June 10, 2014

List of Some Notable People Converted to Belief in God via Apologetics

While all conversions are truly notable, in this post I'll highlight names of some notable people converted to belief in God via some aspects of apologetics. This is simply a fancy word for reasoned arguments. I will also post related quotes.  If you know of some more notable people converted to Christianity or belief in God in general through some form of apologetics, do add a comment below. General comments and debate on this subject are of course also welcome, so long as there is a civilized tone. It's also important to point out that merely converting to Christianity, as a religion, is not beneficial at all unless there is a personal relationship with Christ and a regenerated life transformed by the Holy Spirit. 

List of People Converted to Belief in God with the help of Apologetics
"St. Augustine was a passionate seeker of truth: he was from the beginning and then throughout his life. The first step of his conversion journey was accomplished exactly in his progressive nearing to Christianity. Actually, he had received from his mother Monica, to whom he would remain strictly linked, a Christian education, and even though he lived an errant life during the years of his youth, he always felt a deep attraction to Christ, having drunk in with his mother's milk the love for the Lord's Name, as he himself emphasizes (cf. Confessions, III, 4, 8). But also philosophy, especially that of a Platonic stamp, led him even closer to Christ, revealing to him the existence of the Logos or creative reason. Philosophy books showed him the existence of reason, from which the whole world came, but they could not tell him how to reach this Logos, which seemed so distant."

Edward C. Feser
"By his own account, Feser had been an atheist for ten years during his early adulthood. However, as a graduate student in philosophy, his deep readings of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas led him back to a Christian belief in God and the Catholic Church (he had been baptized and confirmed as a child). He is now harshly critical of the "New Atheists" for what he claims are their straw man caricatures and distortions of classical theological arguments." A description of his work is as follows:

"Feser has been called "one of the best contemporary writers on philosophy" by National Review. In the Review of Metaphysics, Michael O'Halloran wrote that in The Last Superstition, Feser "melds philosophical acumen with an acute sense of humor." In Booklist, Ray Olson wrote of the same book that "With energy and humor as well as transparent exposition, Feser reestablishes the unassailable superiority of classical philosophy." The Catholic philosophical theologian also published notable books, Five Proofs of the Existence of God and Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics, in addition to others, and in addition to political articles for the Witherspoon Institute. Feser credits William Lane Craig as being helpful in Feser's conversion:

"I’ve long admired Craig and his work, and as I’ve noted before, his excellent book The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz was very helpful to me in coming to see how shallow the usual characterizations and criticisms of the argument are, and played a role in my abandoning atheism.)"

Dr. Francis Collins
"Francis Collins, a medical doctor, is director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and passionate about science. But the self-described Bible-believing Christian is just as passionate about his faith, which he came to after reading C.S. Lewis and seeing how religion sustained his gravely ill patients."

William Lane Craig
Atheist blogger Luke Muehlhauser described Mr. Craig as the best debater in the world that he has ever heard, as noted in his post, Christian Debater Beats all Atheist Opponents. Craig emphasizes the revelation of the love of God as perhaps the main component in his conversion. But he also touches on logic and meaning as key aspects of his search for truth: "When I became a teenager I began to ask the big questions in life: 'Why and I here, where am I going and what is the meaning of my existence?'" The Bible itself and the wisdom shown in the life of Christ offered an apologetic answer: "This man had a wisdom that I had never encountered before and his life had an authenticity that was uncharacteristic of those people who claimed to be his followers."

Antony Flew
Acclaimed philosopher, Anthony Flew began to believe in God at 81, "after decades of insisting belief is a mistake." He wrote, "Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature. But it is not science alone that guided me. I have also been helped by a renewed study of the classical philosophical arguments." While Flew was not converted to Christianity, he nonetheless understood that a deity must logically exist based on all of the evidence.

Simon Greenleaf
 Professor Simon Greenleaf was instrumental in the founding and development of Harvard Law School and was awarded the honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Harvard in 1834. He was as a skeptic who set out to disprove the gospel, however, upon researching the specific testimonies recorded in scripture, he became convinced otherwise. The accounts of the early evangelists formed the basis of the apologetic that helped to convince him of the truth of the gospel, as noted in his work, "Testimony of the Evangelists". One of his poignant quotes outlines the need for objectivity and impartiality when reviewing facts:

"The docility which true philosophy requires of her disciples is not a spirit of servility, or the surrender of the reason and judgment to whatsoever the teacher may inculcate; but it is a mind free from all pride of opinion, not hostile to the truth sought for, willing to pursue the inquiry, and impartiality to weigh the arguments and evidence, and to acquiesce in the judgment of right reason."

"By competent evidence, is meant such as the nature of the thing to be proved requires; and by satisfactory evidence, is meant that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond any reasonable doubt."

Peter Hitchens
The brother of Christopher Hitchens, Peter Hitchens explains in a linked video how he went from being an atheist to a confident Christian through a fear of God, apologetic discourse, and singing while attending church. Part of this journey was through viewing artwork that had an apologetic effect. The painting "The Last Judgement" by Rogier Van der Weyden caused Peter to sense the fear of God in a powerful way. And he also found himself drawn to singing in church as something increasingly appealing. But this focus on art and music should not take away from the fact that Peter is a thinker that had come to consider his socialist-Marxist activism as bankrupt of any valid moral foundation, as he explains in his testimony. 

A healthy sense of fear is a valid biblical means of salvation, not just seeking joy in God: "And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." (Jude 22-23 KJV)

Bahaa el-Din Ahmed Hussein el-Akkad
A former Egyptian Muslim priest, also known as an imam, converted to Christianity while investigating theological questions: "A theological discourse with a Christian led him to conduct an intensive study of Christian Scripture, after which he converted to Christianity in January 2005."

C.S. Lewis
Intellectual and long-term skeptic, C.S Lewis became a dedicated Christian at age 32. He wrote,  “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere— ‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,’ as Herbert says, ‘Fine nets and stratagems.’ God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous." C. S. Lewis credited The Everlasting Man with "baptising" his intellect, much as George MacDonald's writings had baptised his imagination, so as to make him more than half-converted well before he could bring himself to embrace Christianity. In a 1950 letter to Sheldon Vanauken, Lewis calls the book "the best popular apologetic I know," and in 1947 he wrote to Rhonda Bodle: "the [very] best popular defense of the full Christian position I know is G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man." The book was also cited by The Christian Century in a list of 10 books that "most shaped [Lewis'] vocational attitude and philosophy of life".

Leah Libresco
As a prominent atheist blogger at the Patheos Blog Portal, Leah struggled with answers that her atheist belief could not adequately address. Her conversion in 2013 followed a debate on ethics and morality and is described in one of her blog posts: This is my last post for the Patheos Atheist Portal. She detailed how debate had helped her to understand that her prior foundation of philosophical sand was inadequate for addressing tough questions: "After the debate, I buttonholed a Christian friend for another argument.  During the discussion, he prodded me on where I thought moral law came from in my metaphysics.  I talked about morality as though it were some kind of Platonic form, remote from the plane that humans existed on.  He wanted to know where the connection was."

Frank Morison
The journalist, engineer and skeptic-turned-believer Albert Henry Ross, pseudonym Frank Morison, saw early historic manuscripts become a source of apologetic material. "Ross was skeptical regarding the resurrection of Jesus and set out to analyze the sources and to write a short paper entitled Jesus – the Last Phase to demonstrate the apparent myth. In compiling his notes, he came to be convinced of the truth of the resurrection, and set out his reasoning in the book Who moved the stone?." By his research, he calculated the weight of the historical stone at Jesus' tomb to have been between 1.5 to 2 tons.

Kirsten Powers
Largely influenced by intellectual apologetic arguments, this TV news personality and columnist cites specific experiences: “Tim Keller's sermon was intellectually rigorous, weaving in art and history and philosophy. I decided to come back to hear him again. Soon, hearing Keller speak on Sunday became the highlight of my week. I thought of it as just an interesting lecture—not really church. I just tolerated the rest of it in order to hear him. ...Each week, Keller made the case for Christianity. He also made the case against atheism and agnosticism. He expertly exposed the intellectual weaknesses of a purely secular worldview.”

Allan Sandage
Sandage was both a renowned scientist and a renowned atheist. He was Staff Member Emeritus with the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California. He determined the first reasonably accurate values for the Hubble constant and the age of the universe. He also discovered the first quasar. The outspoken atheist scientist was converted to Christianity at the age of 50. Specifically, he makes clear that his decision "to believe and see what happens" involved "Pascal’s Wager".

Do you know of any other notable examples of people converted with the help of apologetics?

Tags: apologetics effectual, famous people converted to Christianity, famous conversions with apologetics, some notable conversions to Christ, conversion of Augustine, conversion of Dr. Francis Collins, conversion of Allan Sandage, conversion of Bahaa el-Din Ahmed Hussein el-Akkad, conversion of Frank Morison,  conversion of Leah Libresco,  conversion of Antony Flew,  conversion of William Lane Craig, art as apologetics,

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