A line of historical evidence for Christianity is Christian religious experiences. When it comes to these though, I am not focusing on vague, general, experiences like feelings of love, peace, euphoria, etc. I am talking about experiences that possess explicit Christian elements as well as extraordinary elements. These extraordinary elements in particular make a supernatural explanation for these experiences more likely than natural explanations. Especially striking about Christian religious experiences is that they not only occur to Christians but to non-Christians as well (e.g. atheists and agnostics, Jews, Muslims, etc).
In this article, I will lay out a solid evidence sampler of Christian religious experiences, focusing on firsthand accounts in modern times from non-Christians.
1. Visitations from the Angelic Doctor
Stojan Adasevic was an atheist abortion doctor in Serbia back when it was still a communist country. During his career of over 25 years, he had carried out thousands of abortions — but he did not believe he was doing anything wrong. As put by the Spanish newspaper, La Razon, which interviewed Adasevic:
The medical textbooks of the Communist regime said abortion was simply the removal of a blob of tissue. Ultrasounds allowing the fetus to be seen did not arrive until the 1980s, but they did not change his opinion.
Adasevic began to have recurring dreams each night of a beautiful field full of children and young people who were playing and laughing, but who ran away from him in fear. A man dressed in a black and white habit stared at him in silence. Every time Adasevic woke up from this dream, he would do so in cold sweat.
One night, Adasevic asked the man in his dream who he was. The man told Adasevic that he was Thomas Aquinas (at this point in his life, Adasevic did not even know who Aquinas was). Adasevic then asked Aquinas who these children were, and Aquinas told him that they were the ones he killed with his abortions. Adasevic woke up in shock and fear. He decided that he would refuse to perform any more abortions.
Once Adasevic notified his hospital that he would no longer perform abortions, the reaction from the hospital, which was run by the state, was swift and severe. Physicians in communist Yugoslavia did not refuse to do their job. Adasevic’s salary was cut in half, they fired his daughter from her job, and his son was barred from enrolling into the state university.
Adasevic’s family endured great hardships due to these punitive measures and he started to doubt his decision to not perform abortions. However, one night, he had another dream of St. Thomas, who assured him that he made the right decision as well as his friendship with Adasevic.
Today, Adasevic is a leader in Serbia’s pro-life movement. Now a Christian, he has a strong devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas and is frequently with Aquinas’ works as his reading material.
Whenever Adasevic shares his story to others, he notes that in Aquinas’ Summa Theologica Aquinas wrote that human life begins forty days after fertilization. Perhaps, Adasevic would opine, “the saint wanted to make amends for that error”.
2. A Powerful Experience on the Road
There are religious skeptics, and there are religious skeptics who disdain religion. Sy Garte was the latter. He was an atheist raised by very anti-theistic parents.
Garte is a very accomplished man in his line of work. As a biochemist, he was a professor at New York University and the University of Pittsburgh, and he currently teaches at Rutgers University. He has authored over two hundred scientific publications, three scientific monographs, and has served as a division director at the National Institute of Health.
Garte’s inquisitive nature led him to ask questions, which led him to rethink his atheism and in time, look into religion, and eventually, Christianity. He met Christians who were smart and scientifically-minded. He also checked out a church service for the first time and to his surprise, found it welcoming, and the content of the sermons, beneficial. These would lead Garte to look deeper into the Gospels and investigate Christianity’s claims, as he details in his book “The Works of His Hands: A Scientist’s Journey from Atheism to Faith” (2019).
In time, Garte found himself at an impasse. Although he was no longer an atheist (i.e. God does not exist), he was not a Christian either – remaining in a state of agnosticism (i.e. God may or may not exist). Although Garte was open to Christianity and saw it to some degree, as evidentially compelling, Christianity was a whole new world that was foreign to him. He was afraid to step into it. Garte also had doubts of his own. God, however, would meet Garte halfway in his search for Him.
One day, Garte was driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the middle part of the state, with a long way to go before his destination. Turning the radio on, he heard a voice of a Christian preacher — the sort of people whom he “used to mock and avoid”. This preacher, however, was really good, and Garte listened for a few minutes before turning it off. Driving in silence for a while, he began to wonder what it would sound like if he were preaching. Garte, recounting what happened next, notes:
Driving in silence for a while, I began wondering how I would sound if I ever tried preaching—after all, I always liked to talk. I laughed a bit, thinking about what I could possibly say. The first thing that came to my mind was something about science—how, if there were a God, he might have used science to create the world.
And then something happened. I felt a chill up and down my spine and could hear myself speaking in my mind—preaching, in fact. I could see an audience in front of me, people in an outdoor stadium, dressed in summer clothing. I pulled the car over to the right lane and slowed down. It was not a vision exactly, but it was intense. I knew I wasn’t making the words up—I was listening just as much as the audience.
I talked about knowing that Jesus loves me. With a voice full of passionate emotion, I assured the crowd that whatever their sins might be, they were no worse than my own, and that because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we could all be saved. I explained that God’s love is more powerful than any other kind and that anyone can have it without deserving it.
At some point during this experience, I had pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, where I sat behind the wheel crying for some time. I had never considered the things “I” had been saying. Some of the concepts were unfamiliar. The only explanation I could fathom was that the Holy Spirit had entered into my life in dramatic fashion.
On the side of the road in his car and in between sobs, Garte voiced his belief and gratitude out to God: “Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ”.
After his conversion to Christianity, Garte would go on to become a member and active lay leader of the United Methodist Church in Rockville, Maryland.
3. “The Tears Just Stopped, Just Dried”
Another case is that of Sally Read. Read was an atheist who “hated” Christianity. She is also accomplished in her line of work as an award-winning poet and writer.
Read’s conversion, like many others, was a journey. It began when she was writing a book that prompted her to ask existential questions, but instrumental to her conversion was an intelligent and pastoral priest by the name of Fr. Gregory Hrynkiw, whom Read often dialogued with. When asked about Fr. Hrynkiw’s instrumental role in her conversion, Read commented:
[Fr. Hrynkiw and I] were the same age, so we were equal, on a level playing field. And he’s really bright — a really brilliant theologian — so whatever I threw at him he could always come back with the answer. That was very important and still is — he’s such a support to me, whatever I ask him, he can answer. But also because he didn’t try to convert me. He said “only Christ can convert you” and he let Christ do all the work in that sense. But he was very steady and never deserted me. He always answered my emails, and was always ready to talk with me.
Eventually, with her stumbling blocks towards Christianity crumbling, and family problems bringing her to a low point, Read drove to a church in Via del Carmelo. Looking at an icon of Christ’s face and speaking honestly and instinctively, with no belief or unbelief, she uttered: “If you’re there, you have to help me”. Describing what happened next, Read attests:
There was this incredible experience where this presence almost came down, and my tears just stopped, just dried. I felt almost physically carried up … [it was] utterly tangible.
Read, describing her initial state of confusion and vulnerability prior to her prayer, the presence that came over her, and the affect of this experience on her being, notes:
It was like being in the grip of panicked amnesia, when suddenly someone familiar walked into the room and gave myself back to me—a self restored to me more fully than before. It was a presence entirely fixed on me as I was on it, and it both descended toward me and pulled me up. I knew it was Him.
Read converted to Christianity. She details her journey from atheism to Christianity in her book “Night’s Bright Darkness: A Modern Conversion Story” (2016).
4. “You’re Going to Have to Do It Yourself”
Craig Keener is one of the world’s leading New Testament scholars today. He has developed a reputation as a thorough and meticulous researcher and has written several notable works in his field. These include leading commentaries on Acts and John, a magisterial two-volume work on miracles, and a major monograph on the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies.
Keener was not always a Christian. He grew up in a non-religious household and identified as an atheist at a young age of nine. Keener recalls telling his mom that he did not believe in life after death, a view that his mother shared with him.
A notable point came when Keener was thirteen and he started to read Plato. Plato got Keener thinking about the purpose and meaning of life, and Keener related these to his atheistic worldview. This also made Keener ponder the question of God’s existence, to the point that he would say, even as an atheist – “God, if you’re out there. Or a god, or whatever, if you are out there, please show me.” – but Keener did not know if saying this would result in anything happening.
One day, Keener ran into a couple of Christians on the street and they began to share the Gospel to him. Keener argued with them for quite some time. The Christians continued to quote from scripture to prove their point but Keener told them “I do not believe in the Bible, I am an atheist. Can you give me anything else to convince me?”. The Christians, uninformed in apologetics, could not provide an answer to Keener and Keener decided to part ways with them. However, the encounter was not over yet.
On his way home, Keener says that he “felt God’s presence”. He studied different religions and this was “different from everything that he had studied”. It was also “different from anything he had experienced before”. Keener went to his room. Still feeling God’s presence, he pondered about his beliefs and what he was experiencing for a considerable period of time. God’s presence was “so overwhelming” and “so real” and Keener got the sense that He was “not going to leave him alone” until Keener either accepted or rejected Him.
In this situation, Keener, drawing from his earlier conversation with the two Christians and on his knees, said:
God, I don’t understand, they said that Jesus rose from the dead and died for me and that makes me right with you. I do not understand how that works … So God, if you want to make me right with you, you’re going to have to do it yourself.
Immediately after saying that, Keener felt “something rush into his body like he never felt before” and this made him jump back to his feet in shock. He did not know what was happening to him.
Taking in this experience on the spot, Keener decided to dedicate his life to Christ. Back when he was atheist, one of his main gripes with Christians he saw was that they did not seem to give God much importance in their lives. Keener had always said that if he believed God existed, he would give Him his everything. Since Keener now knew that God did exist, Keener chose to give Him his all. He would go on to become a Christian pastor and esteemed New Testament scholar.
5. A Progressive Secularist Encounters the Blessed Virgin Mary
Alphonse Ratisbonne (1814 – 1884) lived a very privileged life. He was born into a very wealthy and aristocratic Jewish family in France. He was also a well-educated lawyer, a partner in his family’s prestigious bank, and engaged to a fiancee whom he deeply loved.
Religiously, Ratisbonne was not a believing Jew, he was a “progressive theist”. He believed in a God but he did believe in any religion. He also believed that man should practice whatever faith he held in the way that he understood it. As Ratisbonne describes his beliefs prior to his conversion:
My own opinion was to abandon all forms of the religion, relying neither on books or on men, and to let each practice his faith however he understood it. … I was very progressive, you see!
He also lived a worldly life. As he notes:
I loved only pleasures; business irritated me, the atmosphere of offices suffocated me; I thought that we are in the world to enjoy it; and, even though a certain prudishness kept me away from the basest pleasures and company, I nonetheless dreamed only of parties and enjoyments, which I indulged in with passion.
As for Ratisbonne’s views on Christianity, he despised it. When his brother, Theodore Ratisbonne, converted and became a Jesuit priest, Ratisbonne cut all ties with him and viewed him with disdain.
Although Ratisbonne did not subscribe to any religion, including the Jewish faith of his heritage, he did have a soft spot for his fellow Jews and was active in a local organization that aimed to uplift their condition.
Ratisbonne’s life continued along the same trajectory until his trip to Rome, which would change everything. One of his stops during this trip was the home of Baron de Bussieres, a friend of the family. At de Bussieres’ house, Ratisbonne and de Bussiere got into a passionate discussion about religion which ended with de Bussiere (who was a Christian) challenging Ratisbonne to an “innocent test”. De Bussiere challenged Ratisbonne to wear a Miraculous Medal (a medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary popularized by St. Catherine Labore) and pray the Memorare (a prayer to Our Lady composed by St. Bernard) every morning and evening.
Ratisbonne was stunned at the childishness of the proposition and his first reaction was to laugh, but he accepted the offer. If it did him no good, it would do him no harm. He also viewed the medal as a memento he could give his fiancee in the future.
Ratisbonne wore the medal and prayed the Memorare every morning and evening during his stay in Rome. Then came January 20, 1842, the day that would change his life forever.
Leaving a cafe that morning, Ratisbonne saw the carriage of de Bussieres and de Bussieres invited him for a ride. During their ride, de Bussieres told Ratisbonne that he had an errand to do. He had to make funeral arrangements for his friend who died recently, M. de Laferronays, at the sacristy of the church of San Andrea delle Fratte. He suggested that Ratisbonne wait in the carriage since what he had to do would only take a few minutes. Ratisbonne, however, decided to check out the church.
The church of San Andrea delle Fratte was in Ratisbonne’s words, “small, poor, and deserted”. He was alone and no piece of art attracted his attention. Ratisbonne walked and looked around — recounting what happened next, he notes:
I had only been in the church a moment when I was suddenly seized with an indescribable agitation of mind. I looked up and found that the rest of the building had disappeared. One single chapel seemed to have gathered all the light and concentrated it in itself. In the midst of this radiance I saw someone standing on the altar, a lofty shining figure, all majesty and sweetness, the Virgin Mary just as she looks on this medal. Some irresistible force drew me toward her. She motioned to me to kneel down and when I did so, she seemed to approve. Though she never said a word, I understood her perfectly … I was there, prostrate, bathed in my tears, my heart beating out of my chest, when M. de Bussieres recalled me to life. I was unable to reply to his sudden questions, but finally I grabbed the medal that I had left around my neck, I bathed with kisses the image of the Virgin pouring forth rays of grace. “Oh! It was really she!”
I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know whether I was Alphonse, or someone else; I felt so entirely changed that I thought I was another self. I tried to find myself, and couldn’t. The most intense joy burst in the depths of my soul; I was unable to speak; I wanted to reveal nothing; I felt something solemn and sacred in me that made me ask to see a priest.
Baron de Bussieres, provides an account from his perspective:
I left him and went off to the sacristy to make some arrangements for the funeral. I could not have been away much more than ten minutes. When I returned I saw nothing of Ratisbonne at first. Then I caught sight of him on his knees, in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel. I went up to him and touched him. I had to do this three or four times before he became aware of my presence. Finally he turned toward me, face bathed in tears, clasped his hands together … I helped Ratisbonne to his feet and led him, almost carrying him, out of the church. Then I asked him what was the matter, and where he wanted to go. “Take me wherever you like,” he cried, “after what I have seen, I shall obey.” I urged him to explain his meaning, but he was unable to do so—his emotion was too strong. Instead he took hold of his miraculous medal and kissed it with passionate emotion.
He begged me to take him to a priest, and he asked me when he could receive holy baptism … I took him at once to the Gesu to see Father de Villefort, who invited him to explain what had happened. Ratisbonne drew out his medal, kissed it, and showed it to us, saying, “I saw her! I saw her!” and again emotion choked his words, but soon he grew calmer and spoke … Brief as his account was, Ratisbonne could not utter it without frequently pausing for breath, and to subdue the overwhelming emotion he felt. We listened to him, awe mingled with joy and gratitude. One phrase struck us especially, so deep and mysterious was it: “She never said a word, but I understood her perfectly.” From this moment on, it was enough to hear him speak; faith exhaled from his heart like a precious perfume from a casket, that holds but cannot imprison.
Upon leaving Father de Villefort, we went to give thanks to God, first at Saint Mary Major, the basilica beloved of Our Lady, and then at Saint Peter’s. He prayed with great fervor at the tombs of the Holy Apostles.
Ratisbonne converted to Christianity after his experience. He called off his engagement with his fiancee, renounced his worldly life, and would go on to become a priest. He reconciled with his brother, Theodore, and would spend the rest of his life in the Holy Land – establishing religious communities, engaging in charitable work, and praying for the conversion of souls. In gratitude to our Lady, he added “Marie” to his name – Alphonse Marie Ratisbonne.
Later on, Ratisbonne would learn that his brother, Fr. Theodore, had kept him in his prayers ever since Ratisbonne bitterly cut ties with him. Baron de Bussieres and his family also continually prayed for Ratisbonne after their conversation at his house.
The apparition of Our Lady to Alphonse Ratisbonne is among the Church’s approved Marian apparitions. The apparition to Alphonse Ratisbonne, in particular, is known as “Our Lady of Zion”.
6. Rome’s Chief Rabbi Sees Jesus
Rome was one of Europe’s most important Jewish communities in the early 20th century, and its leader during a portion of the 1940s was Rabbi Israel Zoli (1881 – 1956).
Zoli was a devout Jew and intelligent man. He completed rabbinical schooling and received a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Florence with a specialization in psychology. During his time as the Chief Rabbi of Trieste (1918 – 1939), Zoli established himself as an academic and scholar. He wrote several notable scholarly works and served as a Professor of Semitic languages at the University of Padua.
It is not uncommon for rabbis and Jews in general to have negative attitudes towards Jesus but this was not the case for Zoli, who viewed Jesus very positively and even felt drawn to Christianity. Zoli even wrote a work on Jesus entitled “The Nazarene”, which, although written from a Jewish perspective, received high praise from Christian circles.
In 1939, Zoli left his longtime position as Chief Rabbi of Trieste to assume the position of Chief Rabbi of Rome. A number of years into this position, Zoli would have a religious experience that would cause him to convert to Christianity. This experience took place in 1944 and occurred while Zoli was celebrating Yom Kippur services (Yom Kippur is the most solemn holiday of the Jewish calendar). As Zoli recounts:
It was the Day of Atonement in the fall of 1944, and I was presiding over the religious service in the Temple. The day was nearing its end, and I was all alone in the midst of a great number of persons. I began to feel as though a fog were creeping into my soul; it became denser, and I wholly lost touch with the men and things around me. And just then I saw with my mind’s eye a meadow sweeping upward, with bright grass. In this meadow I saw Jesus Christ clad in a white mantle, and beyond His head the blue sky. I experienced the greatest interior peace. If I were to give an image of the state of my soul at that moment I should say a crystal-clear lake amid high mountains. Within my heart I found the words: “You are here for the last time.” I considered them with the greatest serenity of soul. The reply of my heart was: So it is, so it shall be, so it must be.
When Zoli went home, he was surprised to hear his wife tell him that when Zoli was before the Ark of the Torah during the celebration service, she saw a “white figure” of a man put his hands on Zoli’s head — in a manner that looked like a blessing.
A few days after that experience, Zoli resigned from his position as Chief Rabbi of Rome. He went to a Christian priest to receive instruction and a few weeks later, he was baptized into the Church. Unfortunately, Zoli was ostracized by the Jewish community after his conversion. He spent the rest of his life teaching and writing. He also founded a religious congregation dedicated to aiding Jews after their reception into the Church.
After Zoli’s conversion, he would learn that many of his students at the University of Padua, who were priests, were praying for his conversion. As he notes in his autobiography:
[T]hey were remembering me in their holy Masses, asking God (as they told me years later) for my conversion.
7. An Experience Before the Blessed Sacrament
As a young child, Hermann Cohen (1820 – 1871) was a pious Jew. He loved going to the synagogue and chanting prayers and psalms at home, an activity into which he would often draw his siblings. Cohen’s tremendous talents, however, eventually pulled him away from his religiosity. Cohen was gifted intellectually, but more than this, he was a musical prodigy. At the age of six, he was playing many of the popular opera tunes of his day (and he would even add improvisations of his own to these). By twelve, his professional recitals were the talk of his town. Unfortunately, Cohen’s mother entrusted him to a piano professor of great talent but loose morals. The example of his teacher had a negative effect on Cohen’s spiritual life. As Cohen later wrote:
[The teacher’s great genius] was enough to justify, in the eyes of the public, all of his whims and adventures, however irresponsible and scandalous. … Since I admired him above anyone, I soon began to imitate his wild behavior. He loved gambling; I, alas, early on acquired the taste for it. He loved the horses and all the pleasures, and since he found the purses of his admirers always open to satisfy all his caprices, I began to think that there could be no existence on earth happier than that of an artist.
In time, Cohen would go to Paris — one of Europe’s best centers of music — and it was there that his success would soar. Cohen became a darling of Europe’s cultural and artistic elite. Surrounded by attention and praise, and with his whims frequently indulged, Cohen became spoiled, arrogant, and self-centered.
For the next decade, Cohen lived a life of worldly sensuality. He partied, had sexual relationships with many women, and gambled, but Cohen’s “self-centered hedonism and irresponsibility” also took a toll on many of his relationships.
At the age of twenty-six, Cohen began to reform his life. He abruptly broke off his romantic relationship with Celeste Mogadar, telling her that he was placing his life in the hands of God. Appalled with his life, Cohen began to rechart his trajectory more towards the Jewish religiosity of his childhood, returning, at least, to the practice of prayer.
Some time afterward, a momentous life event would occur to Cohen. He was asked by a friend to direct the choir at a church service. It was at this service that Cohen would have an extraordinary experience during the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament (a devotional ceremony wherein a priest blesses the congregation with the Holy Eucharist at the end of a period of Eucharistic adoration). As Cohen notes:
It happened during May 1847. Mary’s month was celebrated with great pomp at the Church of Sainte Valere … Prince Moskowa, who led these pious concerts, and whom I already had the honor of knowing, asked me one evening if I would take his place directing the choirs. I agreed and went, solely from my love of music and the desire to do a friend a favor. During the ceremony I felt nothing special, but at the moment of Benediction, even though I had no intention to prostrate myself like the rest of the congregation, I felt an indefinable agitation; my soul, deafened and distracted by the discord of the world, re-found itself, a bit like the prodigal son coming to his senses, and sensed that something previously entirely unknown was taking place. I felt for the first time a very powerful, but indefinable emotion. Without any participation of my will, I was forced, despite myself, to bow down. When I returned the following Friday, the same emotion came over me, even more powerfully, and I felt a great weight that descended over my whole body, forcing me to bow, even to prostrate myself, despite myself, and I was struck with the sudden thought of becoming Catholic.
A few days later I was passing near the same Church of Sainte Valere; the bells were ringing for Mass. I went in and was present at the Holy Sacrifice, remaining motionless and attentive throughout. I stayed for one, two, three Masses without a thought of leaving, although I had no idea what was keeping me there. After having returned home, involuntarily I was led to go out again that evening and go back to the same place; the bells made me enter once again. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed and as soon as I saw it I was drawn to the altar rail and fell to my knees. This time, at the moment of Benediction it was easy for me to bow down, and getting up again I felt a very sweet peace in my whole being. I returned to my room and went to bed, but throughout the entire night, my mind was, whether in dream or awake, occupied with the thought of the Blessed Sacrament. I burned with impatience to be at more Masses. In the following days, I attended many at Sainte Valere, always with an inner joy that absorbed all my faculties.
I wanted to see a priest, to settle down the agitation that was incessantly troubling my spirit since this extraordinary event. Until now priests had been, for me, monsters to flee, and I do not know how I was led by an irresistible force to find one. Eventually I was introduced to Father Legrand. I told him what had happened to me. He listened with interest and exhorted me to be calm, to persevere in my current disposition, and to have wholehearted confidence in the paths that Divine Providence would not fail to point out to me. This cleric’s benevolent and kind welcome made a strong impression on me, and in an instant made fall one of the deepest prejudices I held. I had been afraid of priests! … Yet I found myself in the presence of a learned man, humble, kind and open-hearted, looking entirely to God, not himself.
Later that summer, Cohen would go to Ems, Germany to give a concert, and it was there that he would have another experience that would cement his conversion to Christianity. Recounting this second experience, Cohen notes:
The day after my arrival was a Sunday, the eighth of August, and not caring about human respect, that is, despite the presence of my friends, I went to Mass. There, bit by bit, the prayers, the presence—invisible, and yet felt by me—of a supernatural power began to act on me, agitate me, make me start trembling; in a word, divine grace deigned to descend on me with all its force. At the moment of elevation, all of a sudden I felt burst forth, behind my eyelids, a flood of tears that did not cease to flow with voluptuous abundance down my inflamed cheeks. O moment forever memorable for the salvation of my soul! I had You there, present, in my spirit, with all the celestial sensations that You brought down to me from on high! With passion I invoked the all-powerful and all-merciful God, that the exquisite memory of His beauty remain eternally engraved in my heart … and gratitude for the enormity of the blessings that He was flooding me with.
I remember having cried a few times as a child, but never, no, never did I know such tears. While they were drowning me, I felt surge up from the depths of my chest, split open by my conscience, the most tearing remorse over my entire past life. All of a sudden, and spontaneously, as though by intuition, I offered God a general confession, interior and rapid, of all of my enormous sins since childhood. I saw them there, piled up before me by the thousands, hideous, repulsive, revolting, deserving all of the anger of a sovereign Judge … And yet, I also felt an unknown peace that soon spread over my entire soul like a soothing balm, that the God of mercy would forgive me these, that He would turn His gaze away from my crimes, that He would take pity on my sincere contrition, on my bitter sorrow. Yes, I felt that He would give me grace, and that He would accept in expiation my firm resolution to love Him above all else and to turn to Him from then on.
When I left the church, I was already a Christian, as much a Christian as it is possible to be before baptism.
Cohen would go on to dedicate his life entirely to Christ. After being baptized, Cohen became a Carmelite priest and monk. He would play an instrumental role in establishing the Carmelite order in France, England, Ireland and Scotland – preaching and founding houses for the order.
8. “I Saved Your Son”
Ali Akbar is a Muslim convert to Christianity. When he was thirty years old, Akbar was arrested because he was found to be a leader in his house church (the operation of house churches in Iran is deemed illegal). The security police interrogated him so harshly that his stomach began to bleed and his blood pressure dropped.
Akbar was rushed to the hospital. The doctor told him that he was going to die. They could not give him a blood transfusion because his blood pressure was so low that they could not get the needle into a vein. However, as Akbar notes, he suddenly felt “very warm like a fire was in my body”. His blood pressure became normal again and the doctor, shocked, sent him home.
In the elevator of the hospital, on Akbar’s way out, Akbar had a vision of a man in a long white gown. He thought he was delirious. Later though, his mother said that she saw Jesus and that He told her: “I saved your son”. Akbar’s mother, a Muslim, then converted to Christianity and after hearing what had happened to Akbar and his mother, the rest of Akbar’s family converted to Christianity as well.
Ali Akbar’s case is far from unique. There is a notable phenomenon in Islamic countries of Muslims having dreams and visions of Jesus and converting to Christianity as a result. Firsthand testimonies of a large number of Muslims have been documented in works such as David Garrison’s A Wind In the House of Islam and Tom Doyle’s Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?. Akbar’s case is one of many recorded in David Garrison’s book.
Christian religious experiences have graced many throughout history, including our modern age. What is remarkable about these experiences is that they not only occur to Christians but to non-Christians as well (e.g. atheists and agnostics, Jews, Muslims, etc). Furthermore, many of these experiences possess Christian elements (e.g. taking place in a Christian church, the individual has visions of Jesus, Mary, or a Christian saint, taking place right after a conversation with Christian missionaries, etc) as well as extraordinary elements. These extraordinary elements make supernatural explanations for these experiences more likely than natural explanations. Among the cases we have looked at in this article, extraordinary elements include (listing the ones I find particularly compelling):
- Adasevic having recurring dreams every night of a man who later identified as a Christian saint, who he did not know at that point in his life, and Adasevic having another dream of this saint when he started to doubt his decision to no longer perform abortions.
- Garte “listening just as much as the audience” during his experience, him never considering the things “he” had said during his experience, and him finding some of the concepts “he” was talking about during his experience “unfamiliar”.
- Read’s tears drying up instantaneously – indicating that her experience was not only subjective and internal, but that there was an external force at work.
- Zoli having a vision of Jesus that was independently corroborated by his wife when he got home.
- Cohen being compelled to prostrate himself, independent of his will, twice (with the second instance being stronger than the first) – leading him to think about converting to Christianity.
- Akbar’s striking healing being followed by visions of Jesus experienced by both him and his mother.
Ultimately, Christian religious experiences provide further evidence for the truth of the Christian faith as well as the existence of the spiritual world.
The evidence continues to pile up – the evidence for Jesus’ miracles, Jesus’ resurrection, Christian miraculous healings, and now Christian religious experiences. Stay tuned for more historical lines of evidence supporting Christianity with the next post being about the evidence for demonic activity.
- Stagnaro, A. (2017). “Abortionist Quits After St. Thomas Aquinas Visits Him in a Dream.” Retrieved from: https://www.ncregister.com/blog/abortionist-quits-after-st-thomas-aquinas-visits-him-in-a-dream
- Garte, S. (2020). “I Assumed Science Had All the Answers. Then I Started Asking Inconvenient Questions.” Retrieved from: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march/sy-garte-science-answers-inconvenient-questions.html
- Kandra, G. (2016). “From scoffing atheist to devout Catholic: the powerful conversion story of acclaimed poet Sally Read”. Retrieved from: https://aleteia.org/blogs/aleteia-blog/from-scoffing-atheist-to-devout-catholic-the-powerful-conversion-story-of-acclaimed-poet-sally-read/. See also Read, Night’s Bright Darkness, pg. 42.
- Dr. Sean McDowell. (2021, April 30). “Behind the Scenes with Craig Keener (The People, Books, and Events that Shaped His Life”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/s3iq3jCDza0. See also Hayden Clark. (2019, October 28). “Craig Keener: From Atheism to Christianity”. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=injEbY_HnlA
- Schoeman, “Honey from the Rock: Sixteen Jews Find the Sweetness of Christ”, pgs. 12-34
- Schoeman, “Honey from the Rock: Sixteen Jews Find the Sweetness of Christ”, pgs. 60-67
- Schoeman, “Honey from the Rock: Sixteen Jews Find the Sweetness of Christ”, pgs. 35-51
- Garrison, A Wind In The House Of Islam, pgs. 122-123