In Apologetic circles we regularly hear the claim that “Nobody is ever argued into the Kingdom.” It never seems to help change people’s minds by pointing out that many Christians do, in fact, specifically claim that the evidence persuaded them that there was something to this Christianity thing that deserved consideration. Was the intellectual aspect the whole story? Usually not, but it is often the difference between being willing to consider the claims of Christ and not being willing to consider them. It is a necessary, but not sufficient, factor.
To the chorus of those who will eagerly point out the importance of the evidence in their own Faith journey we can add the voice of Edward Feser. I just started reading his book, “The Last Superstition.” In chapter one he writes of some philosophers – Frege and Russell (Atheists) – who started him down the road to conversion.
Their work convinced me how naive and unfounded is the assumption of materialists and naturalists that the material world is the touchstone of reality and that we have better knowledge of it than of anything else. This conclusion was reinforced, to my mind, by the work of contemporary philosophers like John Searle and Thomas Nagel – purely secular thinkers like Frege and Russell, incidentally – who despite their own commitment to naturalism argued that no existing materialist attempt to explain the human mind has come anywhere close to succeeding.
The work of other contemporary philosophers like Elizabeth Anscombe and Alasdair MacIntyre showed me how powerful and still relevant Aristotle’s work was, particularly in the field of ethics. The writings of contemporary philosophers of religion like Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne applied the most rigorous of modern philosophical methods to the defense of religious belief, and the scholarship of writers like William Lane Craig and John Haldane revealed that the arguments of classical thinkers like Thomas Aquinas had been very badly misunderstood by modern critics and commentators. …
My aim for now is merely to forestall the standard ad hominem dismissal of religious conversion as a purely subjective affair, a matter of feeling rather than reason. It was, in my own case, a matter of objective rational argument. Nor is my case unique. Contrary to the caricatures peddled in secularist literature (and which have crept into the popular culture at large), the mainstream tradition within Western religion has in fact always insisted that its basic claims must be and can be rationally justified, and indeed that they can be shown to be rationally superior to the claims of atheism and naturalism. If some religious believers nevertheless manifest an unfortunate tendency toward fideism – the view that religion rests on “faith” alone, understood as a kind of ungrounded will to believe – that is to a very great extent precisely because they have forgotten the history of their own tradition and bought into the secularist propaganda that has relentlessly been directed against it since the so-called “Enlightenment.”