My main pastor in life was Dr. Gene Scott (who I look forward to posting about at a later date). One of his lines was always, “You don’t have to leave your brain at the church door.” It was a theme I was raised with from early childhood. I believe this idea applies equally to atheists/non-believers of every type, and to my fellow Christians as well.
As my verse of the day says today, “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Luke 10:27 It very clearly includes your mind. Now, I believe that different people come to a belief in Christ Jesus through any of those various means; for example, an emotional experience or appeal, a spiritual experience or realization, a logical argument or a logical internal conclusion, etc… Any and every avenue is open and Christianity affirms each and also withstands scrutiny from any angle.
When one becomes a believer, meaning they have indeed placed their trust and faith on Christ, I have found that it comes to include all of the above. Now, don’t misunderstand me in this post; I don’t believe every Christian has to be a stuffy intellectual, far from it, but the Lord gave us brains to think with, and we honor Him by using our brains. For example, don’t just accept what your pastor, or another teacher is dishing out…dig into it on your own (with the help of the Holy Spirit), look up the verses and contexts, compare your KJV to your NASB, use a Strong’s and look up the Hebrew and Greek, kick it around, digest it. Doc used to tell everyone that listened to him to check out what he was saying, not just nod along. Philippians 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Thinking things through, asking respectful questions, digging into apologetics and scripture, learning a bit about logic and philosophy, are not bad things in the least, and helps us get into the “meat” of the Christian message.
Another point Doc always made, is if you are called to be a Christian Apologist, this doesn’t do your debate partner, or audience much good, “You ask me how I know He lives…He lives within my heart.” You probably need to take it a step further and fill in the gaps, and answer some questions; How do you know He lives within your heart? What does that mean, precisely? Why should I want Him to live in my heart? Etc…. (For those of you who don’t recognize it, those words come from the wonderful hymn, He Lives. It works very very well in a song, and to express what a lot of us feel, but for apologetics purposes, it needs a little detail added, and the metaphors made clear…) Personal evidence is usually what has impacted us most on a very personal level, and can indeed impact others, but other evidence, or even just objective explanations are helpful too. But, as always, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and how you feel compelled to either discuss, or not discuss issues with others, always trumps any general advice I’m talking about here, and no two Christians are going to present their thoughts in exactly the same way.
This idea also has implications for the non-believer; it isn’t a Christian’s responsibility to do the research on your behalf. Not every Christian is interested in arguing over ever single point that people obsess over; not all of us are called to do that. In fact, the main thing we are called to share is the gospel message. When we are asked to give a reason for our hope, we are to give one (1 Peter 3:15); but you, as a non-believer, do not get to dictate what kind of reason it is. An emotional reason can be just as valid as a logical reason, because we are not all expected or commanded to play formal logic games all day, nor is it our job to “convince” someone of the Truth of the gospel. Also, non-believers, don’t leave your brains at the church door either. I’ve seen evidence that there are indeed atheists, just for example, that do not believe, based upon emotion; they are mad at the way a hypocritical Christian (yes, they do exist) treated them, they are angry at something some church or another did, they are mad or scared because God isn’t the way they want Him to be, they are content with the way they currently are, etc… Don’t let emotion rule you either; Christianity can, and indeed should, be looked at through the lens of logic, and that’s why I say to everyone reading this, “don’t leave your brain at the church door!”