Is Christian Experience a Delusion?

Some skeptics who like to try and debunk Christianity may say that the experience of a Christian is a delusion.  That when Christians talk about experiencing God changing their life they are only engaging in wishful thinking or deceiving themselves about the nature of their experience.  They would point to people who believe other religions who might also say that their religion changes their lives (in positive ways) also.  So what is the difference between a Christian who’s life changes and someone of another religion who’s life changes?  This also brings up the issue of what are the roles of external objective evidence, such as historical or scientific evidence, versus subjective experience?  The skeptics may say, like John Loftus for instance, that subjective experience is not evidence at all.

It is true that a Christian’s personal relationship with God is a subjective experience.  But there is an objective basis behind Christianity that is not affected by my feelings or perceptions.  Christianity has its basis in historical events, such as the history of ancient Israel and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in the first century.  I would not say it’s impossible for a Christian to delude themself, but that does not make their whole faith experience a delusion.  If there are many people who have a very similar subjective experience of faith in God changing their lives in positive ways because of believing in the same objective truths from history, then there must be something to it!  Millions of people from different cultures, languages, education levels, and nations have experienced many positive changes in their lives as a result of becoming a Christian.  This is not something to just dismiss.  It is not like the experience of people from other religious faiths, such as Mormonism or Islam for instance.  Mormons and Muslims do not have an experience like a Christian.  There may be outward similarities to a Christian’s behavior in these religions.  There are some commendable things about Mormonism and Islam in many outward behaviors but that does not make it the same.  There is a deeper more subtle satisfaction that is experienced in the Christian life that people of other religions do not know.  If a person is a Christian but they do not live an obedient Christian life, they do not by that failure disprove Christianity.  They just generate confusion.  There are many who by living the Christian life have demonstrated that their faith explains human experience better than other beliefs.

I think that many of the things that show the authenticity of a Christian’s faith are things that are long term patterns that are demonstrated over time in the person’s life.  In other words don’t judge the reality of my faith based on whether I have a good day or a bad day.  But, if my faith makes permanent positive changes in my life that last a lifetime, then that is a kind of “evidence” that it is real.  When I was a nonchristian and 20 years old, I was seeing a psychiatrist on campus at Kansas State University.  He was a Harvard graduate and was not a Christian.  When I became a Christian, he did not try to dissuade me from my faith.  He saw that my involvement with Christian people and with Church was a good thing for me and he observed me making good decisions in my life that were healthier than the way I had been in the past.  My attitudes about myself were different as well.  So, my Christian conversion was not part of the problem that led me to see a psychiatrist, it was really part of the solution that led to my psychiatrist telling me I didn’t need to see him any more.  I really believe that if someone would have asked my psychiatrist then if I was deluding myself, he would have said no.  He would have been able to observe the difference in me believing a delusion and me growing in maturity and going in a healthy direction in my personal life.  Delusions don’t really meet people’s needs and often they don’t make a good life-long experience.  Others around someone who believes a delusion may be able to see that something is wrong in their life easier than they can see themselves.  I think Christian faith makes for a balanced healthy life, if you live a life obedient to God and you learn to really understand what the Bible teaches about life.  No one is perfect, so it is never nearly perfect, but it is significant.  I’m now in my 50’s and I’m certainly not perfect, but God has brought me a long way from where I was.

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One Response to Is Christian Experience a Delusion?

  1. Rebekah says:

    Great post, Wayne. In the end, we don’t believe in Christianity because it makes our lives better, we believe it because in considering the preponderance of evidence, we’ve concluded it is true. That our lives may or may not improve is entirely dependent on us!

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