The Argument from Personal Experience


personal experience apologeticsSince the genesis of this blog, I’ve covered several different arguments for the existence of God. This will be the last in that series, at least until I feel like returning to the topic. As I’ve said before, these arguments are typically not intended to provide anything like conclusive proof of Christian theism or absolute certainty. Rather, the way I prefer to use them is as part of a cumulative case for the truth of Christianity, which involves everything from purely conceptual arguments to historical arguments to arguments based on personal experience. This post will focus on the latter. When viewed this way, no single argument need carry a great deal of weight, and the conclusion of the overall argument is that on balance, when all of the relevant factors available to us are considered, Christian theism is much more probable than its alternatives. Put another way, it makes much more sense (in an explanatory way) of all the relevant data, including arguments for and against Christianity, and arguments for and against alternative views.

Compared to the arguments previously covered, this one is by far the least rigorous. In fact, I won’t even attempt to give it in any strict, logical form, as this sort-of undermines the argument’s intuitive plausibility.1 The basic idea that motivates the argument is that nearly everyone who has ever lived has claimed some sort of religious or mystical experience or at least believed in the veracity of such experiences. Of course, this by itself proves nothing. But when considering the most vocal opponent of theism–let’s call it Naturalism–this fact becomes more significant. In this sense, then, it is more of an argument against Naturalism than an argument for specifically Christian theism. It won’t get us to the divinity of Jesus, but it will definitely get us outside of Naturalism, and from there the options are more limited.

The argument is this: Take any sufficiently large, random sample of people (let’s say a roomful). Inevitably, some of those people will claim to have had experiences that are unexplainable if Naturalism is true. Even if we assume that most of them are false or explainable if we had more information, it is unlikely and presumptuous to assume this for all of them…


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