body of Jesus:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:13–19)
The Bible is unequivocally clear all around: the resurrection is the single incident on which Christianity stands or falls. Moreover, Christ's being raised from the dead is also the event that builds the bridge between the historical Jesus of Nazareth and the Christian faith's Son of God. It spans the supposed un-crossable chasm that philosopher Immanuel Kant constructed between the realm of faith and reason.

This fact is why Paul said that Jesus was "declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:4)

Changing the Mind of the Skeptic

If I've asked it once of a skeptic, I've asked it a hundred times: what would it take to change your mind so that you become a Christian? I'm not sure I've ever gotten an honest and direct answer. Instead, I've gotten smiles, flippant statements of seeing a thousand-foot Jesus, and assertions that there is no evidence for Christianity (with acute attempts at avoiding what constitutes "evidence" for them).

For the Christian, it's easy to say what would evidentially crater our faith and worldview. But for many skeptics, there almost seems to be a deliberate attempt to not take the question seriously, which is unfortunate.

Some hard-core skeptics label themselves as "free thinkers" in contrast to what they see as the closed-mindedness of Christians. But is that really the case?

During a debate that occurred a few years ago between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Mike Begon on whether God is real or a delusion [3], a member of the audience asked Dr. Begon (who took the position that God is a delusion) what type of evidence and criteria he'd require to believe that God is not a delusion. Begon stammered through an answer of how he and others like Richard Dawkins had been asking for evidence for a long time and, according to him, none has ever been brought forth. He then said he was "open minded" and offered to review any evidence offered him.

When Dr. Craig, who had been presenting evidence for Christianity all night, was allowed to respond, he asked the audience member, "You still haven't heard the answer have you? It's just astonishing!"

If you're a skeptic/atheist/agnostic reading this right now, ask yourself, "What is required to believe that God is not a delusion?" Would you answer in a similar, non-committal response like Begon, or would you offer something more concrete?

Another Skeptic Turned Believer

Most Christians as well as opponents of Christianity know the name Josh McDowell. While McDowell has been a Christian apologist and leading author for decades, he wasn't always a believer. In fact, many people don't know that McDowell's life and turn to faith mirrors that of Albert Henry Ross.

McDowell's primary reason for writing his well-known first book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, was not to defend and promote Christianity, but rather to make an intellectual joke of the Christian faith. He spent much time travelling throughout the United States, England, and the Middle East to gather material to debunk the faith he believed to be false.

After doing his research and investigation, he found himself sitting in a library in London, England. It was late on a Friday afternoon around 6:00 p.m. when he literally and reluctantly said out loud, "It's true!" All his efforts and work had led him (just like Ross) to the opposite conclusion that not only didn't he expect, but that he didn't want.

McDowell says, "The more I examined the evidence, the more it took me to the opposite conclusion of what I wanted to reach—that the Bible is the very word of God, and Jesus Christ is His Son, and He was raised from the dead on the third day. I had finally arrived at the conclusion that what my mind told me was true." [4]

Whether it's people like Ross, McDowell, or C. S. Lewis (another former atheist turned Christian who, when he finally gave him to the evidence for Christianity, initially labeled himself as "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England" [5]), there's no doubt that various pieces of evidence have changed people's minds and hearts to accept the truth of Christianity.

If you're not a Christian today, I urge to give this some serious thought: what would it take for you to change your mind about Jesus?

[1] Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1956), pg. 9.
[2] Ibid, 12.
[3] Is God Real or a Delusion? (audio debate)
[4] A Skeptic's Quest, Part 13, Josh McDowell's Blog
[5] Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, page 221.

Image Credit: Randall Niles; "Ossuary (Bone Box) - Israel Museum"; Creative Commons

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Published 10-23-12